Towards the end of my fall/winter capsule, I started dabbling in preparing a larger dish specifically for lunches during the week. Previously, having to prepare another food just seemed overwhelming on top of my dinner responsibilities. However, with a capsule meal plan I am spending much less time thinking and planning for cooking, so I have more time to actually cook. Funny how that works out sometimes.
Anyways, having a lunch dish adds some variety to the usual leftovers from the previous night, allows us to have cook-free (leftover) nights, and people (John) are less likely to forget lunch because it is already packed. Today I am spotlighting a great recipe that is one of our old favorites: chickpea avocado spread.
I find this spread is a great way to liven up sandwiches, or eat on it’s own as a dip. It is fresh, chunky, and flavorful. John has an aversion to mayo-based food, so this spread is a definite winner for him, plus we don’t miss out on all of the protein from traditional meat-based salads. It is also a great vegan or vegetarian lunch choice. The flavors are perfect for spring and summer, especially served with cucumbers and tomatoes. I love that it does not require a food processor; you can quickly smash the ingredients with a potato masher, and be on your way to a picnic. The avocado does oxidize quickly, but I have found that it keeps for about three days in the fridge, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap.
Before I was married, overripe bananas were a regular part of life. I would peel, cut, and add one or two a week to the plastic bag in my freezer. Whenever I wanted to make a smoothie or banana bread, I always had some overripe bananas on hand.
However, in the last few years bananas have become a scarce commodity in the kitchen. We go through at least eight bananas a week between the three of us, and I’m sure we would eat more if given the opportunity. Now that I plan ahead for my meals (and sometimes snacks), I vocally set aside the number of bananas that need to last until the weekend when I bake.
Banana bread can be quite unhealthy, with lots of added sugars and fat, which is why I prefer this recipe. I also love that it is one bowl (if you mix the liquids in the measuring cup – which is my standard practice for decreasing dishes) and no mixer required. The bread packs in lots and lots of banana without too much added sweetener, I usually decrease the sweetener to 1/4 cup if my bananas are overripe. Two packed cups of banana is about 5 1/2 large bananas for me, and I have to fight for every last one, even though the whole family devours the baked bread.
A couple stuffed sweet potatoes have been floating around the internet recently, but most seemed a bit too heavy and cheesy for our tastes. I found this bean and spinach stuffed sweet potato recipe, and thought it would be perfect for filling lunch or light dinner. The light and bright flavors of the stuffing provide a lovely accent to the natural flavors of sweet potatoes, instead of smothering the potatoes in cheese. John and I both enjoyed the tangy sweet flavors of the lemon, capers, and raisins while the beans and spinach add more substance to the dish.
I try to roast several potatoes early in the week so we can have them as a quick dinner side. This recipe comes together in a flash with pre baked potatoes. If I haven’t prepared them ahead of time, I pierce and microwave the potatoes for 15 minutes and then bake them for 30 minutes. I find that the combination of cooking methods shaves off 15 minutes without sacrificing the awesome caramelization that takes place in the oven. I should also note that we only eat ginormous sweet potatoes, so the cook time might be less if your potatoes are more on the petite side. I actually bought small potatoes specifically for this photo shoot so that our “normal” sized ones would not fill up the whole frame.
Repetition is my best friend for breakfast. Once I find something that works, I make it over and over and over again, until I get terribly bored and find another dish. Cecilia and I are currently in the midst of a long oatmeal cycle. She seems to really enjoy it, and I appreciate how quickly we can go from popping out of bed to eating breakfast. I love the texture of stovetop rolled oats, but cleaning the pot is such a pain and it takes a good bit of monitoring so that they don’t boil over. After some trial and error, I developed the following method that I think produces almost an identical texture without the extra cleaning or monitoring.
1. Pour 1/2 cup of rolled oats into a large (16 oz) bowl.
2. Cover with 1 cup of boiling water, and let sit for 5-7 minutes (or the time it takes for a diaper and clothes change). If you do not have a nifty water heater, do not despair! Use hot tap water and let the oats with for closer to 15 minutes (or the time it takes to shower and put on clothes).
3. Stick the bowl in the microwave for 2 minutes. If you followed the instruction about a large bowl, this should not boil over.
4. Add in fruit, nuts, milk, or sweeteners for flavor.
Our standard combinations are banana walnut and cinnamon raisin. Recently, I have been experimenting with ways to increase our vegetable consumption throughout the day, and there is no better time to start than the morning! So far, my favorite veg-packed oatmeal is this carrot cake oatmeal from Oh She Glows. I add the carrots and raisins in with the oats in Step 1, and everything cooks up nicely.
We are on a bit of a polenta kick this week, with the chorizo and spinach polenta squares just finished from the fridge and these vegan tamale pies slated for the oven this evening. In this dish, the polenta is part of a lovely, sweet, and crumbly layer of cornbread over a spicy melange of vegetables and beans. I started making a full cornbread recipe since John always requests extra, and each serving has a thick slab atop the beans and vegetables.
I find this recipe perfect for a no-fuss weeknight dinner. The chili layer can be straight from the pantry and freezer into a saucepan for a half hour simmer. Or if I have planned ahead appropriately, I can use cheaper presoaked beans, saute fresh onion and garlic, and maybe even throw in a chopped red bell pepper. Either way, the vegan chili is filling and flavorful. I double the chili and use this sweeter recipe for the cornbread, and it fills a 9 x 13 casserole dish. I follow the baking instructions for the cornbread since everything else is cooked. For a weeknight dinner, this ticks all the boxes: quick to make, easy clean up, all staple ingredients, and leftovers for the next day.