I have been thinking about food a lot lately. I mean, who doesn’t?! One of my studio-mates is on Instagram and often uses the hashtag #ilovefood and it makes me giggle every time. I love food. Totally. I do not consider myself a foodie by any means. I mean, I like good food but when it comes to cooking, I’m not really that fancy. I am good at following recipes though and I am also good at knowing what I like to eat.
Dr. Sarah and I were recently talking about people who we know who simply don’t cook. We both find it strange. I mean, if you do not cook, what the heck are you eating for dinner every night?! If you have seen the amazing film Fed Up, you know how awful processed food is for you. If you have not yet seen this documentary, please for the sake of your life and future, stop reading this blog post now and watch it. (Then come back and finish this post!) Processed food is absolutely terrible for you. You have to stop eating it. Start cooking with real ingredients. It’s incredible how much better you feel after eating it. How you feel lighter and how your mental health is that much better. Food is life and we have full control over how we handle it.
I know that some people live on their own and say “But I don’t like cooking for myself.” That is a fair feeling but shouldn’t you want to be look after your body? You owe it yourself. This past week, I have been pretty much on my own. Josh has worked everyday this week so that means that when I wake up to go to the studio, he is sleeping (he gets home at 4am after all!) and when I come home, he is at work tending bar. We went for four days this week before actually seeing each other’s face. I knew his schedule ahead of time so I did mentally prepare for this. I also made it into a challenge for myself. I wanted to make easy dinners for the week. Dinners that were full of good food and dinners that would work for leftovers so that the following day, I would have lunch to take to the studio and Josh would have lunch to eat before heading into work that afternoon.
So here they are, six easy dinners that we make on the regular in our house. Six dinners that also work as lunch the next day. And why six? Why not a full week’s worth? Because let’s be honest: we cannot all cook every night of the week. This Friday was all about a big bowl of popcorn and a glass of wine for me. And, sometimes, that is totally okay. Yes, all of these dinners are vegetarian but you can easily add meat if desired. You can also easily remove any cheese to make them vegan since most of them would be without it.
Dinner #1: Pasta
I grew up in a pretty small town in Ontario and we ate pretty standard food at home. When it came to pasta, I only knew it as spaghetti. My parents made amazing homemade tomato sauce with tomatoes that they would can every year and on good days, we got to add real grated cheese to it. I was about fourteen when I remember eating at East Side Mario’s for the first time (remember, it was a very small town where I grew up!). There I experienced a pasta with a rosé sauce. Say what?! The thing is, a pasta dinner can be whatever you want it to be. It’s also a great way to clean out your fridge. So what to put in it? What goes together? Well the answer is, whatever you like. For this one, I minced some garlic and cooked it in EVOO. Added some chopped heirloom tomatoes, capers, spinach and sliced almonds. Add a little pepper (never salt! The capers are salty enough.) and some grated parmesan and boom, you have dinner. I love the rainbow of colours in the vegetables.
Dinner #2: Indian
As winter seems to be here, cozy comfort food is what I have been craving. You can buy lots of different curries and spices in the grocery but it’s just as easy to make your own to have on hand when you want to use it. My Uncle Ed has the best recipe for some Indian spice and we always have a jar of it in our cupboard. For this meal, I put a can of organic coconut milk with about three or four tablespoons of the spice in a pan. Let that baby heat up and mix the spice in well. Add a block of tofu cubed and any chopped vegetables that you have in your crisper. For this particular time, I added kale and broccoli. Serve over some basmati rice. You can also add extra hotsauce or a hot pepper to the milk when cooking it for an extra kick.
Mix the spices below in a jar. Double, triple, quadruple it to make as much as you want.
- 1 tablespoon turmeric
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 2 tablespoons paprika
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 tablespoon ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 2 tablespoon garlic powder
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 2 tablespoons of curry
- 1 tablespoon of dry ginger
- 1 teaspoon cardamom
Dinner #3: Chickpea Salad Wrap
This is a new meal in our roster of foods that we love to make at home. It’s from the amazing Oh She Glows cookbook. It resembles a chicken salad but is made with chickpeas instead and it is oh so good. The textures of all of the ingredients make it wonderful to eat. Plus, there’s diced pickles in there. So good! The exact recipe that is in the cookbook is not on the website but this one here is very similar. (Or, you could just buy the book because it is totally worth having!) Seriously: fresh, delicious, healthy. You cannot go wrong with this.
Dinner #4: Risotto
Holy heck, I love risotto. If I could, I swear that I would eat it every day. It’s so creamy and dreamy. When you don’t eat meat, you are often left with the risotto option at restaurants. A lot of people complain that risotto is too hard to make. The truth is, it’s not – you just have to keep your eye on it and pretty much constantly stir it. Years ago (I’m talking 2003), there was a recipe for a wild mushroom risotto in the Food & Drink magazine that I typed out and refer to every time that I make it. I make the mushroom version a lot but since it’s squash and pumpkin season, I’ve been using them more. For this particular risotto, I roasted a butternut squash. I cooked it whole in the oven at 300 degrees for about 1 1/4 hours. (Don’t forget to pierce it a few times so that it does not explode in there!) Once it was ready, I started the risotto. First, dice onion & garlic and cook in some EVOO until the onion starts to get translucent, add 1 1/2 cups of arborio rice until it is all coated in oil. Add about 1/2 cup of white wine. Continue stirring until the wine is nearly all absorbed. You are then going to slowly add more liquid – I use vegetable stock – about 1/2 cup at a time. When that gets nearly absorbed, add more. Continue stirring and adding liquid until your rice is cooked. It usually ends up being about four cups of stock in the end. Once it is nearly there, add your squash (or mushrooms or whatever). Most recipes for risotto say to then add some butter and parmesan cheese to it. I prefer to save the calories and just add some grated cheese to the top.
Dinner #5: Chickpea, Tomato & Feta
So maybe the above photo doesn’t make the food seem the most appealing but I swear that this easy meal is one of the most tasty that I make. It’s so easy and packed full of goodness. I have been making it for so long that I cannot even remember where I originally got the recipe from. Chop up half an onion and cook slightly in a bit of EVOO. Add a can of diced tomatoes. Let some of the liquid evaporate and then add about 1/2 cup of white wine (see, make this and the risotto in the same week and use the same bottle of wine! Would you look at that?!). Let simmer for a few minutes. Add a can of chickpeas and about a half cup of feta cheese (I prefer the light version). Stir and cook until the feta is melted. Serve over a bed of spinach. The spinach will slightly wilt under the heat of the food which makes it pretty great. Seriously, this dinner is dreamy.
Dinner #6: Tacos/Burritos
Taco or burrito night is one of my most favourite nights. Just like Indian night, Mexican night has it’s own jar of spices on-hand all ready to be used! I have spoken about this Taco Seasoning before on this blog (in case you missed it) but let me reiterate: stop eating processed food. Yes, it’s easy to buy those little packets of “taco seasoning” in the grocery but have you ever looked at the ingredients on the packaging? It’s terrifying. Do yourself a favour and make your own. For our vegetarian version of this, we use a package of Ground Round. I add three tablespoons of the Taco Seasoning to a cup of water and put it in a skillet with the Ground Round. Add some chopped onion and cook until the liquid is absorbed. From there you can build your meal on whatever tortillas you like. Toppings on this round included tomatoes, refried beans, sweet peppers, avocado and cheese (of course).