Thursday, January 6, 2011

Delicious, nutritious, and expeditious: fast food vegetarian-style

So I admit I have been a little absent over the holidays, but I know that we can all relate to the "not-enough-hours-in the day" phenomenon.

Truth is, it's really tough to get everything done that you'd like to every day, and time after work just seems to evaporate. That's why I own so many cookbooks featuring 30 minute recipes. But sometimes, I'm too hungry to be bothered to leaf through books and measure quantities. And I want something tasty, not hit or miss. I really do love food after all...

So this is my go-to recipe for a satisfying meal that's quick, simple, and nutritious. It's super helpful if you've got the tendency to turn into a hunger monster if you go too long between meals (like I do). You can have this meal on the table in 15-20 mins starting from scratch. And you might even be able to cut that time almost in half if you already have pre-cooked pasta or cooked broccoli/other veggies in the fridge. The ratios are finagle-able, and pretty easy to remember:

Saves-my-life pasta
  • 2-3 tablespoons of oil (I like grapeseed or canola; your fave oil ought to be fine though, and you can add more or less to suit your preference);
  • 1 med to large onion, chopped into dime-sized pieces
  • a garlic clove or two, minced or pressed through a garlic press (optional*)
  • salt and pepper to taste (freshly ground is preferable)
  • a can of beans of your choice, drained and rinsed; (I like butter beans, or kidney beans, but your favorite kind will do; I always buy lots of cans of beans when they're on sale)
  • a couple of cups of broccoli (you can use other veggies, but this is my tried and true favorite); You can also use more or less than 2 cups depending on what you've got in the house; You'll need the broccoli to be frozen or steamed to make the recipe fast; If pressed for time, I steam my broccoli for a few minutes in the microwave in a bowl with a couple of tablespoons of water added; Cooking broccoli with the microwave can diminish antioxidant content though, and frozen broccoli is often already chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • a couple of cups of pasta of your choice; I like spaghetti for this recipe, but anything works
Start off by chopping your onion into dime-sized pieces. Put your oil in a fry pan, add the onions, and sauté for few minutes over medium heat. The onions will start to become soft and translucent. Mince or press your garlic and add it to the onions, turning down the heat. Garlic can burn easily. Grind some fresh salt and pepper over this mixture and stir around for a few minutes.

While your onions and garlic are cooking, put the water on for your pasta. When the water boils, put in your desired amount of pasta.

Now, open your can of beans, drain the liquid, and rinse the beans in a colander or strainer. Add the beans to your onion mixture in the fry pan. Mix and let cook for a few more minutes. If you choose to add frozen veggies (e.g. broccoli), add them along with the beans. They'll need to defrost. You may even want to cover your pan to let the steam circulate and cook the vegetables more effectively. If you already have cooked broccoli/veggies, add them to the mixture closer to the end of the cooking time. You don't want them to overcook, you just want them to warm up. When your veggies and beans seem to be soft, (not "mushy") they are ready.

When your pasta is finished cooking, drain it, and put it back in the pot with a bit more oil. Stir in your onion mixture and voilá: a meal with veggies, healthy fats, protein, carbohydrates, and antioxidants. And it tastes good. You can always mess with the quantities or ingredients to suit yourself better of course, but this is my old stand-by, and has served me well over the years...

Enjoy all, and eat in good health! Happy New Year!

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