Failure: Rice and Lentils

rice and lentils mix

So this didn’t turn out so well. There were a few factors. The most important was that I set the timer for 10 minutes longer than needed (45 minutes instead of the 35 minutes on the bag). Also, when I tasted the rice at the 45 minute mark, I thought it was crunchy and to give it a little more time, not realizing it was crunchy burned instead of crunchy raw. So I put it on for 2 additional minutes. By the time I took it off the stove, the lentils had basically disintegrated and the rice was crunchy. Overall it didn’t taste very good. We ended up pouring a little bit of Newman’s Own Alfredo sauce to salvage it. That didn’t solve the problem of the rice/lentil layer glued to the bottom of the pot.

rice stuck to pot

Solution? I filled it with water and left it in the sink overnight. While it didn’t smell the greatest the next day, it did get everything unstuck and I was able to clean the pot properly.

Spaghetti & Sausage

spaghetti and sausage

Leftovers. They are very helpful for weeknights. Overcooking is helpful so that you can save time later. So say you have some leftover spaghetti from Broccoli and Pasta and a few more sausage links from the pack you bought for Chicken Sausage sandwich. Combine them for a classic: spaghetti and sausage.

You will need:

  • cooked whole grain pasta; if not cooked, see Broccoli and Pasta for instructions
  • precooked chicken sausage
  • tomato pasta sauce
  • Parmesan cheese, if desired
  • microwave, plate, and fork
  1. Put cooked whole grain pasta and sausage on plate. Put a bit of tomato sauce on sausage and pasta if desired.
  2. Put in microwave for 1:00 or however long until sausage is suitably warm.
  3. Sprinkle pasta with Parmesan cheese, if desired.
  4. You might cook up some frozen broccoli according to package instructions to go along with this meal. Pick up fork and eat!

Chicken Broccoli Rice Bowl

chicken broccoli rice bowl

This recipe was inspired by this recipe from Cooking Light. There were a few givens: I had to leave out the green onions because I’m allergic. I had chicken drumsticks on hand rather than chicken breasts. Also, I wanted to simplify the recipe, so I left out the almonds. In addition to the wrong cut of chicken, I also only had regular brown rice instead of instant brown rice. Also, no Velveeta or other processed cheese, just some Swiss and provolone I had around.

Improvise!

You will need:

  • a pot to cook rice, preferably with a lid; if no lid, you can use aluminum foil to make a makeshift lid like I did
  • a bowl, a plate, and a microwave for steaming the broccoli
  • a skillet or pan to bring the dish together
  • 2 forks and 1 bowl
  • cutting board (or a plate) and a sharp knife
  • 1 cup of brown rice (I actually made 2 cups, thinking I would have extra rice left over. I then only used about 1/4 of the cooked rice in the recipe, if that. 1 cup looks small, but you’ll have plenty of left overs)
  • 1 head of broccoli
  • 3 chicken drumsticks (or 2 chicken breasts would be better)
  • olive oil
  • 3 slices of cheese (I used 2 Swiss and 1 provolone; be wary of hard cheese like cheddar that don’t melt well; American could also work here)
  1. Cook the brown rice in the pot according to the instructions. This will take however long it takes to get water boiling plus 45 minutes. If you can do ahead, that’s great. Remember after the water hits boiling with the rice in it to reduce the heat to mid or low before you put the lid on; otherwise you will boil over.
  2. While the rice is cooking, wash the broccoli under the water. You don’t have to dry it; just put it straight into the bowl. Add a little bit of water into the bottom of the bowl. You will put a plate on top of the broccoli bowl to serve as a lid, then put it in the microwave for 3-4 minutes or until broccoli is tender. Put it in the microwave when there is about 5 minutes left on the rice.
  3. After you have prepped your broccoli, cut up your chicken into bite size pieces with your knife on the cutting board or other plate. Make sure to wash plate and knife thoroughly after you are done.
  4. At this point, you will probably be removing the brown rice from heat. You can taste test with a fork to make sure it’s ready.
  5. Replace the pot with the skillet or pan. Drizzle a small amount of oil into the pan. The stove should already be warm; make sure it’s on mid-heat.
  6. Start putting the chicken into the pan. They will sizzle and start to turn brown. Flip the pieces with a spatula or fork as necessary.
  7. Once the chicken is cooked through (i.e., no visible pink) add three slices of cheese and stir until melted. Incorporate about half the rice; reserve the other half for a future meal because rice takes forever to cook. Fold in broccoli. Remove from heat and turn off stove. Put mixture into two bowls. Pick up forks and eat!

Breakfast Time

peanut butter toast and yogurt

I eat the same breakfast every morning, and this is it. It helps to not have to think too much in the morning. I find that this kind of breakfast balances carbs, protein, and fat in such a way to help keep my blood sugar stable all day!

You will need:

  • toaster
  • knife and spoon, bowl and plate
  • 2 slices whole grain bread
  • natural peanut butter (look for one with ingredients of peanuts and maybe salt, and that’s it. Oil separation is REAL peanut butter. “Regular” peanut butter contains trans fats.)
  • plain yogurt (you can use regular style or Greek style, just as long as there’s no sugar or flavors added)
  • seasonal fruit (strawberries are pictured here, but they’re just about out of season now. I’m now switching to low sugar jams and canned pears in juice, never syrup)
  1. Put bread in toaster.
  2. Spoon yogurt out of container and into bowl. You will also use this spoon to eat with.
  3. Wash fruit. Cut up fruit with knife and place in yogurt. Wash knife well.
  4. Toast should have popped. Put toast on to plate and use knife to spread peanut butter on toast. Enjoy toast and yogurt!

Chicken Sausage Sandwich

chicken sausage sandwich

At this point, a few people might be saying, “What?! Chicken sausage? I thought this girl was a vegetarian!” I am actually not, nor have I ever been, a vegetarian. However, I kind of eat like one a lot of the time, because everything that I have read about the subject suggests that it is more healthful and more sustainable for the planet to do so. Still, there are some nutrients (vitamin B12 comes to mind) that are difficult to obtain in a strict vegetarian diet, so I indulge in meat about 3 times per week. Eating less meat also allows me the financial flexibility to purchase better quality meat. It suddenly becomes possible to by grass-fed and free-range on a miniscule budget if you don’t have meat at every meal. This past weekend I stumbled across this delicious looking Italian-style chicken sausage, and it only contained ingredients that I understood, so I decided to go for it! This was also a way to ease my boyfriend into healthier eating: the chicken sausage had a lower fat content than a comparable pork sausage, the whole grain bread had more fiber and less sugar than a hoagie roll, and the marinara sauce had extra veggies in it. The verdict? He loved the sandwich! Bonus: I only used a toaster and a microwave to prepare the meal.

You will need:

  • microwavable plate
  • knife to cut sausage
  • spoon for sauce
  • precooked Italian chicken or turkey sausage (make sure the label says it is precooked; otherwise, it is unsafe to cook in the microwave)
  • 2 slices whole grain bread
  • onion-free marinara sauce (I’m allergic to onions, so marinara sauce can be difficult. Fortunately, I found Newman’s Own Garden Peppers sauce, which subs bell peppers for onions! Someday, I’ll make my own sauce free of soybean oil, but baby steps for now.)
  • mozzarella cheese (optional)
  • toaster and microwave
  1. Put bread in the toaster. (If you don’t toast the bread, it will get soggy.)
  2. While waiting for the toast to pop, cut the sausage down the length of it so that one side will be flat. You may need to cut the sausage again to fit the size of the bread you’re using. After cutting lengthwise, I cut my sausage in half horizontally. After the toast popped, I put three of the sausage pieces vertically on the toast, and the last piece laid horizontally. (Cutting the sausage to fit the bread is definitely preferable to just putting two sausages on there, because a serving size is typically just one link of sausage.)
  3. Spoon the sauce over the sausage on the toast.
  4. Add a sprinkle of mozzarella cheese if desired. (My sausage already had cheese in it, so I skipped this.)
  5. Put the other toast on top to make a sandwich and put in the microwave for a minute and thirty seconds or however long it takes for the sausage to become hot.
  6. Serve with a side salad. Pick up sandwich and eat!

Broccoli and Pasta

broccoli and pasta

I am still getting acquainted with my new kitchen, but I did actually cook some pasta this week. Pro tip: if you are using a gas stove and it keeps making a clicking sound, that is indeed a bad sign… even though it might not look like it, the stove is still on the ignite setting and you need to turn the dial more. (Fortunately I figured this out pretty quickly and nothing bad happened. And, despite my embarrassment at sharing this story, maybe I just saved one of your lives!)

Another point of embarrassment: I really didn’t feel like doing dishes for both a pot (for pasta boiling) and a pan (for making a sauce). I’ve done it before, but not in this kitchen, and I guess I wasn’t feeling super confident after the above episode. So I thought to myself, I’ll just sprinkle mozzarella cheese on top of the dish and throw it in the microwave for 30 seconds, and it will be basically a cheese sauce! This is not what happened. I still liked it with the melted cheese on top, but my boyfriend confirmed that it needed some sauce. Oh well, live and learn. I’ll still leave the recipe here; I would make it again for myself if I was feeling lazy. (BTW, depicted in the picture is two servings… and there should be more broccoli except I ran out.)

You will need:

  • the largest pot you have for boiling the pasta (if you use a small pot, the pasta won’t cook right and will become sticky)
  • 2 microwavable plates and 2 forks
  • a microwavable bowl for steaming the broccoli
  • 1/4 box of whole grain pasta (I used spaghetti, but I think any shape would work)
  • 1 head of broccoli
  • handful shredded mozzarella cheese
  • stove and microwave
  1. Fill up the pot most of the way with water. I would recommend using cold water; hot water doesn’t speed up the boiling process that much, and then the water runs through a heater that can give the water a weird flavor. Put the pot on the stove and set to high. Wait for a good boil. In the meantime, you might throw together a salad to go with the meal: pre-washed greens into a bowl with a little olive oil, red wine vinegar, and Italian seasoning or marjoram.
  2. Once the water is boiling, put the pasta in. Stir with fork to make sure all pasta is submerged. Wait for it to come to a boil again, and then lower the heat to the middle and set a timer for about 8 minutes.
  3. Wash the head of broccoli well. Break the florets off and put into the bowl. Put a little bit of water at the bottom of the bowl as well. Place one of the plates on top of the bowl as a makeshift lid, and microwave for 3 minutes. This should steam the broccoli. If it’s not done to your liking, you can put it back in for more time. However, it should be somewhat crunchy, not limp or watery; at that point, you’d have cooked the nutrients out of it.
  4. When the timer goes off for the pasta, check pasta for doneness by fishing out with a fork, waiting for it to cool slightly, and eating it. If it’s still too chewy, give it another minute or two. When the pasta is done to your liking, drain the water into the sink. Use one of the plates against the lid of the pot as your pour to guard against any pasta falling out. It’s okay if the pasta is still a little wet.
  5. Distribute pasta and broccoli onto plates. If there’s a bit of water, that’s okay; it will guard against the pasta drying out in the microwave. Sprinkle microwave cheese on top of each plate, and put in the microwave for 30 seconds each or however long it take cheese to melt. Serves two. Pick up forks and enjoy!

Bean and Pepper Burrito

bean and pepper burrito

Mexican-style food seems to be some of the least expensive to put together, but it can also be quite healthy. It’s important to choose the right kind of beans: refried aren’t really healthy. Here, I’m using the same can of pinto beans I used last week, which had the ingredients of beans, water, and salt. I’m also using a 100% whole grain tortilla, as indicated by the little yellow stamp on the package. A yellow bell pepper kicks up the flavor.

You will need:

  • a knife to cut up bell pepper
  • a microwavable plate or paper towel
  • one small yellow bell pepper
  • a can of pinto beans (or you can soak some dried pinto beans overnight if you’re hard core)
  • a handful of shredded cheese (Mexican blend feels “authentic”, but you can use whatever you have around: cheddar, mozzarella, etc. Vegans may want to use cheese substitute, as otherwise the burrito may fall apart.)
  • one whole grain tortilla
  1. Cut the bell pepper in half around the stem, not through the middle. One of the halves will now have the stem along with a bunch of seeds inside. Cut around the rest of the stem, and most of the seeds should come out along with it; discard stem and seeds. Chop the smaller half of the pepper into thin strips or chunks for whatever texture you like best in your burrito. Either save the other half of the bell pepper for another dish, or eat it on the side.
  2. Lay tortilla open on plate or paper towel. Take half of the handful of cheese and sprinkle on half of the tortilla.
  3. Layer on the pepper pieces and enough pinto beans to cover half the tortilla. Sprinkle remaining cheese on top.
  4. Fold the tortilla in half. (I am aware this isn’t true burrito format, but whenever I try to roll it up like a burrito everything falls out for some reason. Try it if you want.) Put it in the microwave for 45-60 seconds.
  5. Serve with the extra bell pepper and green apple on the side if desired. Pick up and eat!