Caribbean Flair – Cheap, Easy, Delicious

I can’t count the number of posts that I’ve started by way of saying that I was running late and hadn’t planned dinner well…  Well, I guess I could, but honestly I don’t really want to.  The simple fact is that planning is not my strong suit.  So how do I eat healthy food without breaking the bank? I keep a healthy pantry and that pantry allows me to start with the ingredients that I have and cobble together something that works for most of us most of the time.  (Learn more about our real food pantries here.)  So last night, running on about 3 hours of sleep and a miserable day of contract work I stood in front of my magic pantry and waited for inspiration.

And then it happened.  Oooh, sweet potatoes.  Oh right, I just got some quinoa!  Black beans, hot dog!  Chipotle, garlic, cumin, salt, coconut oil… oh and cilantro!  Oh yes, life is good.  Dinner for four in about 35 minutes featuring: Continue reading

Herbed Zucchini Rice – Soopah Fast Dinner

I know you may find this hard to believe, but there are nights when I have no idea what I’m going to make for dinner. The day gets away from me; I get immersed in work and whatever 12 projects I have going and before I know it, it’s time to meet the bus, which means it’s almost time to start dinner, which means I’m in trouble if the fridge is bare. My inability to consistently plan HAS had the side benefit of forcing me to be creative in a hurry, and sometimes that’s a good thing. On this particular occasion, it worked out just fine. If I were really sneaky, I’d just tell you how I made this dish and act like I’d planned it all along – I’m pretty sure that’s what I told the kids. 😉

This post highlights one of our favorite real food strategies: cooking excess when you cook. The reason I was able to pull this particular dinner together without stress was that I had both quinoa and rice leftover from previous dinners. Any time I make a grain for a meal, I double the amount that I cook. That way I can use it as a base for another meal, for packed lunches, or for hot cereal in the morning. Oh yeah, a little brown rice, some coconut, some raisins, some pecans – warm – but I digress… This is dinner we’re talking about, and it was great.

Herbed Zucchini Rice

  • 3 medium zucchini, grated (no seeds)*
  • olive oil for pan
  • 1 onion, chopped as fine as you prefer
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed or minced
  • 4 c cooked grains (I mixed quinoa and rice
  • 1-2 tsp dried tarragon (or herb or your choice)
  • salt to taste
  • dash pepper
  • juice of 1/2 medium lemon
  • 1/2 c sunflower cheese (or soft dairy cheese like ricotta)
  • chopped parsley (optional)

* For this dinner I grated the zucchini.  It is important to grate only the skin and the flesh, not the core and seeds of the zuke as the “interior” of the squash contains a lot of water and has a less pleasant texture when cooked, in my opinion. I’ve described the technique in detail here (along with some other zucchini love). The short version is to grate it down to the core, place in a strainer with a little salt and let it rest for at least 10 minutes.

While the zucchini is resting, warm the oil in a pan.  Chop the onion, add to the pan and let cook on med-low heat until translucent.  Return to the zucchini and press as much water out as you can with a spoon or squeeze in a towel (over the sink). Add garlic to onion in pan and cook until fragrant.  Add zucchini to pan and saute for about 5 minutes.  Add tarragon (you could use another herb, but the tarragon gave a nice fresh and light taste), salt, and pepper.  Add rice (or whatever) and sunflower cheese (or whatever) to pan and lower heat – you’re warming, not frying.  Stir occasionally.  When warm, add lemon juice and stir through.  We served ours with chopped parsley on top.  Easy, soopah fast, and delish!