Well actually all you really need are carrots, celery, onions, and a few other things to create delicious meals on a regular basis. You know how I feel about ingredients. They are affordable and enable you to prepare your own healthy meals whenever you please. I’ll give you two lists of things that you should keep on hand to make delectable dishes and a couple of easy peasy recipes to prove it.
Chilies (jalapeno, Serrano, etc.)
Cilantro (or any fresh herb you use on a regular basis)
Beans (at least 2 or 3 kinds)
Stock/Broth (I like vegetable, but chicken or beef work too)
Canned tomatoes (diced, pureed, whole)
Tamari (gluten free soy sauce)
I’m working under the assumption that you have salt, pepper, and sugar (or some kind of sweetener) on hand already.
Let me explain my rationale for these choices. There are certain bases that you can create for any number of dishes. I’m all about that base, ‘bout that base. Sorry I couldn’t resist. Here are some examples.
Mirepoix is a classic French combination of diced carrots, celery, and onions. It’s usually one part carrots, one part celery, two parts onion. For example, it would be ¼ cup of carrots, ¼ cup of celery, ½ cup onions. It’s a great start for soups and stews.
Trinity is classic in New Orleans cooking. It’s a combination of diced celery, onions, and bell peppers. I’m pretty sure you can’t make gumbo without it, although I’m not a gumbo expert.
Sofrito is a Latin base that is much more flexible in it’s ingredient list, but could include any or all of the following: onions, bell peppers, chilis, garlic, cilantro. The list goes on. There are as many variations as there are cooks.
Here is a short list of meals you can create with the ingredients listed above and, as promised, recipes follow. There are also links to recipes that I have provided previously on this site.
Vegetable Soup (Vegan)
1 quart vegetable stock
2 cups water
1-15oz. can diced tomatoes with it’s liquid
2-3 carrots, sliced
2-3 celery stalks, sliced
¼ to ½ cup onion, diced
Salt & Pepper to taste
Combine all ingredients in a large pot. Simmer until vegetables are cooked through. Adjust seasonings to taste.
Note: Add any additional vegetables that you have on hand. This is a great way to use up leftover veggies. Just don’t cook them for as long as the raw ones. Feel free to add any herbs and spices that you like as well. You can even add some beans to bump up the protein and make the soup a more complete meal.
Gringa Style: Add 1 tsp. each of cumin and chili powder as well as ½ cup each of sliced zucchini and corn kernels. To finish, add some chopped cilantro. Some cooked black or pink beans would also be a delicious addition. (add approximately ½ cups of beans or more to your liking)
Italiano Style: Add 1 tsp. (or more to taste) of each dried basil and dried parsley. Add up to 1 cup zucchini and/or summer squash as well as some cooked white or garbanzo beans. (add approximately ½ cup of beans or more to your liking)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut bell peppers in half. Remove stems and seeds. Stuff with leftover Black Beans and Rice. Place peppers in baking dish. Cover with tomato sauce. Cover with aluminum foil. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until peppers are cooked and everything is heated through.
Note: If you really want to be efficient and save yourself another night of cooking, prep the peppers on the same night that you prepare the Black Beans and Rice. Double the recipe, if necessary. Set everything up in a baking dish, cover and refrigerate (or freeze). On a night when you don’t have time to cook, pop the baking dish in a 350 degree oven and cook through.
Okay, let’s just say that I LOVE hummus. It’s delicious, affordable, versatile, and crowd-pleasing. My husband and I have often made a meal of it with sliced veggies and pita bread or crackers. I personally use dried beans almost exclusively, but in this case I often make an exception. The recipe below is very straightforward and easy to remember so that’s the one I’m providing. It’s basically one of everything: 1 can of beans, 1 clove of garlic, 1 tsp. tahini, 1 lemon. Olive oil and salt as needed. It’s extremely easy to double the recipe. I wouldn’t make more than 2 cans worth (or ½ lb. dried) at a time as the food processor might not be able to accommodate more ingredients. You can also use this recipe if you have a mini-food-processor. The one of everything version is perfect. The only issue is that you can’t drizzle the olive oil while the processor is going. You have to add a little olive oil at a time and start and stop until you get the consistency you like.
1 can of garbanzo beans (drained and rinsed) or ¼ lb. of dried garbanzo beans (soaked, and cooked)
1 clove of garlic (or more to taste)
1 tsp. tahini
1-2 lemons – juice and zest (optional)
Olive oil as needed
Salt to taste
Wash and dry lemons and zest them. Crush and peel garlic clove. Add drained beans, tahini, salt, lemon zest, and lemon juice (to taste) to the food processor. I like lemony hummus so I use a lot of lemon. Start processor and drizzle in olive oil until you get the consistency you like. Adjust seasonings. Serve with veggies, pita bread, crackers, chips. Hummus also makes a great sandwich or wrap. Spread bread with hummus and pile on whatever veggies you like.
Note: Tahini can have a seemingly high price tag when compared with the other ingredients. Keep in mind that a little goes a long way. It keeps in the fridge indefinitely, and even if you made hummus once a week, your supply would last from 6 months to 1 year. Also, you can skip it. It’s not mandatory but I think it adds a nice flavor. That being said, if I didn’t have tahini on hand, I would still make hummus.
Normally I provide a canned equivalent for the beans in my recipes. I will not do that for this recipe. First, because I have never used canned lentils so I don’t know what the equivalent is. Also, lentils don’t need to be soaked and have a relatively quick cooking time. This soup benefits from having all the ingredients simmered together for 30 – 60 minutes.
½ lb. of dried lentils
2-3 carrots, peeled and diced
1 large or 2 small celery stalks, diced
½ medium onion, diced
1 quart vegetable stock (I like Kitchen Basics Brand)
2 cups water
salt and pepper to taste
dried or fresh herbs of choice: thyme or parsley would work
Put all ingredients in a pot and simmer until lentils and veggies are cooked through. This can take anywhere from 30 minutes to 1 hour. If using fresh parsley, reserve until the soup is cooked through and add at the end. All other herbs can be added at the beginning.
Bonus Recipe – Split Pea Soup
Substitute green or yellow split peas for the lentils above and follow the recipe exactly. Leave as is for a chunky version or puree for a smoother consistency.
I love to add rice, especially brown rice, to my lentil soup. It makes it heartier and gives it extra texture. You can mix it in or serve it on the side.
Be on the lookout for my Lentil Stuffed Cabbage recipe in a few weeks.
½ lb. of dried black beans (soaked and cooked)
or 2 cans of black beans, drained and rinsed
1 medium onion, diced
1 bell pepper, diced
1 chili, diced (I like serrano, but jalapeno would definitely work)
1 clove garlic, diced
15 oz. can of tomato sauce
½ can water
Cooked Rice (start with 2 cups, uncooked and then cook any way you like)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 handful of cilantro, rinsed and chopped
Saute onion and pepper until softened, then add chili and garlic and cook for another minute. Add tomato sauce and then ½ can of water. Simmer for a few minutes and then add beans and rice. Stir until combined and heated through. Season as you go with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with cilantro and serve. Serves 4 as a generous main course and 6 – 8 as a side.
Note: You don’t have to combine the rice and beans in one pot. You can keep them separate and serve them that way. I just really like it this way.
This also makes an awesome burrito filling with some salsa or guacamole.
I came across an article today about making a vegan diet more affordable. At first, it seemed odd because I think of vegan diets as being very affordable. Rice and beans are the poster children for veganism. Right? After much consideration, it occurred to me that the sudden popularity of “green juices” and some of the prices that I see at the farmer’s market, can make it difficult to eat well on a budget. Let’s face it, most of us can’t afford micro-greens at $5 per ¼ lb. You’re not fooling anyone. That’s $20 per pound – for lettuce.
This has inspired me to share my first Veganomics series. This week, I will provide you with one recipe every day highlighting beans. Beans are versatile and affordable and delicious.
I will also share some thoughts and tips on beans to help you plan and executive these recipes. Here are a few to get you started.
I like to use dried beans. I find that you get more value, but they do take considerably more time and planning. Of course, you are welcome to use canned. They are still very affordable and easy and nutritious.
A one-pound bag of beans works out to roughly four cans of beans. If you are buying in bulk, one cup of beans is roughly ½ pound or the equivalent of two cans.
You should always sort through dried beans and rinse them thoroughly before soaking or cooking.
You don’t have to soak your beans but it will shorten the cooking time dramatically.
You can soak your beans overnight to shorten cooking time. If you are going to soak them for longer than 12 hours, I would swap out the water at least once. Just drain and rinse and cover with fresh water. You can soak them at room temperature for up to 24 hours. You can also soak them in the fridge for up to 2 days if you think you might not get to cook them right away. Just swap out the water about every 12 hours or so.
You can cook an entire bag of beans and then freeze any that you are not using immediately. A good plan is to cook them all and then divide and store in four parts. Consider each part the equivalent of one can of beans.
Normally I wouldn’t share 5 recipes in 1 week, but I want you to see that you can make these recipes all in a week and have delicious, nutritious options for lunch and dinner and never get bored. And if you are cooking for one or two people, you can even freeze portions for the future, which will save you time and money in the long run. I’ll provide leftover tips along the way. At the end of the week, I will provide a shopping list to show you how, by having minimal and affordable ingredients on hand, you can eat really well.