Who doesn’t love a tasty, healthy, and homemade meal? But the thought of cooking after a long day in the office usually evokes dread among many busy, working professionals. However, there are numerous benefits to cooking at home. You can save you a lot of money, which mean extra dollars for your dream vacation to Italy or India or your emergency fund. Cooking also can be calming — seemingly meditative — after a busy day. And you’ll likely save a ton of calories from avoiding restaurant meals that are often hidden with extra calories and salt.
If you crave a simple yet tasty meal during the week as an alternative to ordering take-out or dining out, below are five recipes that will make you feel like an Iron Chef. All the recipes are vegetarian and take 30 minutes or less to create. Most of the suggested ingredients for each recipe can be found in mainstream grocery stores or at Trader Joe’s.
Recipe 1: A Seriously Tasty Black-Bean Quesadilla
2 flour tortillas
1/4 small red or white onion finely sliced
1/3 small jalapeno thinly sliced (optional if you don’t like spicy)
1 tbs of black beans (drained from a can is perfectly fine)
1 tsp of oregano
1 tsp of fresh cracked black pepper
¼ to ½ cup of queso blanco or your favorite sharp cheddar cheese
2 tsp of vegetable or olive oil
1. Cover a flat-pan skillet with oil over medium; heat for 2 minutes
2. Gently place one tortilla on the skillet and allow one side to sauté for about 1 minute
3. Flip the tortilla over and allow the other side to sauté for about 1 minute before removing
the tortilla from the pan
4. Brush the second tortilla with oil and repeat steps 2 to 3
5. Turn the heat on the stove to low and return one tortilla to the pan
6. Evenly sprinkle the cheese onto the tortilla and distribute the black beans, sliced onions, and diced jalapenos (optional) on top of the cheese
7. Allow the cheese to melt for about 1 minute over low heat
8. Place the second tortilla on top and flip the quesadilla; allow the quesadilla to heat through for another 30 to 45 seconds before removing it from heat
9. Carefully cut the quesadilla into quarters on a cutting board
Enjoy your cheesy, black-bean filled quesadilla as is or with your favorite store-bought sour cream, salsa, or guacamole on the side. You also could quench your thirst with an ice-cold Corona topped with a wedge of lime.
Recipe 2: Heavenly Pasta in a Creamy Sauce with Sweet Green Peas, Olives, and Onions
¼ stick of butter (salt-free if available)
1 tbs of all-purpose flour
2½ cups of whole milk (heated slight in the microwave in 2 minutes)
½ to 1 cup of sweet green peas (frozen is fine)
2 to 3 black or greens olives, sliced
1 small onion finely sliced (white or red is fine)
2 cloves of garlic finely diced
1 tsp of crushed black pepper
2 tsp of salt
2 to 3 tsp of basil (dried is fine)
2 to 3 tsp of oregano (dried is fine)
1 tsp of dill (dried is fine)
1 cup of shredded cheese (Quattro Formaggio from Trader Joe’s or a half of cup of parmesan and fontina cheese each would work well)
½ package of your favorite pasta (cook according the package’s instructions)
1. Heat olive oil in a large pot or wok over medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes
2. Add butter to the olive oil and allow it to melt
3. Gently stir in the flour to the olive oil and butter mixture until slightly golden brown
4. Add the onions and sauté for about 2 to 3 minutes or until slightly brown
5. Stir in the olives, garlic, and sweet peas; sauté for about 2 minutes
6. Add the warm milk to the pot and bring it to a slow boil (If you notice bubbles rising to the top of the milk, that is a good sign.)
Note: As you wait for the milk to come to a boil, now is a good time to boil water in another large pot and cook your favorite pasta. Follow the recommended time to boil the pasta based on the instruction on the package.
7. Sprinkle the crushed black pepper, salt, oregano, dill, and basil into the milk and gently stir
8. Once you notice bubbles rising to the top of milk, gently add the cheese and reduce the heat to low
9. Gently stir the cheese into the milk until it completely melts. Try the sauce to make sure it is seasoned to your liking. Feel free to add more salt, basil, or other spices if needed.
10. Turn off the heat. If you have a large enough pot, add the cooked pasta into the sauce. Otherwise, you may simply pour the sauce over a bowl full of pasta.
Enjoy your pasta with your favorite glass of wine if desired!
Recipe 3: Sensational Salad with Chickpeas and Dried Cranberries
1 to 2 cups of mixed greens (pre-washed) or any lettuce of your choice
3 to 4 tsp of dried cranberries
1 tbs of chopped walnuts or your favorite nut (sliced almonds or sunflower seeds work well)
½ cup of chick peas (drained from a can is perfectly fine)
2 to 3 large black or green olives finely sliced
½ tsp of fresh cracked black pepper
½ tsp of salt
1½ tbs of extra virgin olive oil
½ tsp of lemon juice freshly squeezed
½ tbs of balsamic vinegar
1. Place the mixed greens on the bottom of a large mixing bowl
2. Add the chickpeas, cranberries, olives, and nuts
3. Add the olive oil and balsamic vinegar
4. Squeeze the lemon juice on top
5. Evenly distribute the fresh cracked black pepper and salt over the bed of greens
6. Toss the salad gently with tongs or place a large plate over the mixing bowl before giving the salad a few gentle shakes!
7. Empty the salad onto a plate or large salad bowl
Enjoy the salad as is or with your favorite bread. I recommend a French baguette or a grilled pita!
Recipe 4: Pasta with a No-Fuss Marinara Sauce
½ large red or white onion finely sliced
2 to 3 tbs of extra virgin or regular olive oil
2 to 3 cloves of garlic finely diced
3 large green or black olives finely sliced (optional)
1 can of black, garbanzo, or cannellini beans (15 oz can; optional for protein)
3 tsp of oregano (dried or fresh)
3 tsp of basil (dried or fresh)
3 tsp of fresh ground black pepper
2 tsp of red chili flakes (optional)
2 to 3 tsp of salt
½ tbs of brown sugar
1 can of freshly crushed tomatoes (28 oz can with no salt added is best)
¾ package of your favorite pasta (penne or spaghetti work well)
1. In a medium-size pot or large wok, coat the pan with oil over medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes
2. Add the onions and allow them to sauté for 2 to 3 minutes or until slightly golden brown
3. Toss in in the olives and garlic and allow them to sauté with the onion for another 1 to 2 minutes
4. Add the beans (optional) and allow them to sauté for 4 to 5 minutes; gently give everything in the pot a stir
5. Gently add the crushed tomatoes and mix everything together in the pot
6. Stir in the crushed black pepper, salt, oregano, basil, brown sugar, and red chili flakes as desired
7. Cover the pot or wok and allow the sauce to simmer for about 5 to 6 minutes over low heat
Note: While the sauce is simmering, cook the pasta in another pot according to the package’s instructions.
8. Uncover the pot and taste the sauce. If you want to add more spices, now is a good time to do it
9. Turn off the heat before adding the cooked pasta into the sauce. If your pot is not big enough, simply pour the sauce onto a bowl full of pasta
Feel free to sprinkle some grated parmesan cheese onto the pasta and enjoy your home-cooked meal with a glass of your favorite wine!
Recipe 5: Easy, Simple Channa Masala
1 can of chick peas (15 oz)
1 to 2 tsp of cumin
2 to 3 tsp of garam masala
1 tsp of turmeric
1 small jalapeno finely diced (optional)
½ small ginger finely diced
1 medium red or white onion finely sliced
1 large tomato chopped into medium-size pieces
2 cloves of garlic finely diced
2 to 3 tsp of salt
1 to 3 sprigs of cilantro finely chopped
2 tbs of vegetable or olive oil
½ to 1 cup of water
1 cup of basmati rice (cook per instructions on the package)
1. Cover the bottom of a medium-sized pot with oil over medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes
2. Add the onions and allow to sauté for 2 to 3 minutes
3. Add the tomatoes, garlic, ginger, and jalapenos (optional); sauté for 2 to 3 minutes
4. Distribute the cumin, turmeric, garam masala, and salt into the pot and stir together gently
Note: Now would be a good time to cook your basmati rice per the package’s instructions in a separate pot.
5. Add the chickpeas and allow them to sauté in the pan for 5 to 6 minutes
6. Pour the water over the chickpeas, gently stir, and cover the pot for 5 minutes over medium low heat. You may notice a slight boil after you cover the pot, which is okay.
7. Uncover the pot and sprinkle in the cilantro
8. Taste a spoonful of channa masala to make sure it is seasoned to your liking. Now would be a good time to add extra spices such as salt as desired.
9. Turn off heat
Enjoy the channa masala over a bed of basmati rice. Don’t be surprised if this dish tantalizes your taste-buds and makes you want to plan a trip to India!
Lastly, remember to have fun as you cook — you’ll be be surprised how good the food tastes with this attitude! Feel free to even try cooking these recipes while dressed in your favorite chill-out clothes, which an be very relaxing after a long day at work!
Originally published at www.levo.com.
Originally published at medium.com