“What recipes do you use?” It’s a question Gail and I are asked several times a week. Once people hear we’ve made the choices we’ve made in our eating, they want to know our recipes. Our response is usually a paradigm shifter.
It’s not that we don’t have recipes—we do have some favorites. It’s just that we don’t use many. Instead, we do more of what we call “food combining.”
For our meal planning, we think more about the kinds of foods we want to include for their nutritional value rather than about taste. Don’t get me wrong—we eat great tasting food! It’s just that we think of food more as fuel than being driven by our tastebuds.
We realized that many of the meals we enjoy consist of essentially the same foods. So we keep a few basic foods on hand that can be quickly combined in a number of different ways to keep it interesting. And you don’t have to have a recipe.
Some keyboard players can only play from sheet music. Others only by ear. A few can do both well and they have the best of both worlds.
Similarly, most can only prepare meals by recipes. They often tend to think they’ll blow it if they don’t.
But simply combining basic foods can’t be messed up. It’s fast, easy, and makes shopping and meal planning a breeze.
Since we have a plant-based eating plan, our essentials are beans, whole grains, vegetables, fruit, nuts and seeds. We eat some of each every day to get the macronutrients and essential fatty and amino acids that we need for good health.
Here’s our method for simple meal prep:
- Choose your beans/legumes. Combined with whole grains, you’ll get all the essential amino acids from these. They are hearty, tasty, and help keep you satiated. Our favorites are black beans, pinto beans (whole or refried), garbanzo/chickpeas (whole or hummus), and brown lentils. But we also love others like kidney and great northern white beans. All can be included in soups, salads, and sandwiches.
Choose your whole grain. Rice, quinoa, tortillas, bread, pitas, sandwich thins. We make a batch of brown rice or quinoa weekly and keep in the refrigerator. When you purchase bread, tortillas, etc. look for the Whole Grain Stamp. Read the ingredients to make sure nobody’s sneaking in high fructose corn sugar!
Choose your vegetable(s). The more, the better. Start with dark leafy greens. Add other vegetables of different colors—tomatoes, carrots, beets—as that will give you a variety of micronutrients. Peppers, onions, and cruciferous vegetables (e.g., broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage) are all cancer-fighting. Load ’em up.
Choose hot or cold. Roasted, steamed, or stir fried. Throw all together to make a great soup. Or eat raw or a combination of both. Perhaps include with a pasta sauce.
Add a side. Add in a small amount of nuts, seeds, and/or fruit as desired. Or save these for a snack in between meals.
Some of our quick combination options are:
- Pita bread stuffed with hummus, spinach, avocado, chopped peppers, shredded carrots, onions, and mushrooms.
Tortilla with brown rice, refried pinto beans, spinach, salsa.
A bed of spinach, chopped peppers and onions, mushrooms, topped with a serving of brown rice and warm spaghetti sauce. A serving of black beans or hummus on the side.
Vegetable chili poured over a handful of spinach. A slice of whole grain bread.
Pita pizza with spaghetti sauce, chopped vegetables and mushrooms, black beans.
My favorite on-the-go meal: Almond butter and banana slices sandwich or wrapped in a tortilla.
Tons of variety from a basic array of whole foods. Keep a supply readily available for quick access. Options are endless: soups, salads, paninis. Jazz is up with favorite condiments and spices and you’ll have a Fourth of July going on in your mouth.
Simple is good, good for you, and can be great tasting.
Question: What is your favorite simple food-combining/no-recipe meal? Share your answer in the comments below.