How to cook, eat, and keep green in ‘the real world’

Dan Wood has some tips on how to eat in the real world. (Umami/Flickr, Creative Commons)

As you trudge through a very transitional part of your life you are probably going to get a lot of comments from older folks like ‘you don’t know what it is like yet’ or ‘just wait until you are in the real world’. While we cannot promise you that this transition to the ‘real world’ will be easy, we can help you save money and stay healthy with a few easy recipes that are cheap, sustainable, and delicious! Many of them can be prepped ahead of time, too, because you will most likely have your hands full.

Breakfast Bowl

The more I learn about efficient vegetarian meals, the more things come in granulated forms in bowls. Grain base is the future, baby. So this one is no different.

This dish has three primary parts: BASE (oats), FLAVOR (fruits), and POWER (nuts/seeds)

The base can either be steel cut oats or quick oats (AKA rolled or instant). If you can swing the time to do the steel cut oats ahead of time, that is ideal for health benefits. If you want quick and dirty you can just do the instant ones every morning.

For this recipe, like many of this nature, it is flexible so that it can accommodate many seasonal ingredients, different pantry findings and styles to help you save money and cut down on waste. Follow your heart and your stomach, but here is an example that I really like:

I use nut milk as the cooking liquid for the oats, but good brands can be hard to find. Many just taste like grass or white water with the essence of nuts. I like Almond Breeze’s unsweetened vanilla cashew almond milk. Whatever you buy, unsweetened vanilla is usually a good way to go.

Cook the oats as per the instructions on the package.

Once you have made your base, here is a fruit topping that I love

Makes a few servings of topping.

- 1cup of pineapple, fresh or canned diced

- 2 T virgin coconut oil, the kind that smells and tastes like coconut

-1 cup of dry coconut flakes

-1/4 of dark brown sugar, cane if you can get it. Stay away from corn-based stuff.

-Cinnamon to taste (usually only a few pinches)

-Vanilla extract to taste (a dash is fine, usually)

OPTIONAL GARNISH

-cranberries, dried

-cashews, crushed

-sunflower seeds

-banana chips

Start by setting the oven on broil and lay out the coconut flakes on a sheet tray.

Keep an eye on these guys and shake ’em when the ends get a little brown; it’s ok to keep your oven cracked so you can watch them. Remove when toasted evenly, allow to cool so they get crunchy! Can be done ahead and stored in a dry container.

In a small sauce pan, get the coconut oil warm over medium heat, then add your pineapple until it begins to get soft and break down. The color might fade a bit.

Then add everything else and reduce to low until it’s a sweet brown compote.

Taste that ish, mix it up. DON’T FORGET SALT.

Put just enough on your portion of oats so that you can taste both. Don’t smother your oats; it’s about the oats, dog.

Top with the coconut and any other nuts or dried things lying around. Banana chips are a great garnish, crushed cashews, cranberries for acidity or sunflower seeds too!

The All in One Fried Rice

Again, here we see a whole grain forward dish that is peppered with veggies and non-meat based proteins. This aromatic base can be used for any Asian stir-fry and I encourage you to get creative with your dishes. In the past I have used the base to season squash noodles with peppers and mushrooms and then top with lime juice, crushed peanuts, mung beans and cilantro. You can virtually cook any grain or vegetable in this style; it is delicious, fast, one pan, and easy to eat. The Chinese have streamlined wok cooking for the past few hundred years.

Like the vegetable mixture of much western cooking (carrots, celery, onion) central Asia has their version: GGSS (ginger, garlic, scallion, sambal). Although you could use the shrimp paste version, if you want a more neutral base, use the Rooster brand, the same brand that makes Sriracha.

This is also a meal that could work for lunch. It’s easy to make ahead of time and is a complete meal that is good hot or cold. It is also a great way to get rid of veggies that are looking stale, old rice laying around in the fridge and what not.

Another thing that should be said about fried rice or stir fry in general: all ingredients should be roughly the same size, this will ensure even cooking so that size/density is not a factor when things are moving around in the pan.

BASE

-1/4 cup of garlic minced

-1/4 cup of ginger minced

-1/2 bunch of scallions sliced (Ends can be sliced and reserved  for garnish but most of the scallion should be going in the base)

-2 T of sambal (Or more if you want it hot!)

-¼ cup of high temp cooking oil (I like to use grape seed because it’s neutral and more sustainable most times. (Check with Green Grape, see what they have.)

RICE- the proportions are up to you. The base has most of the flavor already taken care of.

-Cook a good amount of brown rice. Again, ahead of time is the dream because of the cook time. Also, having the rice dry out a bit will help the texture of your dish.

- 1 head of broccoli florets

-1 medium carrot, sliced into disks

-1 small onion

-Frozen or canned corn and peas, about 1 cup each

-1 egg scrambled

-Fish sauce and soy sauce to taste

-Use rice vinegar to balance if it gets too salty or heavy (rich)

Wok cookery is based on a high heat in a concentrated spot at the bottom of the pan where the food dances around. This is hard to recreate in a European kitchen, and as a result, your rice might be a bit wetter than you’re used to, but you can always fry it a second time later to help get more crispy textures and less porridge-like consistency.

Get a big flat bottomed wok. If you don’t have one, your Dutch oven will do nicely, or something big enough to hold a lot of food and still have room to keep it moving over medium-high heat.

Add the oil and let it get hot, then add the ginger and garlic and cook until translucent.

Add the sambal and the scallions and keep everything moving. The scallions should turn to a darker color and the oil and other aromatics should turn red from the chili.

Then add your veggies. Cook harder things first for a minute if necessary, like your carrots and onion before the other stuff. Then add your rice and make sure everything is moving over this medium-high heat.

Then when the rice has absorbed much of the base, add your other veggies for a few minutes of cooking and form a well at the bottom of the pot, exposing the metal. You can add a little more oil at this point if things are getting gunked up on the bottom.

Add the egg to the well and KEEP THE EGG MOVING IN THE WELL TO COOK FAST. If you don’t cook the egg fast enough, the sides will burn.

After the egg is sufficiently cooked, chop it up and stir everything in together.

Then season with a GOOD amount of soy sauce. It’s always more than you think, especially for brown rice. Throw in a dash of fish sauce as well.

Then mix and taste! Adjust, and taste!

If it is really wet but you don’t wanna overcook the rice, you can spread it out on a sheet tray while it is hot to get rid of moisture for later frying/reheating.

Stir in fresh green scallion at the end if desired.

If you wanna do a more formal setting and do a little salad on the side it is usually a nice compliment. We can also use some of the ingredients from the stir-fry to help bridge the salad and the rice.

Equal parts rice vinegar and oil, then add a good bit of peanut butter and a tablespoon of toasted sesame seeds, a little black pepper, scallion and a touch of soy and whisk together. TASTE IT.

Salads that work nice for this are crisp and refreshing. I like iceberg with cucumber slices, shredded carrot and even daikon if you’re into radish.

Drink some Tsing Tao for a perfect beer pairing to the meal! Authentic (kind of)!


Dan Wood is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at daniel.wood@uconn.edu.