Like the majority of students, I didn’t do a whole lot of cooking while attending college. Between club events serving free food and going out to restaurants occasionally, the rest of the gaps were filled in with instant oatmeal, sandwiches, snacks, and quick dinners like pasta or chicken and rice.
After college, I was happy to have more time to cook better and healthier food. My signature dinner dish seems to be homemade pizza, the only recipe that regularly uses my bread machine. Ethan and I also frequently prepare tacos/burritos, pulled chicken, turkey burgers, and chicken and rice. It’s kind of boring sometimes. My lunches have even less variety: usually a sandwich, almonds/peanuts, granola bar, and fruit. I’ve made it a goal to start trying to cook new things that hopefully become regular lunch and dinner dishes.
Ethan had never had chicken parmesan before, but we both really liked this recipe from Food.com. There are healthier dinners out there, but chicken parm sure is a delicious comfort food.
Koshary (also called kushari or kushary) is a popular street food in Egypt, made from rice, lentils, chickpeas, and pasta topped with a tomato and vinegar sauce. I first tried it at a food stand at a farmers market and liked it. This recipe was really time consuming, but Ethan and I both liked it. If I make it again, I’ll get the lentils cooking right away and use quick cooking rice to manage the time better.
The next dinner experiments might be spaghetti squash or zucchini “pasta” or a recipe from Blue Apron (I’m not trendy enough to have food mailed to my door, but I’ll use the free recipes).
I’m a big fan of sandwiches, but I worry about processed deli meats being unhealthy, so I’ve been eating mostly PB&J lately. The peanut butter I’ve been buying for myself is Smuckers Natural because it’s the only one I could find that has just peanuts and salt on the ingredient list. I’m not a fan of hydrogenated oils (trans fat) or sugar in my PB. Smuckers Natural is not cheap, though! So I decided to put my food processor to use and make homemade peanut butter. I used the directions by Emma Christensen at Kitchn, adding salt and sunflower oil to the dry roasted peanuts. It was very easy and turned out surprisingly good with a fresh taste and creamy consistency! I really only saved somewhere between $0.50 – $1.00 for a 32 oz. jar of peanut butter, though, so I’m on the lookout for peanuts sold in bulk to save more money.
The other thing I’ll admit is that sandwiches get old. A couple of weeks this summer, I tried something new for lunch: Summer Couscous Salad featured on Mel’s Kitchen Cafe. If you like Mediterranean food and vinegar, it’s a great option. It was refreshing and light yet filling enough for a weekday lunch meal.
I’ve still got some branching out to do to try new recipes. I might decide to try the 52 New Foods Challenge (1 new meal per week for 1 year). Let me know what lunch and dinner recipes are your favorites!