I come from a culture where lunch doesn’t really exist. Or didn’t when I was growing up - it’s possibly more represented among workforce. But for me, breakfasts were always substantial enough to get me through the day, with a sandwich and some fruit munched on at school during 10-minute breaks. Of course, with receiving allowance came chocolate bars, crisps, lollipops and endless bottles of Nestea (don’t tell my mom), but still, those were no meals. Around 4 we’d have a proper one, everyone seated at the table, sometimes coercivelly, sometimes not, and that was the only hot meal during the day, leftovers usually eaten with some bread before going to sleep. Mine was a unconventional home with no cold supper and a late, one-course dinner, soup instead always tucked somewhere in the fridge for sudden strikes of hunger when parents were still at work.
Long story short, when I moved out and suddenly had this midday lunch break, figuring out how to eat was tricky. Trial and error, I found that what works best for me is throwing together some quick-to-cook vegetables, a cup of canned legumes or pre-cooked grains, finishing last night’s leftovers if there are any - probably what most people do if lunch is at home. So I thought I could share some of my plates for inspiration. It’s no elaborate cooking, just light, easy food. Apparently it’s best to have a template, so here is mine: two or three vegetables, 1/2 cup of grains or legumes, some seeds, and something to bring the whole thing together, usually dressing.
Broccoli is one of the most nutritious vegetables out there, which nature semi-chops into the prettiest florets. It cooks in 5 minutes - beyond that it’s just mushy and not too tasty. Plus, at this time of year it’s one of the cheapest vegetables you can get your hands on.
Greens here are a mix of what I had in the fridge - some broccoli leaves cut off the stem, kale, pak choi (I believe that’s what the italian ‚costa’ stands for?) - all in season now. I’ve never met a green that didn’t like garlic and a squeeze of lemon so just use whatever you have or buy whatever is cheapest/looks most interesting (Esselunga started carrying rainbow chard which I can’t wait to eat! Pink stems, orange stems, yellow stems and then the green leaves! I’ll take that as a bouquet, thank you).
I have a 1kg bag of quinoa that my parents sent me forever ago, so that’s what I used, but if it’s too expensive, rice or even potatoes will be great! I cooked a lot more than we needed, which saves time and effort. If kept in the fridge, most grains will be good for a week, rice maybe 3 days.
And then the seeds! I think of them as nature’s beauty pills because they are rich in the what your skin and hair need to look their best: vitamin E, iron, calcium, phosphorus, omega-6, plus, they add protein and fiber. Pumpkin, sesame and sunflower are especially affordable. You can keep a jar of them mixed and toasted and just sprinkle on whatever you eat.
If you’re interested in other super quick lunch recipes following that template, here’s some:
- Buckwheat with beets and pears
- Spiced couscous
- Green bean and buckwheat with roasted tomatoes (you could use frozen beans!)
- Green “Ramen”, where broth does the job of dressing and noodles - of grains
And I will add some more in the weeks to come!
+ please let me know if you find such posts useful! I want to create content that my readers can really enjoy so your insight is very important to me.
Broccoli, Winter Greens and Quinoa
1/2 cup dry quinoa (or rice, potato)
or 1 cup cooked
1 medium broccoli
1 tsp oil (I like coconut oil)
1 cup mixed winter greens, such as kale, chard, broccoli leaves
1 clove of garlic
1 tbsp lemon juice
chili flakes, salt to taste
1 tbsp each sunflower, sesame and pumpkin seeds
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp agave
salt, pepper - a pinch of each
if extra hungry:
1/2 cup frozen green pea
First, cook the grains. Place 1/2 cup quinoa and 1 cup water in a pot with a tight-fitting lid, add a pinch of salt and place over high heat. Once you notice steam (3-5 minutes), reduce the heat to lowest possible and let cook for 10 minutes, then turn the heat off. Leave the lid.
To use as little equipment as possible, use the pot that you can later cook broccoli in for toasting your seeds - over high heat, for 3 minutes, stirring to prevent burning. Remove and set aside. Add water, bring to the boil (or boil it in the kettle before, then just transfer to the pot - extra efficiency). Chop the broccoli florests off the stem, which you can keep and use for soup etc. Cook for 5 minutes or until as tender as you like. If using peas, boil them with the broccoli. Drain, set aside.
Use the same pot to fry the leek. Chop it into roughly 3mm coins, add to heated oil, stir. Cook for 10 minutes over low heat. In the meantime, cut your greens into 1cm slices. Remove the leeks and set them aside, then add the greens with 1-2 tablespoons of water, cook covered for 3 minutes. Mince the garlic, add to greens, stir to combine. Cook for another 2 minutes. Add lemon juice, chili and salt.
Add all the dressing ingredients into a small jar and shake to combine. Divide quinoa between two plates, arrange broccoli and greens around it, top with leek and seeds. Drizzle with the dressing. Eat. Have a good afternoon!