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Three simple meals on a budget

Jan 3rd, 2015 | Category: Cooking

by Laura Boynton

Here are three easy recipes to add to your collection that will save both time and money. Enjoy them with family and cultivate appreciation for the simple act of gathering and sharing. After all the holiday season’s truffles, pies, turkeys, hams and eggnog, the respite of a simple meal is welcome.

The fried rice recipe can be made quickly. Serve with minimal ingredients, or try topping the dish with seafood, meat or vegetable kabobs.  COURTESY PHOTO

The fried rice recipe can be made quickly. Serve with minimal ingredients, or try topping the dish with seafood, meat or vegetable kabobs. COURTESY PHOTO

I wanted to test my premise that these recipes should be in the repertoire of the harried, so I asked my teens (ages 13 and 15) to help me cook them. Not only are the prep tasks simple, all three of these dishes are inexpensive, use pantry staples and are favorites. (Now that I know they can cook these without my help, guess who’ll be having a night of bon-bon eating?)

While these recipes are all meatless, they lend themselves to tinkering. Add grilled chicken to the quesadillas and shrimp or bacon to the fried rice. Increase the spices for more kick. Serve with side dishes. But know that these one-bowl dishes are perfectly satisfying as written!

Masoor Daal

My daal recipe has evolved with constant tinkering.  The coconut milk is not traditional, but gives a lovely creamy texture. Tomatoes take the flavor in a different direction entirely.



1 cup red lentils

¼ cup chopped yellow onion

2 cloves garlic, minced

1-inch piece ginger, peeled, finely diced

¼ teaspoon ground turmeric

¼ teaspoon garam masala

½ teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

½  13.5 ounce can coconut milk (optional)  or 1 15 ounce can diced tomatoes in juice (optional)



Saute onions, garlic and ginger together in one tablespoon of oil until tender. Rinse lentils thoroughly and place in a medium saucepan along with turmeric, garam masala, salt and cayenne pepper. Cover with about 1 inch of water and bring to a boil. Skim off any foam that forms on top of the lentils. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until beans are tender and soupy. Meanwhile, in a microwave safe dish combine remaining oil and cumin seeds. Microwave on high for 45 seconds to 1 minute.  Stir into lentil mixture.  Add coconut milk or tomatoes and heat through. Serve over rice.


Pea and Egg Fried Rice


2 eggs, lightly beaten

2 teaspoons sesame oil

1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons cooking oil

1 cup frozen peas (thawed)

3-4 green onions, chopped

2-3 cups cooked rice, cooled completely



I cook the rice for this the night before, or use leftovers. Mix eggs,  ½ teaspoon salt and sesame oil in a small bowl and set aside. Heat cooking oil in large pan until it begins to smoke. Add rice, remaining salt and peas and stir fry for 3 minutes. Pour egg mixture over the rice and continue to stir fry for 2-3 minutes more or until eggs are set. Toss onions in and stir fry for another minute. Remove from heat. Serve with soy sauce and toasted sesame seeds if desired.


Black Bean Quesadillas


Adapted from The Flying Biscuit cookbook.



2 cans black beans, rinsed and drained

½ yellow onion, finely chopped

1 cup shredded jalapeno jack cheese

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon oregano

1 teaspoon cumin

Pinch of red pepper flakes

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon masa harina

Cooking oil

Tortillas (we prefer wheat and corn or just corn; flour works fine)



Saute the onion with the salt, oregano, cumin and red pepper until transluscent. Remove from heat.

Mash the black beans together with the masa harina until the consistency of refried beans. Mix in the shredded cheese, onion and spice mixture.

Spread a generous amount of bean mixture on a tortilla, top with another tortilla and grill in a lightly oiled 10” or larger frying pan until golden brown and insides are warm and melted. Serve with sour cream and salsa.


Published in the January 2015 issue of Grow Northwest

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