So I missed Sunday food prep again.
I found myself scrambling late last night, trying to use solely what’s in my fridge and cabinets, to come up with a healthy meal that was meatless, easy to make, and easy to transport to work for lunch this week. What do you do if you find yourself in my position?
You get creative.
I’ve been a Meatless Monday devotee for months now and I admit I’ve fallen into a bit of a salad rut. Most of my Sunday nights are spent just like yesterday, with me doing a mental inventory of my kitchen and then getting exhausted at the thought of cooking, and so salad it is for Monday.
Not today! Oh no, today I decided to take back Meatless Monday with something new and completely original (nice way of saying random, because that’s exactly what this dish is, a random mish mash of what was in my fridge).
There are loads of benefits to going meatless at least one day a week, starting with your health. Diversifying your protein by incorporating foods such as legumes or quinoa not only promotes cardiovascular health, but also increases your fiber intake at a fraction of the cost of animal protein.
One of the best aspects of adding beans to your diet is their versatility, especially if you’re on a budget like me.
Take the chickpea. With one can of garbanzos, you can mash it, fry it, boil it, puree it, bake it, or just eat them as is in a dish. For less than one dollar, I can try one of dozens of recipes, each uniquely different and nutritious (if you don’t deep fry them in oil or slather them in butter, which begs the question, why would you?).
I’ve shared some nutrition facts about chickpeas before in my falafel recipe but a refresher never hurt anyone. Here you go!
CHICKPEAS OR GARBANZO BEANS
Chickpeas, or garbanzo beans as they’re also called, are loaded with health benefits ranging from digestive tract support to lowering risk of cardiovascular disease. It’s a staple ingredient in Mediterranean and South Asian cuisines and can be eaten either in either cold or hot dishes. I’ve seen a number of gluten or grain-free recipes utilizing chickpea flour as well.
1 cup of cooked chickpeas has approximately:
- Fiber: 12.5g or 50% DV. The most significant aspect of the dietary fiber contained in chickpeas is that between 65-75% of that amount is insoluble fiber which helps improve intestinal health and efficient digestion of food. High fiber intake also helps keep you feeling full longer which can help reduce caloric intake.
- Protein: 14g or 29% DV. This is especially important to those following vegetarian or vegan diets and are looking for plant-based sources with higher protein levels. Since our bodies do not store this macronutrient, we have to take it in through our diet. Protein is used to build and repair tissues, and it’s an important component in the making of bones, muscles, skin, and blood. So you can see how vital it is to maintain a diet that meets your specific protein needs.
- Antioxidants and Heart Health: The seed coat or skin along with the chickpea’s inner portion are full of antioxidants, vitamins, and phytonutrients that work to improve cardiovascular health. Chickpeas are an excellent source of the mineral manganese (84% of DV!) and the vitamin folate (70% of DV), each promoting cell energy and heart health by lowering the risk for artery damage near the heart.
In my mad dash to the finish line, I forgot to take out my camera to record the chaos, but that doesn’t mean I can’t share what I think is a solid Meatless Monday dish that you can pull off in less than 30 minutes.
Heck, I even used a toaster oven instead of my regular oven. Sometimes you need to cut corners.
Bonus: if you’re making this for one, you’ll have enough left over for a couple of days of lunch or dinner!
INGREDIENTS (Serves 4 as a side, 2 as a main)
- 1 15oz can of garbanzo beans, rinsed
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 3 cups baby spinach, washed
- 2 tbsps red onion, chopped
- 2 tbsps red bell pepper, chopped
- 1/2 cup mini heirloom tomatoes, quartered (can substitute with cherry tomatoes)
- 2 tbsps dried cranberries
- 1 tbsp cilantro, chopped
- 1 tbsp tahini
- 2-3 tbsps water (more if you want a thinner dressing)
- 1 clove of garlic, minced
- Juice from 1/2 a lemon
- 1/8 tsp salt
1. Pat rinsed beans dry with a paper towel and throw away any excess skin that may have come off. (Garbanzos have a thin, clear skin that easily peels off). Preheat oven (or toaster oven!) to 400°F.
2. In a small bowl, mix beans, oil, and spices. Place bean mixture onto a small tray covered with aluminum foil and bake for 15-20 minutes or until browned. Make sure to stir beans around about halfway through.
3. Prepare dressing in a small bowl by mixing tahini, lemon juice, water, garlic, and salt. Add more water if you want a thinner dressing. Taste for seasonings and adjust accordingly.
4. In a large bowl, add chopped peppers, onions, tomatoes, cranberries, spinach, and cilantro. Remove chickpeas from oven when done baking and allow it to cool for about 5 minutes. Once cool, add it to the bowl with the rest of the salad ingredients. Toss with 1 tbsp of lemon-tahini dressing. Guess what? You’re done.
Simple, huh? I actually wanted to add cucumbers to this salad but I didn’t have any on hand, so I went with a colorful mix of produce that would go well together flavor-wise.
If there’s any piece of advice I can give to the overly busy person who just wants to make something easy and healthy with no fuss is to not stress the ingredient list, especially for a salad. You prefer kale to spinach? Go for it. Have some carrots you want to use? Do it. Hate garbanzos but love black beans? No one is stopping you. Eating nutritious vegetarian meals is all about the variety and as long as you keep that in mind, you’re golden.
What are you eating for Meatless Monday? I’m always looking for new recipes so feel free to share. Better yet, how about you check out my Pinterest board and share a recipe or two. I promise, I won’t mind.