Minimalist, simple Plate Method meals
February 14, 2021 9:59 PM   Subscribe

I am trying to eat according to the plate method: 50% non-starchy vegetables, 25% protein, 25% carbs. I would like to plan out some kid-friendly meals according to this method. Specific preferences below the fold.

I really enjoy having a routine of basic meals I can rotate through. I'd like to have the same routine with meals that follow this method. I can make the following compliantly:

Taco salad
Spaghetti with low carb noodles
Sheet pan dinners
Stir fry

I'm looking for a few more basic meals/recipes that can be prepared according to this basic formula within 30 minutes using simple ingredients. I have an Instapot and most basic appliances. I don't mind saving time with pre-cut veggies, herb paste, etc. Elaborate kitchen stuff gives me anxiety. As far as kid friendly, my child will eat rice, black rice, broccoli, potatoes, carrots, peas, black beans, eggs, sausage, cauliflower (in things but not as itself).

I also need some ideas for breakfast that will work with this method/formula that don't require much actual cooking as I rarely have the time or energy to properly cook a breakfast. I would just do protein shakes but solid food seems to help my morning medication work better.
posted by crunchy potato to Food & Drink (5 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
For dinner, I like burrito bowls: Preheat oven to 375. Put some rice in the rice cooker if you have one, or a small pot if you don't. (But rice cookers are such a great way to supply that 25% carb, letting you focus on the protein and veg). In a small baking dish, cover several chicken breasts with the salsa of your choice, and bake for around 20-30 minutes depending on the thickness of the breasts. While the chicken and rice are cooking, prep veggies. I like to chop up some tomatoes and an avocado, and quickly sautee any other veggies I have on hand. Peppers and onions are the most obvious, but I've had success with most veggies. When everything is ready, everyone gets a bowl with some rice, chicken (with the sauce from the baking dish), veggies, avocados, tomatoes, and, if you want, cheese. Canned beans are good too. Really satisfying, and comes together in a half hour.

Oh, and if you have an instant pot, risotto is very easy and if you want, you can load it up with quite a lot of veggies, and use it for several nights as your starch with bonus veggies inside, to have with whatever.

For breakfast: I use leftover veggies and bagged shredded cheese in omelets. I used to think of omelets as weekend food, but once I started making them on weekdays, I quickly realized they only take a few minutes to make. The key for me is scrambling the eggs IN the pan. Just break em into the hot pan, scramble them, let them set, add fillings, and flip. If you put a slice of bread in the toaster, it'll be toasted by the time the omelet is done, and then you have breakfast very quickly, and the only dishes you used are the pan and spatula.
posted by lunasol at 10:31 PM on February 14, 2021 [4 favorites]

Stir fry makes an excellent breakfast! If you need to make it feel “breakfast” as you get used to it, you can put a fried egg on top. When you’re cutting vegetables for meals the day before, set aside a stir fry portion for later. You can do this with garlic and onions so you’ve always got some aromatics ready to go, alongside your greens and whatnot. Do your rice or heat up leftover rice, stir fry your vegetables, put them in a bowl, fry the egg in the same pan, pop that on top. The same idea of setting aside small portions of uncooked but prepped veggies works for a ton of breakfast ideas. You can do an omelette as mentioned above, or sauté them and pop onto cheesy toast, spread flatbread with hummus and top with broiled vegetables. Lots of things go faster if you’ve got some chopped broccoli or washed and diced kale or sliced mushrooms in the fridge. Flatbread freezes well and thaws quickly, so do tortillas.

As for main dishes, I think you might like a Japanese curry. You can usually find the curry blocks in grocery stores in the US these days, it’s a little box full of roux blocks, basically. Chop your meat and veg, cook some onions first, then add your meat, add the rest of the veggies you want in order of what takes the longest to cook, add water and simmer. When everything is tender and cooked through, you stir in the curry blocks and it makes an awesome sauce! You can get it in mild and there is almost no spicy (Japanese curry is not really much like other curries) so it can be super kid friendly, and you can jam so many vegetables in there. Put in frozen peas at the end, add baby spinach straight from the bag, mushrooms of any type, shelled edamame are hearty and have a good chew, cauliflower is a great vehicle for sauce, carrots and potatoes are required classics. For the meat you can do diced chicken or pork, or even skip the meat and add firm tofu near the end, or do a fully vegetable curry and add extra protein on top that’s already cooked. Generally you serve curry on rice to soak up all the yummy gravy, but it can go on any grain or noodles you like, and for me if there are enough potatoes and other root vegetables in it I don’t need much rice at all.
posted by Mizu at 1:16 AM on February 15, 2021 [1 favorite]

You really seem to have a good routine, good job! It's hard to add more to your already good plan.

For breakfast, what about a plate of hummus, some tomatoes and cucumbers and bread? Pita bread freezes well, and is delicious if you thaw it in the oven for ten minutes.

Also, if you have pita and falafel in your freezer, you can easily make a fast meal, using shredded pointy cabbage and a dressing made with yogurt, tahin and whatever seasoning you like to fill a quick and healthy sandwich.

Another popular breakfast at our house is fried rice. We always make extra rice just for that purpose. Add in an egg for protein and any vegetables directly from the freezer.

When you write stir-fries, do you do thai-style curries?

This is how I learnt to make it from my roomie (not authentic, but good and simple):
Heat up a pan with a tablespoon of vegetable oil.
Add a spoonful of Thai curry paste from a jar, green or red. Stir a bit till the smell is lovely.
Maybe add more garlic and ginger, crushed or cut into tiny bits. This gives a fresher taste, but is not necessary.
Add 1 skinless chicken breast cut into strips. Stir till the strips are no longer pink on the outside.
Now add 1 cup of vegetables from a bag of frozen "wok mix". Stir till the vegetables are thawed, not cooked.
Add a can of full fat coconut milk. Cans come in different sizes. Now when I no longer cook for small children, I prefer the little cans, then I used a normal sized one because rice and sauce are nice. Bring to a simmer.
Add some frozen shrimp if you like.
Season with lime or lemon juice, soy sauce and perhaps a bit of fish sauce. Put in extra curry paste if you like it spicier, and then next time use more from the outset. If you want to be fancy, sprinkle with cilantro.
Serve with rice. It can all be made during the time it takes the rice to cook.

When you've tried it once, you can try variations. You can use any vegetables, you just need to cut them into bite sized pieces. My kids loved it.

Also: a shepherds pie made with a lot of vegetables in the meat sauce. Your instant pot is a good way to make the sauce:
Brown some minced beef or lamb in a bit of vegetable oil. Add equal parts chopped onion, carrot, celery (use a food processor if you have one), and a tablespoon of tomato paste. Stir till all the parts are mixed. Add some chicken stock. Set to high pressure for 30 minutes and release. Add in frozen peas and let the sauce simmer till the peas are thawed. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and a bit of vinegar or Worchester sauce.
While the sauce is in the pressure cooker, make mashed potatoes and turn on the oven to medium high. When the sauce is ready, spread it in a casserole dish and spread the mashed potatoes on top. Make ridges in the mash with a fork and spread little pieces of butter all over it. Bake till the top is golden on the tops of the ridges.
I haven't mentioned the proportions because you can decide. But for 300 grams of meat, one onion, one carrot and one stick of celery along with a half cup of peas and a cup of chicken stock will be fine and meet your dietary requirements. You can add more vegs if you like, and you can use celeriac instead of celery for more punch and substance.

This freezes very well. Sometimes I make several small portions instead of one big one, and freeze the surplus for a busy day. You can make this vegetarian by using a brown or green lentil stew instead of meat sauce. For some reason, my kids have always loved a French lentil stew, and so did all of their friends in spite of the not so impressive looks.

For the fastest version (which is still fine), I just cut a carrot, an onion and some garlic into small cubes. I soften these in some olive oil, and then just add a can of Puy lentils. I season with thyme, bayleaf and pepper, and perhaps salt to taste (there is probably some salt in the can juice). I may add more water, or some chicken or vegetable stock, just to keep it moist, not watery. Since the canned lentils are already cooked, this takes ten minutes or so, but it improves with longer simmering.
Lentils don't need to be soaked, so you can make them very fast in the instant pot, too, which is of course a lot cheaper.
After haven written this, I will make exactly that for dinner, with a few slices of leftover meat and perhaps a fresh/raw vegetable side, depending how energetic I feel.
posted by mumimor at 7:48 AM on February 15, 2021

For breakfast, I make myself a quick sandwich with the following ingredients: The egg white patty takes 60-75s in the microwave, which I use to assemble the rest of it. Once I put the egg on, I season with some everything bagel seasoning or cajun seasoning, whatever's fine, and then I microwave it for another 15s to heat it through.

This is dead simple, and kids over a certain age could self-service this. I really wanted a breakfast sammy, but all the ones like Jimmy Dean or whatever are so full of salt. This hits the breakfast spot without taking forever or being a sodium bomb.
posted by Medieval Maven at 9:53 AM on February 15, 2021

The main thing that springs to mind for breakfast is huevos rancheros or shakshuka - essentially eggs in a tomato sauce with bread. You can add bell peppers and onions to the sauce to increase the vegetables. Otherwise, I think things like a hardboiled egg served with cucumber, tomato and bread would work. It depends how breakfast-y you need it to be.

For dinners, you could do almost any kind of curry (Indian, Thai,...) just go heavy on the vegetables and light on rice or bread and protein. Other things I was thinking of were fish (white or salmon) baked in foil parcels with vegetables. Serve with new potatoes, rice or couscous depending on what you fancy. A traditional English roast dinner could work, eg carrots + broccoli + peas + meat + roast potatoes. Pot pie served with vegetables?
posted by plonkee at 10:50 AM on February 15, 2021 [1 favorite]

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