healthy dinner in 20 minutes flat

by Stacy

“Everyday” recipes are my biggest blogging challenge. People want quick, healthy weeknight recipes, but they aren’t my forte. Prep time is not in short supply when I work at home, nor do I begrudge one minute invested in a delicious meal.

That’s not to say I don’t eat a lot of quick meals; they simply don’t have recipes. My coworker and I share a similar meal philosophy for these dishes, affectionately dubbed, “Bowls of Crap.”

The unappetizing name sounds like a meal that doesn’t taste good — not the case. It’s simply whatever “crap” you have at home, cooked quickly, and tossed in a bowl.

spiced veggies with millet

The Bowl of Crap concept encompasses a wide variety of thrown-together meals. It’s faster than stir-fry, but healthier than pasta with jarred sauce.

“What did you make for dinner last night?”
“I was pretty tired, so I just threw together a Bowl of Crap.”

Start cooking the base (it takes longer) while you prep the topping. Pasta, quinoa, and millet are all reasonably fast, or I often have pre-cooked brown rice in the fridge.

While my starch is cooking (or reheating), I chop an onion and toss it in a hot pan with olive oil. Next up are whatever veggies I have: carrots, summer squash, potatoes, cauliflower, radishes, eggplant, peas, whatever. A protein gets tossed in, complementary spices go on top, garlic to finish, et voila.

Into the bowl it goes. I happened to have cooked chickpeas, but tempeh or tofu would have been great in this. The pea sprouts added a pop of green, but spinach would have been lovely. Whatever you’ve got!

spiced veggies with millet

It’s an easy meal for one or two, or it’s dinner plus lunch the next day.

A small base of whole grains and tons of vegetables on top make a hearty, filling meal that’s full of vitamins, minerals, and fiber, without leaving you sluggish and full. Rotating the base and using different vegetables and spice profiles give you endless permutations for quick dinners.

It’s hard for me to write about dishes that feel pedestrian — really, it’s a Bowl of Crap. There isn’t much technique involved, they’re not glamorous meals, and the end result isn’t going to elicit gasps of amazement at your next dinner party.

But if you’re hungry and don’t want to look up (then read and follow) a recipe? Try a Bowl of Crap. It might be a few more minutes of hands-on time, but I promise you’ll feel better than if you take that 17 minutes to heat up a frozen pizza.

spiced veggies with millet

The fantastic Melissa Lanz who I met at Camp Blogaway, suggested that food bloggers post a healthy recipe today. There are a lot of bloggers out there, and Melissa asked us, in the vein of Gandhi’s famous quotation, to “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

If just one of you throws some veggies together for dinner this week (or next), I’ll be happy. This blog isn’t my soapbox — or maybe it is, and I’m extremely subtle — but I think there are many benefits to eating more vegetables, and I try to post recipes to inspire you to do so. Is it working?

print recipe
Millet with Spiced Vegetable Saute
Whatever starch base you have on hand, whatever veggies are laying around, sauteed, spiced, and thrown in a bowl. Easy, quick, healthy, and pretty darn good. I use soaked, cooked chickpeas so I add a decent amount of salt. Canned chickpeas are fine, just rinse them and use a pinch of salt to taste.
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 cup uncooked raw millet
  • 1/2 small onion
  • 2 summer squash or zucchini
  • 1/2 cup cooked chickpeas
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
  • 1 large handful pea sprouts or other greens, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
1.) Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a lidded pan over medium heat. Add millet and stir to coat. When millet is fragrant and toasty, add 1 1/4 cups water. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat. Set timer for 15 minutes.2.) Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Chop the onion and toss in the pan. Toss a few times. Dice the summer squash while the onion softens; add to pan when onion is translucent. Toss a few times. Mince the garlic in between tosses.3.) Add chickpeas, spices, and salt to the pan. Stir to coat. Add sprouts or chopped greens, garlic, and a tablespoon of water, cook until greens are wilted. Remove from heat.4.) Check millet after 15 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons of water if too dry. Cook another 5 minutes if too wet. If tender and fluffy, scoop 3/4 cup into a bowl and top with veggies. Enjoy!

Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 1-2 servings

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Erin T. May 31, 2011 at 5:22 am

See, at my house we call this “pasta with stuff” (it’s almost always whole wheat pasta as the base). Slightly more appealing name than “bowl of crap” but totally the same recipe. :)


Stacy May 31, 2011 at 8:53 am

Definitely the same. We do sometimes call it “pasta with stuff” if we’re using a pasta base. :-)


Anni May 31, 2011 at 9:02 am

i call this “kitchen sink dinner” … as in, everything but the kitchen sink! i make a grain, use up all my veggies that are about to go bad (why do i always buy too many?!), and normally toss it with a quick peanut sauce. yummm!
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Stacy June 1, 2011 at 8:48 am

Mm, peanut sauce.

Happy National Running Day! :-)


Bridget May 31, 2011 at 1:46 pm

I’m not good at blogging the everyday quick recipes either, but for a different reason. Basically, taking pictures of a quick meal makes it not a quick meal and defeats the whole purpose. But I do love the Bowl of Crap types of dishes, although I confess that I usually make them using some sort of recipe or plan.
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sarah, simply cooked May 31, 2011 at 3:28 pm

This is my usual way of making dinner, too, especially on a weeknight. Yesterday it was brown rice in the rice cooker while I sliced three small courgettes and half a red pepper. I pan fried the fish first, then removed it and did the vegetables, throwing in some jade shoots at the last moment. Then served it layered in a bowl, exactly like yours. Thanks for writing up your ideas.
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Sandy May 31, 2011 at 9:57 pm

That’s just what I need… dinner in 20 minutes!
Melissa is a wise woman. Well, and Gandhi, too.


Kim May 31, 2011 at 10:27 pm

It’s working! Let’s see what Bowl of Crap I come up with tomorrow night for dinner. :)

There’s a lot of stuff in the fridge, so this should be fun.

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nancy rose eisman June 6, 2011 at 9:27 am

Great post Stacy. This is the way I like to cook and eat too. More of these please!
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Stacy June 9, 2011 at 10:10 pm

Thank you, Nancy! It’s how I cook most of the time, but I’m too busy eating to take pictures. :-p I’ll work on it!


Kelli June 11, 2011 at 12:47 am

I do this sometimes but I never had a name for it. I laughed out loud and had to share this with my roommates when I read it. We have “garbage soup” here sometimes when we have a bunch of veggies that are a little past their prime and will go in the garbage otherwise. I am totally going to make more bowls of crap just because i am tickled with saying bowls of crap.

My boyfriend isn’t really into this style of cooking/eating though, so it’s going to be tough for him. He’s the kind of guy who loves set meals and sticks to recipes. If he’s having grilled cheese he has to have tomato soup. If he’s having roast chicken he has to have mashed potatoes. If he’s having meatloaf he has to have brown gravy with it. It drives me crazy. (he’s also not a big fan of garbage soup)

Anyway, love your blog. Rock on!


Kat October 1, 2011 at 5:20 pm

That crap looks delicious!


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