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You really can eat well, and it's quick too 

Beyond beer and pizza

Tri-color quinoa with veggies

Photo by Justin Cook

Tri-color quinoa with veggies

In college, I subsisted on granola bars, whole-milk lattes, pizza, beer and whatever food-like products had been dumped in the trough of the happy-hour buffet.

For my laziness, I gained 20 pounds, contracted mono and other communicable diseases, and felt like hell for four years. And, for some reason, I didn't know why. (Perhaps because nutrition wasn't on the SAT.)

Spare yourself the malaise with these recipes: They're healthy, vegetarian and don't require major kitchen appliances. The last dish calls for a conventional oven, but you can also prepare it in a toaster oven.

Please note none of these recipes is suitable for a microwave. Despite what the microwave industry tells you, these speedy ovens are evil, not because of radiation, but because they encourage the use of processed foods.

Rice cooker and blender: There's no rule that says only rice can be cooked in a rice cooker. As long as the ratio of water to grain is correct, other dishes can be cooked in it as well. Quinoa is a high-protein and gluten-free grain that is best served with herbs or fresh veggies (by itself it's bland). The peanut-vinaigrette dressing is adapted from Savory Sweet Life. It can be prepared by hand or in a blender, proving that the latter is useful for more than just daiquiris.

Quinoa with veggies and peanut-vinaigrette dressing

Quinoa and veggies

1 cup of quinoa

2 cups of water

2 small cucumbers, seeded

1 red pepper, julienned

1 carrot, roughly chopped


1/4 cup water

1/4 cup rice vinegar

1/4 cup of olive oil (original recipe calls for canola, but I prefer olive)

1 tsp. of sesame oil

4 Tbsp. creamy peanut butter

1 Tbsp. of soy sauce or tamari

1/4 tsp. of ground cumin

pinch of red pepper flakes


It's important to rinse the quinoa because it is naturally coated with a substance, saponins, that, while not harmful to humans, tastes soapy. Put quinoa and water in rice cooker and cook for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, chop your veggies and set aside.


Mix all the ingredients either in a blender or by hand with a whisk and bowl.

When quinoa is finished cooking, add dressing and veggies.

Food processor: My husband, Dennis, makes an excellent hummus, based on a Whole Foods recipe. You'll want to bathe in it.


2 cloves of garlic

1 16-oz. can of chickpeas or garbanzo beans, drained except for ¼ cup

Lemon juice to taste, about 3 Tbsp.

2 Tbsp. tahini (sesame paste)

1/2 tsp. salt

2 Tbsp. olive oil

2 Tbsp. finely chopped parsley

Dash of paprika or cayenne pepper

Chop garlic in food processor, add garbanzos, tahini, ¼ cup of bean juice, lemon juice, salt and process until smooth. Place in bowl and chill for an hour. Mix in parsley and paprika/cayenne and serve with celery, carrots, pita bread.

Learn to love your stove and oven: I don't own a microwave, and my life is better for it. I eat healthier and I'm forced to consider nutritious meals rather than whatever was on sale in the frozen foods section at Kroger.

However, I don't want to labor in the kitchen more than 30 minutes, so here is a quick, wholesome meal that, including prep time, takes about a half hour. You can also make this dish in a toaster oven, although it could get a little crowded in there.

Roasted Portobello mushroom and red pepper sandwich with a side of roasted Brussels sprouts

One dozen Brussels sprouts

Enough olive oil to coat the sprouts

Salt, pepper and tarragon to taste

4 portobello mushrooms

2 red peppers

1 red onion

1 tomato

4–6 basil leaves

Goat cheese

Drizzle a little oil on the bottom of the baking pan.

Quarter the Brussels sprouts and toss in a bowl in olive oil, salt, pepper and tarragon. Core and cut the red peppers into strips and coat with olive oil. Wash a pound of Portobello mushrooms and remove the stems. Rub olive on the caps and add a dash of salt and pepper.

Roast the whole shootin' match—caps gill side up—at 400 degrees for 10 minutes. At the 10-minute mark, flip the caps. Wearing oven mitts, gently shake the pan to help the sprouts and peppers to roast more evenly. Roast the veggies another 5–10 minutes.

While the veggies are roasting, fetch two pieces of bread, preferably whole-grain, and spread goat cheese on each. Slice a red onion and a tomato.

When the veggies are done, add mushroom, red pepper and fresh basil leaves (optional) to the sandwich. Serving Brussels sprouts on the side.

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