I don't like to follow recipes, partly because I don't like to use (and get dirty and then have to wash) a bunch of measuring cups, or to think about 3/8 and other numbers like that, and I don't like trying to read while I cook.
I prefer guidelines and tips over rules and recipes. So here are my guidelines and tips, or generalized "recipes", which I have done in quantities large and small, for myself and for others. I do not have the exact ratio of seasonings down to make something perfect, but generally every dish is healthy, tasty, unique, fun, easy, and doesn't result in lots of unnecessary dishwashing. I learned to cook like this mainly through cooking with Food Not Bombs in San Francisco and then trying the same methods at home or elsewhere.
(Rice or any grain, e.g. millet, barley, etc etc)
Basically you want to boil it. The process is the same for any kind of grain. I do brown rice most often. First you need to know the ratio of water to grain. For rice, people usually use 2:1 water to rice. For other grains you can Google the "ideal ratio", or just err on the side of too much water, or watch the grain and if the water gets low before it is soft enough to eat, add more water. I like rice mushy, I think it tastes better, it keeps better for later by not drying out, and you don't have to almost burn the rice at the bottom of the pot.
Put water and rice into a pot on the stove, ideally where the water only reaches 1/3 of the way up the pot so it won't accidentally boil over. Turn the stove to max until the water is boiling, then lower the heat so that it continues boiling slowly. Use a lid so it will cook faster. It'll take anywhere from 30-90 minutes depending on the size of pot, amount of heat, etc. Water will continue to evaporate from the rice after you turn off the stove, so you can turn it off once the rice is properly cooked (taste some to see if it's soft).
(any kind of legume -- dried bean or lentil or chickpea etc)
Cooking beans is nearly identical to cooking grain, so follow the same process except use more water. The standard rule of thumb is 3:1 water to bean. If you don't mind your beans sitting in extra water, you can add extra water e.g. 4:1 or more, and this way you won't need to worry about burning the beans, as they'll cook through long before the water is all gone.
Soaking beans for hours before cooking them is not necessary but it does make them cook faster saving energy. I usually add seasonings, e.g. salt, pepper, oregano, or whatever, to the beans while they cook. You can throw minced garlic or onion into the pot too for that flavor. You can throw in chunks of potato to make the beans creamier, assuming you're not using tons of extra water.
You can add any other kinds of seasonings after
(e.g. kale, chard, other mustards, beet greens, etc)
Greens are really good for you. The easiest way to cook them is to chop them up (as small as you want, I usually make a big pile of greens on the cutting board, hold it tight, and chop it every half inch, with maybe a few perpendicular chops across the whole bunch so there aren't really long strands. This takes very little time.
Put the greens in a pot on the stove. If you want them to be tastier, put oil in the pot. Coconut oil is my favorite, but any kind of healthy cooking oil will work. Stir the greens with the oil first, so they are all coated. Then, before turning the stove on, add some water. Maybe an inch of water for every four or so inches of greens in the pot. If you have more oil you can use less water. Greens will cook down really small, so if you want more you can throw more in on top of the first ones after they cook down. (Useful when cooking one big pot of greens for a hundred people at Food Not Bombs.)
To make them tastier, add vinegar or squeezed citrus or herbs or any kind of seasoning, or any combination of these. A simple go-to is salt, pepper, and squeezed lemon. Minced garlic or chopped onion are also good in there.
(e.g. root vegetables (potato, yam, carrot, beet, parsnip, turnip, etc), broccoli/cauliflower, green beans, brussels, zucchini, squash)
My go-to method for cooking vegetables is, like greens, to cook them in a pot on the stove with some oil and water. More oil and less water means they'll be tastier (more fried than boiled) having more fat and thus more calories. I'm not afraid to mix any combination of vegetables, but often I'll do either all root veggies or all green veggies.
Chop dense vegetables in roughly 1/2 by 1 inch pieces, or smaller. Bigger pieces will just take longer to cook. Broccoli and cauliflower pieces can be a bit bigger.
As with greens, add minced garlic or onion, herbs, and other seasonings. The earlier you add them the more they'll infuse the vegetables. Mushrooms go good in here too.
Vegetables can also be baked in the oven. Leave out the water if you're baking them, but oil is fine. Bake at around 350F.
Take any kind of good-to-eat-raw greens and throw them in a big bowl. Some greens (e.g. mustard) are edible raw but are spicy, so only use those if you think everyone can handle it. I like to chop or shred the greens on a cutting board, similar to the greens I mentioned earlier, but usually more finely shredded. This makes them easier to eat and easier to digest, and easier to fit more on a plate without them falling off. Add any mix of good-to-eat-raw vegetables/fruits, such as sliced cucumber, shredded carrot, sliced radish, sliced zucchini, diced or cherry tomato, avocado, sprouts, olives, maybe some citrus. If you have dry ingredients like nuts or seeds or dried fruit, those are good in there. Add a dressing.
If it's just me, I'll eat the fruit whole. If preparing a meal for a crowd, I usually chop it up into a fruit salad. Basically any kind of typical sweet fruit goes well together in a fruit salad. You can add citrus juice or some kind of seasoning, but it's really not needed.
My ideal dessert is what people call a "crisp". Just put chopped fruit, e.g. apples/pears, berries, or stonefruit like peaches and plums, into a pan. Oiling the pan will make it easier to clean after. Put oats on top, with cinnamon or other seasoning. Bake until the fruit is soft / shriveled. You can add sugar, but it's totally not needed, and people will feel better afterward if you don't. If you want a more gooey texture, add chia seeds and a little water to the pan.
Normally yeast or sourdough bread is vegan. I don't have a favorite recipe and on the rare occasions I do make bread, I like to wing it with flour, water, oil, salt, and yeast. Maybe add some rosemary or other seasoning to it, or other fun ingredients like mashed zucchini.
The easiest baked bread-like dessert is shallow dish banana bread. Just mix flour, water, oil, salt, and baking powder, and add bananas. Season with cinnamon, vanilla, crushed nuts if you have them. To make it a little fluffier and healthier, add chia seed or ground flax seed. It's hard to really go wrong, whatever you make will taste good, and depending on the ratios of ingredients you'll end up with something drier or gooier.
Put the batter in a pan of any kind, maybe 1-2 inches deep, and bake at 350F until it's firm enough to cut and eat. Since there's no animal ingredients, it's safe to eat the batter raw, so you don't have to worry about when it's really cooked.
A typical meal at Food Not Bombs San Francisco has rice, beans, 1-3 vegetable dishes, a green salad, a fruit salad, and maybe a dessert. Plus sometimes other fun things we come up with.
See also my whole-plant-foods minimum-waste backpacking food guide!
See also my whole-plant-foods minimum-waste backpacking food guide!
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