Last week was the final week of my semester, the end of a long stretch of studying, a very intense and stressful period. Isn’t it funny how we tend to skip regular meals and grab a snack somewhere instead when we’re busy? One lessons I learned the hard way when I worked in parliament for a year is:
The more stressful your life gets, the more you need to plan your meals ahead.
It is vital to provide our bodies and souls with fulfilling, regular meals, especially when we experience emotional, physical or work-related stress. Easier said than done, though.
One classic, and my life saver lately, is of course nuts and raisins. In Germany the mixture of raisins, hazelnuts and almonds is tellingly dubbed ‘student food’. I’ve made it a habit to always bring some along to last until the next meal. Next, it is clever to cook delicious, healthy food in larger quantities, say, twice or thrice a week. If you prepare a big pot of stew, it will last you a couple of days and it only gets better by time. Finally, preserving is key to sticking to a balanced diet while under pressure.
One of my favourite ‘busy meals’ are grain and legume salads. They will last for three days in the fridge and they are perfect to take to work/school etc. Besides, there’s such a large variety of ingredients to combine that it never gets boring. The recipe I want to show you today is roughly inspired by a salad from smitten kitchen and by the culinary skills of my friend Laura, who invited me over for dinner last week when I was still a nervous wreck. (Cooking isn’t Laura’s only talent btw., she’s the drummer of a fantastic all-girl-garage band, Gurr).
Still not convinced? Check out my plea for lentils in this post.
Squash & spelt salad with caramelized Brussels sprouts
Ingredients (will last you through 3 busy days, even with hungry housemates):
- 500g spelt
- 1 butternut squash
- 1 small red onion, finely chopped
- 500g Brussels sprouts
- 100g pumpkin seeds
- 100g sun-dried tomatoes
- 6 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp vinegar
- 2 tbsp brown sugar
- 1/2 a cup of vegetable broth
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Preheat oven to 200 degrees Celsius.
- Cook spelt in a pot of water until it is aldente. Use twice as much water than spelt. Let it simmer for approx. 30 minutes. The grains should remain their chewiness, so check them every once in a while. When ready, drain the spelt and let it cool down.
- While the spelt is cooking, cut squash into bite-size chunks. Spread squash onto a baking sheet in a single layer. Generously sprinkle with salt, freshly ground black pepper and half of the olive oil. Roast in the oven for 20 minutes, then turn over and add the pumpkin seeds. Roast for another 15 minutes.
- Prepare the pickled red onions while the squash is roasting and the spelt is simmering: Mix 1 tablespoon of sugar and a pinch of salt with 1 tablespoon of vinegar, whisk and stir in the onion. Then cover the mixture and let it sit in the fridge.
- Next are the sprouts: Trim the stalk, the base and the upper leaves of the sprouts, then give them a quick rinse. Heat 1 tablespoon of sugar over medium heat in a pan until the sugar starts to melt. Reduce heat and wait until sugar starts to brown. Then add a tablespoon of olive oil, a tablespoon of vinegar and the sprouts. Stir thoroughly for a minute to caramelize the sprouts. Then add the broth, cover the sprouts and let them simmer for 5 minutes.
- Taste the spelt, it might be ready now.
- Remove the lid of the sprouts and cook until the liquid has evaporated
- Cut the sun-dried tomatoes into bite-size pieces.
- In a large mixing bowl or your favourite Tupperware item, mix together the squash and the pumpkin seeds, the spelt, the pickled red onion, the dried tomatoes and the caramel-coated sprouts. Toss with the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Tip: Add the juice of half a lemon to the salad. Some like it fresh!