Super Efficient Recipes

Create a meal plan and try cooking with leftovers to create these quick weeknight dinner recipes.

By Megan Gordon


January/February 2017

Family Cooking

Prep a bit on the weekend to enjoy speedy weeknight dinners.

Photo by iStock

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It’s easier to eat homemade whole foods when we use our time and money efficiently. This simple plan relies on three base recipes: A spiced-up remix of canned beans; a nutritious herbed rice; and hearty and flavorful cumin-roasted sweet potatoes. Combine them into satisfying rice bowls, sizzling quesadillas and yummy black bean burgers — all in less than 30 minutes a night. Read on for the recipes, cooking plan and shopping list to make it happen.

Cooking Plan

Saturday 

Today you’ll shop for ingredients and do some light prep work for a cooking day tomorrow. Refrigerate everything in separate airtight containers.

• Shop for groceries.
• Wash greens. 
• Finely dice 2-1⁄2 yellow onions.
• Peel and dice sweet potatoes into 1-inch cubes.

Sunday

Today you’ll cook your three base recipes. Much of the cooking is inactive time so, for example, you can start prepping the sweet potatoes while the rice is cooking. Cool and store each recipe in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

• Make Green Rice (use chopped onion from yesterday’s prep). 
• Prepare Cumin-Roasted Sweet Potatoes (use diced sweet potatoes from yesterday’s prep). 
• Cook Spiced Black Beans (use chopped onion from yesterday’s prep). 
• Thinly slice 5 radishes and finely chop 1-1⁄4 cup cilantro.

Monday

Dinner tonight should take about 10 minutes. 

• Assemble Black Bean and Green Rice Bowls
• Follow steps 1 and 2 of Black Bean and Sweet Potato Quesadilla recipe. Refrigerate mixture overnight. 
• Grate and store 3 cups cheese. 

Tuesday 

Dinner tonight should take about 20 minutes. 

• Make a salad using prepped greens. 
• Cook Black Bean and Sweet Potato Quesadillas
• After dinner, follow steps 1 through 3 of Black Bean Burger recipe

Wednesday 

Dinner tonight should take about 25 minutes. 

• Make a salad using prepped greens. 
• Prep accompaniments for burgers: slice avocado, wash arugula.
• Slice buns and warm in oven, if desired. 
• Cook Black Bean Burgers

Shopping List  

Dry Goods 

• Five 15-ounce cans black beans (look for BPA-free can linings), or 1 pound dried beans
• 3 cups low-sodium vegetable broth 
• 1-1⁄2 cups long-grain brown rice 
• 6 large whole-wheat or sprouted-grain tortillas 
• 4 large or 6 small whole-wheat or sprouted-grain buns, for serving 
• 1⁄3 cup panko bread crumbs
• Favorite vinaigrette salad dressing
• 1 jar each pickled beets and sun-dried tomatoes (optional)

Herbs and Spices

• Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper 
• A few heads of garlic 
• 1 jalapeño
• 1-1⁄2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
• 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon cumin
• 2-1⁄2 teaspoons smoked paprika  • 1-3⁄4 teaspoon chili powder
• 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce 

Dairy

• 1 cup queso fresco or cotija cheese 
• Sour cream
• 3 cups grated (12 ounces) cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese

Fruits and Vegetables 

• 4 yellow onions 
• 3 pounds (about 4 medium) sweet potatoes 
• 3 bunches cilantro
• 1 bunch spinach
• 2 bags of winter salad greens (baby kale, spinach, etc.)
• 1 bunch arugula or microgreens
• 4 avocados (not overly ripe)
• 5 radishes 

Oil, Vinegar, Condiments

• Extra virgin olive oil 
• Favorite salsa (optional)
• Mayonnaise (optional)
• Mustard (optional) 
• Ketchup (optional)