Peter Special: How I optimise my dinner

Peter Special

By popular demand, I present to you how I optimise my dinner (and lunch (and snacks)). It takes less than 5 minutes of prep time, and can be as tasty or healthy as you want (it’s a tradeoff, deal with it). The Peter Special is not intended to replace a balanced diet of Power Smoothies.

I designed it to satisfy the following criteria:

  1. Quick – doesn’t require a lot of washing up, chopping vegetables, or watching your food cook.
  2. Nutritious / healthy – (is mainly vegetables/ plant-based), has enough protein to support my occasional exercise regimen. Frozen vegetables are just as healthy as fresh. MSG is fine. Salt is probably fine.
  3. Cheap
  4. High satiety (filling) – To be filling, it needs to have some protein, fat and fiber.
  5. Tasty – To be tasty, it needs to have some fat, salt, MSG, sweetness, spices, and an interesting texture. If you want it to taste better, add some more of those.
  6. Ethical – My criterion of being ethical mostly comprises not causing undue suffering to animals. So I reduce my meat and egg intake (eating mussels is probably fine) and think that dairy is probably OK.

The Peter Special is highly customisable. Want a healthier meal? Add more vegetables. A tastier meal? Increase the sauce, stock powder/ salt, MSG and/or cheese. Want some more protein? Boom – just change the rice/lentils ratio.

The measurements and times are imprecise, because I don’t measure it for myself, I just go by feel. So just play with it until you’ve found something you’re comfortable with.

 

Quickest method

Precooked rice/ legumes in the microwave

Ingredients

  1. Half tin of legumes (lentils, chickpeas, beans, etc)
  2. Half packet of pre-cooked rice (brown is healthiest)
  3. ~50 g of cheese or 25 mL of vegetable oil or 50 mL coconut milk for vegans
  4. 100 mL of tomato paste or 1 tablespoon of curry paste (I like korma best)
  5. 1 cup of frozen mixed vegetables
  6. (100 g frozen mussels)
  7. Salt and MSG.

Methods

  1. Add everything in a bowl
  2. Put in microwave until everything unfrozen and cheese melted (4-7 minutes)
  3. Add salt and MSG to taste

 

Cheapest method with the least washing up

From scratch in the microwave

This cooks enough for a few day’s worth of pure Peter Special goodness. Just put it in the fridge and reheat when you wish you weren’t hungry.

Ingredients

  1. 2 cups of dried legumes (lentils, chickpeas, beans etc.)
  2. 2 cups of uncooked rice (brown is healthiest)
  3. 4 cups boiling water
  4. 300g of cheese/ 250 mL of vegetable oil or 250 mL coconut milk for vegans
  5. 200 mL of curry paste of your choice (I like korma best) or other sauce
  6. Frozen mixed vegetables + frozen spinach (about half a cup combined)
  7. 1 tsp stock powder
  8. Salt and chili powder (to taste)

Method

  1. Add rice and lentils (1:1 ratio) to a microwave-proof container
  2. Add 2 cups of water for every cup of lentils or rice
  3. Cook for 10 minutes in the microwave. You’re trying to bring it to the boil to cook the rice and legumes. They’re ready whenever they’re soft (and it doesn’t matter that much if they’re undercooked).
  4. Sit out to cool (usually it won’t be cooked straight after you take it out of the microwave – takes about 5 minutes)
  5. Once rice and lentils are cooked spoon into separate bowl
  6. Add mixed frozen veggies (these don’t need to be cooked, just heated. Add like half a cup or something)
  7. Add cheese, olive oil, or vegan cheese
  8. Add sauce of choice (bbq, tomato, curry paste etc). If you don’t have any, add stock powder (~a teaspoon), salt and chili powder

 

Cheap method with more washing up, but better taste

Cook on the stove

I used to do the first version (in the microwave) more, but now I just buy canned legumes (slightly more expensive), don’t add rice (who needs carbs?), and cook it on the stove (because you can cook a big batch and eat for days = save time).

Ingredients

  1. 4 tins of canned legumes (lentils, chickpeas, beans etc.)
  2. 4 cups of mixed frozen veggies (these don’t need to be cooked, just heated)
  3. 200 g of cheese/ 100 mL of vegetable oil or 250 mL coconut milk
  4. 400 mL of tomato based pasta sauce, or about 50 mL of korma paste

Method

  1. Add everything to the pot
  2. Stirring regularly, cook until everything is the right temperature (usually about 10 minutes on medium). If there is a lot of liquid, you can just put it on low for a while and simmer it off.

Other variations

For some variety, I eat this with some nacho chips, or will wrap it in a burrito and heat it up.

Variations from Rob: Switch the rice with pasta instead; use tomato based pasta sauce rather than curry sauce (it’s probably healthier); fry up Tofurky to add; substitute in mixed nuts; use frozen spinach or fresh kale/spinach for vegetables; use parmesan cheese.

Variations from Alexandra: Other grains exist! Couscous, bulgur, quinoa, buckwheat. (I’m not sure how well the last two do in a microwave though, but they work on a hob and don’t take forever.) Tomato/coconut milk work well together. Further possible fancy additions to make things fancy: Dried seaweed, nutritional yeast (tastes better than it sounds).

(If you have variations of your own, post in the comments.)

By | 2017-05-19T06:02:00+00:00 April 4th, 2017|Effective altruism|0 Comments

About the Author:

I’m the Director of Coaching at 80,000 Hours, a non-profit that provides advice to talented graduates on how to have an impactful career; and a Founding Director of Effective Altruism Australia, a non-profit that has raised $700,000 for evidence-based, high impact global health charities.

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