Convertible Convenient Cuisine

A recent conversation with a university student was confirming of a suspicion. That suspicion was confirmed. This intelligent, young woman who is busy establishing her career goals by attending university shared how many of her peers do not know how to cook. She counts herself among them.

How did this happen? Sally says that in high school she attended what was once known as “home economics” and is now referred to as ‘food and nutritional sciences’ in some schools. She learned about cutting things and making a few items. At home, she helped out in the kitchen but her parents, busy and tired from working a long day, often resorted to frozen convenience foods that only need a box or bag torn open and re-heated. Sally was also an avid viewer of many food network shows that demonstrated top chefs with kitchen support making elaborate foods that emphasize the drama of speed and agility in the kitchen and not step-by-step performance for learning. All of this just left her intimidated and choosing instead to frequent the ready-made fast food court. Her dietary choices have more to do with the state of her wallet than what her body actually needs to be healthy.

Sally is not alone. But if Sally could be taught to make one dish in one pot – she could be on her way to optimizing her health. That is where convertible convenient cuisine comes in. Let’s take the recipe for a low fat whole-plant based meal like Sloppy Joes. This recipe comes from the amazing works of Ann Crile Esselstyn and Jane Esselstyn. Their book is entitled, “Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease Cookbook” – a must buy for anyone wanting to optimize their health deliciously!

Step One: Prepare the lentils: if using dry lentils – use 1 1/2 cups lentil and add 3 1/2 cups of water in a pot – bring to a boil and then simmer for 20 mins until soft. Drain excess water.


If using canned lentils – buy no salt added version or if not, drain can an then with a stainer rinse several times with water to reduce the salt content. Need 3 cups of cooked lentils.

Step Two: In a frying pan over medium heat, add:

-1 medium diced onion; 1 diced red pepper; 1 cup sliced mushrooms – cook until soft and slightly browned

Step Three -stir in 156 ml can of tomato paste (check for lowest sodium possible); 1- 796 ml can of no salt added diced tomatoes – cook over low heat

Step Four -add 3 cups of cooked lentils; 4 tBsp of barbecue sauce (Bone Suckin Sauce is delicious); 1/4 tSp of liquid smoke (optional); 1 tSp of maple syrup; 2 tSp of chilli powder- mix thoroughly and reduce heat to simmer for 5 more minutes.

Conveniently Converts to:

  1. Campfire Grub – pour Sloppy Joes over a split open baked sweet potato.
  2. Taco Salad Bowl – In a baked whole grain tortilla (use bowl mold to bake tortilla in oven for 5 mins), layer Sloppy Joes at bottom of bowl, add greens, kernel corn, a few black beans and salsa.
  3. Swiss Chard Burrito- Steam large swiss chard leaves with stem trimmed off- dry and lay flat. Add cooked brown rice along spine of leaf, then add Sloppy Joes; chopped lettuce and tomato. Fold tip of leaf and base of leaf toward center point and then fold over one side until inside mixture is completely covered.
  4. Cabbage Rolls- Cut core of cabbage out and then boil until soft then remove leaves. Trim the thick center rib of each leaf. Mix Sloppy Joes with cooked brown rice until you are satisfied with the ratio of sloppy joes to rice (a confetti type ratio). Then put the Sloppy Joes /rice mixture – 1/3 cup near stem end of leaf (concave up – like a cup), fold stem over filling and then sides to middle and roll up. Pour ½ of oil-free tomato sauce on bottom of casserole dish: and lay cabbage rolls seam side down (can be laid tightly) and cover with remaining oil-free tomato sauce. Cover with lid or foil. Cook in oven at 375 F for 40 -60 mins until cabbage is fully cooked.
  5. Zucchini ‘Bolognese’: Spirilize 3 zucchinis and then steam or parboil until soft (not mushy) and pour Sloppy Joes (if want a stronger Italian flavor – add some dried oregano and basil and garlic powder to mixture) over top. Sprinkle with nutritional yeast.
  6. Stuffed Peppers: Select green and yellow peppers that sit upright (stem upwards), wash well, and slice off top and set aside. Hollow out peppers and rinse to remove all seeds. In a separate bowl, mix cooked brown rice with sloppy joes in a 1:1 ratio to make a ‘confetti’ blend. Then fill hollow peppers until tightly packed and then place pepper ‘lid’ on top of stuffed pepper. Line casserole dish with oil-free tomato sauce and set peppers (stem side up) in dish and cover with tomato sauce. Cover with foil and cook at 375 F for 40-60 mins until peppers are soft.
  7. Shepherd’s Pie: In a casserole dish, layer 1/3 sloppy joe base on bottom and then add mashed potatoes on top. Using a pastry brush, lightly brush no salt veggie broth on top and sprinkle generously with nutritional yeast. Bake at 375 F 40-60 min until browned. (To make the mashed potatoes: Boil cubed potatoes until soft, drain (except for ½ cup) and add garlic powder to taste – use submersible blender until whipped)
  8. Veggie Pizza: Use a 12” whole wheat oil-free pita (leave intact) and add an even coating of sloppy joe mixture and then add your choice of pre-grilled veggies (onion, zucchini, artichokes, Portobello mushrooms, etc – to grill, slice ingredients and place on parchment-lined baking sheet at 400F for 20-30 min until browned and soft) Place roasted toppings on pizza in 400F oven for 2-3 mins.

So Sally cooking can be simple and simply delicious – a cooking convert in the making!

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