I love feeding people. If you ever come over to my house, I will ask you if you’re hungry until I serve you a plate. Then I’ll ask you if you’re thirsty.

Because we’ve always got something cooking at our house, people come over for dinner quite often. So, needless to say, it was a sad affair when, in the midst of some home construction this winter, we lost three of our four stove burners. When it happened, I wondered how on earth I’d be able to feed four mouths, plus all of our visitors, with one flame over the coming colder months.

At first, it was a bit frustrating. Like wanting to paint a prism with only one tube of color. Juggling pots and pans, waiting on dishes, and timing things right was tricky, but very quickly became a kind of art and joy. We started to plan ahead more, making double-size batches of our grains and beans to keep for simple re-heating.  We reclaimed our oven for roasting veggies and baking potatoes, and I’ve made more soups and stews and one-pot meals this winter than I have my whole life.

One busy day, I was sautéing a mountainous vegetable medley in our big stainless steel pan. My plan was typical: cook the vegetables, then sauté some canned beans, and finally reheat left-over baked potatoes – in that order. When I lifted the cover off my vegetables, the smell of garlic and fresh oregano

kissed my nose, and I thought how nicely the beans would taste immersed in the same flavors.

So I minced a little more garlic and oregano, scooted the veggies over, and added the beans right in.

Then as I looked at my foiled potatoes, I thought, wouldn’t these be delightful steamed in those same aromas?

So I added a third section of quartered potatoes too. It became a whole meal-in-one, an instant little prism of golds and greens and browns cooking and fusing together.

And, with just a tiny pinch of sea salt at the end, it all tasted fabulous!

The art of One-Pot-Cooking has been employed by various culinary traditions, for both efficiency and flavor. Around the world, people have used the one-pot method to cook beans, meats, grains, and vegetables all together at the same time. We see it in the Tagines of North Africa, Minestrone soup from Italy, Pho in Vietnam, and much more.

One-pan-cooking is a wonderful discovery for modern life. “Cook once, eat twice” is one of the golden healthy eating recommendations for our busy lives. For most of us to put our aprons on everyday, healthy cooking needs to be quick and easy. Blending leftovers that have a longer cook time, like dried beans, baked potatoes or brown rice, with a fresh flash sauté of veggies, is a wonderful way to make a robust, dynamic meal happen in about 15 minutes.

My dinner guests are still plentiful, and they’re amazed and delighted by what can be created in just one 14” diameter pan. I am too—and I’m especially grateful at dish-washing time.

How to get more bang from your pan:

My one-pan-cooking strategy is very simple. I typically use it when I have a pot of beans already cooked, or a pot of a whole grain, like quinoa ready to go. It’s a simple equation:

Garlic + Herbs + Veggies + Leftover Grains, Starches and Beans = One-Pan Plant-based Meal

Start with some minced garlic, red wine, and a touch of olive oil in a large pan. Heat on medium.

Add fresh herbs of your choice (my recent favorite is fresh oregano—wowser!).

Toss in 2-4 different kinds of vegetables and sauté covered until almost cooked through (covering keeps the liquid of the wine, oil, and veggie juice from evaporating).

Then add rinsed canned beans, or pre-cooked dried beans, mixed into the vegetables or on the side.

Finally, add brown rice, pasta, potatoes, or any other whole grain or starchy vegetable, and cover to steam through for about 3 minutes, stirring a few times for even heating.

This easy way of cooking and re-heating is certainly worth a try. The photos in this post are examples of some of my one-pan-meal successes, showing what you can accomplish in such a small space and short amount of time.


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