After letting a few too many cabbage heads die in the crisper, I’m coming around to the beauty of canned goods. Cylindrical, cheap, hefty with promise, ready to go in just a few minutes … I’ve worried in the past that I’m failing some sort of foodie test if my can opener does half the work in a meal. But learning that the nutritional value is just the same in a canned vegetable—and that produce is picked at its best before preserved in a can—has me rethinking my snobbery.

Canned chickpeas formed the basis of my No-Tuna Salad Sandwich. A swirl of tahini, a crunch from red onions and celery—if I had to pinpoint where the magic really happens, I’d say it’s when capers and pickles (cornichons in my case) were mixed in. Individually, not a single one of these ingredients reminds me of tuna. But the sum is fishier than its parts here, and I was thrilled that my craving for seafood was satiated with this much less salty fish-free combination. I liked the mix so much that I made it again later in the week once my family had reeled through the first batch.

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Open-face No-Tuna Salad Sandwich

For a last-minute lunch on Friday, I did the can-can yet again. (After the past few grocery trips, my cabinets are finally starting to hold items with a long shelf life and not chocolates I’m trying to hide from my immediate view.) This time, I opted to make FOK’s Rice Bowl with Kidney Beans, because of its convenience. I spent 10 minutes in the morning whipping together a Cilantro-Cashew Dressing in the food processor and cooking quinoa (which I opted for in place of rice—much faster to cook). I tossed the quinoa with the dressing and ladled it into a Mason jar; then I poured in a trusty can of mixed vegetables, and packed a layer of fresh spinach on top. One jar, one can of kidney beans, and a bunch of green onions to finish the dish off freshly, and I was out the door, all questions answered about what would nourish me that day.

I’d made my recipe choice based on what I could prepare in a few minutes on a weekday morning, but the lunch I sat down to was warm (from the microwave), hearty (gotta love beans), and healthful (not a lick of oil). I rushed through the prep, but lingered over each happy bite.

Editor’s Note: This month is the second annual Forks Over Knives Fresh Start Challenge, our free 21-day program for adopting a plant-based diet one meal at a time. Food writer Lucie Monk Carter is taking the challenge, and we’ve asked her to document her experiences with whole-food, plant-based cooking and eating in this series.

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