You may have heard of a capsule wardrobe. It’s when you drastically narrow down your clothing choices and pick say 30 items you’ll wear all season. The concept has always interest me, and I’ve watched a lot of videos explaining how it works and the benefits of it. The main thing is it just clears away too many options and you fall in love with pieces that fit you perfectly. I wanted to take that concept elsewhere. I usually walk to a grocery store since moving to Washington DC. The store I frequent most doesn’t even have a parking lot. I have to be mindful of what I buy so I’m not carrying too much weight almost a mile home. I don’t buy 12-packs of La Croix or a ton of canned products at once, and in general I just really have to pay attention to how much stuff I’m buying. To help with that, I accidentally started doing a capsule grocery list. I try to buy items that I can get multiple uses out of and have been doing this for awhile. On average, I say I buy between 12-18 different items each grocery store haul. I wanted to start with one example of a weekly haul and what I cooked from it. I didn’t include breakfast items (which is usually just eggs, a carb like toast, and fruit) and I have been eating leftovers for lunch.
- Chicken Tacos with Mexican-Inspired Coleslaw
- Veggie Fried Rice with Peas and Carrots
- Indian-Inspired Chicken and Rice
- Korean-Inspired Rice Bowl with Charred Cabbage and Soy Sauce Eggs
- Shakshuka (tomato and egg dish)
Yes, most of these recipes contain rice, so if you don’t like rice, maybe this isn’t the list for you (I’ll be making more), but if you do like rice, I promise these dishes are different enough that you won’t get burnt out.
Grocery List: I tried to stick with 15 items, which was tougher than I thought but we are going to make it work. The amount I bought was enough for two people, usually with about one serving of leftovers per dish:
- Chicken, 3 lbs. I recommend getting a mix of white and dark meat. You could honestly even do a rotisserie chicken and cut down on prep time.
- Rice, one bag. I go with white rice and tend to lean towards basmati or jasmine because I like the texture.
- Greek yogurt, plain, one large container. I do full fat because I’m not using a lot in any of my dishes.
- Cilantro, one bunch.
- Tomatoes, 4 cans/jars: Pretty flexible here if you already have some of this in your pantry: Diced or crushed tomatoes in can. Pasta sauce or tomato sauce or even a pint of fresh tomatoes will work here. You want a couple canned/jarred options for the sauces though.
- Green onions, one bunch
- Carrots, 1 lb: go with jumbo if you can find them, because you’ll be shredding and dicing them.
- Eggs. A dozen will work, whatever kind you like.
- Tortilla, one package: I recommend thicker, flour tortillas. Not only will you be using them for tacos, it’ll also act as a substitute for naan and pita.
- Green cabbage, one large head. You’ll shred about a quarter of it and cut into 1-2 inch pieces the rest.
- Soy sauce, whatever brand you like. Can also do coconut aminos if that’s your vibe. Tamari, teriyaki, or oyster sauce would also work.
- Frozen peas, one package, to be split into 2 dishes.
- 2 onions, white or yellow. I will probably go with white, since I’ll be eating them raw with the tacos and I think white pairs better.
- Feta cheese, 8 oz package: block or crumble
- Hot sauce: your choice, but something that would pair well with Hispanic and Asian dishes.
Other things that you may have that would be good, but not completely necessary. You do need salt, pepper, and some kind of cooking oil:
- Spices & sauces: salt, pepper, cumin, chili powder, paprika, curry powder, ginger or ginger powder, garlic or garlic powder, garam malasa, sesame seeds, red pepper flakes, oyster sauce, more hot sauce. Yes this is a lot, sorry, but it’s the major way to make these dishes really taste difference. You pick what you’re into though.
- Neutral oil or butter, i.e. not olive oil. In general, I avoid using olive oil in Asian dishes because it can really throw off the flavor profile. I recommend vegetable oil or canola oil because they’re readily available. Here’s a good article explaining flavor profiles of different cooking oils.
Chicken Tacos with Mexican-Inspired Coleslaw
- Olive oil or neutral oil
- Seasoning for chicken: salt, pepper, cumin, chili powder, garlic powder, or whatever you have and like
- 1 lb of chicken
- 1 quarter head of cabbage, shredded
- 1 handful of cilantro, roughly chopped
- 1 large carrot, shredded
- 1/4 cup of Greek yogurt
- 1/4 cup of onions, diced finely
- Put it together: 4-6 tortillas, crumbled feta cheese, diced tomatoes, hot sauce
- Optional ingredients: pickled jalapenos juice, lime, green onions
Heat skillet on medium-high with about a tablespoon of cooking oil. Season chicken with what you like and reduce heat to medium. Grill chicken for 8-10 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 165F, flipping at least once. You want the chicken to have nice color on the outside. Remove from pan once cooked and let it set for a few minutes before slicing into strips.
While the chicken is cooking, shred the cabbage and carrots and chop the cilantro. Place in a bowl and pour about half the Greek yogurt in. Season with salt and pepper and other spices you used to season the chicken. If coleslaw is dry add the remaining yogurt. If you have pickled jalapenos or something similar, add a teaspoon of the juice into the coleslaw. It adds a slight tang and heat.
Soften the tortillas how you prefer. I usually stack 2 on a plate and cover with a damp paper towel and microwave for about 15 seconds. Top tortilla with chicken. You can eat the coleslaw on the side or on the taco (I think it adds a nice crunch on top). Then top with diced onions, feta cheese, tomatoes, hot sauce, and whatever else you have around the kitchen. The chicken and coleslaw hold up well in the fridge.
Veggie Fried Rice
Fried rice always does a little better with day-old rice, but fresh rice will taste just fine too. Fried rice is an easy catch-all for tons of veggies. I like to keep it pretty simple, but you have definitely add broccoli, cauliflower, and asparagus to it.
- 1 cup of uncooked rice or about 3 cups of cooked rice
- Neutral oil, about 3 tablespoons total
- 1 quarter head of cabbage, cut into roughly 1 inch chunks
- 1/2 cup of carrots (about 2-3 carrots), peeled and diced into about 1/4 inch cubes
- 1/2 cup of onions, diced
- 2-3 tablespoons of soy sauce, tamari, teriyaki, or coconut amino
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 a package of frozen peas
- 3 green onions, diced
- Optional toppings and ingredients: oyster sauce, sesame seeds, hot sauce
Cook rice according to packaging, if making fresh rice. Add about a tablespoon of cooking oil to a wok or large skillet with the heat set to medium. Add diced onions and carrots and cook for about 5 minutes. Add cabbage and cook for another 5 minutes. You want a little color on the cabbage and onion and the carrots to soften. The browning will give the dish a nice flavor. If the pan looks dry, add another tablespoon of oil. Add the three cups of rice and 2 tablespoons of soy sauce. Mix together and taste. Add the remaining soy sauce or other Asian sauces (oyster sauce or teriyaki goes well if you have them) if the rice isn’t flavored enough. Pat the rice down slightly in the pan and let sit for 3-4 minutes, until the bottom layer forms a little crust. Mix again and move rice and veggies to one side of the pan to cook the eggs. Pour the remaining oil, about a tablespoon, on the open section of the pan and let heat for about a minute. Crack 2 eggs, breaking the yoke, and let sit until whites develop. Stir the eggs some until fully cooked. You want larger bits of eggs, so be gentle in the stirring. Pour peas over rice, then mix eggs and peas with the rest of the dish. The peas usually only need a minute or so to cook. Taste for seasoning. Serve with green onions. Hot sauce and sesame seeds are also nice toppers. Fried rice makes for great leftovers.
Indian-Inspired Chicken and Rice
If you don’t have turmeric or curry powder and some warmer spices, this dish will still taste great, but will have more of a Mediterranean flavor. If the sauce seems boring but you don’t have the spices suggested, a little salt, pepper, and even sugar will elevate this dish. If you don’t want to do chicken, this recipe works really well with chickpeas.
- 1 cup of uncooked rice
- 1 tablespoon neutral oil
- 1/2 of an onion, diced to 1/4 inch
- 1 lb of chicken, diced into 1 inch chunks. I like chicken thighs with this dish.
- 1 can of diced tomatoes
- 1/4 cup of Greek yogurt
- Tortillas or other flat breads
- Spices: garlic powder, ginger powder,cumin, turmeric or curry powder, garam masala or a mix of warmer spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove
Cook rice according to instructions on package. In a deep pan, heat 1 tablespoon of the neurtral oil over medium heat. Add onion and saute for about 5 minutes. Add salt, pepper, and other spices you have. About 2-3 tablespoon of spices. Indian dishes use a lot more spices than what you may be used to. I will roughly do 1 teaspoon of salt, 1 teaspoon of curry powder, 1 teaspoon of cumin, 2 teaspoons of garlic powder, 1/2 teaspoon of ginger powder, and 1/2 teaspoon of garam masala or cinnamon. You want to cook the spices until fragrant, about a minute. Add chicken and coat until most side have some brown, but the chicken doesn’t need to be fully cooked yet. Add can of tomatoes and let everything cook together. Turn heat to low. Cook at least until the chicken is done, about 15 minutes. But this dish does better with 30 minutes to an hour of cooking if you have the time. When you think everything is cooked enough, turn off heat and add the Greek yogurt and stir. Taste one more time for seasoning.
Serve with rice and tortillas or other flatbread. Can butter and grill tortillas for 30 seconds to make it taste more like an Indian bread.
Korean-Inspired Rice Bowl with Charred Cabbage and Soy Sauce Egg
I call this Korean-inspired because I usually serve it with a side of store-bought kimchi or kimchi cucumber (where I just take chunks of pickling cucumbers and soak them in kimchi juice). We aren’t working with that right now, but I’m going to stick with the name. Green cabbage can easily be swapped out with green beans or broccoli. This dish doesn’t have a huge portion of meat; the meat is meant to be split with the egg as the protein portion. This is also perfect with firm tofu.
- 1 cup of uncooked rice
- 1/2 head of cabbage, chopped into 2 inch chunks
- 2 tablespoon neutral oil like vegetable oil, will be used throughout recipe
- 1/2 of an onion, diced
- 1 large chicken breast or 2 chicken thighs
- 1/2 package of frozen peas
- 4 tablespoon of soy sauce plus 1/4 cup, will be used throughout recipe
- 2 eggs (but I recommend making more because they’re great leftovers)
- 2 green onions, diced
- Hot sauce of your choice. I like something with a garlic flavor.
- Optional spices: garlic powder, ginger powder, white pepper, red pepper flakes
Begin cooking rice per packaging instructions and set oven to 400F for the cabbage. For the soft-boiled eggs, fill a pot with enough water to cover your eggs and turn stove on high (you can cut up the veggies and chicken while you’re waiting on the water to boil). Once the water is boiling, carefully place eggs in pot, reduce heat to medium, and leave in water for 6.5 to 7 minutes, depending on size of eggs. Turn a couple times or the yolk tends to be too close to the outside of the egg and it becomes harder to peel. Transfer to a bowl filled with cold water and peel them after about 2 minutes. Soft boiled eggs are harder to peel, so if they look a little ugly, don’t worry. Once peeled, place eggs in a bowl with a 1/4 a cup of soy sauce, or enough to cover most parts of the eggs. Let them sit until the rest of your dish is done. They can soak for a couple hours or more if you like in the fridge. Dump soy sauce and store leftovers in the fridge.
Cut cabbage into large chunks, cut onion into about 1/2 inch pieces, and cube chicken into 1/2 pieces. Toss cabbage on a baking sheet with 1 tablespoon of neutral oil and 1-2 tablespoons of soy sauce until evenly coated. Cook cabbage until some pieces are dark brown and all are fairly soft, flipping once, about 20 minutes total. Once they start to darken at about 15 minutes, they’ll darken quickly so start checking them often at about 15 minutes. Once the cabbage is in the oven, heat 1 tablespoon of a neutral oil over medium heat. Add diced onions and chicken and let cook. After about 5 minutes add 1-2 tablespoons of soy sauce and stir. You can also add garlic and ginger powder, red pepper flakes or something else to add spice if you have it. Cook chicken for around 5 more minutes or until chicken is cooked through.
Gently slice your soft-boiled eggs long-ways. In a bowl, put rice, cabbage, and chicken in their own small corners and top, very delicately, with 2 halves of the egg. Top everything with green onion. Flavor with the hot sauce of your choice.
This is a staple Mediterranean/Middle Eastern/Northern Africa dish. You can eat it for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. I made my most recent one for breakfast, so I didn’t put a ton of seasoning in. You can add frozen meatballs to make it a more substantial dish. I also like to add olives if I’m serving for dinner. You usually serve it with crusty bread or pita, but today we are just using with tortillas I grilled to give it a little texture. Shakshuka is best served immediately, but I always have leftover tomato sauce after we eat all the eggs. It makes for a perfect pasta sauce, so make sure you keep it.
- 1/4 of an onion, diced
- Enough tomato product to cover the eggs. You have a lot of options here. If you want a definitive answer: 1 28 ounce of canned plum or diced tomatoes is what most recipes call for. But any mixture of diced fresh tomatoes, canned tomatoes, and even jar pasta sauce will work. I usually have a mixture in my kitchen and work with what I got.
- 4-6 eggs, depending on how many people you’re feeding and the size of your pan.
- Spices: salt, pepper, garlic powder, paprika, cumin, chili powder, red pepper flakes are all common. Whatever you have and like.
- 1/2 cup of feta cheese
- A handful of cilantro
- 4-6 tortillas or other bread products that would be good for dipping
Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large, deep pan over medium heat. Add diced onion and cook for about 5 minutes or until onion is translucent. Add in your tomato products and let simmer for about 10 minutes until sauce thickens slightly. Add your seasoning and taste. Make sure you like the flavors now because you won’t be doing any mixing after the eggs are added. If the sauce seems too acidic, you can add a tablespoon of sugar. Making small wells with the back of your spoon, carefully crack eggs until sauce (you may have to work quickly if your sauce is thinner). After all eggs are in the pot, season them with salt and pepper and place lid on the pot. Cook eggs over medium-low to medium (depending on if you think the tomato sauce is overcooking) until the egg whites are firm but the yolks are still soft, roughly 7 minutes.
To give the tortillas a little texture either put them in the oven at 350F for about 8 minutes (flipping halfway through) or grill them in a saute pan (you can add a little olive oil to the pan if you want them fairly crispy). Top the finished shakshuka with crumbled feta and cilantro. Serve recipe in pot you cooked it in. You can either serve it family style and everyone eats out of the pot or serve with a ladle and bowls. Use tortillas or bread to soak up the tomato and yolk.