I’m a Dietitian & This Is the Meal I Always Make When I Get Home From Vacation

Welcome to Thrifty. A weekly column where nutrition editor and registered dietitian Jessica Ball keeps it real on how to grocery shop on a budget, make healthy meals for one or two, and make Earth-friendly choices without overhauling your entire life.

Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of travel for work and otherwise. While I love the trips I get to take, I typically return home eager for rest and routine. But on travel days, I have very little motivation to go to the store and restock my fridge for a healthy week of meals. Instead, I rely on my pantry for a nutritious and easy meal to help me get back on track. To me, there’s one dish that feels like a no-brainer whenever I’m short on time or energy for cooking, and it’s Shakshuka.

Shakshuka is a tomato-based poached egg dish that’s commonly eaten as breakfast or lunch in North Africa and the Middle East. To make our recipe, sauté vegetables like onions and sweet peppers and add tomato paste alongside aromatic spices like paprika, cumin and red pepper flakes. Then, top this mouthwatering, fragrant mixture with chopped (or canned) tomatoes and simmer until the tomatoes start to break down and it takes on the consistency of a thick stew. Lastly, nestle 4 eggs into little divots in the tomato mixture and poach until the whites are set, but the yolks remain jammy. Top it with fresh herbs like parsley, cilantro or scallions, if you have them, and serve with whole-wheat bread or pita.

Though this recipe sounds simple and takes just 30 minutes of active cooking time, it develops complex and delicious flavors. It’s a dish that sounds good to me any time, any day. Plus, it can be pretty flexible depending on what’s in your kitchen. Have some other vegetables or greens you need to use up? Throw them in while you’re sautéing! Don’t have fresh herbs for garnish? Opt for a squeeze of lemon juice or a dollop of Greek yogurt or sour cream to brighten it up instead. And you can sub in any spices that you love and sound good to you. For example, if you’re not a fan of spicy dishes, but still want an anti-inflammatory boost, try adding some turmeric and black pepper instead of red pepper flakes. Shakshuka is endlessly adaptable—try other variations like our Shakshuka with Roasted Tomatoes or Green Shakshuka with Spinach, Chard & Feta.

Especially after vacation, I usually crave a home-cooked meal that is packed with vegetables. Shakshuka helps satisfy this craving while relying on pantry foods like canned tomatoes, onions and spices, so I usually have everything I need on-hand, even when my fridge is bare. It’s also delicious and fun to eat, especially if you have some whole-wheat bread or pita to mop up any extra sauce from the plate. It is my go-to meal when I get home from travel, but even when I’m not traveling, I make it almost once a week.

When it comes to quick and easy meals, a well-stocked pantry can go a long way. Check out the 10 foods I always have on my shelves and, once you’re ready to start menu planning, check out the meals and snacks I prep ahead of busy hybrid workweeks.

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