Welcome to fall, lovelies! I think we can all agree that summer ~flew~ by, but, and maybe it's because of this delicious weather we’re having, but the end of summer blues really hasn't set in. For me at least, it seems to have been replaced by an obsessive excitement for sweaters, squash and cool mornings.
It might also have to do with the fact that I’m heading into my final year of school and could not be more excited. The anxious/excited/stressed feelings previously associated with back to school is no longer there, leaving ample time to enjoy the most perfect time of the year.
But, for the sake of a theme, let’s get our minds in the back to school setting and talk about lunch & meal prep. I’ve never bought school lunch, so prepping something healthy and yummy has always been important to me. Today, I'll be sharing what’s tucked away in my tupperwares throughout the week.
When I sit down to prep for the week, all of the magic happens on Sunday. I tend to carve out two to three hours for full on meal prep time (which does sound daunting, I admit). But, the huge upside to this is, you’ll only spend one minute a day during the week, so it really evens out and is way way more efficient. And it’s super fun. I get my latest Spotify playlist poppin’, open the window and get jamming with all of my ingredients. Meal prep is easily my favorite form of self care.
So, Sunday I get up, make my matcha, head to a yoga class and wander to the market, list in hand. For this week's meals, we’ll be making a mediterranean bowl loaded with whole grains, roasted veggies, beans and healthy fats.
First, the veg. Because we all like different veggies (or all of them in my case) pick what you like! I’d say pick three to four items. An sample list: two sweet potatoes, one head of broccoli, two summer squashes and two large beets (I’ll buy all of these at the farmers market. It supports local growers, is budget friendly and a much higher quality than the produce in the grocery store. Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods are both great options though, too).
Next I pick a healthy protein. For the mediterranean vibe, I’ll get a container of hummus (the more minimal the ingredients the better. Some brands are loaded with fillers, look for one that just has the basics: chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice, olive oil and spices) and two cans of chickpeas. Other great options are tempeh, free range eggs (I often fry one to top my dinners) or some lean meat. Personally, I don't meal prep with meat, mostly because 1. I really don't know how to cook it super well, 2. It's expensive (beans cost ~nothing~ so they're hard to beat) and, most importantly, 3. Raw meat and I are not great friends (it's a tiny bit icky...). That said, you do you! A little grilled chicken would be absolutely delish with this combo.
For the rest of the meal, I make sure to have uncooked grains in the pantry (I love bulgar and quinoa, but there are ~tons~ of other delicious and healthy whole grain options). I also make sure to have the right spices, this is what takes plain ol’ veggies to the next level. For this bowl, I’m going with salt, pepper, cumin, thyme and oregano or, you can find a blend that you like. I know this sounds like a lot, but these are all great staples that you’ll use again and again and again (promise).
And now, we prep. For maximum efficiency, meal prep is all about multi tasking. Let’s break it down into steps for the easiest execution:
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Rinse all your veg and chop up into 1 inch pieces.
2. One kind at a time, add chopped veg to a mixing bowl and drizzle with olive oil and spice blend (a few shakes of salt, pepper and the spices from above that you picked as your faves). Mix it up well and spread on a baking sheet.
3. For roasting times, a good rule of thumb is, the harder the veg, the longer it should cook. For example, sweet potatoes can roast for almost 45 mins depending on how soft you like ‘em. Zucchini, on the other hand, can go for as little as 15 mins. With that in mind, pop the veg in the oven, set a timer, and let them work their magic (peeking at them every 10 minutes or so).
4. While the veggies cook, let’s make our grains. In a small pot, add one cup uncooked grain (I pick a 1:1 blend of bulgar and quinoa) and two cups of water (water to grain ratios will vary slightly depending on the type of grain, but a quick Google search will clarify for you). Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat and lower to a simmer with the lid on. Let it cook for about 15 mins. You want all the water to be soaked up and cooked away, but make sure to take it off the heat before the grain burns. I tend to peek at the 10 minute mark.
5. In the same bowl you seasoned your veggies, add the two cans of chickpeas (drained and rinsed) and toss with olive oil and the same spices. Once your veggies are done, you can reuse the tray and spread the chickpeas on it. Roast chickpeas for 15-30 minutes. The longer they roast, the crispier they get.
6. Once all of this is done, get your tupperware and divide it all up. I add about 0.5 cup of grains, one cup of veggies, 0.5 cup of chickpeas and a few spoonfuls of hummus, and voila! Whatever doesn’t get portioned up for lunches, I tend to keep in larger containers to heat up for dinners when I’m home.
And it’s as simple as that! With all the essentials, it’s a healthy, yummy, and easy meal to grab throughout the week. Something to note: I don’t get sick of eating the same meal every day. This can be tough for some, but remembering the ease and health of what you've cooked can really help. Plus, it can be jazzed up in a million different ways so you don't get bored week to week. Swap the protein for black & refried beans, cook some peppers & onions and season with paprika & cumin: burrito bowl. Or, for a fresh take, roast your veggies in rosemary & thyme and sear some tofu cubes, topping with a sprinkling of fresh greens.
I would love to hear if you try out my routine! Let me know your faves, or if you have any questions, I love talking meal prep. Hope you all have an amazing week!