When I’m preparing meals for the week, I almost always have some sort of grain salad on the list. They’re like a heartier version of the typical garden salad and in the winter, much more appealing. For this version I’ve combined protein-rich quinoa with roasted broccoli and kale. Lemon and cilantro lend a bit of brightness while toasted pumpkin seeds provide a nice crunchy element. For a dose of healthy fats and potassium, avocado is tossed in at the end. This recipe was created with the farm fresh veg I get in my CSA share from Loam Agronomics. You can find the recipe here.
Well our taste of winter didn’t last long here in Houston. The below freezing temps stayed just long enough to cause the once green and vibrant plants to wither and turn brown. But that’s a part of the always changing nature of life. Everything is always moving, always shifting, always evolving. We have to aim to “go with the flow” so to speak and move away from becoming too fixed on the way things are. These shifts are reminders that we have perhaps become too sedentary, too attached. Who knew that dead plants could be so encouraging to keep moving forward?
In going along with the idea of evolution and change, I always like to assess my aim here on the blog at the beginning of the calendar year. I look at what I’ve done the year prior and brainstorm where I’d like to grow and improve. The recurring theme I saw in jotting down notes was to share more of myself here. Though I already share food here, I’d like to share more about my life in general. I want to get past the guilt of sharing something non-food related because it might not fit under the guise of a “food blog”. I’d like to challenge myself to create and share things unlike I have before. It hearkens back to the idea of being less sedentary and moving ever forward.
Instead of simply sharing this grain bowl situation with you, I wanted to include some meal prep tips and tricks as well. Meal planning can often seem difficult and without it, there’s a higher potential for poor meal choices and more money spent on meals out. By spending a couple of hours at the beginning of a week prepping your food, you not only save yourself time throughout the rest of the week, but you have access to healthier options. And it doesn’t have to cost you a lot, either! I challenged myself for this post to use what I already had at home without buying anything special. The resulting grain bowl was deliciously satisfying and nourishing. But, if I’m being honest, bowls seem to make meals more comforting and filling whether the contents are extravagant or simple. Two cheers for the power of the grain bowl!
Meal Prep Tips + Tricks
+ Designate some time during your week for meal-prep (this will depend on your schedule). Plan out what you’d like to have for the week and create a grocery list and prep list simultaneously so you’ll be prepared. I find I’m more focused and efficient when I have lists to work from, but find whatever works best for you.
+ Cook in batch quantities (anywhere from 4-10 servings) so that you have plenty of leftovers to work with throughout the week.
+ If you don’t have any specific recipes you’d like to make for the week, prep basics so that you can mix and match. For me, the basics are a cooked grain, steamed or roasted seasonal veggies, a sauce, toasted or soaked nuts/seeds, and plant milk if I’m planning on using it that week. That way, I have access to a lot of different meals throughout the week with minimal effort. I can eat everything together as a grain bowl (or buddha bowl as it is synonymously known these days) or I can combine the different components with other staples. For instance, the nuts/seeds and cooked veggies can be served over salad greens or a steamed sweet potato with your sauce for a quick lunch/dinner. For breakfast you can combine the cooked veggies with tofu or eggs for a scramble. Or, you can warm your cooked grains with a bit of plant milk and cinnamon for a breakfast porridge. If you’re feeling soup vibes, you can combine your veggies with broth or coconut milk and your favorite herbs/spices in a blender.
+ Aside from the food I’m prepping, there are staples I like to always have in my fridge or pantry to either change up my leftovers or create a quick meal from scratch. Here’s what I tend to always have on hand: whole grain gluten free pasta, basmati or jasmine rice, a tin of cooked beans, salad greens, avocados, miso paste, lemons, nut butter, and raw cashews (either for snacking or soaking to make milk/cheese/etc.).
+ Plain cooked grains can get boring after a while, so here’s how I change things up: add whole spices like crushed cardamom pods or bay leaves while the grain is cooking; use herbal tea (you’ll see this method below), coconut milk, or veggie broth as the cooking liquid; toast the grains before cooking to impart an added depth of flavor; stir in minced fresh herbs after cooking for a bit of earthy brightness.
+ Take notes! Keep a journal of things you made throughout the week that you really liked (or didn’t) so that you have a reference point and source of future inspiration.