It’s a random weeknight and we’re scrambling to scrounge up dinner. Of course we’d like to go the healthy route and stick to our plant-based ways – but with the stress of the day still weighing on us and a whole new list of obligations to tend to now that we’re home, the very last thing we want to do is start crafting an Instagram-worthy #cleaneats dinner. Sound familiar?
We’re digging in to the pages of Plant Power for this helpful guide to getting our refrigerators stocked before this moment occurs. Author Nava Atlas teaches everyone from committed vegans to general veggie lovers how to eat more plants. And the most important place to begin is with meal prep. We asked Nava to share her top plant-based food prer tips and staples for those of us who have the best wellness warrior intentions in mind. All you need is a couple hours once a week and Nava will get you set for seven full days of success. You may never see a take-out box again…
Dinner preparation suffers greatly because it’s usually prepared so late in the day. Most of us get into the kitchen at 6 p.m. or later (sometimes much later). We’re tired from our workdays, our commutes, our kids’ activities and the general stress of our overstuffed lives. If you’re a parent, there’s homework that needs to be supervised; if you’re a student, there’s homework that needs to be done. Household chores still need to be completed before our heads can hit the pillow. No wonder, then, that dinnertime can feel so fraught that it gets short shrift on so many days.
Here are my top ten make-aheads, in no particular order, that can help streamline weeknight meal preparation. And by “make-ahead,” I don’t mean freezing your garden greens in August so you can enjoy them in November. I’m talking about taking an hour or two on Sunday, or even on a weekday evening after all is settled and calm, to prepare some basics. Even something as simple as having some cooked quinoa, baked potatoes, sweet potatoes, or kale that’s been cleaned and chopped can go a long way toward making evening meal preparation a breeze.
10 Make-Aheads to Get You Through the Week
Soup + Stew
Make a hearty soup, stew or multiserving dish such as a vegetable lasagna. This can be both portioned out for the week, and frozen for days when cooking is just not on the schedule. Use homemade vegetable or bone broth to increase its nutrient density and healing capabilities.
Bake Root Vegetables
Bake a batch of white or sweet potatoes, winter squash such as butternut, acorn, or kabocha, or other root vegetables such as carrots, parsnips, or turnips. These can be roasted with coconut oil, organic butter and an array of fresh herbs and spices. Eat as a snack, add to grain bowls or use as a side dish to a main meal.
Cook a few servings of grains to have on hand. Farro, quinoa, brown rice, buckwheat and teff are all great versatile options. Cooked grains can be transformed into a whole meal within minuets just by adding a protein, fresh vegetables (steamed or raw), and a homemade dressing.
Clean, steam and chop green vegetables and store in an airtight container for the week. Kale, collards, broccoli and Brussels sprouts are great ones to have on hand. They can be added to eggs, salads, grain bowls or enjoyed on their own – just smother them in this za’atar and chermoula sauce.
Dips + Spreads
Make a couple high-protein, nutrient-packed dips and spreads for the week. Hummus and nut spreads are a great start, adding extra protein and minerals to your meal. They can be used as a condiment for a healthy veggie snack, added to sandwiches and wraps or dolloped onto grain and veggie bowl for an extra kick of flavor.
Consider caramelizing a few peppers and sweet onions. Caramelized peppers and onions can be such a delicacy, adding so much flavor to any dish. We are huge fans of mixing them into egg dishes, piling them onto baked vegetables or mixing them into hummus for an out-of-this-world veggie dip.
TCM Pick: How To Slice The Perfect Onion
Cutting, chopping and prepping vegetables is probably the most time consuming task of making a meal. Washing, peeling and slicing Brussels sprouts, peeling and chopping carrots, dicing cabbage and slicing up broccoli and zucchini in advance is a great way to save time during the week. Store them in Ziplock bags and either freeze or store in the refrigerator for later.
The reason most of us grab a bag of chips, reach for a morning muffin or snack on vending-machine snacks is because it is easy and convenient. So plan for the week by making your own snack bags. Make your own granola, trail-mix, or veggie sticks in advance. Store in zip-lock bags or small mason jars ready to go.
Most conventional, bottled salad dressings contain many unhealthy ingredients such as poor-quality oils, dairy, fillers, chemicals and unnatural flavors. These harmful ingredients can lead to a host of issues including weight gain, cardiovascular disease and hormone disorders to name a few. Ditch the bad guys using this guide, and make your own instead. Store in the refrigerator and use not only for salads, but as a dressing to your grain and veggie bowls and as a dip for steamed greens.
TCM Pick: How To Make The Perfect Salad Dressing
Excerpted from PLANT POWER: Transform Your Kitchen, Plate, and Life With More Than 150 Fresh and Flavorful Vegan Recipes by Nava Atlas with permission by Harper One, an imprint of Harper Collins Publishers. Copyright 2014.