How to Meal Prep… Like a Boss

Lately I have had a lot of friends and co-workers ask me where to even start with meal prep.  Everyone has this initial fear of weekly meal prep.  However, the root of uneasiness varies from person to person.  Some are unsure how to change grocery habits, others worry how much time meal prep might actually take.  Then there are people who think they have to throw out everything they have in their pantry and start from scratch.

Honestly, your approach must depend on your end goal.  Is this another diet fad or is this more of a lifestyle change?  What people forget is that habits become habits because we do the activity repetitively.  You had to start somewhere.  Same is true of meal prep.

I wanted to outline a few helpful hints for my meal prep newbies.  Who knows maybe seasoned meal preppers (don’t worry newbie, you too will be a pro soon) will find some aspects of this post useful.  My approach to meal prep is a mix of clean eating and efficiency.  I wake up at 5 am to work out before work Monday-Friday; therefore, the less thinking and scrambling I have to do in the morning, the better! I also believe that eating healthier during the work week provides a nice counter balance to the gluttony of weekends.  Yes, I am one of those people that believes in “cheat” days…eating clean is easier when you know you can splurge a bit at the end of the week ;)

  1. Prepare.
    • Don’t set yourself up for failure.  If you are worried going into meal prep then start off by brainstorming what it is you want to make.  I usually break it down into breakfast, weekday lunch, and snacks.  Notice that I don’t have dinner in the mix.  Well that’s because I like to mix up dinner every week.  I always buy a few random things at the store and plan dinner the day before.  That way when I get home from work I have a game plan.
    • Make a list.  Ahh yes, my type A heart is fluttering.  I work best with lists.  I write down the meals and the foods I need.  This helps me focus in the grocery store, since it is one of my favorite places in the world.  I kid you not…I could spend hours browsing the aisles.  This is why lists are crucial.  Now for other people lists may be critical because they are overwhelmed at the grocery story.   Either way, you will be thankful for the list.
    • Spring Cleaning.  If you are choosing the meal prep route to help you live a healthier lifestyle then you probably have some pantry purging to do.  Now this depends on the individual, I still keep pretzels, granola, cereal, trail mix essentials, baking supplies, etc. in my pantry.  Again, it’s up to you to determine what the purpose of meal prep is and what foods you want to give up.
  2. Grocery Shop.
    • Pick a time, a place, maybe make it a date.  I always set time aside on a week night to do the main grocery shopping.  Some people prefer to go on the weekends, but I feel like that is when the store is busiest.  I don’t want to feel like a salmon swimming upstream…when all I want is some fresh produce.  Another way to succeed is to pick one main grocery store where you can get the majority, if not everything, on the list.  The more places you have to shop, the more meal prep will feel like work.  Also, all shopping is better when you have a friend.  Ask another person to hop on the meal prep band wagon or have your sig other go to the store with you.  If they aren’t interested…make shopping into a game/race.  Whoever gets all the items to the register wins?!?!  Just don’t be the person they are referring to when the overhead speakers says “Clean Up on Aisle 10.”
    • Shop the outside aisles of the grocery store.  I am not a nutritionist or a personal trainer, but I believe that this is a good rule of thumb.  I gravitate toward fresh ingredients and minimize my trips down the center aisles.  I use a lot of canned beans and frozen produce, snack on trail mix/granola, consume nut butters by the truckload, and I cook with quinoa.  I’m not judging you for going down the aisle, just get in and get out.  Put down the unnecessary, overly processed cookies.  If you’re craving them, it’s better to make them from scratch and know what you’re putting in your body ;)
  3. Time Management.
    • Know your limits.  I realistically set aside 2 hours on Sunday to prep for the week.  That may seem like a lot of time, but it’s better to set aside extra time on Sunday than to be rushing Monday morning.  If 2 hours seems like a lot of time then split up the meal prep into 2 days, an hour each day.  Everyone has a different schedule.  Do not feel guilty if you want to spend the day doing other activities; however, do not leave meal prep for 9 pm on Sunday when you have to wake up early Monday.  You will end up stressing out and that was what you were trying to avoid!
    • Multitasking is key.  I like to have multiple things going on at once.  This makes meal prep even more efficient.  For example, I will preheat the oven for my roasted sweet potatoes, while my eggs are coming to a boil.  While the eggs are finishing up, I prep and throw together all the ingredients for that week’s slow cooker creation.  If you don’t own a slow cooker…invest in one now, you can thank me later.  Do not worry about your home burning down while you’re at work and if you are stressed about that, then make the meal over night.  I peel my hardboiled eggs right away so I’m not fussing over them when I want to eat them.  That’s just one example of multi-tasking, but there are so many ways.  Another favorite of mine is slicing, dicing, mincing, rinsing any and all produce all at once.  Then you can divide it up amongst meals as needed.
    • Portion control.  I’m not talking about your waist line, I am referring to packing everything into ready to-go containers.  Separate the fruit, veggies, trail mix, nuts, snacks, and meals ahead of time.  I know it sounds like a lot of work, but this is key to meal prep.  If you made everything, but you’re still spending 10 minutes in the morning getting ready then you are losing out on 10 minutes of sleep, gym, or puppy snuggle time.
  4. Change It Up. 
    • Sure I love macaroni and cheese, but I couldn’t eat it every day.  This may be the most critical step to meal prep.  Yay you’ve done it, you have created awesome portable breakfasts, snacks, and lunches to go.  You are meal prepping like a boss!  But let’s be honest, there are only so many hardboiled eggs, apples, and sweet potatoes one can eat.  So mix up the fruit, roast different veggies, grill or bake a different protein for your weekday salads, use that slow cooker to it’s max potential.  Don’t get in a meal prep rut.  If you are choosing to be healthy, it does not mean you have to sacrifice on options or flavors.  A true meal prep boss never let’s their A-game slip up ;)

How to Meal Prep Like a Boss Part 2 coming soon!  With some of my favorite recipes posted next weekend :) Do you have any fun meal prep tips/ideas or a recipe that is your go-to for the week.  If so, please share.  Teek and I are always looking for a new idea.

As always,

Bon Appeteek

15 Minute Garlicky Shrimp and Zoodles

I would just like to take a moment to say how grateful I am to work with the people I do.  I think too often you hear people complaining about work and the stress of work.  It’s always easier to complain than to be appreciative and thankful.  Don’t get me wrong, there are aspects of work that are not fun…hence why it’s called “work” and not “happy hour”.  But I am fortunate to be surrounded by amazing patient care coordinators, medical assistants, pharmacy technicians, nurses, mid-levels, pharmacists (shout out to my people), and providers every day.  Not to mention every other person that keeps the machine that is a clinic working.  Yes, we do everything for our patients, but goodness some days it takes a lot of patience (hehe see what I did there?).  I always try to thank the people that work hard to make my day a little easier, but I wanted to give a cyber thank you to everyone else out there that’s giving it their all :)

15 Minute Garlicky Shrimp and Zoodles

Now with all that hard work, you can bet that I work up an appetite.  Sometimes the best meals take the least effort and time.  Stop right there…don’t take another bite of the microwaved entrée.  You can and should take time to reward yourself with a yummy home-cooked meal after a long day.  This is an easy recipe that comes together in minutes AND you can easily customize it for the number of people eating.  Oh yes, you better be intrigued.  Zoodles.  Zucchini noodles, my latest obsession.  They are great because they substitute easily for any pasta dish and you can cook them in the sauce.  Minimal dishes.  Man friend is happy (since he’s always on dish duty).

15 Minute Garlicky Shrimp and Zoodles

I use a Paderno 3-Blade Spiralizer to create my zoodles.  My ratio is 1 large zucchini per serving.  I serve 5 shrimp per person and add as many mushrooms as I have on hand.  Feel free to use an entire 10 oz container.  Everything cooks in one pan and you can easily double the recipe and feed a larger crowd.  I kept the recipe dairy-free, but you could grate some fresh parmesan on top of each serving if you want to kick it up another notch.  Simple, fresh, flavorful, and quick.  Who wouldn’t want to reward themselves after a long day with a bowl of some Garlicky Shrimp and Zoodles?!?!  Tomorrow is Friday, take a moment to thank someone at work for what they do before you run out the door to celebrate the weekend ;)

15 Minute Garlicky Shrimp and Zoodles

As Always,

Bon Appeteek

Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
Servings: 4

The Players: 

5 oz sliced crimini mushrooms (half a container)
1/2 shallot, diced
20 large shrimp, peeled
4 large garlic cloves, minced
4 zucchini, ends removed
1/4 C diced sun-dried tomatoes in oil
1 T freshly sliced basil (~5 large basil leaves)
salt and pepper to taste

The Rules: 

  1. While your veggies and shrimp are sautéing, use a spiralizer to transform your zucchini into zoodles.
  2. In a large sauté pan, over medium-high heat, add 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, mushrooms, and shallots and cook for 2-3 minutes.
  3. Place shrimp and garlic in the pan and cook an additional 2 minutes per side until pink.  Remove shrimp and mushrooms from pan and set aside.
  4. Reduce heat to medium, sauté zoodles  and sun-dried tomatoes in the same pan.  Stir occasionally and cook until zoodles are tender (5-7 minutes).
  5. Add the shrimp and mushrooms back to the pan and toss with fresh basil.  Serve warm.

Lentil and Sweet Potato Chili

Monday.  Let me tell you guys something…it is even harder to get excited about Mondays when you spent a weekend away in Las Vegas with friends.  Add to that the fact that it’s been raining all day and well let’s just say I was feeling cozy and lazy today.

Lentil and Sweet Potato Chili

This weekend was filled with pool time (think 80s and sunny), a few adult beverages, some gambling, lots of dancing, and even more laughter.  Seriously, I feel like Seattle and the relationships I have developed out here feel more like home every day :)  They say surround yourself with those on the same mission as you.   A room full of passionate, ambitious, young, and adventure-seeking humans… makes for one epic vacation.

Lentil and Sweet Potato Chili

Well now I am home, cozied up to a nice warm cup of green tea, reflecting on the weekend, and sharing this twist on chili with you.  I needed some veggies in my life, but with this rainy weather I wanted some comfort food.  Drum roll please…VEGAN CHILI.  I decided to avoid beans in this chili and stray even further from the traditional chili recipe.  Mainly because lentils are packed with fiber and protein and are a legume so they replace the beans that you normally find in chili.  If you really are craving that beany taste, feel free to add a can of rinsed kidney or black beans.   I kept my batch on the sweeter side (corn and sweet potatoes) and added heat and freshness by topping each serving with pickled jalapeño slices and cilantro.  This is a great hearty dish that will warm your soul.

Lentil and Sweet Potato Chili

As always,

Bon Appeteek

More nutritional tidbits about lentils: high in folate, thiamine, phosphorous, and iron.  I was shocked when I found out that Canada is the largest exporter of lentils in the world…who would have thought?!?!

Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 40 minutes
Servings: 4-6

The Players: 

1/2 red onion, diced
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 large sweet potato, peeled and cubed (2 cups of cubed sweet potato)
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 green bell pepper, diced
14.5 oz can  stewed mexican style tomatoes
1 C green whole lentils, rinsed
1 C frozen corn
3 C water (additional water if needed to thin out the chili)
1 vegetable bouillon cube
1 heaping T ground cumin
2 t chili powder
1/2 t smoked paprika
salt and pepper to taste

The Rules: 

  1. In a dutch oven, over medium high heat warm 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil.  Cook onion, celery, and sweet potato for ~5 minutes, until sweet potato starts to brown/soften and onion is translucent.
  2. Add bell pepper and garlic and sauté an additional 1-2 minutes.
  3. Combine the remaining ingredients in the dutch oven and bring to a rolling boil.  Cover dutch oven with lid and reduce heat to medium-low.  Cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Add additional water if desired and adjust seasonings to taste.  Remove from heat and allow the chili to cool for 10 minutes before serving.  Serve warm with fresh cilantro and pickled jalapeños.

Skinny Thai Meatballs

Sushi, Indian, and Thai.  These are my favorite cuisines for eating out.  Mainly because I tend to be intimidated by these recipes.  There are so many ingredients, somewhat complicated steps, and patience.  Patience is a virtue…one I constantly work on.

Skinny Thai Meatballs

Recently I decided I needed more yoga in my life, to a) clear my mind b) appreciate my body c) teach me breathing exercises  d) improve posture and flexibility e) increase that patience.  I bet we could all use a little yoga in our lives?!?  Since I had this revelation I have only made it to one yoga class, but thankfully Seattle has an abundance of yoga studios and most of them offer free classes for first-timers.  That means I can shop around for a little extra zen ;)

Skinny Thai Meatballs

Moving on to the star of this blog post.  Skinny Thai Meatballs.  I was inspired to create this dish by a recent date night adventure.  Andrew, my rock and number one fan, clearly knows the way to my heart.  For my birthday he surprised me with a gift certificate to Hipcooks in Seattle.  Hipcooks is this awesome twist on cooking classes.  The classes are small group, specific cuisine (from Moroccan to Sushi and everything in between), include an entire dinner menu, cook without measuring cups, and you enjoy the meals family style.  Then you get an email with all the recipes and where to shop for ingredients.  I know, I am one lucky girl :)

Skinny Thai Meatballs

Well my birthday was in errr November and we just went in March (things have been kind of crazy).  But I knew I wanted to go to the Thai Cooking Class from the start.  Spring rolls, coconut shrimp rice balls, pad thai, red and green curry, forbidden rice dessert…are you salivating yet?!?!  This class helped me overcome some of my Thai cooking fears.  The flavors are sweet, sour, salty, spicy, and savory.  Most of the ingredients you have on hand or at your local grocery store.

Skinny Thai Meatballs

Good food tastes even better, when you know it’s a bit healthier.  So inspiration from thai cooking class meet amateur food blogger who is always trying to prove that healthy tastes damn good too!  I decided to use ground turkey as the protein source, but you can always substitute ground chicken.  I also minimized the oil in the recipe, threw in some peanut butter (because I have a peanut butter addiction), and subbed light coconut milk for coconut cream or full fate coconut milk.  The trick is to buy light coconut milk and look at the ingredients.  The label should say coconut milk and water.  I buy my light coconut milk from Trader Joe’s.  If you can’t find the good stuff then use less regular coconut milk and thin it out with water.  You will get the creamy coconut flavor and your waist line will be thankful!

Skinny Thai Meatballs

You can serve these meatballs over quinoa, rice, cauliflower rice, spinach, lettuce, or just eat them plain.  The red coconut curry peanut sauce is AMAZING.  I might have scraped the pan clean with the spatula to make sure a drop of sauce was not wasted.

Skinny Thai Meatballs

As always,

Bon Appeteek

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes
Servings: 20-25 meatballs

The Players: 

For the meatballs
1 lb ground turkey
1 egg
1/2 C panko break crumbs
1 T fish sauce (alternatively substitute soy sauce)
1/2 C fresh cilantro, chopped (alternatively substitute thai basil)
1/3 C diced red onion (~1/4 of a large red onion, alternatively substitute scallion)
1/4 t red pepper flakes
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and minced, divided
1 T toasted sesame oil
1 T peanut oil

For the curry sauce
2 t peanut oil
2 large garlic cloves, minced
**Second half of ginger from meatball recipe
2 T red curry paste
14 oz can light coconut milk
2 T creamy natural peanut butter
1 T fish sauce
1-2 t sriracha (alternatively minced thai chiles)
1-2 T brown sugar

optional: lime wedges as garnish

The Rules: 

  1. Combine all the ingredients for meatballs, except for peanut and sesame oil, in a medium mixing bowl.  Mix, using your hands, until well incorporated.
  2. Shape into meatballs (~size of golf balls) and set aside.
  3. In a large sauté pan over medium-high heat, warm the peanut and sesame oil ~1 minute.  Slowly add the meatballs to the hot pan.  Cook, rotating the meatballs until all sides are browned.  When all sides are browned, transfer the meatballs to a separate plate.  (Note: I used chopsticks to gently rotate the meatballs, cook time 6-8 minutes total)
  4. To your hot pan, add peanut oil, garlic, ginger and cook for 1 minute.  (Note: Do not burn the garlic, you want to infuse the oil)
  5. Add the remaining curry sauce ingredients, whisking until well-combined.  Taste and adjust to desired sweetness (brown sugar), saltiness (fish sauce), and spiciness (sriracha or thai chiles).
  6. Transfer the meatballs back to the pan containing curry sauce.  Reduce heat to low, cover pan with lid, and allow meatballs to simmer for ~10 minutes. (Note: The sauce will thicken as the meatballs cook)
  7. Serve the meatballs warm, with freshly squeeze lime juice, over rice or desired base.  Store meatballs in an airtight container refrigerated.

 

 

 

3-Ingredient Coconut Macaroons

 

 

 

Yesterday was one of “those” days… you all know what I’m talking about.  The days you come home from work and you don’t want to talk to anyone.  The days where you find yourself looking forward to a nice glass of wine.  The days when you need chocolate therapy.  

3 Ingredient Coconut Macaroons

Lucky for you guys, when I have a bad day I spin that negative energy into creativity with cooking or baking.  Seriously, some of my favorite and best recipes are a result of “those” days.  Also, wine helps everything.  So I came home, took Teek on a long walk, poured myself a glass of wine, and decided to bake an Easter-friendly treat.  What do you do to turn the switch?

3 Ingredient Coconut Macaroons

My thought was not April Fools, but Easter desserts.  We are going to a friend’s place for an Italian-inspired Easter dinner.  Of course, since I love to cook, I want to bring something to share.  I already volunteered to bring a cocktail, but I also thought how fun would it be to make a Holiday-themed treat.  My girlfriend is already making a bunny butt cake (how cute is that idea?!?!), so I figured why not bring the bunny tails?

3 Ingredient Coconut Macaroons

These macaroons are simple, require only 3-ingredients (if you don’t count the dark chocolate bottoms), and most importantly they are delicious.  I whip the egg whites until they form soft peaks, which makes the macaroons wonderfully light and chewy.  No additional sugar in this macaroon recipe, since the sweetened shredded coconut is sweet enough for my taste.  I make the macaroons bite size, that way I can justify eating a handful….right ;)

3 Ingredient Coconut Macaroons

 

Oh and the chocolate bottoms…well that’s just the perfect finishing touch.  It gives a great presentation to the macaroon and gives me an excuse to dip fruit, pretzels, and my fingers in the left over melted chocolate.  Too much information?  Oops.

3-Ingredient Coconut Macaroons

As always,

Bon Appeteek

Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes
Servings: ~25 mini macaroons

The Players: 

2 egg whites
1 t pure vanilla bourbon extract
2 C shredded sweetened coconut

optional: 1 C dark chocolate chips or chunks for dipping macaroons in

The Rules: 

  1. Preheat oven to 350F and line a baking sheet with silicone baking mat or parchment paper.
  2. Using a hand mixer or stand mixer, beat together egg whites and vanilla extract until soft peaks form.
  3. Fold in shredded coconut, until well incorporated.
  4. Drop macaroons onto your baking sheet, using a cupcake corer, cookie scoop, or teaspoon.  (Note: You want the macaroons to be dense and formed in the shape you desire, they will not expand while they bake)
  5. Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown.  Remove from oven and allow to cool ~10 minutes.
  6. Optional Dark Chocolate Coated Bottoms: In a microwave-safe dish, melt chocolate chips by microwaving for 45-60 seconds and stirring every 15 seconds.  Dip bottom of macaroons in chocolate and place bottom-side up on your cookie sheet.  Place in freezer for 10 minutes to allow chocolate to harden.  Store macaroons in an air-tight container in the refrigerator.