Hello friends! I love tossing out a good meal prep post every now and then, especially to kick off the year in a colorful and of course healthy way. I'm sure I'm not alone in that the holidays often throw me off my usual routine. I still cook a good bit, but there is something nice about returning to the usual weekly tradition of doing a full kitchen day to make sure we have homemade food for the whole week ahead. For this first week in January, I was able to do just that.
One or two items may warrant a separate post, but I had enough goodies to share in one big blog to make it worth your while to stop by and at least peruse the photos. I dug deep in the freezer this week after yet another Saturday with no official farmers market, though one of my farmers was able to offer up the option to order online and pick up our order like we normally would. That is one benefit from this past year I was very grateful for--many of the farmers have online shops that really make it so much easier for them to get produce to us even when the farmers market is closed. Luckily I still had some items like broccoli and beans frozen from previous markets to add to the few fresh items the boyfriend picked up for me while I was at work.
Perhaps I'll start out with that meal which really made the frozen produce shine....
Teriyaki Tofu-Tempeh Casserole
After I checked out what I had in the freezer--sugar snap peas, broccoli and purple beans--I remembered a recipe for a Teriyaki Tofu-Tempeh Casserole which I have made in the past and really enjoyed. As I've said before, I love coming up with my own recipes, but I do also enjoy going back through my cookbooks or pinned recipes on Pinterest for inspiration sometimes. This casserole is really easy to put together, especially since she recommends using frozen veggies anyway. I also added a few big caps of fresh portabella mushrooms to the skillet when I cooked my frozen vegetables to add some extra earthiness to the finished dish. I enjoy both tofu and tempeh, and I feel like this is a great dish to give them a try if you are new to preparing them. The quick and easy homemade teriyaki sauce gives it all great flavor!
You can easily switch out the vegetables based on what you have in your freezer or which ones you enjoy to eat. She also mentions in the recipe post you can do all tofu or all tempeh if you prefer one over the other, and there are plenty of grain options to substitute for the rice. I highly recommend checking it out and adding this one to your rotation for an easy meal to add to your rotation!
To stick with the savory side of things, I went back to the freezer to pull out a few containers of my pre-cooked beans that I always try to keep handy. When I made my black-eyed peas for New Year's Day I had a few extra containers to set aside. They were so good when I made them last week, that I opted for another traditional way to use them--Cowboy (or Texas) Caviar. This is another dish I haven't made in quite a while, but the colorful medley of beans and peppers always hits the spot. It is one of those you can make slightly different each time you put a batch together, though I think the black-eyed peas, onion and bell peppers are a must.
I also opted for chickpeas instead of the black beans that I often see. The bell peppers were a medley of colorful baby bells, and a sliced jalapeno for some heat. I chopped up olives stuffed with garlic for a briny note, a bit of finely chopped raw onion for more flavor, and the dressing had cilantro and red onion infused oil blended with jalapeno lime white balsamic, lime juice and zest, chili powder and a pinch of ground cumin. A generous handful of freshly chopped dill was the finishing touch. This is often served as a dip, but I think it is equally delicious for lunch over top of leafy greens as a satisfying yet light salad. Really, a bean salad is never a bad idea to whip up for lunches for the week.
Oat Bars with Poached Pears
Of course we can't neglect those looking for a sweet bite to add to the meal plan. When I was raiding the freezer for my beans and vegetables I realized we still have quite a haul of pears leftover from our picking adventures in the backyard of my boyfriend's parents. I think we brought home at least eleven quart bags of peeled and roughly chopped pears to freeze, not to mention the 30 or so pounds of fresh fruit. The pears taste delicious and so naturally sweet on their own, but the harder flesh does lend them more to low slow cooking to really let them break down. I decided to cook a bag down in a bit of maple syrup, cinnamon, nutmeg and some maple balsamic for a hit of acid. I just let them simmer in a saucepan on the stovetop for about an hour until they just about melted in your mouth they were so soft and luscious.
I could easily eat the whole batch of cooked pears on their own, but opted to incorporate them into a breakfast or healthy snack. Oat bars feature every now and then around here, but as with the rest of this week's offerings, I hadn't made any in quite a while. I'm up to my eyeballs in all kinds of different date varieties right now, so I decided to mix up a batch of banana oat bars with some of my nutty Thoory dates and chopped pecans mixed in. I think I do recall the full measurements I used this time around if anyone would like to replicate them:
- 2 1/2 cups rolled oats
- 1/2 cup puffed amaranth (or more oats)
- 1/2 teaspoon each cinnamon & ground ginger
- pinch of sea salt
- 1 cup unsweetened plant-based milk
- 2 ripe bananas, peeled and mashed
- 1/3 cup chopped dates
- 1/3 cup chopped raw pecans
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly oil a 9x9-inch baking pan. Mix all of the ingredients into a large bowl then let rest while the oven warms up to let the moisture soak into the oats. Place in the oven and cook for about 30 minutes or until the edges just start to brown.
These work easily as a bar, but I have enjoyed cutting a larger square and topping with some of my pears before warming up to eat for breakfast (or second breakfast). The Thoory dates were particularly enjoyable to finally bake with, but any date would do. No sugar needed in the bars when the natural sweetness of the bananas and dates add plenty to satisfy my sweet tooth. And again, another really easy recipe to customize to your own pantry staples!
I had a few soups on the menu for the week, as well, so we really did get a whole variety of colors in our fruits and veggies, along with plenty of plant-based protein and fiber. This is how I usually try to put together a week of eating: 3-4 main dishes to rotate out for lunch/dinner and often a prepped breakfast for a few days, as well. I still love my avocado toast most mornings, but oatmeal is a nice change. Or really an addition since I've started running again and tend to enjoy second breakfast to make sure I'm getting plenty of fuel in to support my activity level.
All of these were easy to make with fairly accessible ingredients. I do like the fancy stuff sometimes, but more often than not I just work with what I can find at the farmers market and in my own pantry. Meal prep doesn't have to be ridiculously difficult or extensive. Find a few staples you enjoy and can change out week to week and you'll be a meal prep master in no time. I'm soooo excited that the farmers market is back this weekend, as well! It was only a break of a few weeks, but I still miss going when it is not there. I'm sure I'll buy way too much to make up for lost time, but it will never go to waste in my kitchen....
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