Meal Prep Sundays | Easy and Healthy Recipes

Happy Sunday! I wanted to share some recipes that I’ve been loving the past few months that are healthy, easy to make, and a great start to the New Year! Part of changing my diet and eating healthy was starting with Meal Prep Sundays! The idea is that on Sundays, or whatever day works for your schedule, you prep all of your meals for the week. This way you have healthy meals already made so you don’t have to think about what to cook or worry about making a healthy meal. I tend to prep only my lunches, and if I’m being really good I prep some healthy snacks to eat throughout the week, then I like to have an idea of what I’ll make for dinner during the week.

I get most of my recipe ideas and inspirations from Pinterest and tailor them to my diet and liking. I just went through my recipes board and removed all the cookie recipes I had added for the holidays. In the future, I think I’ll create a holiday board so that I can keep the yummy holiday recipes separate from my healthy, everyday recipes. I also keep a separate recipe board with meat recipes in case I want to make something separate for Jake. Generally, I don’t eat meat or fish, but go through these periods of time when I really crave a shrimp taco or broiled salmon, so I have them. For the most part, however, I stick to a vegetarian diet. I also try and stay away from carb loaded meals as much as I can. For me, I’ve found that not eating carbs as much as I can avoid them is the real trick to keeping fit in terms of my diet.

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Photo Courtesy of PicJumbo.com

Meal Prep Lunches

Quinoa Bowls | Quinoa is a great staple and alternative to other grains and it should be kept in the kitchen pantry at all times. It’s great as the base for cold salads, in casseroles, or used to replace rice and sometimes even pasta depending on the recipe. I love making fried quinoa, in place of rice, and adding in a lot of veggies – try this Very Veggie Fried Rice from Cooking Classy! One of my favorite recipes for quick and healthy meal prepping are quinoa bowls! There are endless possibilities depending on your favorite vegetables and what protein you add in. Cook quinoa to your liking, I use a slow cooker on high for a few hours, and cool in the fridge. Once cool, divide quinoa into microwave safe containers, add in black beans, add vegetables or your choice – I like using fresh carrots and broccoli, and sprinkle seasoning of your choice on top. All you have to do is pop it in the microwave for two minutes, and your lunch is done. It may not sound exciting, but I love this! This recipe was inspired by a vegan lunch ideas post found on Vegan Runner Eats. I also found a recipe on Lemon Tree Dwelling for quinoa taco bowls that I’d love to try! I can see this being a great alternative to traditional taco salad during the spring months. Not only are these great recipes for eating healthy, but they’re cost effective to anyone on budget!

Lunchables for Adults | Making a Lunchable type meal is another easy way to prep meals. You put together your favorite meals that you want at lunch and you can measure them out so you know the nutrition facts if you’re tracking calories. You’ll need a larger container for this one, I have these EasyLunchboxes from Amazon that have three divided areas for different foods. They only come in a 4-pack, so you’ll have to reuse one for later in the work week. Other than that, these are great! I’ve had them for a few years now and I really enjoy them! Perfect for portion control, children, and stacking in the fridge. My two staple meals for these are a brown rice, broccoli, mashed sweet potatoes lunch and a Mediterranean salad, cottage cheese, hard boiled egg combo – try this Mediterranean quinoa salad or use garbanzo beans instead of quinoa! These containers are also great for reheating leftover chicken or fish at work. If you’re not a fan of plastic containers in the microwave, invest in a glass storage set, like this Pyrex 20-Piece Set I just got for Christmas!

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Soups | If I could make all my meals in a Crock Pot, I would. It’s the best for making nearly any meal and it’s almost impossible to fail at the recipe. So many coworkers have been impressed with my prepped meals, but the secret is throwing all the ingredients into the Crock Pot and letting the magic happen. Soups are perfect for the winter months, and for the most part pretty healthy. Try and avoid cream based soups if you’re looking to cut calories, stick to soups with a lot of vegetable and proteins, and use sodium reduced products if you’re concerned about the salt content.

Some great recipes to try out are this Fall Vegetable Crock Pot Barley Soup from Better Recipes, which includes sweet potatoes and barley, so be careful on your serving size or lower the amount of those two ingredients. It’s super filling and tasty – I love the seasonings in this soup. There’s also this great cannellini bean soup from Martha Stewart. This recipe doesn’t specifically say it can be cooked in a Crock Pot but I’ve done it in the past and it works out fine. It’s been a while since I did a Crock Pot soup – I’m thinking it’ll be next on my list of meal prepping.

Tacos | Jake and I have not been able to get enough tacos this past fall and winter. Even though you can’t really prep tacos for lunch, they are easy to make and you can pretty much add any toppings that you want. The basics of our taco recipes are a tortilla, cabbage, a protein, shredded cheese, cilantro, pice de gallo, and a bit of sriracha mayo. A few great recipes to try are this chipotle lime shrimp tacos from Closet Cooking that calls for a creama lime sour cream, that can of course be omitted. For an vegetarian alternative, I sometimes use chickpeas and let them marinade the same way the shrimp would. For when I don’t feel like cooking, I’ll use my Crock Pot and make these black bean, sweet potato tacos from Kayln’s Kitchen. All I have to do is add in a can of black beans, two sweet potatoes, cumin and coriander seasonings, and let it cook on low while I’m at work. Super easy, super delicious, and a great fall and winter recipe. Always add extra cilantro on top!

Today I’m prepping the brown rice, broccoli, and mashed sweet potato meal and packing up some leftovers. I hope this helps a few of you trying new recipes for 2016 or getting into meal prepping. If you’re really interested in meal prep Sunday’s be sure to check out the subreddit for it on Reddit. People are always posting their preps, container options, and great recipes to try! Be sure to follow me on Instagram and Twitter to see daily updates throughout the week to see what I’m up to!

Add Some Spice to Your Life

I’ve never been a fan of spicy or hot foods. I never was big on Thai or Mexican cuisine simply because I always feared the food would be too spicy for me to handle. I remember growing up thinking my dad was a total weirdo for going to Kansas City and trying the hottest barbecue sauce that he could find, to the point where there would be tears coming from his eyes. Now that I’ve had time for my pallet to grow and I’ve expanded my cooking skills beyond the basic American diet, I’m starting to really enjoy a good kick in a lot of my foods. I know I’m not breaking any new ground by sharing my favorite ways to add some spice to my meals, but this is a new experience for me! I actually crave something hot and spicy to the point where that’s what I’ll tell Jake that’s what I want for dinner. Yes, my hormones are totally normal so please don’t jump to any conclusions.

Jake always makes fun of me and my “sauce collection” going on in the fridge, but I’ve finally discover sriracha and I need it in my life. Also, it’s cousin sriracha mayo – so good on tacos! I had some tofu tacos a few months back when we had a food truck at work and my coworker highly encouraged me to add sriracha mayo on for a little something, something. I’m blaming this new found addition on her. After that I made tacos at home just so I could buy sriracha mayo for my “sauce collection”. It’s great on top of normal tacos, fish tacos, tofu tacos, or these sweet potato and black bean slow cooker tacos. We made this recipe two weeks in a row at home and it’s a perfect dinner dish for fall! And it’s a slow cooker recipe, so it can’t get much easier – I highly recommend trying it. Adding a little sriracha or taco sauce on scrambled eggs or a breakfast sandwich will also fulfill my cravings as they come along.

Another great recipe for a little spice, and also so easy to make, is this easy lo mein dish from Damn Delicious. I added in a tablespoon of sriracha and omitted the sugar, and it turns out perfect. Like I said, this recipe is super easy to make and takes nearly no time to cook it. Jake and I are pretty busy and also work opposite schedules, so I don’t like taking a lot of time to make the meals we get to eat together. Another sriracha inspired meal is this 20-minute spicy ramen. I even did the poached eggs and ate it with chop sticks. I’d love to try out some more homemade ramen recipes for the winter months, so please leave suggestions if you have them!

I’m finally figuring out what I’ve been missing out on all this time. I want to go out and try some authentic Thai or Indian cuisine, play around with their spice levels. Maybe some good, authentic Mexican food too. I’ve already been trying out some new salsas to see how much I can handle; I don’t want to bite off more than I can chew – for now.

Mexican Inspired Summer Meals

The past few weeks I’ve been super into Mexican inspired dishes for healthy summer dinners. I’ve never been one for Mexican food, but something about avocados and cilantro lately has tasted amazing. My go-to site for recipes, suprise, surprise is Pinterest. I’ve found quite a few good recipes that I’ve made for both Jake and I that have gone over very well.

The Cilantro Lime Shrimp Tacos has a lot of steps and because of the seafood, tends to cost the most, but it’s very delicious. This recipe would be great for a grill out as the recipe suggests, but we made ours in a saute pan and it turned out very tasty.  I would definitely suggest letting the shrimp marinate for a couple of hours and using large to jumbo shrimp since they shrink while cooking.

Quinoa is awesome for recipes as the main part of the dish or as a replacement for rice or other grains. I use it all the time for salads or to replace rice in fried rice or stir fry. I don’t usually like quinoa so much in warmer dishes, but this Quinoa Enchilada Casserole is amazing, even Jake was surprised and loved it. We omitted the corn from our version and didn’t as a lot of jalapeno. This would even be great as a taco filling or in eggs for a breakfast dish. A similar recipe to this was One Pan Mexican Quinoa. This version is instead made on the stove top as opposed to the oven, which is a little bit more forgiving during the warmer summer months. If you live in an apartment or house without central air, like me, then you’ll probably prefer the stove top version.

This week, I have a few leftover black beans and corn from a failed quinoa taco recipe, and  I’m thinking I’ll just fry them up in a saucepan with taco seasoning, cook up some minute rice, and make my own version of vegetarian tacos. I have a busy week coming up and I’ll be moving soon, so I’m trying to avoid buying a whole ton of groceries so using up these bits of leftovers is perfect. I’m definitely on the search for the perfect vegetarian taco recipes, preferably one I could make in my Crock Pot, so I’ll continue looking and trying out new recipes for summer!

Major Budgeting

Well unfortunately, I was in a car accident this past week.  I am a-OK, minor sores from the seat belt and jolt, but I am alive and well.  The car on the other hand, is not doing too great.  The car went into the ditch and is well totaled, but what can you do.  I saw the accident happening before I could do anything so I relaxed, grabbed the wheel, and closed my eyes.  I was the most worried about what my mom would think as it was her car.  Sadly, she passed away about a year and half ago and I know she would be happy I’m in one piece, but I did feel bad for a minute.  These things happen and there’s nothing anyone can do about it.  I’m thankful to be alive, unharmed, and have the means to purchase a new car so I can continue to work and make up for what has been lost.

So now that I’ve purchased a new car and I’m back to a major budget, what do I do with my healthy eating habits?  I’m currently on Pinterest looking for some healthy, vegetarian friendly meals.  I purchased a new programmable Crock Pot a few weekends ago and I’d love to use it more for weekly evening meals since it turns over to warm after a set time.  And with slower cooker meals, there’s always left overs for lunch.  Lunch meals are always my main point of concern because I’m the most hungry then.  My dinners tend to be lighter and packed with smaller portions of healthy options, such as cottage cheese, frozen veggies on the side, pretzels, and small leftover.  Often, I run after work and I’m not home until about 6:30 p.m., eating around 7:00 p.m.  I know that doesn’t sound very late, but I’m usually settled around 9:00 p.m. and in bed by 10:25 p.m., right after the weather reports.  Now I want to budget all my meals and say goodbye to any social life for a few weeks.

I have shopped at Aldi’s many times in the past two years, and I honestly enjoy it quite a bit.  I’ve read reviews online that talk pretty poorly of the store, but if you go in with a level head and keep your eye on the good stuff, you can come out with a lower grocery bill.  I will admit, that if you purchase the more processed, sugar, or carb foods your bill will be lower than what I generally pay, but don’t get pulled in by it.  You can get healthy food options at a fair price at Aldi’s.  For me it’s worth it to go and get the basics: eggs, almond milk (unsweetened even!), cottage cheese, quick oats, salad, brown rice, frozen veggies, and fresh fruits and veggies when they’re in season.  You’ll have to “splurge” a bit on frozen salmon, shrimp, or chicken breast (for Jake), but it’s a few dollars cheaper than the big box grocery stores; still worth it!  I can’t speak for the fresh meats as I don’t buy them, but do check it out and see if the price is worth buying.  It can be difficult to purchase the more specifics foods, like certain vegetables, quinoa, healthy dips, vegetable broth at time, and canned soups.  A lot of stock at Aldi is dependent on their weekly shipments and often, popular food sell fast.  The best time to go is right away when the store opens, even if it’s a weekend.  Because the store is smaller than most, you’ll be through within a half an hour for week of groceries.

Learning the skill of basic cooking will go far when you’re on a budget.  I couldn’t do more than scrambled eggs when I moved out, but my ability to look at a recipe and feel confident in making the recipe and have it turn out tasty has gone through the roof.  Even Jake has taken a notice to my cooking skills, and he worked in a restaurant kitchen year ago.  I’d like give my cooking skills a go with hosting a small gathering in the coming year, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

For now, I’m budgeting, meal planning, and keeping my neck and hip relaxed with a heating pad.  Please don’t be fooled by all of this talk of healthy eating and gym time, I do indulge in chocolate or sweets if I crave them, but I do try very hard to eat as healthy as possible.  I’ll be sure to update in a few weeks on my budget and meals.  Remember cutting season is nearly upon us!  And with it, spring which brings safer driving conditions.  Everyone be safe!

Healthy Go-To Recipes

I have a few recipes I wanted to share that have been my go-to for lunches and dinners that are also healthy.  Most of these can be made in advance for lunches or in a slow cookers for making meals during the day.  Side note, I just got a new Crock Pot which is programmable so that it turns to warm after a set time of cooking.  It’s awesome!  I suggest it for anyone into cooking or prepping meals.

Protein Shake
This is current breakfast for most mornings.  It’s easy to make and I can bring it to work with me making breakfast later so that I’m fuller longer.  I use my Blender Bottle to make my shake with reduce sugar vanilla almond milk, which comes to 30 calories per 8 ounces.  I usually add a little water, around 3 ounces, along with my protein.  I usually buy the EAS Whey Vanilla Protein Powder which runs at 150 calories per serving, which for this powder is two scoops.  Add it all in the bottle, shake, and head out for the day!

Mediterranean Chickpea or Quinoa Salad
I love this for lunches, especially in the summer when it’s hot outside and in the house.  Lately, I’ve been loving this with chickpeas over quinoa, not for any particular reason.  This recipes is also flexible to each their own, I replace olives with kalamata olives which I find fitting more for the recipe.

Salmon with broccoli and brown rice
I know at most workplaces reheating fish in the lunchroom is a sin, but it’s healthy for you and filling.  Add a side of broccoli and brown rice or sweet potatoes and you will be filled through the afternoon to dinner.  Likewise, this is an easy meal to cook up in the evening if you have a gym date before dinner.  Salmon and fish cooks pretty quickly and you can steam frozen broccoli in four minutes in the microwave.  To cook salmon, I thaw it before placing the slice in foil topping it with dill weed and lemon pepper, roll up the foil, and bake for about 10 minutes at 350 degrees.  So easy! There’s tons of recipes on Pinterest you can make to jazz up your salmon, just be careful because some can come with a lot of added calories.

Fall Vegetable Crock Pot Barley Soup
I posted this a while back because it’s my favorite soup recipe that I’ve tried so far.   It’s very flavorful, easy to make in the Crock Pot, and the ingredients can be added or removed as you prefer.  Don’t add too much barley though or the soup will get too thick, same goes for the sweet potato as it can add a lot of sugar and unneeded calories.  Thyme has quickly become one of my favorite herbs for almost any recipe.

Salads
This is simple and to the point, salads with darker green leaves with generous amounts of vegetables on top and a light amount of dressing is about as healthy as you can get come spring.  I love adding cucumbers, carrots, and hard boiled eggs on my salads and in the spring I love chopped strawberries and pears as toppings.  For a change in texture, soy nuts and pumpkin seeds add a nice crunch to the mix.  For dressing, always choose a vinaigrette like balsamic or raspberry.

Edamame
I keep frozen edamame in my freezer at all times probably getting the best value for your dollar at Costco.  I steam mine with lemon pepper and then add a side of cottage cheese, Greek yogurt, or even a small salad.  Again, low calories, low carb, and filling.

Good luck with your cooking and fitness goals!