Meal Planning

I’m not by nature the most organized person in the world, I admit. But I have come to realize in my adult life that a certain amount of planning and routine gives me freedom and greater room for creativity. This is something I continue to struggle with in my artistic practice, but I think I’ve mastered it when it comes to food.

The first step for me is to have a well-stocked pantry and freezer. I always make sure to have certain staples around: whole wheat flour and pasta, oatmeal, brown rice, lentils, split peas, and usually a couple other kinds of beans and grains too, plus canned tomatoes and pumpkin puree. A few other things that are somewhat more perishable include onions and garlic, potatoes, and sweet potatoes. In my freezer, I keep plenty of frozen fruits and flax meal for my morning smoothies. I also like to have frozen greens like spinach, peas, corn, and some kind of vegetable blend. Sometimes I store tortillas or an extra loaf of bread as well.

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All of these things on hand make it easy to throw together a quick meal after work or on a weekend morning. For example, I can toss brown rice, lentils, and sweet potatoes in a pot with onions, frozen spinach and spices and have a delicious stew in less than an hour. Or split peas and potatoes, plus onion, carrot, and celery (other staples in my fridge!) I can make a breakfast hash with sweet potatoes, onions, and greens. I can improv a soup with frozen vegetables, pasta or potatoes, and some canned tomatoes. Spaghetti sauce comes together quickly with garlic and canned tomatoes. A baked potato is a great foundation for some steamed greens and leftover beans or lentils, or a spoonful of hummus. Frozen vegetables can be boiled with pasta and tossed with sauteed garlic or a little thinned out hummus. The combinations are endless. If nothing else, I can always rely on a hot bowl of oats, either sweet or savory.

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Favorite meal: Baked potato with hummus and spinach

The other important plan-aheads I do ensure I have healthy meals during the day at work. Every weekend, I prepare a big pot of something (usually a hearty soup or some variation on beans and rice) to pack for lunch every day. I try to have enough to last through Wednesday at the very least, when I ought to have time to come up with something else. Whenever possible, I also plan a snack for some point during the day – an oatmeal bar and some fruit, usually. Sometimes it’s cut up veggies and hummus.

I also prepare my morning smoothie ingredients on Sunday night. I’m kind of brain dead in the morning until after I’ve had my coffee, so I have idiot-proofed my breakfasts. I put my ingredients for each day into an old take-out container: Greens or chopped beets, flax meal, 1/2 banana, and 1/2 cup of berries or other fruit. Sometimes I include a plant-based protein powder, but I don’t think it’s totally necessary. Then in the morning, I can just dump it into my smoothie cup, add almond milk to cover, and blend it up to take with me on the bus. I’m also experimenting with blending up a big batch of smoothie and freezing it in individual cups, but the timing hasn’t been right with the thaw just yet.

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Two blueberry and kale, two mango and parsley, one strawberry and lettuce.

With a little planning and careful shopping, I can be sure to have healthy meals at my fingertips all week long. The more healthy whole foods I have around, the less processed junk or expensive take-out I am likely to eat. The busier I become, the more important this is! Especially now that I’ve gone from working 6ish hours a day to a full 9 hours. Please let me reward you with my current favorite smoothie:

Tropical Beet Smoothie

Ingredients

1/2 a medium beet, cooked, peeled, and chopped

1/2 cup crushed pineapple in juice (or a little more if you use chunks)

1 small thin-skinned cucumber (about 5″ long), in chunks

1 Tbls chia seeds

Juice of one lime

1/2 cup or so of unsweetened coconut milk (the kind in a carton, not a can)

  • Combine all ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth. Depending on your blender, you may need to add ingredients one at a time, or use a little more milk. My old Cuisinart blender probably couldn’t have handled this, but I got a Ninja for my birthday and it makes quick work of the beets and cucumber all at once!

 

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The remains

Hangover Breakfast Hash

After a late night of celebrating with my now former coworkers, I awoke craving something fried. My fridge was looking a little empty, but I had just enough ingredients to make this delicious and nutrient-rich breakfast hash, which I served alongside oven-roasted potatoes and black coffee. Can you ever really go wrong with potatoes?

Ingredients

1 medium onion, diced

2 small sweet potatoes or 1 normal sized, peeled and diced small

1 block of frozen medium firm tofu, thawed, squeezed out and drained, then shredded

2 or 3 big curly kale leaves, stemmed and roughly chopped

roughly 2 Tbs barbecue sauce

salt and pepper to taste

a little oil or cooking spray, optional if you use a good nonstick pan

  1. Heat up your pan with oil, if using, on medium-high, then add the onion. Cook for a few minutes, stirring occasionally, until it starts to brown.
  2. Add your sweet potato chunks and let them brown with the onion.
  3. When your sweet potatoes and onion are a little brown and starting to soften, add the shredded tofu and give it a good stir. The tofu will start to brown as the water evaporates. Add salt and pepper.
  4. When the sweet potatoes are soft enough and the tofu is brown, add your kale. Then put a lid on it and let the kale wilt for a couple minutes before uncovering and giving a good stir. Cover again and let the kale cook almost to your desired tenderness.
  5. When your kale is almost where you want it, throw in the barbecue sauce and mix thoroughly. Cook until the flavors have blended a little and the kale is sufficiently wilted for your taste. Adjust salt and pepper, or add more sauce if you prefer. I really think it’s at its best with just a little bit though.

There you have it. Serve with whole grain toast or more potatoes like I did! This would also be great for dinner with side of rice or another cooked grain.