You meal prep long enough, and you realize there are just some things youíre never going to do.
Iím never going to successfully make full lunches for every day of the workweek, tidily assembled in their own containers. For one thing, itís a lot of work. Also, I canít ever seem to commit to one or two meals to eat every day ó my food cravings change on a whim, usually to match my mood, and if I wake up Tuesday and donít want the Slow Cooker Barbecue Chicken I made on Sunday, well, Iím going to leave it at home and go grab tacos.
I have found that there is a better way to make sure I always have the makings of an easy, delicious lunch in the fridge: Take it in pieces.
In the pursuit of healthier meals, salads are taking up a lot of space in my lunch rotation right now, and so what I aim to do every week is have at least four or five prepared components on hand that can be dispersed over some greens. The best part is you can switch things up every day so that no meal is exactly the same. These could also work as the accoutrements for a rice bowl, or as snacks to hold you over between meals.
Here are some of my meal prep go-tos.
NUTS NEED A LITTLE HEAT
Buying raw nuts and jazzing them up yourself is not only more economical, itís a way to keep the ideal salad topping free of excess oils or maltodextrin. Buy a bag of raw walnuts or almonds and place them on a baking sheet. Heat the oven to 300 degrees, then place the nuts in the oven and cook for about 10 minutes. Shake the pan a couple of times throughout, keeping an eye on them so they donít burn. Trust your nose. Remove the nuts from the oven, drizzle with olive oil, then season with salt, pepper, paprika and garlic or onion powder. Toss really well, then let them cool completely in the fridge until time to use. (If you want to skip the seasonings, merely toasting the nuts will develop more flavor.)
HARDBOILED EGGS ARE YOUR FRIEND
Hereís the deal. Even if you donít like hardboiled eggs directly in your salad, they can be useful in other ways. Adding a prepared egg to the party brings protein and flavor, but if that flavor grosses you out, just use the yolk. It can become the base for a sauce or dressing. Place at least 2 yolks in a small bowl, then drizzle in olive oil and whisk until creamy and thinned out a bit. Season with salt and pepper, a glob of mustard and a drizzle of honey, tasting and adjusting as you go. Amp it up with sriracha sauce if desired.
ROAST THOSE VEGGIES
We always think about adding raw vegetables to our salads; we donít as often think about adding cooked vegetables. The featured recipe below uses roasted sweet potatoes as a way to add bulk and texture contrast, and roasted veggies are great for that. My favorites are carrots and sweet potatoes, because they bring some sweetness and have a mild flavor. You could try whatever you have on hand, cauliflower or broccoli or bell peppers. Let the vegetables cool completely before storing or serving on salad.
BRING ON THE MEATS
Chicken, tuna and steak are my go-to salad boosters. And since you donít want warm meat topping your salad anyway, they are an ideal component to make at least a day in advance. If youíre grilling this summer, throw a couple of cuts of flank steak or chicken breasts or thighs on at the end of the night, cut them into bite-sized pieces and stock them away for future salads.
Apple and Sweet Potato Salad
For the vinaigrette:
1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons honey
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
For the salad:
1 medium sweet potato, diced
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon paprika
4 cups baby spinach
1 large apple, cored and sliced
4 ounces goat cheese
4 tablespoons toasted, unsalted walnuts, chopped
Heat oven to 400 degrees.
Make the dressing: In a bowl, add the olive oil, apple cider vinegar, honey, mustard, salt and pepper, and whisk to combine.
Make the salad: Place sweet potato and chicken breast on a parchment paper-lined sheet tray and season with olive oil, salt, pepper and paprika.
Bake until chicken is cooked through and sweet potatoes are tender, 15 to 18 minutes. Slice the chicken breast.
Add spinach to a large bowl, and top with sweet potatoes and sliced chicken, plus sliced apples, goat cheese and walnuts. Drizzle with vinaigrette and serve.
Source: Adapted from Buzzfeed