Wild Rice and Lentil Bowl w/ Roasted Root Veggies, Curry Chickpeas and Lemon-Tahini Dressing [& how to make meal prep work for you]| gf + df + veg
In this week’s Monday meals, I’m talking more in-depth about a strategy that has helped me save time and money when it comes to eating healthy. It’s an old and tried technique–meal prepping. I’ve dabbled with meal prepping on and off throughout the years but in the last year, I’ve found a way to meal prep that really works for me and my needs.
Meal prep often gets a bad reputation. It can become boring to eat the same foods over and over again. The freshness of the meal can fade throughout the week leaving you with the quandary of whether or not you actually want to eat that last meal prep or just get take-out instead. It can seem labor-intensive or difficult to plan, and if you’re not particularly fond of cooking, it may be daunting to have to prep a recipe each week.
All of these vices to meal prep are true. BUT, I hope you realize today that you make meal prepping work for you. Not the other way around. At it’s best, meal prepping is a great way to front load your preparation time so that you’ll have more time for other things during the week. It’s a great way to save money (no more buying lunches during work!), a motivation to develop your skills in the kitchen, and an easy way to guarantee that you have portioned, well-balanced meals.
If you’re wanting to start meal-prepping, consider the following:
- How many meals do I need to actually make? (aka. how much time will I realistically dedicate to cooking each week if I don’t have already prepared options)
- Which meals do I need to have on hand? Would I rather just prep dinners or lunches? Do I want to meal prep snacks to have on hand?
- What kinds of meals would work best for my lifestyle? Do I have access to a microwave for my lunches, or am I often on the go?
- What are my eating preferences? Would I actually enjoy eating the same meal once or twice a day, or would I prefer more variety?
Be realistic with yourself with what would best fit your needs and then work within those parameters!
Here’s my example:
- I enjoy cooking and am fine cooking dinners each night and meals on weekends as long as I have my lunches pre-made. I like to have at least one prepped snack for the week as well. I have access to a microwave and a fridge at work. I prefer variety and will not enjoy eating the same meal twice a day.
Based on these parameters, I can adjust how much I need to cook in bulk (5 meals + 1 snack), the types of foods I can cook (can be heated), and ultimately make a plan. I spend 1-2 hrs each Sunday or Monday to bulk cook my meals with ingredients that can easily be cooked in an oven or tossed in a pot to simmer. Efficiency is key here, although if you love to create culinary masterpieces each time you step foot in a kitchen, more power to you!
Some tips for meal prep:
- Keep it simple. Choose 1-2 recipes to try each week that are simple, tasty and will hold up over time (e.g. not noodles). This will allow you to build up your cooking expertise over time. Meal prep does NOT have to be dry chicken and broccoli every meal (I really hope yours is not).
- Use your oven or a crock pot. Recipes which call for oven time or slow cooking can largely decrease the amount of active time you need to spend over the stove and the amount of clean-up you have after. Win-win.
- Try bulk prepping ingredients separately. If the thought of eating the same meal makes you cringe, see if prepping ingredients separately and creating some dressings and sauces in bulk would meet your needs better. For example, you can cook a protein source, prep some grains, create a dressing (or 2–yay variety!) and have additional toppings like spinach and avocado on hand to assemble your meal “to-order” each time.
- Invest in glass containers which are durable and will reduce your exposure to toxins from plastics. They also make re-heating much simpler.
This Wild Rice and Lentil Grain Bowl with Roasted Root Vegetables and Lemon-Tahini Dressing is a great recipe to get you started in your meal prep journey. You can easily toss the ingredients together and serve as is or you could easily spruce it up and add a sliced avocado, hemp hearts, or seeds to keep it interesting. Do what makes your belly and taste buds happy. Also, feel free to use other root vegetables for the ones listed if you prefer or don’t have these particular ingredients on hand. Regular potatoes, butternut squash and zucchini are some great options that will hold up well throughout the week.
Wild Rice + Lentils Grain Bowl w/ Lemon-Tahini Dressing
- 2 baking sheets
- rice cooker (optional)
- 1 large yellow onion diced
- 5 large carrots peeled and diced
- 2 turnips peeled and diced
- 2 large sweet potatoes peeled and diced
- 1 can chickpeas rinsed and drained
- 1 tsp garlic powder or to taste
- 1 tsp smoked paprika or to taste
- 1/2 tsp rosemary
- 1/2 tsp turmeric or to taste
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 cup wild rice
- 1/2 cup green lentils
- 1 tsp curry powder
- 1/2 tsp cumin
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 bunch swiss chard (or kale) rinsed and massaged with lemon juice
- 1 lemon juice only squeezed
- 4 tbsp water
- 4 tbsp tahini
- 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp honey or to taste
- Pre-heat oven to 420 F. Prepare 2 large baking sheets by covering with foil.
- Prep your root sweet potatoes, turnips, and onions (feel free to use other root vegetables you may have on hand too) by washing and peeling the skin. Chop into 1' chunks.
- In a large bowl, combine the chopped vegetables with the garlic powder, smoked paprika, salt and pepper, rosemary and olive oil and toss until well combined. Spread out evenly onto 1 of the baking sheets.
- In a separate medium sized bowl, combine chickpeas with cumin, curry powder, and salt and pepper. Spread out chickpeas evenly onto the second baking sheet.
- Place both baking sheets in the oven and bake in the pan for 40-45 mins or until vegetables are caramelized and soft and chickpeas are toasted and crispy. At the halfway point, flip vegetables once and continue to cook.
- Rinse the wild rice and lentils well and then combine and cook in a rice cooker with 1.5-2 cups of water. If you don't have a rice cooker, cook on stove pot following package directions. Let cook until done.
For the Lemon-Tahini Dressing
- Combine ingredients into a small bowl and stir until creamy. Add additional water if dressing is too thick. Season with a pinch of salt. Set aside.
- Once all ingredients have cooked, assemble your bowl by adding your wild rice and lentils first, then topping with your root vegetables and massaged swiss chard. Add the toasted chickpeas as a crispy garnish and drizzle with the dressing (I also used Everything but the Bagel seasoning from Trader Joe's). Optional: Add 1/2 sliced avocado for added healthy fats.
- Meals can be stored in the fridge for up to one week.
While the ingredient list and steps may look like a lot, I promise most of the work is done in the preparation. Once you’ve placed your ingredients in the oven and rice cooker (or stove pot), just make sure to check occasionally for burning and and to flip the vegetables once at the halfway point. I really enjoyed eating this for lunches. You can microwave to warm it up slightly for less than 1 minute or eat it cold as well! If you made and enjoyed this dish, I would love to hear about it!