meal prep

3 Reasons to Start Meal Prepping & Root Vegetable and Bean Soup by Toby Amidor

Between clients and workshops, I've been talking about meal prep a lot lately. It seems to be on everyone's mind, and for good reason. Having a well stocked pantry and homemade meals ready to grab and go helps make it easy to eat healthy throughout your week. But you may be wondering, should I really be doing this, is it really worth it? 

Meal prep looks different to everyone. Some like to set aside a few hours each sunday to prep meals for the week. I prefer to prep things here and there, often while I'm doing something else, to save time on my weekends. So while my sheet pan dinner cooks, I'll prep a soup in the crockpot or roasted veggies or a salad to eat throughout the week. I may make some egg muffins if I have the oven on anyways, prep some overnight oats, or slice peppers and cucumbers for snacks throughout the week. Meal prep takes me no more than an hour each week, and I'm still stocked and prepped for a healthy week ahead. Find out how we can work together to make this your reality too. 

Whatever meal prep looks like for you, it definitely has it's benefits.

See my Top 3 Reasons to Start Meal Prepping below:


1. Eat Healthier & Feel Better

My number one reason to meal prep is to EAT HEALTHIER. Keeping healthy ingredients on hand makes it so much easier to make healthy choices. And by having the ingredients actually prepared makes it that much easier to choose them.

My meal prep routine includes something as simple as keeping my go-to snacks on hand. Right now I'm loving siggi's plain yogurt (or whatever plain Greek yogurt is on sale), hummus and sliced bell peppers and cucumbers, and peanut butter or nut butter packets with apples or nectarines. I know by keeping healthy meals and snacks on hand that are prepped and ready to go, I'm far more likely to make a healthy choice when I get hungry. I'm also less likely to order takeout for dinner when I have ingredients prepped and ready to throw together a healthy dinner in minutes.

 

2. Save Money & Prevent Waste

When we go to the store without a plan, it's easy to buy everything that looks good or is on sale. But by planning ahead for the week and going shopping with a plan, it's easier to leave with just the items you need. Having just a few meals and snacks in mind can help prevent you from going overboard and spending too much. Meal prep will also save you money by encouraging you to eat out less. When you have prepped and planned meals at home you won't be tempted to stop on your way home or need to grab a muffin with your morning coffee because you have better-for-you, homemade meals ready to go.

 

3. Save Time

Yesterday I took 15 minutes to made a crockpot soup and I'll probably get at least 3 meals out of it this week. I took another 15 minutes to cook up some extra veggies and a big salad with my dinner last night to use in other meals this week. By using my time wisely, batch cooking, and figuring out my favorite, easy, go-to meals, it saves me an hour of cooking each night. So even on the nights I don't feel like cooking, it's easy to eat something healthy.


Copyright Toby Amidor, The Healthy Meal Prep Cookbook: Easy and Wholesome Meals to Cook, Pre, Grab, and Go, Rockridge Press, 2017. Photo courtesy of Nat & Cody Gantz

Copyright Toby Amidor, The Healthy Meal Prep Cookbook: Easy and Wholesome Meals to Cook, Pre, Grab, and Go, Rockridge Press, 2017. Photo courtesy of Nat & Cody Gantz

Over the summer, my colleague, Toby Amidor, released the best meal prep cookbook! The Healthy Meal Prep Cookbook is the perfect tool to help you try new recipes, get organized with meal prepping, and keep your food safe all week long (Toby is a food safety pro!).

The book includes 6 different weekly meal plans, including Clean Eating, Weight Loss, and Muscle Building meal plans (2 weeks each). Each meal plan has recipes, a grocery list, and a plan of action for your meal prep day. Each recipe includes tips for storing to keep your prepared meals safe to eat all week long. 

I'd highly recommend this book for anyone getting started with meal prep or healthy eating. Get your copy here and be sure to try her Root Vegetable and Bean Soup recipe below - it's perfect for this time of year!

Copyright Toby Amidor, The Healthy Meal Prep Cookbook: Easy and Wholesome Meals to Cook, Pre, Grab, and Go, Rockridge Press, 2017. Photo courtesy of Nat & Cody Gantz

Copyright Toby Amidor, The Healthy Meal Prep Cookbook: Easy and Wholesome Meals to Cook, Pre, Grab, and Go, Rockridge Press, 2017. Photo courtesy of Nat & Cody Gantz


What meal prep questions do you have? Ask me here!

Be sure to download my Meal Prep Made Easy Workbook - for my best meal prep tips and tricks, freezer meals, make ahead meals, shopping lists, worksheets, and more.


Toby's Recipe RootVegetableBeanSoup.jpg

DIY No Rise No Yeast 3- Ingredient Pizza Dough

Sometimes you just want pizza. It's an easy go-to and even healthy meal. But, who has time (or patience) to actually use yeast and wait for it to rise? Not me! Maybe on the days I plan ahead, but I'm not always that organized.

Sometimes you need a quick last minute meal and lucky for you I have the perfect solution. I made this just the other night- we got home late and needed a quick-fix dinner. I whipped up this dough, threw on some leftover spaghetti sauce, veggies, and cheese and called it dinner (and then lunch the next day).

It can be easy and affordable to buy the pre-made, Pillsbury pop-open can of pizza dough, but I'm personally not a fan of the hydrogenated oils (trans fat) and other mystery ingredients inside. There's a local bakery here in Bozeman that makes pizza dough and sells it at our local grocery store. For the longest time, this is what I would get until I discovered this super easy recipe (thank you, Pinterest!) and made it my own. As much as I love the local dough, at $2.69 each you can make your own for far less, with ingredients you likely already have on hand: flour, beer, and baking powder. (I'll be honest, it doesn't rise quite the same, but I think it tastes great nonetheless). 

I've tried making this with a few different beers. I've had the best luck with the local, lighter beers. I've used a local Amber Ale and a lighter Pale Ale and could not taste the beer at all. Last time, I used Budweiser (unfortunately, all we had), and it definitely had a slightly Budweiser taste. It was edible, but I probably won't be doing that again. Really any beer will work, play around with what you like. I'd recommend a more mild tasting one.

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Ingredients:

3 cups bread flour (I've also used whole wheat and white whole wheat, the bread flour rises a bit better)
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 12 oz good beer
~1 Tbsp pizza seasoning (or Italian seasoning, Herbs de Provence, etc. - whatever you have)

 

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 375.
2. Mix ingredients together in a large mixing bowl.
2. Spread on a lightly floured surface and roll flat into your desired pizza shape.
3. Lightly brush or rub on a bit of olive oil.
4. Bake for 3-5 minutes until dough is set.
5. Add sauce and toppings (more veggies, less cheese!).
6. Return to oven and cook for ~20 minutes, or until cheese is melted and lightly browned.

 

8 Tips to Reduce Food Waste in Your Kitchen & Spring Vegetable Lasagna

Happy Earth Day! It was a beautiful day here in Bozeman. I spent the day outside biking, floating, and relaxing. How was your Earth Day Weekend?


 
 

In honor of Earth Day, this month's Recipe Redux challenged dietitians and healthy food bloggers to make a recipe in ways that prevent food waste. This is the first Recipe Redux I've participated in and am excited to have partnered with Katie Pfeffer-Scanlan, a Colorado dietitian and food blogger at One Hungry Bunny Preventing food waste is important to me, so I included a few tips and Katie created an amazing lasagna recipe using vegetable scraps.


I’m a big proponent of reduce, reuse, recycle and I love applying it in the kitchen. It’s estimated that approximately 30-40% of food produced for human consumption is wasted -from farms to processing facilities to grocery stores and restaurants and even in our own homes. Food waste is a national concern not only because of the millions of Americans going hungry each day but also because of the economic and environmental impacts. So...

 

Why Should We Care About Food Waste?

 

When we waste food, we’re also wasting valuable natural resources, including land, water, labor, and energy…

  • 25% of our freshwater supply and 300 million barrels of oil are used to produce food that is wasted
     

Food waste is a huge contributor to methane production...

  • Landfills are one of the largest sources of methane production in the country and food waste is the largest component filling up our landfills.
  • According to National Geographic, “Producing the food we throw away generates more greenhouse gases than most entire countries do,” that’s 135 million tons of greenhouse gases each year.

 

Over 40 million Americans continue to go hungry each day…

  • That’s 1 in 7 people going to bed without dinner or not knowing where their next meal will come from

 

We’re throwing money in the trash...

  • As a country, $250 billion dollars each year, to be exact.
  • The average family in the U.S. throws away an average of $640 each year in food waste alone.

 

(You can read more here, here, and here.)

 

Did you know 39% of food wasted is fruits and vegetables?

As much as it bothers me to see someone de-stem a strawberry along with another good ½ inch of perfectly edible strawb, or to see someone throw out a whole broccoli stalk and only eat the tree tops, I know there are things I can be doing better as well. There are plenty of reasons to waste less, and I think we can all do our part.

In this recipe, Katie geniusly blended up her leftover veggie scraps to make an amazing lasagna and put her perfectly good vegetable scraps to good use. She then used her leftover ricotta to make cheesecake squares and her leftover blended veggies in paella. The girl’s a genius!

spring lasagna.jpeg

 

How Can I Do My Part?
8 Tips to Reduce Food Waste in Your Kitchen

  1. Leave the skins on your potatoes
    Not only is peeling the skins off your potatoes wasteful, but also strips the vegetable of it’s amazing fiber content.

  2. Use the stems of chard, spinach, kale and other veggie scraps in smoothies, pastas, soups, sauces, casseroles, and lasagnas

  3. Buy multi-purpose ingredients
    Choose ingredients that can be used in multiple recipes. Instead of letting your leftover ricotta sit for weeks until it gets moldy try making lasagna, cheesecake bars, muffins, pancakes, or a sandwich spread.

  4. Save your scraps
    Just like Katie did, you can puree your veggie scraps for a lasagna or paella or use the scraps to make a soup stock.

  5. Go to the grocery store with a plan
    Meal planning and meal prep are great for organization, family dinners, weight loss, and overall nutrition and also help to reduce our waste from the start. Without a plan, it’s more likely our produce will get left to rot in the fridge.

 
If you need help with meal planning, getting back on track, or getting more organized, check out my meal plan subscriptions  here . Sign up for your Free Trial (no credit card required!).

If you need help with meal planning, getting back on track, or getting more organized, check out my meal plan subscriptions here. Sign up for your Free Trial (no credit card required!).

 

 

6. Repurpose your leftovers
I can only eat the same meal over and over for so many days in a row. But by repurposing your meats, beans, soups, roasted veggies, whole grains, etc. you can easily create a brand new meal from the same delicious leftovers.

7. Use your freezer
Preserve your leftovers, meat, bread, baked goods, and soups by tossing them in the freezer to eat later on. If bananas, strawberries, peaches, etc. are starting to go- slice them up and throw them in the freezer too. They’re great in smoothies, purees, or dessert sauces.

8. Don’t be picky about sell-by dates
Buy the milk that ‘expires’ today, it’s likely on sale and will last another week, otherwise it will just get thrown out!

 

 

And now for the recipe... Be sure to check out Katie's site for more healthy and delicious meal ideas. Enjoy!


spring lasagna.jpeg

Healthy Spring Vegetable Lasagna

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 50 minutes
(Total Time: 1 hr, 5 mins)

*Note: This recipe requires a few different steps. To shorten cooking time, prepare the filling and tomato sauce earlier in the day or the night before.

 

Ingredients

12 "no boil" lasagna noodles
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese, part skim (set aside)

Tomato Sauce*:

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 28-ounce can of diced tomatoes, no salt added
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
Additional vegetable scraps of your choice, optional

Vegetable Filling:

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large head of broccoli, finely chopped (stalks and leaves too!)
1 cup green peas, thawed if frozen
4 cups raw spinach leaves
1/2 cup vegetable scraps of your choice**
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano

Ricotta Filling:

2 cups low fat ricotta cheese
1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
2 tablespoons lemon juice

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. In a 3-quart saucepan, heat the olive oil on medium high. Saute the garlic and red pepper flakes for 30 seconds to 1 minute until fragrant.
  3. Stir in the tomatoes and vegetable scraps. Simmer for 5-10 minutes. Stir often, breaking up the tomato pieces with a large spoon to make a sauce. Remove from heat and set aside.
  4. To make the ricotta filling, combine the ricotta cheeses and lemon juice in a medium bowl. Stir to combine. Set aside.
  5. In a large nonstick skillet or saute pan, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil on medium high heat. Saute the broccoli, peas, and vegetable scraps for about 5-7 minutes to soften.
  6. Add in the garlic, dried herbs, and spinach. Cook for only 1-2 minutes (to keep the garlic from burning) until the spinach leaves have wilted. Remove from heat and set aside.
  7. In a 9 x 13 oven-safe baking dish, pour in tomato sauce to just cover the bottom (about 1/2 to 1 cup). Layer the lasagna noodles crosswise to fill across the width of the pan, should be about 3-4 noodles each layer.
  8. Next, cover the noodles with a layer of the ricotta filling and then the vegetable filling. Repeat until you have three to four complete layers of noodles.
  9. Top with remaining sauce and sprinkle with the mozzarella cheese. If the lasagna looks dry, feel free to pour in up to 1/2 cup water to soften the noodles prior to cooking.
  10. Cover with tin foil that is lightly greased with cooking spray (this prevents the cheese from sticking to the foil).
  11. Bake for 30-40 minutes covered, then 5-10 minutes uncovered. Let the lasagna sit for a few minutes out of the oven before serving (this allows the noodles to soften more just before serving).

Notes:
*If you prefer store bought sauce, replace the sauce portion with your favorite brand.
** For the scraps, feel free to pulse in a food processor to finely chop.

 

Kathryn Pfeffer-Scanlan MS, RD is a Registered Dietitian with over five years experience in the inpatient clinical setting and now expanding her expertise in the health and wellness industry as a recent transplant to Boulder, CO. Katie is passionate about cooking and food photography, sharing her culinary adventures on her food blog, One Hungry Bunny, and exploring her new Rocky Mountain surroundings. Follow Katie on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter.