Healthy Meal Prep – Mix & Match Lunch Salads

Here at Our Chaotic Kitchen, we’re all about healthy meal prep ideas. When we’re doing our weekly meal prep, we prioritize vegan recipes, since we’re all about those vegetables. We also like to keep things gluten-free if possible. Nobody in our family has gluten sensitivity or intolerance, but we want to be inclusive to those who do. Finally, we want to do what we can to make our weekly meal prep as easy as possible.

Healthy Meal Prep: The Foundation of a Healthy Week

This week we got a surplus of greens from Hungry Harvest*, so we knew we’d have to make ourselves some salads. We wanted to make sure we stayed within our healthy meal prep guidelines, but we also wanted to find a way to not eat the same exact thing every day. This mix-and-match solution was easy and fun!

*The link above is a referral link. If you click it and order, you and we each get $5 off our next order, so everybody wins!

The base of each salad is the same: diced cucumber, diced cubanelle pepper, shredded hearts of romaine, and sliced grape tomatoes. Cucumbers and peppers sit at the bottom of each quart jar, so the lettuce doesn’t get soggy. The tomatoes get their own quarter pint jars. Each salad then gets a topping and dressing of its very own! We decided this week to make two different types of salads.

A good supply of mason jars is the cornerstone of healthy meal prep

Falafel and Beet Hummus Salad

We had some leftover beet hummus in the fridge, so we used the rest of it as a dressing. We’ve written before about our love of easy falafel patties, and they seemed like just the right thing to spruce up this salad. The result is a beautiful, vibrant salad full of Middle Eastern flavor. Here’s a quick recipe for easy falafel patties using chickpea flour.

Ingredients:

1 cup chickpea flour
3/4 cup water
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/4 Tsp baking soda
I Tbsp ras al hanout
1 Tsp cumin
1/2 Tsp salt

Directions:

Mix all of the ingredients together into a thick batter. Heat some olive oil on medium high heat. Once hot, place heaping tablespoon-sized dollops of batter into the oil. Fry evenly on both sides, about 3-4 minutes per side, until golden brown.

Taquito Filling and Black Bean Dressing Salad

We made taquitos this weekend for some tasty lunches this week (recipe to follow!), and we had some leftover filling. The filling was made from cauliflower rice, mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, and taco spices. It made an ideal topping for a Mexican-inspired salad! We used the black bean dip that we made to go with the taquitos as a base for the dressing.

Healthy Meal Prep Can Be Easy Meal Prep

The important thing here is that we didn’t have to go far out of our way to make delicious, healthy salads for the week. We just made smart use of foods we already had around. Maybe you don’t like hummus or black bean dip or falafel. That’s fine! Sometimes keeping things healthy is all about keeping them easy, so that we have less excuse to slip up. So go ahead and use whatever leftovers you’ve got in your fridge to make a lunch salad more fun!

This Week’s Hungry Harvest

This week brought a huge bounty of healthy fruits and vegetables. One of the heads of cauliflower is the biggest I’ve ever seen. And for good measure, two adorable kids (the other one was having some much needed quiet time in his room).

Right now we’re cooking up a fun vegan dessert with beets (you laugh now, but it’s going to be hot fire), and a couple of wild and crazy sweet potato ideas. Recipes will follow this week, unless something is a disaster in which case this all goes down the memory hole along with the war with Eastasia. Or was it Eurasia?

Vegan Kid-Friendly Slow Cooker Chili

Fall is Jocelyn’s favorite season. She loves apple picking and sweaters and Thanksgiving. She’s so determined that fall arrive that every time the weather turns a little bit colder, she lights candles and sends our kids to day care dressed as pumpkins. She is serious about autumn.

One of our favorite autumn treats is healthy slow cooker meals. They’re so easy, and dinner is ready when we get home, its smell permeating the whole house. The other day when the weather got a little bit cold, Jocelyn leapt at the chance to make us a big batch of vegan slow cooker chili, and brother, it was great. She bumped up the veggie to protein ratio, and so not only was it delicious, it was even healthier than usual. We’ll be making this one a lot as the mercury drops.

Ingredients:

2 Tbsp olive oil
2 medium onion, diced

4 carrots, chopped

2 peppers, bell or cubanelle, diced

1 1/2 cups of vegan meatless crumbles

2 cups corn kernels 
3 lb tomato, diced
2 cups dried kidney beans, soaked
4 cups vegetable stock (or less, as needed)
1 Tbsp garlic powder
1 Tbsp ground cumin
Salt to taste

Directions:

Heat oil in a large, deep sauté pan on medium high heat. Once hot, add the onion, carrot, peppers, and veggie crumbles. Sauté, stirring frequently, until the onion and pepper are soft, about 10-15 minutes.

Add all ingredients to the slow cooker, making sure the vegetable stock doesn’t cause the pot to overflow. Stir everything up and cook on low for 8-10 hours. Enjoy topped with whatever you like! We like tortilla chips and avocados.

Vegan Nacho Cheese Stuffed Peppers

We’ve come to absolutely love vegan nacho cheese. We love making vegan nachos, vegan chilaquiles, all sorts of stuff. It doesn’t taste precisely like cheese, but it’s a wonderful healthy thing on its own and we want to share the recipe with you. Here we’ve used it to bind together a stuffed pepper filling, and friends, it’s as healthy as it is delicious. Here goes!

Ingredients:

1 cup cooked brown rice
1 15-oz can beans
1 large zucchini, grated
1 cup raw cashews, soaked
2 Tbsp nutritional yeast
1/2 cup water
Juice of 1 lemon
1 chipotle
Salt to taste
Red bell peppers (how many you need depends on their size.
Tortilla chips

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350º F.In a medium bowl, mix the rice, beans, and zucchini. Meanwhile, put the cashews, nutritional yeast, water, lemon juice, chipotle, and salt in a blender. Blend on high until the mixture is smooth. This is the “nacho cheese.” When it is done, mix it in with the rice mixture.

Cut the tops off of as many bell peppers as you’ll need to hold all of the rice filling. Place the peppers in a baking dish with about an inch of water around the bottom of the peppers. Crumble tortilla chips over the tops of the peppers and bake for 20 minutes. Serve immediately, or refrigerate and reheat as needed throughout the week.

No waste curry

We all know that parenting can add stresses to our lives. That’s why we like to develop strategies for making it as easy as possible to pack healthy vegan lunches for weekdays. The easier it is to grab an already prepped lunch, the less temptation we have to go out with office mates for what will inevitably be an unhealthy, unsatisfying lunch. If we have healthy, delicious meals ready to go in the fridge, we’ve got no excuse!

The key to this waste free healthy vegan curry recipe is to prep all your ingredients first and save all the scraps and peels from those veggies! It made us six jars, which gives us both lunch for three days. It’s super tasty , super healthy, and surprisingly easy!

Ingredients:

2 Tbsp coconut oil

1 medium onion, diced

2 large carrots, chopped

2 medium sweet potatoes, diced

2 large red peppers, diced

1 large zucchini, sliced

1 package mushrooms, stemmed and sliced

2 tomatoes, diced

1 Tbsp curry powder

1 cup red lentils

1 15-oz can coconut milk

Salt to taste

Directions:

Heat the coconut oil in a medium sized pot. In another pot put all the scraps and peels and cover with water (4-6 cups) and bring to a boil. Sauté veggies in the coconut oil and once lightly browned sprinkle with curry powder. Ladle the stock into the veggies until they’re covered by an inch or so (if there’s extra stock, reserve for another use, if there’s not enough, add extra water). Add the lentils and cook until they’re cooked through, about 20 minutes. Stir in coconut milk and heat until bubbling. Add salt to taste. Serve with rice. 

Inside Out Falafel Wraps

We, like all right-thinking people in this world, love falafel. But we don’t always have time to make it. One workaround we’ve found is to make falafel-spiced patties with chickpea flour. They’re like tiny healthy savory pancakes. They’re not as crunchy, but they’re an 85% solution when we’re craving falafel and don’t have the time or energy to fill a pot with oil and deep fry some (and spatter the stove, and ourselves, with hot oil).

Having used that trick a number of times, we decided to branch out. Since we could make chickpea pancakes, more or less, could we make something closer to chickpea crepes? Could we make ourselves a wrap with falafel toppings on the inside, with a falafel-tasting chickpea crepe holding it all together?

The answer, as it turns out, was an emphatic yes, though it took us a couple of tries to get it just right. So now, without any further ado, we present our brand new vegan, gluten free Inside Out Falafel Wraps!

Ingredients:

Chickpea crepes:
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup chickpea flour
1 1/2 cups water
Large handful of parsley, finely chopped
1 Tsp cumin
1/2 Tsp ras al hanout
1/2 Tsp salt (or to taste)
Juice of one half lemon

Tahini sauce:
1/4 cup tahini
Juice of one lemon
1 Tsp garlic powder
1 Tsp salt (or to taste)
Water as needed

Filling:
Cherry tomatoes, quartered
Cucumbers, sliced

Directions:

Heat olive oil in a large sauté pan on medium high heat. Pour a thin layer of the chickpea batter into the pan and let cook until set. Carefully flip it over and cook until done on both sides. The amounts given above made us 5 chickpea crepes.

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In a medium bowl, whisk together the tahini, lemon juice, garlic powder, and salt until combined. This will be very thick. Slowly add water, whisking continuously, until the desired consistency is reached. We wanted ours to be thick and spreadable. Spread the tahini sauce on the finished crepes.

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Divide the tomato and cucumber among the 5 crepes, lining it all up in the middle. If you prefer different toppings (like shredded carrots, greens, beets, fruit, honey, etc.), go nuts.

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All that’s left is to wrap it up!

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We wrapped ours up in foil, since we needed to store them to take them along for lunches through the week.

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Middle Eastern Mason Jar Salad

The combination of parenting and jobs recently prompted us to get our heads into the extreme food prep game. Mornings run so much more smoothly when we’ve just got to grab lunch and go, especially with all of the time necessary to feed and clothe three often grumpy kids. We’ve gotten pretty good at having healthy vegan lunches and dinners for the week mostly prepped over the weekend.

One of our mainstays is the mason jar salad. It’s healthy and vegan and delicious and, when layered correctly, super easy and fresh. This particular one is inspired by Middle Eastern flavors, but you can easily improvise and put your own spin on one of these bad boys.

Ingredients:

1/2 cup tahini
1 lemon, juiced
1/2 Tsp cumin
1/2 Tsp garlic powder
1/2 Tsp salt
3-4 Tbsp water, more if needed

1 can chickpeas
1 Tsp Ras-al-Hanout*
1 large cucumber, diced
1 large tomato, diced
1 bunch of greens

*If you don’t have Ras-al-Hanout, substitute 1/4 Tsp each of paprika, cumin, coriander, and cinnamon

Directions:

First, the dressing. If you’ve never made lemon tahini dressing before, get ready, because it’s magical. Put the tahini into a medium bowl, add the lemon juice, and start stirring. It’s going to get weird and clumpy, but don’t worry. Keep stirring. At some point soon, all of a sudden, it will get smooth and thick and several shades lighter than it started. Magic! At that point, mix in the cumin, garlic powder, and salt. Add a little bit of water at a time and keep mixing until you reach your desired consistency. We like it thin, but not too thin.

In another bowl, toss the chickpeas with the Ras-al-Hanout until they’re well mixed and set aside.

Take 4 clean empty pint jars and first divide the lemon tahini dressing among them. Next, divide the diced cucumbers and tomatoes, followed by the chickpeas, and finally the greens. The order is very important, so that the dressing doesn’t cause the greens to get soggy.

When you want to eat, just upend the whole thing into a bowl, maybe using a spoon to get all the remnants of dressing out on top of your salad, and eat. These generally keep in the fridge for a week or so.