2.5 hour meal prep: bold flavors for grey days

GLUTEN-FREE | CAN BE PALEO*

Time start to finish: 2.5 hours
Difficulty level: easy peasy

To most people, “meal prep” conjours up images of rows of identical plastic containers, filled with grilled chicken, steamed broccoli, baked sweet potatoes, hard-boiled eggs, and other nutritious – albeit boring – foods:

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I tried that once.

By about day 3, I was so bored of eating the same thing, I left my plastic containers for something with more… passion (i.e., Chipotle).

For some people, the mass-production meal prep method works — but it’s not for me. It’s January, it’s grey out — I need variety! Also, when you cook every single meal in advance, it can seriously limit your social life:

We’re all going out to lunch for Carl’s birthday, wanna come?” 

“No, I’m just going to hang out with this steamed broccoli, thanks though.”

That’s why this meal prep covers most of your meals for the week. It’s nice to have a little flexibility — what if you feel compelled to get some pho one night, or if you’re both just REALLY craving pizza?

You want to be able to say “yes” to life.

If you don’t leave yourself a little wiggle room, you’ll probably end up throwing food away, and you might even be discouraged from meal prepping. We don’t want that!

Here is your play-by-play of how to meal prep a week of bold flavors in about 2.5 hours, for 2 people. The recipes share a lot of ingredients, so there is minimal waste. I won’t tell you when to eat what — that’s up to you. The great thing is, whenever hunger strikes, you’ll have a yummy, homecooked, healthy meal you can be proud to eat.

MEALS

meat: jamie’s not-too-buffalo wings (recipe = 4 servings) [paleo, gluten-free]

stew: butter chicken (recipe = 4 servings) [paleo, gluten-free, dairy-free]

soup: tom kha gai soup (double recipe = 6 servings) [paleo, gluten-free, dairy-free]

salad: lemon vinaigrette for arugula salad (double recipe = 8 servings) [gluten-free, paleo without parmesan cheese*]

starch: brown rice (10 servings) [gluten-free, dairy-free, eliminate for paleo*]

dessert: dark chocolate bark bites (recipe = 16 servings) [paleo, gluten-free]

snacks: chop celery; baby carrots, red bell peppers, cashews, strawberries [paleo, gluten-free, dairy-free]

GROCERY LIST

Meat:

  • 3 lbs. chicken wings
  • 2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • optional: 1/2 lb. shrimp
  • Produce: 
  • garlic cloves
  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • 1 4″ piece of ginger
  • 4 limes
  • 3 lemons
  • 1 package celery
  • 1 bag of baby carrots
  • 2 pints strawberries
  • 2 red bell peppers
  • 2 bags of arugula (or other greens, for salad)
  • a bunch of cilantro
  • 1 stalk lemongrass

Dairy:

  • 1 package unsalted Kerrygold butter

Other:

  • 8 oz. dark (70%+) chocolate
  • dried fruits and nuts of choice (for dark chocolate bark bites)
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 1 can tomato paste (6 oz.)

PANTRY INGREDIENTS

  • 3 cups chicken stock or bone broth
  • fish sauce
  • coconut oil
  • Frank’s Hot Sauce
  • Tabasco Sauce
  • Trader Joe’s Curry Powder
  • cayenne pepper
  • dried oregano
  • dried basil
  • dried marjoram
  • sea salt
  • black pepper

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. 0:00 Start with the sauce for jamie’s not-too-buffalo wings, since it needs some time to simmer. Then, get a cutting board and a sharp chef’s knife ready with: 1 onion, 3 cloves of garlic, and a large piece of ginger.
  2. 0:05 Then, start chopping: one onion and one clove of garlic for the butter chicken, 2 more cloves of garlic for the lemon vinaigrette, and your piece of ginger for the tom kha gai.
  3. 0:10 Start the butter chicken – perform steps 1-3.
  4. 0:20 Start the tom kha gai – add all the broth ingredients in a large stockpot and allow them to simmer.
  5. 0:30 Preheat oven to 400 degrees for your wings, then cook your rice according to package instructions.
  6. 0:40 Perform step 2 for jamie’s not-too-buffalo wings.
  7. 0:50 At this point, your wings are in the oven, your butter chicken is simmering, your tom kha gai broth is simmering, and your rice is either done or almost done. Most of the work is over. Yay! Mix all the ingredients for the lemon vinaigrette in a mason jar or small Pyrex container and place it in the fridge.
  8. 1:00 Start chopping anything you want to add to your dark chocolate bark bites — dried fruit, nuts, etc.
  9. 1:10 Check on wings — flip them and put them back in the oven. Lay out a cookie sheet with parchment or wax paper for your dark chocolate bark bites. Then, break apart or chop your chocolate and start melting it in the microwave. Follow steps 3-5 for that recipe and pop them in the fridge to cool when you’re done. Dark chocolate bites: DONE!
  10. 1:25 Rinse off your cutting board and cut your chicken and/or shrimp for your tom kha gai.
  11. 1:30ish Finish your tom kha gai — perform steps 2-4. Pour into individual servings in Pyrexes. Tom kha gai: DONE!
  12. 1:40 Check on wings again — flip again.
  13. 1:45 Shred your butter chicken, and portion into individual serving containers. Butter chicken: DONE!
  14. 1:55 Prep your toppings/sides for your lunches — chop cilantro and jalapeno for butter chicken/tom kha gai toppers, chop celery and bell peppers and place into Ziplocs with baby carrots, portion salad greens into containers or Ziploc bags.
  15. 2:10 Check on wings again — flip again (they might be done at this point — if so, take them out! If not, put them in for another 15 minutes). Wings: DONE!

TIP

This meal plan includes several lunches and dinners, but does not cover breakfast. I’m a bacon-and-eggs (and avocado) girl, and usually do that or oatmeal for breakfast. Be sure to plan ahead for breakfast when you get your groceries!

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