Are your lunches always unplanned and thus not that exciting? Or, do you often end up grabbing unhealthy processed meals at the store or at the restaurant while starving? If you want to start eating delicious plant based lunches, here is a good place to start! I show you, step-by-step, how to make all of your plant based lunches for this week much in a much quicker time than you think.
Easiest way to batch cooking lunches
Lunches should be simple meals, without having to cook much. The best way to do this and still have an exciting lunch is to built a BOWL! Bowls are a new trending meal to eat that got very popular, but there is a reason to that: they are easy, quick to prepare and offer lots of variety. No need to be a chef to get something great and they help you stay on the healthy plant based track.
Basics to building a plant based bowl:
Base + 2-3 vegetables + Bean or Tofu + Sauce = BOWL
To built a plant based bowl in a pinch, it requires to have a few ingredients to be ready to match together and something that links these ingredients together, which is usually a sauce. To be successful, plan ahead and prepare most of the ingredients when you have more time. Then, simply build the bowl when ready to eat or before leaving to work.
– Base: Whole grain or potatoes. Or whole wheat noodles. Brown rice, barley, farro or wheat berries are all great choices.
– Vegetables: Either roast them or keep them raw, depending of what you are making. Also, mixing some cooked and raw together brings an interesting texture to your bowl.
– Bean or tofu: It can be simply opening a can of bean or roasting tofu in a pan. Roasted tofu stays good in the fridge for 4-5 days, so don’t hesitate to prepare it ahead!
– Sauces: So many sauces and dips get better overtime, so again, make it ahead!
Batch cooking lunches : 3 delicious plant based bowls
1- ASIAN BOWL: Brown rice + Shredded carrots/Sliced cucumbers/Green onions/Fresh Cilantro + Roasted tofu + Sesame soy dressing.
2- MEXICAN BOWL: Quinoa + Avocado/Fresh cilantro + Chili Black beans/Spinach or Kale/Onions mix + Salsa.
3- PRIMAVERA BOWL: Whole wheat penne + Cooked Zucchini/Onions/Red pepper + Roasted tofu + Creamy pesto sauce.
The secret to have these bowls work out and keep them very simple to prepare when you are hungry is to plan ahead and prepare + cook as much as you can on days when you have more free time.
So here is what you have to prepare ahead:
1- Cook batches of the bases. This one is simple: cook large amount of brown rice, quinoa and the whole wheat pasta. Cook enough for what you want to eat this week. I would plan on making at least 2 portions of each base so you can make 6 bowls (either 6 lunches for you or 3 bowls for 2 people). If you want to skip a step, forget about the quinoa, cook more brown rice (so 4 portions) and use also brown rice for the mexican bowl. Store in the fridge until ready to go.
2- Prepare the vegetables. Prepare the Zucchini-Red pepper mix (see description below). Keep it in an airtight container in the fridge until ready to built your bowl. Depending of how much time you will have to make the bowl or if you bring the meal to work, then I recommend to also clean and cut the other vegetables that does not need any cooking: shred the carrots, cut the cucumbers, chop the cilantro and slice the green onions (see description below).
3- Prepare the protein. For this section, you will need to prepare a black bean mix and roast the tofu. See how I make them in the description below.
4- Make the sauces. Check out my recipes for the Sesame soy dressing and the Creamy pesto sauce. I usually buy the salsa for the mexican bowl for convenience, just verify the ingredients to make sure it’s a healthy recipe. You can prepare the two sauces ahead, keep them in a airtight container in the fridge and they will stay good until you need them this week.
Once everything is cooked, chopped, and ready to go, keep them in separate container in the fridge until you want to built your bowl. Just reheat what needs to be warm first (ex: base, cooked vegetable mix or bean mix, roasted tofu, etc) and top with the cold parts (ex: chopped vegetables for the asian bowl, the sauces, toppings, etc).
Mistakes to avoid when preparing your bowls
– Make sure to choose whole grain (or whole wheat if noodles). This will make you feel full longer and provide you with more energy and fiber.
– Eat enough food! Eating plant based means that you have to eat enough food to give you all the calories you need. How great is that? So go ahead and fill your bowl with tons of goodness.
– Don’t make the same thing over and over again. It is nice to get comfortable with a few recipes, but don’t forget to explore and change things up regularly. This will help you enjoy your bowl, not get bored and stay away from processed food.
Black bean mix (for the MEXICAN bowl)
- 1 15.5oz can black beans rinsed and drained
- 1/2 medium-large yellow onion chopped
- 1/2 bunch of kale chopped
- 1 large clove of garlic crushed
- 2 tsp chili powder
- 1 tsp cumin powder
- 1 tbsp tomatoe paste
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 lime juiced
- 2 tsp maple syrup
- 1/4 cup cilantro chopped
- 1/2 cup frozen corn optional
- In a large pan, cook the onion until tender. Use a bit of oil or water to prevent them from burning.
- Add the kale with 2 tbsp of water and let it cook for about 2 minutes. If using the corn, add it with the kale.
- Add the chili powder, cumin powder, garlic and tomatoe paste. Cook for about 1 minutes mixing well.
- Add the beans, the water and the maple syrup and let it cook until you reach a creamy texture. Do not let it dry up, add more water if needed.
- Remove from the heat and add the lime juice and cilantro. Mix well.
- If batch cooking, transfer to an airtight container and store in the fridge. Reheat in the microwave when needed.
- Keep extra lime wedges to squeeze on your bowl and some more fresh cilantro as a topping for added freshness.
- *Tip: Keep a tube of tomatoe paste in your fridge so you can use small amounts when a recipe does not ask for much.
Zucchini-Red pepper mix (for the PRIMAVERA bowl)
- 1/2 onion chopped
- 1 large zucchini cut in thick juliennes
- 1 red pepper cut in thick juliennes
- pepper as needed
- In a medium-large pan, add all the vegetable at once and cook on medium heat for about 7-8 minutes until the vegetable are tender. Use a bit of oil or water to keep them from burning, mixing regularly.
- If batch cooking, transfer to an airthight container and keep in the fridge. Re-heat in the microwave when needed.
Prepared fresh vegetables (for the ASIAN bowl)
- 2 large carrots shredded, or more
- 2 cup cucumbers sliced, or more
- 3-4 green onions sliced, or more
- 1/2 cup cilantro chopped
- Clean and prepare the vegetables as shown.
How to roast tofu
- 1-2 tbsp oil
- 454g extra firm tofu dried with paper towel
- salt and pepper to taste
- Cut the tofu in about 1 inches cubes
- Warm the oil in a large pan. When warmed, add the tofu, salt and pepper and cook at medium high heat for about 7 minutes or until crispy and browned.
- Flip the tofu and repeat on each side.
If you are not used to “meal prep”, preparing these bowls can seem overwhelming, but bear with me, more you do it, easier it will become. Getting organized with food will make your life easier and your health will thank you. Besides saving time and being healthier, you will save money by planning your meals: you won’t end up going at the restaurant or ordering out at the last minute very often anymore. I hope you find this post helpful and it gives you the motivation you needed to plan your healthy plant based meals this week!
Any questions? Post them in the comments below!