Ahhh, graduate school. So far you have managed to live up to every terrifying horror story, every silly cliche, every comedic profundity. You have squashed my fragile ego, spat on my starry-eyed aspirations, and laughed at me when I’ve stubbed my toes. And I’ve stubbed many toes. But mostly, grad school, you have been an insatiable-like-cookie-monster black hole of time suckage that has caused me to have to basically completely restructure my life.
Yes, between the kiddo, grad school, and Jeremy’s new business, we’re pretty busy ’round these parts. And you know what? I’m willing to bet that you’re pretty busy too. Because I mean really, who isn’t?
But if you’re like me, eating healthfully is incredibly important to you, no matter how busy you are. This is something I ran into time and again when I was working with my clients: trying to balance eating healthy with cooking quickly. And so today, I’m going to share my top 3 go-to busy weeknight meals. These are client tested and client approved, but they’re also just what genuinely works for me. I eat some version of *each* of these meals pretty much every week. These are my week night standards. And they are quick and they are healthy and most of all – they are delicious.
Eating like this is just a matter of changing a few habits. That’s all! A little mindful shifting, and a little bit of planning.
For example, I always tell clients to grocery shop on the weekend so that they start the week off right, fully stocked. And I recommend that they make a big vat of grain (quinoa, wild rice, etc) and a few fun sauces on Sunday evening (or whenever is convenient for them), so that those are already good to go come cooking time. And I’ve found that truly, if they can just do that, then they are well on their way to eating real, wholesome, nourishing food for dinner every night.
1) Bean / Green / Grain Bowl
I’m sure this isn’t news to you, as “hippie bowls” have been floating around the blogosphere for ages. And yet, it always surprises me to hear from clients that they’re just not making them.
YOU GUYS!! Bowls are the best. Like, the actual best. They are hearty and warm and comforting and endlessly customizable. This is where your big vat of grain comes in, and it make it so easy when you’ve got it all pre-cooked and hanging out in the fridge already. A scoop of grain (quinoa, wild or brown rice, millet, barley, whatever you like) – heated up of course. Then a scoop of a legume, like black or white beans, pre-cooked lentils (available at Trader Joe’s and most health food stores – I LIVE ON THESE), lima beans, etc – again heated of course. And finally, the only real cooking portion of the meal, some sort of steamed green. I like broccoli, brussels sprouts, and swiss chard the best, but many people are fond of good ol’ kale.
My most frequent and most favorite combo is white quinoa, brown lentils, and steamed rainbow chard.
And in case you’re thinking that it all sounds rather bland and boring, well you’re forgetting about the sauce! A divine, delectable, finger-lickin’ fine sauce to tie it all together. My absolute favorite for bowls is my old stand-by, the raw tahini sauce that done stoled my heart. It just never gets old.
But sometimes I like to mix it up, and I always want to give my clients lots of yummy options. So, other saucy stars include hummus (thinned out with a little water or stock), pesto or chimichurri or green herb dressing if you’re feeling like something herbaceous, butternut alfredo sauce if you’re wanting something rich, or piquant cilantro peanut sauce for a bit of Asian fusion. YUM.
And I don’t usually stop there. If you’re like me and you love some healthy fat, you’ve gotta top your bowl with some healthy, heavenly avocado.
Plus kimchi or sauerkraut or pickled veggies.
Plus a sprinkling of green onions.
2) Spicy Sesame Noodle Bowl
This is another bowl type of meal, but this one features ramen or soba noodles tossed in a bit of toasted sesame oil, then topped with tofu and steamed broccoli, seasoned with tamari or soy sauce, and finished with sriracha. Because sriracha.
It’s all incredibly simple, but completely delicious. And it takes as long to prepare as it takes to boil noodles and steam broccoli. So like – under 10 minutes right? I often just steam the tofu as well, and I really love it this way. But if you’re feeling creative and have a little extra time, you can also do what I did in the picture above, which is tofu tossed in tamari/soy sauce, nutritional yeast, and garlic powder, then browned in a cast iron skillet (obviously you don’t have to use cast iron, but it’s my cooking vessel of choice) until crispy on all sides.
This is one of Jeremy’s favorite meals, and it’s really grown on me as well.
Also, you can find healthier, organic sriracha at health food stores and online. Or, you can make your own raw fermented sriracha at home. (No but seriously, you should make that recipe – it is amazing)
3) High-Protein Pasta With Steamed Greens
3-ingredient meal, y’all. Thanks goodness for high-protein pasta!
Vegan high-protein pastas are made from any number of legumes (black beans, chickpeas, etc), and usually just have two ingredients: dried legume + water. They are amazingly unprocessed and insanely convenient, because they function both as a “filler” and also as the protein. All you need to do is add sauce (an organic marinara for me, please) and a side of steamed greens, and you’re good to go. It could hardly be any easier.
And high-protein pastas aren’t messing around when they say “high protein.” For example, a serving of tofu typically runs you about 10 grams of protein. A serving of your average high-protein pasta? 21 grams. TWENTY ONE GRAMS YOU GUYS.
I’m telling you, this is good stuff. It’ll fill you up for reals.
But beware! There are a growing number of alternative pastas on the market, and you can’t just look at the front of the box and make assumptions about the nutritional stats. You have to really look at the back of the box. For example, you’d think that “quinoa pasta” would be made out of quinoa, and would be pretty high in protein, right? But no, most “quinoa pasta” is actually composed primarily of corn, and incredibly low in protein. So make sure you read those labels!
My two top protein pastas are these mung bean fettuccine and these red lentil rotini. And remember, high-protein pasta runs pretty pricey, but it’s also a just-add-sauce situation. It balances out in the end!
Alright my dears, now I want to hear from you guys. What are your super quick and easy – but healthy – week night go-tos? Please share! I’m always looking for new ideas for me – and hopefully in the future, after grad school – for my clients. So let us know in the comments below!