Organization has never been my strong point, you simply need to look into my pantry to gather that. It's something I fight with daily and have been slowly working harder and harder on to improve over the years because being unorganized stressing me the frack out! Over the last few months I've been working extra diligent on becoming organized by doing simple tasks such as making sure every dish is washed and put away before bed, designating one day a week to feed the houseplants, and making sure that the folded laundry gets put away before it has a chance to end up on the chair in the corner of the bedroom. Most importantly, I've been working hard on organizing meals though some serious prep.
Having prep on hand is something that is a bit engrained in both of us from years of working in kitchens, but this habit of making a fresh batch of go-to grains and sauces on hand means we can whip out a supper in ten minutes. It's a trick that anyone can follow and everyone can use. Because of the prep we had on hand, this entire dish took only the time it takes to cook the asparagus. The cilantro pesto was made up ahead of time and can be used on anything from sandwiches to burgers, pasta, veggie sticks and soups. The pickled veggies will last in the fridge for two weeks, but we go through them so much faster than that. They are great in salads, wraps, snack plates, and other bowl foods. And the dukkah is something we always try to have on hand for roasted veggies, avo toasts, Adam's eggs, salads, and pretty much everything else we eat.
We are huge bowl-food people, so having a fridge stocked with easy to combine ingredients is crucial to our meal plans. A few go-to sauces, some quinoa, chickpeas, and roasted veggies and you are basically set for the work week. Below I've outline five of my favourite hacks to make meals easier and some of my favourite fridge stocking staples.
FIVE FAVOURITE MEAL PREP HACKS
Do big batch cooking once or twice a week
- A lot of people get into this habit and it's a real life saver. Pick a certain afternoon each week when you're free and plan to do your weekly cooking in order. It's a great time to make a big batch of soup or chili for the freezer, to cook grains and beans to use all week in your meals, and whip up some easy to grab sauces for your bowl foods.
Wash veggies as soon as you get home
- I don't do this for all things, but washing herbs, salad greens, leafy greens like kale, and other produce means that you can just grab them out of the fridge and start cooking. Plus having your herbs and lettuce already clean means you won't end up with a watery salad, a personal pet peeve of mine. Certain veggies like broccoli can be trimmed and chopped into easy to use florets, and cabbages can be shredded for easy to grab slaw mix.
Have spice mixes
Blending herbs and spices in ready to use mixes may sound like it doesn't save a huge amount of time, but when 5 pm rolls around and you're digging through your pantry to find the cumin, you'll be happy you already have some mixes. Some of our favourite blends are
- Tex Mex for Chili, tacos, and burritos - chili powers like cayenne and chipotle pepper, cumin, paprika, and a little cinnamon
- Berbere for Ethiopian dishes like Miser Wat - coriander seeds, black pepper, allspice, cloves, paprika, ginger, and cinnamon
- Ras el Hanout for Moroccan style tajines and chickpea stews - cumin, ginger, cinnamon, coriander, all spice, cloves, and cayenne.
- Furikake for steamed veggies, rice, and onigiri - sesame seeds, salt, seaweed, and a little sugar.
- Herbs de Provence for vegetables and salad dressings - savoury, marjoram, thyme, tarragon, rosemary, and sometimes lavender.
- Garam Masala for dal - coriander, cumin, cardamom, cinnamon, pepper, nutmeg, and clove.
- Za'atar for flat breads, falafels, dips and salads- sumac, thyme, sesame seeds, and oregano.
Have Sauces on hand
- Sauces make the meal if you ask me! You can toss some roasted veggies with quinoa and beans but as soon as you add a sauce it becomes an epic meal and not just a mash up of whatever you had in the fridge. Some favourites include hot sauces, hummus, salsa verde, miso tahini, herbed tahini, almond butter, and pesto (like the recipe below).
Have plenty of garnish
- Besides having a sauce, the other critical element to help bring a meal together is the garnish. It's the obvious visual wow factor, but it also often contributes the crunch, sour element, or salty touch a dish needs. Try having toasted nuts and seeds on hand, pickles, capers, lemon, dukkah, fresh herbs, microgreens, avocado, good quality olive oil, nutritional yeast, and nutty parm for that final touch.
QUINOA BOWL WITH CILANTRO PESTO
If you want a veggie, but not vegan version of this dish, add a turmeric poached egg following this method. You can also use quinoa cooked early in the week from your batch cooking session, or double or triple the amount of quinoa to enjoy later in the week.
Serves 2, Print it Here
1 Bunch Asparagus
⅔ Cup Quinoa, rinsed
Microgreens or Sprouts
Pumpkin Seed Dukkah (See Below)
Quick Refrigerator Pickles (See Below)
1 Watermelon Radish, Sliced
Cilantro Pesto (See Below)
- Prep the asparagus by breaking off the woody ends and discarding then. Toss the stalks with a drizzle of oil and a pinch of salt and pop in a 200 C (400 F) oven for 2o minutes.
- Meanwhile, combine the quinoa with 1 ⅓ cup water. Cover and bring the quinoa to a boil. Once boiled turn it down to a simmer and cook on low heat for 15-20 minutes or until the water is absorbed and it's soft.
- To serve, stir the 5 Tbsp. of pesto into the quinoa with a pinch of salt. Divide the quinoa between two bowls. Top the bowls with the roasted asparagus, avocado, pickles, sprouts, fresh radish, and dukkah. Add the optional egg of you're inclined.
PUMPKIN SEED DUKKAH
Normally dukkah is made with hazelnuts, but as of late they've costed an arm and a leg, so the less-expensive pumpkin seeds are used instead. To be honest, I actually prefer the flavour of the earthy pumpkin seeds.
½ Cup Raw Pumpkin Seeds
¼ Cup Raw Sesame Seeds
1 ½ Tbsp. Cumin Seeds
1 ½ Tbsp. Coriander Seeds
¼ tsp. Black Peppercorns
½ tsp. Sea Salt
- Heat a heavy skillet (I like cast iron) over low heat and add the pumpkin seeds, gently heat until they begin to pop and toast. Pour them out onto a dish and set aside. Next, toast to the sesame seeds stirring constantly, until the too begin to pop and brown. Set them aside as well. Finally, add the cumin and coriander and toast just until they become fragrant. Take them off the heat right away as the will burn quickly.
- In either a spice grinder or a mortar and pestle, grind the pepper, coriander and cumin until it is medium coarse to fine in texture. Next add the seeds and crush them so that some are a little chunky while others are fine. Be careful not to take this too far as you don't want a butter or paste. Add the salt and toss to combine. Keep in an airtight container with your other spices or in the refrigerator for an extended period of time.
QUICK REFRIGERATOR PICKLES
1 Red Onion, cut into thin half moons
1 Bunch of Red Radishes, cut into rounds
2 cup Water
4 tsp. Sugar (I used Coconut)
2 tsp. Sea Salt
½ tsp. Ground Pepper
1 Cup Apple Cider Vinegar
1. In a small saucepan, combine the water, and sugar and bring to a simmer (just to dissolve the sugar). Remove from the heat and add the onion, vinegar, salt and pepper. Have two clean jars ready, one filled with each type of veggie. Pour the brine into each jar and leave on them counter to cool before refrigerating. The pickles will be done in a couple of hours and will last in the fridge for about two weeks.
1 Cup Cilantro
½ Cup Parsley
Juice of ½ Lemon
¼ Cup Pumpkin Seeds
¼ Cup Cashews
2 Tbsp. Nutritional Yeast
½ Cup Olive Oil
2-4 Cloves Garlic
Salt and Pepper to Taste
- In a food processor puree the cashews, pumpkin seeds, garlic, parsley and cilantro until smooth. Add some salt and pepper along with the lemon juice, nutritional yeast and oil and mix to combine. Taste and adjust if needed.