Meal Prep Sunday: 5 Dishes That Give You Your Veggie Servings In 15 Minutes Or Less
Written By: Brianna Snyder
This isn’t gonna be like those other meal-prep posts. This right here is actually extremely efficient. Seriously. If it’s got more than five ingredients and takes longer than 10 minutes to prepare, it’s project cooking. Officially.
If you love to cook, consider yourself extremely lucky. But if you’d rather whip up something delish and plop down for seven episodes of “Sharp Objects,” you’re in the right place.
It’s possible to be healthy and not spend 10 hours a day in the kitchen. There are all kinds of yummy shortcuts to making good dishes full of food-pyramid necessities. If anything, it’s healthy to be spending your time doing things that actually enrich your mind, body, and soul. Working out, reading a book, bingeing prestige TV: THIS is self-care.
So here they are. The absolute easiest weeknight meals with the lowest amount of prep possible, without sacrificing the most essential nutrients. To save time, you could do all your veggie chopping on Sunday so all you have to do is pull out all of your ingredients throughout the week.
MONDAY: Barbecue Chicken Sandwiches
What you need:
Whole wheat buns
The key to these is to use chicken thighs.
Let me tell you a little secret about chicken thighs. They taste so much better than breasts and although they’re fattier, it’s that good kind of fat, so give yourself the gift of never eating another dry-as-hell chicken breast.
I stopped buying breasts three years ago when I realized I couldn’t cook one right to save my life. You can leave a thigh in the oven for like 10 minutes too long and it’ll still be basically edible. I’m not saying I have high standards, but I am saying I have reasonable standards and white-meat chicken does not meet them.
Here's what you do:
Once you’ve got your packet of chicken thighs, the next thing you need is a bottle of barbecue sauce. My fav is this sriracha one from Trader Joe’s. It tastes so good and is just the right amount of spicy.
Put the chicken and all of the BBQ sauce into the slow-cooker. If you’re going to be gone all day, put it on low. If you need dinner in three or four hours, put it on high. When the chicken’s cooked, shred it. Apply to buns. Slice up red onion and jalapeno (if that’s your thing) and dress up your sammich.
Corn on the cob. Toss on the grill or under the broiler. Rub with butter then sprinkle with salt and pepper and cayenne (if you like spicy). Want more greens? Chop up a head of romaine, clip some green onions into it, toss on some cherry tomatoes. Whisk three tablespoons of olive oil with a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar, add salt and pepper. Toss in minced shallot, garlic, or mustard to punch it up. If you want. Whatever.
What you need:
Sour cream (if that’s your thang)
Tacos are standbys, I know, but come on. They’re so easy. These fajitas pack all your veggies right into the meal, so no sides to worry about (unless you want to add a side salad).
Here’s what you do:
Got a grill? Perfect. This is ideal. Chop the veggies and onion, dress with olive oil, S&P, and any other spices you like. Wrap in foil (I often do the dressing IN THE FOIL, swear to god). Toss on the grill.
Use the spices you used on the veggies on your chicken. Toss ’em on the medium-high grill. Make sure they hit 165 degrees, baby. I’ve had food poisoning three times this year. Three. But in my defense, two of those times were out of town and the third time, well, I just let something sit in the fridge for too long. (Toss your homemade salsa after a few days. Not two weeks. Free tip!)
When everything’s done, chop up the chicken into big chunks, like Chipotle does. Sprinkle some cheese on a heated tortilla (do it first, so it gets melty under the hot veggies and chicken), then add your other fixings.
Boom. If this takes you longer than 20 minutes, you’re fired. Or I am.
WEDNESDAY: Spicy Pasta
What you need:
You can probably tell I’ve got a taste for the spice. You could probably skip the jalapenos in this recipe if that’s not your thing. But I love the way they get all up in the oil and make my mouth tingle. Cubes of mozzarella cheese are a good addition here, too, to balance some of that heat.
Here's what you do:
Start the water a-boilin’ for the pasta. Then start choppin’. Start with the jalapenos, which just need to be halved and sliced into little half moons. Then slice the green onions in long chunks--like an inch or two long. Keep your tomatoes aside for now.
Start three tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat in a deepish nonstick pan. You want the oil to be hot but not so hot that it starts splashing around as soon as you put stuff in it. Once it’s heated, add the green onions and jalapenos. Let them cook in the oil while you slice up the chicken sausage into little disks. Real nice and easy.
By the time you’re finished cutting up the sausage, the peppers and green onions should be well integrated with the hot oil. If they’re not browning a bit, turn the oil up a bit and give them another minute.
Add the minced garlic and stir it in for about 30 seconds. As it starts to brown, add the chicken sausage. Let it all cook. How’s your boiling water doing? Time to add pasta? Go for it.
As the sausage and pepper and onion and garlic are all getting to know each other, whip out a sheet pan. Cut your asparagus into two-inch chunks (we’re doing away with long spears!). Spread the pieces out across the sheet and drizzle olive oil, S&P, and cayenne (if you’re into it!) all over them. Broil them until charred and crispy.
Now slice your cherry tomatoes in half. When the pasta’s ready, reserve a half cup or so of the water and drain the rest. Add the tomatoes and the pasta right to the pan, pouring in enough of the reserved water to make sure everything’s coated. Let the concoction cook together for a few minutes, until the tomatoes start to soften and break down.
Serve asparagus on the side or mix it right into the pasta! I like it either way. And if cheese chunks are your pleasure, toss those in, too.
This whole thing should come together in exactly as much time as it takes to cook pasta--plus, like, three minutes for the tomatoes to get all squishy. Boom. Wednesday done.
What you need:
Chicken thighs (duh)
Rice (I’m a sucker for brown basmati)
Soy sauce, garlic, cornstarch (or store-bought sauce)
This is another one where the veggies are right there in the meal! Amazing.
If you have a rice cooker, good job. It’s the only essential kitchen gadget. If you don’t have a rice cooker, then you better get going on the rice. I can’t help you with that. Sorry.
Here's what you do:
Heat a tablespoon of oil in your saute pan at about medium-high heat. Then do all your chopping. Cut the chicken into one-inch chunks and the peppers and onions into fajita-y strips. Start the veggies in the hot oil; hold off on the chicken.
The secret to good stirfry, according to Mark Bittman, is to actually not stir it much at all. Let the peppers and onion blacken and char for a few minutes. Then stir once and let sit again. When they start to go a bit limp, stir in the chicken. As all of that cooks, mix together your soy sauce, minced garlic, and cornstarch (which thickens everything). If you have the bottled stuff, well, take a breather.
When the chicken is mostly cooked, pour the sauce into the pan, coating everything. Simmer and stir until chicken is cooked thoroughly and veggies are nice and browned. Serve over rice.
what you need:
This sounds like a total copout, but it’s truly my favorite meal of the week. One of the things we’re programmed to believe about meals is that they need to be formal and include a certain set of standards.
It’s true that fruits and veggies are an essential part of your diet. But other than that, three squares a day with a vegetable, protein, and starch can get so boring, and for what?
What you do:
So here’s what you do. Friday is clean-out-the-fridge day. Got leftovers from earlier in the week? Heat ‘em up. Then supplement with homemade hummus and your favorite veggies (snap peas!). Cut up a watermelon or your favorite fruit. Slice up some cheese if you like. Make a whole buffet of the good food you cooked this week and the food you love. Make it fun. Healthy eating shouldn’t be a chore. It’s a gift you give yourself.