Healthy Make-Ahead Recipes

Meal Prep Sunday

No matter how busy we get I refuse to get totally derailed from eating healthy. In fact, finding a way to get real food on the table is more critical than ever while we shape Rylan’s eating habits and expectations for the type of food he will get at home most days.

Weekend meal prep is my best shot for avoiding takeout temptations. I still haven’t found the time to make large batches of freezer meals but I have found a few new recipes that yield a fair amount of leftovers to carry us into the week for lunches and dinner.

Links I suggest all busy households pin and try:

  • Vanilla chia seed pudding. A delicious, crazy-fast and protein-packed breakfast that you can prepare at night and eat for at least two – three days following. I have been topping mine with organic strawberries and blueberries.
  • Kale pesto (nut free). I read on a mom blog somewhere that pesto is something all families should keep in the fridge. Tossing it with pasta is a fast weeknight fallback. Until Rylan has been exposed to all nuts I searched for a nut-free version and am surprised by how good this one tastes. Since we are not vegan I did add some parmesan cheese–highly recommended.
  • Chickpea, avocado and feta salad. This is dummy-proof. To make it even heartier as a standalone dinner I mixed in about a cup of Trader Joes Harvest Grains mix. Rylan devoured this.
  • Slow Cooker Butternut Squash Chili. This is now a staple in our house. I make it at least twice a month and freeze extras for mid-week meals when we’re running low on energy and motivation. I omit the chipotle peppers since I am breastfeeding and want to keep it on the milder side.

Overnight slow cooker oatmeal is a forever-staple and I always make sure to keep frozen veggie burgers and fish on hand to bare with a basic salad. Morning green smoothies have gone on a hiatus but I am hoping to make another round of smoothie packs now that the weather is warming up. I am obsessed with the daily recipes shared by Simple Green Smoothies on Instagram.

We’re keeping Rylan gluten free, per our pediatrician, until one year and that will influence a lot of my cooking until then. Some freezer-friendly recipes I was able to test this last weekend include:

  • Mini Frittatas (for Rylan, but good for any busy household. I made ours in a mini muffin pan)
  • Paleo pumpkin muffins (for Rylan, though I realized the almond flour might not have been the best choice so even though he reacted fine, we can’t bring them to daycare. Again, I used the mini muffin pan)
  • Salmon cakes (I used gluten free bread crumbs. Warning – do not overcook or these bad boys totally end up like hockey pucks)
  • Crock pot vegetarian stuffed peppers (I can’t for the life of me find the recipe I followed! But if you Google “slow cooker stuffer peppers) there are endless varieties. I used brown rice, frozen corn, black beans, shredded cheese, cumin and chili powder. They baked perfectly in about 3 hours on high)

What weekend meal prep saves your sanity during the week?

 

Pre-Made Smoothie Packs

Eating healthy as a busy working professional is hard enough. Tack on having to nurse a baby and pump off before getting to the office at a decent time – with a million bags in tow – and I am amazed that I even eat breakfast at all–and that it doesn’t (often) come through a drive-thru window…although Starbucks has some pretty scrumptious and healthy breakfast options these days. But I digress.

Pre-making green smoothie packs has changed my perspective on smoothies in the morning. I’ve always loved them but dread washing fruit and spinach in a rush in addition to having to portion out my flaxseed, chia seeds and protein powder. Nothing about smoothie making is rocket science but every second counts in the morning.

So right before I went back to work I played around with putting everything but the dry ingredients into a sandwich bag and sticking it in the freezer. I take out a pack before I get in the shower so it has a chance to soften up and then combine it in the blender with unsweetened almond milk (only 30 calories per serving) and the aforementioned dry boosts.

Voila! Green goodness – packed with fruit and leafy greens – is ready to enjoy before the little man demands his breakfast. These little frozen packs are saving my mornings. You really can’t make them wrong but an easy starter pack contains:

  • 1 cup washed spinach or other leafy greens (kale takes some getting used to in smoothies, in my opinion)
  • 1 cup mixed berries, fresh or frozen (I’m a fan of always including one or two strawberries. Blueberries and raspberries are easy choices while peaches and pineapple give any blend a lighter taste and showcase the greens more)
  • 1 whole banana, peeled

I haven’t pre-portioned my dry ingredients yet but as Rylan gets ready for his daycare transition and our mornings become even more hectic I probably will.

Please share other tips you have for making hectic mornings a little saner, and a bit healthier!

 

Vegan Quiche Cupcakes

As a mom with an infant I have discovered that you learn to do lots of things one-handed. These tasks include laundry, putting on makeup, reading magazines, texting, feeding the dog and probably most common, eating.

Ever since I started nursing I wake up starving. Like, “get me breakfast right now or I am going to die” starving. That never happened to me much while I was pregnant but has been a constant since Rylan arrived. But the problem lies in that fact that Rylan also wakes up STARVING, screaming at me “mom!!! Feed me right this instant!!!”

My solution is to get myself up at least 10 minutes before his 7 a.m. wake time (though he is a 6:45 a.m. kind of dude most days) and start my beloved cup of coffee in our Keurig and heat up a small breakfast that is portable and can be eaten with one hand. I like to nurse in the basement in the morning so that I can watch The Today Show, so breakfast must be easily transportable downstairs on one plate with my one free hand. I have tried cereal but the milk goes everywhere – not ideal.

The zucchini muffins I blogged about awhile ago are an awesome choice but I figure that if I eventually want to be able to button all of my pre-baby jeans, I shouldn’t start each day with a muffin. And since I am still 100% off dairy for the little guy my options are even more limited.

That is why I was excited when I came across the recipe for Vegan Quiche Cupcakes via VeganCooking.com. Some of the ingredients, namely the nutritional yeast as a cheese supplement and tofu instead of eggs, made me wary but I decided to give them a go. And you know what? They are pretty tasty! I froze most of the first batch and take them out of the freezer two or three at a time at night. Thirty seconds in the microwave and you have a one-handed breakfast. If I have an extra spare minute before grabbing Rylan I cut some one-handed friendly fresh fruit to0. Lately peaches and apples have been fridge staples.

What say you. Are you brave enough to give these vegan quiches a try?

P.S. One extra new mom tip. Invest in a few travel coffee mugs and enjoy your coffee (or hot beverage of choice) in those each morning. It prevents spills on the baby as you chug caffeine over their head while nursing and lets you steal a few extra minutes of the beverage actually being hot…a small miracle with little ones. 

Fresh Fruit Quinoa Crumble

Gina of Running to the Kitchen is one of my all-time favorite bloggers. Her recipes are inspirational yet approachable and I’ve posted about them here often. She also has a great, sarcastic sense of humor (or at least it seems like it from her writing) which I appreciate.

Since Rylan arrived, many wonderful friends and family have delivered meals. Therefore, my time in the kitchen has, thankfully, been kept to a minimum. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I am doing a ton of “feeding…” but it isn’t for any of the adults in the household. But I was really excited when my friend and colleague Carissa (whose second son is 14 weeks) invited me and another friend and coworker (whose son is approx 8 weeks) to her house for our first official “Three Amigos” playdate and a potluck brunch. Yep, we all had boys back-to-back and have been on maternity leave at the same time. Many thanks to our patient colleagues for dealing with the triple baby arrivals this summer!

Our get together was a blast. Just what I needed. Lots of mom talk and war stories with a wonderful power walk through one of Denver’s prettiest neighborhoods. Then we (because this is how it always goes now) hurriedly ate our delicious potluck-style lunch before our boys melted down in protest of wanting lunch as well. Carissa made a scrumptious dairy-free quiche and Lauren made a super fresh green salad with blueberries and strawberries. I closed out the meal with a dessert by Gina that caught my eye last week – a Peach and Cherry Quinoa Crumble. I managed to take one photo of it before baking but with all the boys crying I completely forgot to take a picture of the finished dish. Click over to Running to the Kitchen for MUCH prettier pictures. That’s why she is the food blogger!

 

We topped it with dairy free almond milk ice cream since I’m off dairy completely right now (a real pain but it’s helping Rylan tremendously so that is all that matters). I will absolutely be making this again. I imagine any seasonal fruits would taste great with the quinoa/almond flour/coconut oil crumble. Enjoy!

Balsamic and Rosemary Grilled Salmon

Credit: AllRecipes.com

A recipe is a keeper when the dish is devoured so quickly that I forget to take a picture for the blog. That happened with this Balsamic and Rosemary Grilled Salmon from AllRecipes.com. The picture above is from the recipe website but I hope it inspires you to give this flavorful take on salmon a spin.

Many thanks to my friend and colleague Ramonna for delivering a pescatarian and dairy-free meal that helped to keep this tired mama sane and well fed for another day. Yes, it seems the dairy-free diet will continue for awhile. Rylan (knock on wood) has only projectile spit up one or two times since I cut out all milk, cheese and frozen treats more than a week ago. Of course those episodes tend to happen at 3 a.m. Because why would projectile spit up at 3 p.m. be any fun?!

Bring on the almond milk!

More Freezer Meals: Garden Zucchini Cakes

 

Zucchini Cake served alongside polenta and fresh tomatoes and cucumbers from my father-in-law’s amazing garden.

My immense appreciation for post-baby freezer meals continues. Yesterday marked my fifth week of maternity leave (how did that happen?!) and while I’m becoming a lot better at maximizing my “down time” while Rylan naps, cooking grandiose meals from scratch still feels like a stretch at this point. A hot, uninterrupted shower trumps meal prep every time.

Our freezer is stocked with some delicious meals but the real bummer is that I had to cut out dairy beginning last Wednesday. Rylan starting spitting up after every feeding and was noticeably very uncomfortable as well. The first recommendation from the pediatrician was for me to cut out dairy and cut back on citrus — and it seems to be working. Not that I mind, I want him to be as healthy and content as humanly possible. But after nine months of navigating pregnancy food rules, I can’t say that I am over-the-moon to once again be on a restrictive diet.

Luckily one of the dishes my mom and sister-in-law prepared for us were Garden Zucchini Cakes. The recipe is from the incredible Once A Month Mom website, a killer resource for meal planning and prep. The patties are dairy free and a breeze to thaw and reheat. We’ve eaten them twice for dinner alongside fresh salads and/or additional vegetables. Nothing beats a healthy dinner that’s on the table in about 10 minutes flat.

I hope Rylan outgrows the dairy sensitivity sooner rather than later. I appreciate any advice or experiences other mamas can share with me about foods they had to cut out while breastfeeding — and tips for if/when to try reintroducing those foods down the line as well.

You can find the Garden Zucchini Cakes recipe here. Enjoy!

Freezer Friendly Zucchini Oatmeal Muffins

Grabbing a proper breakfast between early morning feedings with a newborn is not easy. Factor in my deep need to start every day with a shower – however short – and I’d be looking at chowing down on store-bought granola bars for the next few months.

Thankfully I found an awesome Zucchini Oatmeal Muffin recipe on EatingWell.com and once again, my mom came to the rescue by baking not one but two full batches for us to freeze.

Unfortunately, the first batch didn’t make it past the first week in the freezer. As of Thursday morning, there is one left from that batch. Yes, these muffins are that irresistible, especially when paired with fresh fruit or some nonfat Greek yogurt. 5:30 a.m. wake-ups just got a bit more pleasant.

New Parent Meal Prep

Before my mom leaves on Saturday she is going to help stock our “new parents” outdoor freezer by prepping a few meals and batches of healthy muffins that will be simple to heat and serve for lunches and dinners. These, combined with the meals and/or healthy groceries my friends have signed up to deliver through August, will make avoiding takeout that much easier.

On Wednesday she started with Mini Vegetable Lasagnas (made in muffin tins) from Oh My Veggies. I cannot get over how cool it is that these call for wonton wrappers as the noodles. Who knew?! She made them while I was with Rylan at a lactation consultant appointment (all is generally good) and said the sample she tried was delicious. Sadly, Kona also wanted to sample some so we lost one to the hungry pup.

I can’t wait to pair one or two of these with a crisp salad and steamed veggies. We are going to be eating well! You can find the full recipe here and I will continue to post other maternity leave freezer meals as we complete them.

Grilled Tofu and Pineapple with Coconut Quinoa

The time lapse since my last recipe post essentially correlates to the last time I cooked us a decent dinner. We haven’t been existing on cereal or PB&J sandwiches alone, but it hasn’t been gourmet by any means. Our kitchen is so hot right now. I get in and get out as quickly as possible.

And let’s be honest. I’m no longer that motivated to cook since eating has been a chore since about 32 weeks.

But with only two weeks left until my induction, I got a sudden wave of motivation to try something new while simultaneously making sure that I am packing in as much protein as possible for Sprout’s last weeks of development. The following meatless Monday dinner was inspired by a tofu recipe on Edible Perspective.

  • Extra Firm Tofu – I pressed an extra firm block early in the morning and then marinated it in store-bought teriyaki sauce all day in the fridge
  • Pineapple – I used canned pineapple rings
  • Quinoa – I used 1/2 cup of lite coconut milk in lieu of a full cup of water

To “grill” the tofu and pineapple I greased the grill side of a cast iron griddle and heated it up across two burners. The tofu and pineapple grilled up quickly, probably about three minutes a side. The 1/2 cup of coconut milk in the quinoa added a decadent and silky texture, a perfect compliment to the tofu and pineapple. We ate everything with a small salad and steamed green beans for the ultimate meatless Monday meal.

If you are afraid of cooking with tofu keep trying and remember to give yourself at least 30 minutes for pressing all of the water out. It makes a tremendous difference with the texture. Enjoy!

Quinoa with Roasted Peppers and Feta

Quinoa is “the perfect protein” according to many pregnancy magazines so I have been trying to eat it regularly. Just like tofu it’s pretty much a blank slate for recipes and a combination of flavors. And idiot-proof to make — my favorite.

Credit: Lemonsforlulu.com

The recipe, via Lemons for LuLu, could not have been simpler. I made it Sunday for a few friends we had over for a BBQ. Pescatarians and meat eaters alike would have gone back for seconds had I made a double batch. I’m not entirely sure if feta is or is not on the pregnancy “do not eat that cheese list” but the packaging said pasteurized and at some point it just gets too hard to keep track. If feta is on the naughty list I likely only had a few bites. Don’t send the soft cheese police after me please.

Additional quinoa recipes I’d like to try soon:

Three cheers for the perfect little protein!

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