When I went vegan, bulk cooking saved the day. Of course, these days it’s called “meal prep” and it’s still the name of the game.
Nearly ten years ago I went vegan. And I was at a loss in the kitchen — mostly because my husband was the primary cook in our house at the time. He jumped in and continued cooking for us when I started eating vegetarian but when I proclaimed, “I’m vegan!” he said he wasn’t equipped. And so there I was, trying to navigate my way around a new way of eating while dusting off the mediocre kitchen skills I had left on the shelf for years.
I quickly learned that advance planning was going to keep me on track. Not meal planning, per se, but rather simply preparing food that would be ready to roll during the week. Most of us know this as “bulk cooking” or “batch cooking” and that’s what I did every Saturday or Sunday. I would cook a pot of seasoned beans and lightly flavored grains and just reheat and eat during the week or repurpose for salads or sandwich wraps. It worked.
Eight years later, after writing several cookbooks and assuming a faculty position in a culinary program, I launched the Colorado Springs Vegan Cooking Academy, designed for home cooks and local food industry folks dabbling in vegan cuisine. The number one issue most of my students share is this: They are too busy to cook. But they really want to get back into the kitchen.
Enter meal prepping! Here are a few tips (and a recipe!) from my forthcoming cookbook.
Excerpt and recipe from Vegan Meal Prep: Ready-to-Go Meals and Snacks for Healthy Plant-Based Eating, published by Rockridge Press. Copyright © 2018 by JL Fields:
MEAL PREP BENEFITS
Save time. Most of us want a delicious home-cooked meal morning, noon, and night, but it often feels like our schedule doesn’t allow for it. Investing a few hours a week in meal prepping frees up your days for the remainder of the week. In the morning you can reheat a hearty bowl of oats or grab a smoothie on the way out the door. Ramp up your lunch with a satisfying salad filled with pre-cooked beans and grains. And relax in the evening and spend some time with your family because dinner is ready. All you have to do is reheat it! Bonus: If you have an Instant Pot or pressure cooker, I will provide tips throughout the book on how to adapt recipes for pressure cooking, which will save you even more time.
Save money. I don’t know about you but if I haven’t planned ahead, I tend to overbuy at the grocery store. Meal prepping to the rescue! Mapping out recipes and meals for the week means you buy what you need. Period. And meal prepping often uses the same ingredients across various meals, so you save money by purchasing larger cans of beans and dry grains in bulk.
Build your plant-based culinary muscles. As you become a pro at meal prepping, you’ll also learn and begin applying flavor profiles and texture variety to your meals. When I first went vegan, I found myself in a rut. I thought my diet was “just” beans, greens, and grains. Well, I was sort of right, except it’s not “just”—it’s so many of all three! I learned to repurpose foods with taste and texture. For instance, I would make a big batch of black beans over the weekend but avoid seasoning them. One night I would use them in a chili-style soup with red onion, chili powder, and cilantro. The next day for lunch, I would puree them with tahini and cumin for a black bean dip wrap. And the next morning, I would use them in a breakfast scramble by simply adding them to stir-fried vegetables, spooning the beans and veggies over savory oats. Learning to switch up flavors and add interesting textures is a fun way to become a more interesting cook and satisfied plant eater.
Peppered Pinto Beans
Makes 6 servings / Prep: 5 minutes / Cook: 20 minutes
Pinto beans are incredibly versatile. They are excellent in soup and chili, make a great base for baked beans, and are the star of refried beans. But with a fiery boost from fresh peppers, they stand up well on their own. Enjoy these with the Spanish Rice and steamed kale or spinach.
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil or ¼ cup vegetable broth
1 red bell pepper, seeded ad diced
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
2 (14.5-ounce) cans pinto beans, rinsed and drained
½ cup vegetable broth
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
½ teaspoon salt (optional)
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1. In a large pot over medium-high heat, heat the olive oil. Sauté the bell and jalapeno peppers for 3 to 5 minutes. Add the beans, vegetable broth, cumin, chili powder, salt, and pepper. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes.
2. Transfer to a large storage container, or scoop about 1/3 cup of beans into each of 6 storage containers. Let cool before sealing the lids.
Storage: Place the airtight containers in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or freeze for up to 3 months. To thaw, refrigerate overnight. Reheat in the microwave for 1½ to 3 minutes.
Tip: Make quick refried beans by reheating in a small saucepan on the stove and adding a splash or two of vegetable broth while mashing with a potato masher.
Per serving: Calories: 183; Fat: 2g; Protein: 11g; Carbohydrates: 32g; Fiber: 11g; Sugar: 2g; Sodium: 340mg
JL FIELDS is a vegan chef, coach, and consultant. She is the founder and culinary director of the Colorado Springs Vegan Cooking Academy and a Master Vegan Lifestyle Coach and Educator. JL is the author of several cookbooks, including Vegan Meal Prep: Ready-To-Go Meals and Snacks for Healthy Plant-Based Eating, Vegan Pressure Cooking: Delicious Beans, Grains and One-Pot Meals in Minutes and The Vegan Air Fryer: The Healthier Way to Enjoy Deep-Fried Flavors. She is the producer and host of the cooking show Real World Vegan Cooking and the radio program Easy Vegan and writes the monthly vegan dining review for the Colorado Springs Gazette.