Written by Katie Cavuto, author of Whole Cooking & Nutrition
Cooler weather begs for comfort food but luckily that doesn’t have to translate into unhealthy eats or long hours spent in the kitchen. Plus, with some menu planning and meal prepping you can turn your weeknight dinner routine into a cinch.
I used to balk at the idea of meal prepping because I avoid spending too much time in the kitchen. That being said, once I gave it a go I was hooked. Sure, I was spending some of my coveted weekend hours prepping for the week but it made my weeknight routine a whole lot easier. In my opinion, there is something truly relaxing about prepping and chopping ingredients. If you are one of the many people I have met that disagree, then I have a few inspiring ideas for you to make this time feel more enjoyable because that is what cooking and eating should be…joyful! Round up a cooking buddy or two, create a kitchen songs playlist that gets you going, or tie on a new, festive apron because these meal prep tips are going to change the way you think about cooking.
Cook once and eat two or three times? That sounds like a winning plan to me. At the beginning of each week, take time to plan a few meals for the week knowing full well you can eat leftovers and improvise a bit on the other days. You may want to play it safe and plan a meal for each night if that feels more in line with your needs when starting out.
I have always found it easier to prep and even cook my vegetables ahead of time. Pre-cut vegetables like peppers, cucumber, carrots and celery allow for easy snacking throughout the week. Pre-diced and sliced onions and peppers make starting a meal feel like a cinch. Zucchini, broccoli, cauliflower and the like, once cut, can easily be added to a recipe or cooked up on their own as a side dish. Use these for recipes as a “what to buy/prep” guide and, if your oven is already on, roast up some vegetables so they are ready to eat come meal-time.
Grains and beans are another great prep item. I used to buy frozen grains so that I had them on hand in a pinch and then a realized I could do it myself. We tend to make rice and quinoa most weeks. I keep some in the fridge and freeze the rest. While your go-to might be to include these grains as a savory side, don’t dismiss the idea to incorporate them into a grain salad or use them as the base for a warm breakfast porridge. You can even incorporate cooked grains into dishes like meatloaf or meatballs in lieu of breadcrumbs.
While I prefer to cook my proteins to order, there are some dishes that reheat really well like chili or stew. I find it useful to have the basics on hand for the week: think roasted chicken or turkey and hard boiled eggs. Nourishing and satisfying, you can repurpose pre-cooked chicken or meat in dinner recipes like tacos and lasagna. They are great to have on hand for lunch and snacking too.
For more tips on meal planning and prepping as well as over 150 approachable and delicious recipes, check out my new book, Whole Cooking and Nutrition. It’s jam packed with tips to help you create simple and healthy recipes as well as to harness the joy in your eating experiences. Here is a sample recipe from the book including prepping tips and tricks.
Roasted Moroccan Turkey Breast with Root Vegetables
This roasted turkey can be made for dinner on Sunday. Use the leftovers to make soup or stew, tacos or sandwiches which is a great substitute for lunch meat. The root vegetables can be served as a side or added to a salad later in the week.
The Moroccan Spice Rub is a great addition to roasted vegetables or nuts as well as a savory blend for a soup or stew.
- 1 (4-pound) bone-in, skin-on turkey breast
- 3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 1 tsp extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 1 tsp fine sea salt, divided
- 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper, divided
- 2 tbsp Moroccan Spice Blend
- 5 cloves garlic, smashed
- 1 onion, halved, peeled, and then quartered
- 3 celery ribs, trimmed and cut into thirds
- 2 cups peeled, chopped carrots (cut into 2-inch pieces)
- 1 cup peeled, chopped sweet potato (cut into 2-inch pieces)
- 1 tbsp chopped fresh oregano
- 1 tbsp freshly grated orange zest
- 1 orange, halved and then quartered
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1/2 tsp mild or hot smoked paprika
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees
- Loosen the skin of the turkey breast by gently pushing your fingers between the skin and the meat. Season under the skin with 1 tbsp olive oil, 1/3 tsp salt, and 1/2 tsp pepper. Rub the spice blend under and over the loosened skin and then set the turkey breast in the roasting pan.
- In a small bowl, toss together the remaining oil, the remaining salt and pepper, and the garlic, onion, celery, carrots, rutabaga, turnip, sweet potato, oregano, orange zest, orange, cumin, and smoked paprika. Arrange the vegetable mixture in a single layer round the turkey breast.
- Transfer the pan to the oven and roast the turkey and vegetables, uncovered, for 15 minutes. Cover the pan loosely with foil. Reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees and roast for an additional 30-45 minutes, or until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the meaty part of the turkey breast registers 165 degrees.
- Remove pan from oven, transfer the turkey to a cutting board, and tent it loosely with foil. Let the turkey rest for 20 minutes, then discard the skin and slice the meat.
- Remove and discard the oranges from the roasted vegetables, give the vegetables a good stir, and serve them with the sliced turkey.
Katie Cavuto MS, RD, Chef is a Philadelphia-based registered dietitian and wellness advocate. Katie is the dietitian for the Philadelphia Phillies and Flyers and the Nutrition Advisor for Unite For Her, an organization that supports newly diagnosed breast cancer patients. She appears in regular nutrition and cooking segments on local and national TV. Her writing and recipes have been showcased nationally in Eating Well Magazine, Everyday with Rachel Ray Magazine, O, the Oprah Magazine, Parents Magazine and more. For more of Katie’s recipes and wellness tips visit her blog, Nourish.Breathe.Thrive. Her first book, Whole Cooking and Nutrition is available now!