Meal Planning 101: On Reusing Versatile Ingredients, plus a “Nourish Bowl” Recipe

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, my initial motivation to schedule all my meals came from anxiety – anxiety that I would be wasteful with ingredients (and therefore money), that I wouldn’t enjoy my food. It’s become much more than that, more than a pressure valve for my neurosis. It’s a way for me to think creatively, to exercise a kind of freedom that only exists in the presence of strict parameters.

I’ve tried to outline a Meal Planning 101 entry, but found that a singular post would be far too long and verbose, and probably super boring. So, I’ve decided to start a series, highlighting different elements of my planning process. This first one is going to be about thinking ahead and reusing ingredients, and I’ll go through my thought process behind this week’s menu.

The process of reusing ingredients is important to me for a number of reasons:

  1. It tightens parameters. I don’t know if you know this, but there are like a gazillion food blogs (read: food porn sites) and a bajillion recipes for everything. Diving into the endless abyss of books and blogs to find that perfect dish is probably a gigantic time suck, and this helps. And, even though I like planning stuff out (clearly), sometimes I find it exhausting to make completely new things, everyday, and to find delectable recipes for each. Choosing versatile ingredients that I can reuse gives me a weird sort of peace of mind.
  2. It helps me to develop my palate. I learn more about the ingredient when I cook it in a number of different styles. Also, by focusing on one or more reusable ingredients for a week’s meal, I have the opportunity to actually taste different ingredient pairings and formulate my own opinions.
  3. It can save time. For example, I can prepare the ingredient for the whole week in one fell swoop (e.g. trimming or blanching vegetables), or cook the ingredient(s) in one batch and use them throughout the week.
  4. It can save money. I am often on the prowl for what’s on sale or in season. If I’m okay with reusing an ingredient or two throughout the week, it means that I can spend less money. Also, if I find that I’m reusing a great deal of something (an example for me would be jasmine rice), then I can save some money by purchasing in bulk.

There are obviously other elements to meal-planning. Often, I’ll start with what kind of stuff I’m craving, or what I think my body needs. But the focus on ingredients and how I can make them versatile is a key element to my planning process, one that I use every week.

This Week’s Meals

This week, because my husband is on tour (I’m lonely!), I’m making a lot of one-pot meals, reusing loads of ingredients/elements, and cooking things that are easy to bring to work. Additionally, because it’s been getting warmer, I want to cook and eat things that don’t make me feel like a sweaty slimeball. Here were some of my thoughts in coming up with the menu:

  • I wanted a versatile grain that would be good either hot or cold. I chose farro, because it’s not one of the foods that just tastes really healthy (read: boring or icky), it is healthy but has a relatively complex character. I can cook all of my farro at the same time, and use it for different meals to save on time.
  • Honestly, after a week of eating very little meat (since we binged in Maine), I am craving some animal. I decided to go the chicken route, since it’s kind of on the lighter side. And I’m not afraid to admit this to the world: I like eating chicken. Like, I like it a lot. So, I bought enough chicken for roasting, and for ddak bulgogi (Korean chicken BBQ). The latter will be its own meal (with rice or farro), and then serve as toppers for farro bibimbap and bibimguksu.
  • Roasted vegetables are amazing on or with everything. I’m going to roast a bunch of vegetables on a cool morning (w/ my new spice mix obsession for vegetables: salt, pepper, cumin, chili powder, cayenne, and paprika). Then, I’ll use them as a side for rice & beans, cheese omelette and fish in a bag. And, they will serve as integral elements to my farro nourish bowl.
  • Eggs. I love them so much. This week, I’ll pickle some soft-boiled eggs as part of all the rice or farro dishes. Also, since I’m allowed to be “lazy” while Nico is on tour, I’m going to make myself a delicious and easy omelette, one night.

I should also add that I needed all the meals to be relatively simple, since I had my first trip to the Emergency Room (as an adult) on Wednesday. Apparently, I have pretty severe vertigo, so lots of movement, or movement at all, is pretty disorienting and disconcerting. WOMP.

Now, with all the context, here is the weeks’ menu:

FRIDAY

  • D: Fish in a bag, w/ lemon, fennel, olives, and white wine sauce

SATURDAY

  • L: Farro nourish bowl w/ roasted vegetables and a pickled egg, topped w/ lime dressing
  • D: Bibim guksu w/ chicken bulgogi

SUNDAY

  • L: Leftover bibimguksu
  • D: Chicken bulgogi w/ jasmine rice and roasted vegetables

MONDAY

  • L: Leftover bulgogi, rice, and vegetables
  • D: Farro bibimbap w/ chicken bulgogi topping and a pickled egg, and an arugula salad

TUESDAY

  • L: Leftover farro bibimbap
  • D: Brie omelette, baguette, and an arugula salad

WEDNESDAY

  • L: Leftovers (of anything)
  • D: Roasted chicken thigh w. cherry tomatoes & asparagus, baguette, and an arugula salad

THURSDAY

  • L: Leftover chicken
  • D: Rice & beans and roasted vegetables

FRIDAY

  • L: Leftover rice & beans
  • D: ORDER DELIVERY (woohoooo)

And, here’s a recipe for an amazingly simple farro nourish bowl that has swept me off my feet. By the way, I think the term “nourish bowl” is the worst, like it’s the top selling (and only) food item at a CA smoothie store. But, it’s easier to say that, than to say “healthy but delicious bowl of grain with other hearty and mostly vegetarian toppings.”

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

Farro “Nourish Bowl” with Roasted Vegetables and Lime/Maple Dressing
Adapted from Cookie Monster Cooking’s Blog
Servings: 4-6
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cooking Time: 45 minutes

Ingredients
Roasted Vegetables:
  • 1 medium red onion, sliced
  • 2 small or 1 large yukon gold potato, peeled and chopped into ½ inch chunks
  • 1 large sweet potato, peeled and chopped into ½ inch chunks
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 heads of broccoli, chopped
  • 2 ears of corn kernels (cut right off the cob)
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon of canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 teaspoon salt
For the dressing:
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • pinch of pepper
  • ¼ cup olive oil
For serving:
  • Farro, cooked per instructions
  • Avocado, sliced on top
  • Pickled egg

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400ºF.
  2. Chop up all the vegetables, and place them into a large bowl. add the cumin, paprika, chili powder, cayenne pepper, salt, olive oil, and canola oil. Mix well, and place the vegetables onto a baking sheet (use two if necessary – you don’t want to crowd the pan).
  3. Bake for 40 minutes, and stir halfway through. The vegetables should be beautifully browned and aromatic.
  4. In a small bowl, whisk together the ingredients for the dressing.
  5. To serve, place some farro in a bowl, and add the roasted veggies, sliced avocado, and pickled egg on top. Dress with the lime/maple syrup mixture, and enjoy!

One thought on “Meal Planning 101: On Reusing Versatile Ingredients, plus a “Nourish Bowl” Recipe

  1. Pingback: Meal Planning 101: Organizing around a Budget, plus a Pickled Egg Salad Recipe | Exposed Eats with Yejin

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