Cooking with Kellan | Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis
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Cooking with Kellan

In grad school, it's incredibly difficult to muster up both time and energy to cook meals day in and day out during the one free moment you might have. 

I personally have found that meal-prepping is a great way to save time throughout the week and quite a bit of money on my take-out budget. While meal-prep takes up at least 3-4 hours in one sitting, it's much easier to allocate that amount of time during the weekend than it is during the week. Plus, you can multi-task while bingeing your favorite TV-Show, which saves you later when you're desperately trying to write that paper you've been putting off (yes, I'm looking at you, Kellan).

Firstly, there are a few meal-prep essentials that I highly recommend.

  • 10 oz mason jars—you can get these at most grocery stores and a pack of 12 usually costs about $10.00.
  • A good non-stick skillet
  • At least one 4 cup sauce pan
  • A favorite wooden spoon or silicone spatula
  • 1 2-cup measuring cup
  • Set of dry ingredient measuring cups
  • Measuring spoons
  • Of course, Tupperware (feel free to go cheap on these, just ensure that you get the kind you can microwave should you need)
  • At least one large mixing bowl (thrift stores are your friend when it comes to purchasing just one)

Here are a few of my favorite recipes that save time, money, and are so healthy:

Quinoa Breakfast Jars (makes 5 Jars): You've heard of overnight oats, but get ready to knock your morning socks off with this powerhouse of a to-go breakfast (inspired by Toby Amidor's recipe in The Healthy Meal Prep Cookbook). Quinoa is usually used in savory dishes, but it makes a great oatmeal substitute and it is a complete protein. You don't even have to heat these jars in the morning, as they are good chilled as well. It's also a great gluten free breakfast starter and can easily be made vegan.

What you need:

  • 1 ½ cup cooked quinoa (cooled)
  • 1 cup blueberries (I recommend the large bag of frozen berries from any grocery store as they keep for weeks when not in use and one bag will last you a while).
  • 3 Bananas-Mashed
  • 3-4 cup peanut butter (or any nut butter you prefer).
  • 1 cup of whole milk (or non-dairy milk substitute for vegan preparation). Add more if the mixture is too thick.
  • Agave syrup, maple syrup, or honey, depending on what you have, to taste (usually about 1-2 Tablespoons per jar).

What you do:

  1. Cook quinoa: a rule of thumb is that quinoa doubles when cooked, so you may want to start with just ½ cup of raw quinoa. I like my jars quinoa-heavy so I don't get hungry later; therefore, I usually start with 1 cup of quinoa.
  2. Rinse the quinoa prior to cooking, as most brands have a naturally occurring powder on the grains that leaves a bitter taste.
  3. Boil quinoa in a 2-1 water-to-quinoa ratio (i.e. 2 cups water per 1 cup quinoa) for about 15 minutes. Set aside to cool.
  4. Mash the Bananas in a large mixing bowl using a potato masher or large fork if you're desperate.
  5. Stir in nut butter.
  6. Add cooked quinoa and blueberries. Fold all of this together until well incorporated.
  7. Add milk and syrup of your choice. Stir together until there are no lumps of quinoa and the mixture isn't runny.
  8. Spoon into each of the five jars, seal and refrigerate.
  9. These will last up to 5 days and basically the week if you need them to!

Kale Power Bowl: If you're having trouble getting your vegetables in for the day, look no further! This salad bowl is both colorful and tasty, and you can switch almost any vegetable in it out, add whatever protein you'd like, or keep it vegan! It's also gluten and dairy free (unless you spruce it up with some cheese of course, but this is the one salad in which I find I don't need it).

What you need:

  • 3-4 cups of kale, ribs removed and chopped (usually 2 bunches or ½ a bag of prewashed and cut kale; the latter is usually easier and cheaper).
  • 2 medium sweet potatoes
  • 1 cup dried cranberries.
  • 1 cup shelled sunflower or pumpkin seeds (whichever is cheap and available to you, you can't go wrong).
  • ½ cup blueberries (I told you the big bag of frozen berries would come in handy).
  • ½ cup cooked quinoa (you can always add more if you like)
  • 1-2 diced green onions.
  • 1 can of garbanzo beans or favorite bean of your choice—drained.
  • 2 Tbsp of olive oil.
  • Salt and pepper to taste.

OPTIONAL:

  • 1 pack of firm tofu (cubed) OR 2 chicken breasts (diced) and pan grilled.
  • Mushrooms
  • Literally any vegetable you think would go good in a salad, throw it in. This is a mosaic of health, so go crazy. If you don't have your own craziness, store-bought will work just fine.

What you do:

  1. Preheat oven to 400F (about 205 degrees C).
  2. The beauty of this salad is that the only cooking is done with the potatoes and quinoa. (see above for cooking quinoa).
  3. To cook the sweet potatoes, peel and dice them into cubes (smaller is better to mix with the salad).
  4. Toss cubes in the olive oil and salt and pepper. Arrange on a baking sheet and roast in oven until lightly browned and toasted (about 40 minutes).
  5. Dice green onions.
  6. Literally throw all of the afore-mentioned ingredients into a bowl and toss so that you get a good mix of everything.
  7. Separate into 4-5 tupperware containters and throw it in the fridge. You're done. You're healthy. You got this you radiant deity of nutrition.
  8. Add salad dressing of your choice.

Now if you don't like store bought salad dressings here are a couple dressings that I make regularly!

Sesame-Soy Dressing/Marinade (makes about ½ cup which is good for 2 premade salads):

What you need:

  • 2 TBSP soy sauce
  • 2 TBSP sesame oil
  • 1 clove of garlic minced (or you can buy the pre-minced garlic in a jar. 1 TSP if you go that route)
  • 4 TBSP rice wine vinegar
  • 1/3 cup canola oil

What you do:

  • Put all ingredients into a resealable container (unused Tupperware or mason jar is perfect) and shake it like you own the dancefloor in 1999.
  • If you're feeling fancy, you can whisk it in a bowl and then transfer it to the unused Tupperware or mason jar.
  • This will keep for about 5 days. Shake when ready to serve as oil-separation is natural.

Apple Cider Vinaigrette (makes about 1 cup):

What you need:

  • 1 garlic clove, minced (1 TSP from garlic jar)
  • 1 TBSP Dijon mustard (or yellow mustard if you don't like the spicey-ness of Dijon)
  • 1/3 cup raw apple cider vinegar (I like mine with a lot of "zing" so if you don't like the acidity you can reduce to ¼ cup).
  • 2 TBSP Lemon Juice
  • 1/3 cup olive oil.
  • Salt and pepper to taste

OPTIONAL:

  • If you like a sweeter vinaigrette, please feel free to add 1-2 TBSP of honey or agave for desired taste.

What you do:

  • Once again, throw everything together in a resealable container and SHAKE SHAKE SHAKE!
  • Or, if you have access, this dressing blends well if you put it in a blender. Not a requirement, but simply a luxury.
  • Once again, this will keep for about 5 days. Shake when ready to serve as oil-separation is natural.

These are just a few of my favorite meal-prep regulars because they are so easy and can get me through the day without becoming a horrendously hangry human. In the fast and furious times of grad school, good nutrition is a necessity to keep those mental pistons firing. Please check back for more simple, healthy, and DELICIOUS recipes to help get you through your day!

"Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food" ~Hippocrates