If you’re ever looking for me, you can almost *always* find me in the kitchen. I like to think of it as HRHQ (healthful radiance headquarters) because it’s where allllll my work gets done. It’s my favorite room in the house and I love it most when it smells like cookies. These vegan oatmeal chocolate chip cookies to be exact. But most of the it smells like roasted veggies, which isn’t a bad thing.
I’m not one to full-out “meal prep” but at the beginning of each week my present self is always thanking my past self for preparing some veggies, starches, proteins, and dips/spreads. I use these to make my favorite loaded bowl for lunch or dinner. Sounds like a ton of work but when it’s done efficiently and with care, it can be therapeutic. Or maybe that’s just me.
Today, I’m finally sharing exactly what goes on in this space creative space of mine. Below you’ll find everything from veggie prep to pantry staples to product recs to make your cooking space your happy place too.
First and Foremost: Veggies
If you follow along on instagram (@healthfulradiance), you already know loaded veggie bowls are my lifeline. Eaten out of a wooden bowl, because nothing screams health more than some hippy vibes. Consider those covered.
Before I can cook the veg I have to head out and buy some (probably the most insightful sentence i’ve ever typed). What’s always on my list?
- cauliflower florets and cauliflower rice
- large carrots
- broccoli florets (or broccolini if i see it, like this better)!
- a few bunches of various greens (right now i’m into rainbow chard, purple kale, and dandelion greens)! and always a bag of tuscan kale!
- baby portabella mushrooms
- brussel sprouts
- butternut squash
- red bell peppers
- grape tomatoes (my dad swears grape and cherry tomatoes taste the same. i’m team grape)
- sweet potatoes (garnet, jewel, and japanese varieties)
- frozen fruit for smoothies (strawberries and blueberries for me)
- a bag or two of yellow onions
In the produce section I also pick up some non-veg thangsssss like:
- boxed steamed lentils (save me a ton of time. i buy these)
- avocados (lil babes are actually a fruit!)
- lemon juice (use this for my morning ACV tonic, recipe can be found in this post)!
And other refrigerated goodies that I always pick up:
- vegan greek yogurt
- vegan cream cheese
- almond or cashew milk
Depending on busy I am the upcoming week, sometimes I’ll buy pre-cut vegetables to help me save time. This does cost more, so I only choose to do so on occasion. If it saves me time during a super busy week (say, finals season), I see the extra cost as paying for itself. Less time nixing a head of cauliflower means more time drowning in powerpoint slides. woo!
For tougher veggies like broccoli, cauliflower florets, and butternut squash, I like to steam before I roast! I find that steaming helps with roasting and getting a soft center without burning. To save time and reduce clean up, I utilize my microwave for this. All I do for a quick steam is place chopped veggies in a microwave safe bowl, fill it with enough water to cover the bottom, and throw a paper towel on top. Pop in the microwave for about 3-4 minutes and then drain and let cool before roasting. Make sure your veggies are DRY before adding spices and oil to roast!
be generous with fats! i use a lotttt of oil to roast as well as a variety of seasonings. coat veggies with oil and mix around with your hands to ensure they’re evenly coated (front and back)! this is how you get veggies that have that *beautiful* char on the outside with a soft center.
Make sure your oven is completely heated before putting the veggies in. If you put them in as the temperature is changing they won’t cook evenly! As an extension of this, make sure you’re cutting your veggies into pieces that are roughly the same size. This ensures that there’s an even cooking time for the batch. Example? If you have a mix of super thick and super thin sweet potato fries, the thin ones will burn before the thick ones have cooked all the way through.
Baking Base Greens:
Recently I tried to bake kale chips and while those didn’t turn out, I accidentally discovered my new favorite way to eat greens…and that’s baked. Eating cooked vegetables as opposed to raw ones is so much easier on the digestive system. Another major plus is that they’re so much more flavorful when cooked down and the natural sugars are released. Lately I’ve been massaging rainbow chard leaves and stems in avocado oil, sea salt, and garlic powder and then baking on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet at 300 for 10 minutes. So flavorful and tender!
What I Use Roasted Veggies For:
- Curries and stews! I always use roasted veggies as opposed to raw ones because they’re much more flavorful (think caramelized and sweet). for example, when I make cauliflower curry I roast the florets and then toss them in the pot after to soak up the coconut milk!
- Loaded veggie bowls. I find serving veggies cold leaves them tasting much sweeter. once they’re roasted and stored a veggie bowl takes minutes to throw together.
BUILDING A LOADED BOWL:
- It’s almost too easy. Each one begins with a base of baked greens (above). then i pile on any roasted veggies I have on hand, usually portioning each one into its own pile (for the picture)! A dollop of hummus, guacamole, or cashew dip always steals the show, but not without a sprinkle of some seeds and nuts. crunch in these bowls is ALWAYS there. Usually just after the picture! make sure you take everything you see on social media with a grain of salt…my bowls are always completed AFTER I snap a pic. Meaning I double everything, toss in messy grains (like brown rice or quinoa), and usually dump the rest of the hummus container on top. To each their own!
- Dips. I love blending up roasted eggplant or roasted red peppers for different spreads. Again, such a flavor enhancer!
Thoughts on “Meal Prep”
Like I mentioned earlier, I tend not to conduct full blown meal preps in the traditional sense. instead of many complete meals, I like to have separate components of various meals prepared. this way, I can toss different combinations together when meal times come around. However, I do like to have one or two meals to come home to after my late night classes (dinner at 9 PM, anyone)?
Full Meals I’ve Been Prepping:
- any variation of my immunity stew (essentially lots of greens sautéed with onions, celery, and beans cooked in broth)
- curries or chilis (like this sticky sweet potato and lentil curry)
- cashew cream sauce for pasta
My favorite food philosophy is to eat more foods that ARE ingredients and less foods WITH ingredients. A significant portion of my diet comes from fresh produce but nuts, seeds, and other dry products make up an equally big part.
What’s In My Pantry At All Times:
*Note that these can be bought in the bulk section of the grocery store, so you can only buy as much as you need (since these products can be pricey)!
- raw cashews, raw almond, raw walnuts*
- sunflower, pumpkin, flax, chia seeds*
- raisins, craisins, and dates*
- cacao nibs and cacao powder*
- gluten-free oats* (if you’re gluten-free or intolerant, make sure you check the bag! not all varieties are gluten-free unless stated)
- quinoa, brown rice, all varieties of lentils*
- canned full-fat coconut milk (store this upside down so the creamy part forms right at the top)
- canned beans (I eat A LOT of beans as they’re one of my main protein sources) (also make sure the can is labeled non-BPA, as this can interfere with hormone health)!
- black beans, chickpeas, red kidney beans, cannelloni beans, lupini beans, fava beans
- nut butters (I’m actually not a huge fan of nut butters eaten on their own. i tend to use them in big servings to bake with).
- peanut, almond, cashew, sunflower butter
- tahini (savory-ish sesame seed spread)
- baking flours
- almond, coconut, quinoa (a favorite lately), oat flours
- gluten-free pasta
- cereal (I love layering cereal at the bottom of my smoothies for a crunch! i also like brown rice crisps for making homemade rice krispy treats)
- any variety from One Degree Organics!
- granola (homemade is best but some favorites are…)
- Purely Elizabeth
- Effi Foods (chickpea granola)!!
- pink sea salt, garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, curry powder, nutritional yeast, turmeric (i personally don’t love this one and rarely use it…waiting for the health community to expel me lol)
- blender: i used to think that all blenders were the same.
That was until I got this vitamix. I give it all the credit for my thick and rich smoothies! they’re definitely pricey but 100% worth the investment. You can get them cheaper if you buy a “reconditioned” version!
- Food Processor:
I use this cuisinart one! I love making dips and spreads in here because everything blends really well. I’ve never done it, but i’ve also heard some people making…smoothies in one? You’ll have to try that for yourself. when I’m making zucchini bread or carrot cake desserts, I also use a food processor to pulse the veggies for the batter. little hack!
- cookie sheets:
I roast everything on these USA Pan cookie sheets with parchment paper.
I’ve collected lots of glass tupperware over the years, but my Pyrex collections have lasted the longest. Pricey, but worth the investment. For storing dips and other smaller-batch items, I like Weck jars best. I drink smoothies from these too!
When storing anything I cook, I ALWAYS wait for it to cool completely before putting it in a glass container in the fridge. If you put hot veggies in a container and seal it, the residual heat will be trapped and cause them to not only keep cooking, but to become soggy and nastayyyyyy.
Saving For Later
One the most frequent questions I get asked is how long roasted veggies or other recipes last in the fridge. to be completely honest, nothing i make truly lasts longer than a week because I’ll eat it by then…lol. I’d say use your judgement. Your eyes and nose are your best friends here. I know roasted butternut squash is bad because it starts to get slimey after about a week…that kind of thing. If you have a feeling it’s been too long but know you won’t finish what you have in the fridge in time, FREEZE IT!
If you’re trying to get into cooking and eating healthy, embrace being in the kitchen. Don’t let it scare you off. It can be intimidating and overwhelming not knowing where to begin. Take a breath and ask your body what it truly wants. What is it craving? What sounds good right now? What recipe can you just NOT stop thinking about? Make that. give yourself that. And go from there. Like nearly everything else in life, it’ll come naturally if you let it. The more you immerse yourself in the cooking experience, the more it opens itself up to you. Start small. gather a recipe or two and go through the motions of each as mindfully as you can. Be consistent. Pick a day or a portion of a day to set aside for some cooking, and stick to that. Buy new kitchen gadgets and appliances and new-to-you ingredients to get yourself excited to cook. My weakness? Ceramic bowls. and matching mugs…my birthday’s in two weeks everyone 😀
Show your kitchen love and excitement and it will return these to you. maybe not right away, but eventually in the form of the best meal you’ve ever had. All it takes is time and practice…and for me, a few *extra* shakes of sea salt, because #guiltypleasure. Working on that.