As a foodie at heart, bland and boring meal prep crushes my soul. God bless those people who can eat boiled chicken and steamed broccoli for lunch and be satisfied. I wish I could be that person, but I just can’t. Which is also why I don’t have abs. You win some, you lose some. My husband and I love cooking and going out to dinner. Basically, we love to eat, but that can mean added calories. I’m also not the person who can order a salad and a side when we’re trying the hot new restaurant in town. Gnocchi special? Yes, please. So, during the week I try to eat as clean as possible so I’m feeling less guilty after an indulgent meal.
To me, clean eating means protein-centric whole foods with minimal carbs and dairy. This can be hard to stick to if you’re buying lunch during the week, and my office building doesn’t have a ton of healthy options when it comes to grabbing something quick. So, I usually end up bringing my lunch to work. Dairy and gluten free recipes can quickly box you into some seriously bland meal prepping, but last winter I was on a quest to spice up my meal prep.
Thanks to Pinterest and my husband’s subscription to Bon Appetit magazine, I found three recipes that I can count on for flavor, clean eating and getting me excited to eat leftovers at my desk!
Vegan Butternut Squash Soup
Don’t let the word vegan deter you. This Butternut Squash soup from Gimme Some Oven is one of the best soup recipes I’ve ever encountered. What makes this soup so great is how versatile it can be and the fact it’s cooked in the crock pot or Instantpot. I am a huge fan of crock pot recipes for meal prep because it means less time spent in the kitchen on Sunday funday! The dairy-free, but ridiculously creamy, squash base pairs well with a Mexican or a Thai twist. I like to add Thai red chili paste to kick up the heat factor, or my husband will top with some ground chorizo for added protein. The bottom line? Any way you make this soup it turns out great.
Alyssa hack: I add an extra can of coconut milk so the soup turns out really smooth and creamy. It makes me feel like I am eating a rich, dairy-based soup, but without the stomach ache. I also hate chopping butternut squash (don’t we all!) so I grab two of the pre-cut bags from Trader Joe’s vs. a full butternut squash.
Larb Na AKA Spicy Thai Chicken Bowls
The title of this Bon Appetit article is extremely accurate because the first time my husband made this for me my exact words were, “I can’t get this in my mouth fast enough”. Asian cuisine is great when you’re trying to avoid gluten and dairy. Most dishes are served with rice vs. noodles (if there are noodles they are usually rice noodles), and they don’t have much dairy in their traditional foods. The word “larb” essentially means minced in Thai. If you pick up a Thai cookbook you will likely find a few dishes with the word Larb, and it’s referencing the way the meat is prepared.
Another great foundation for a meal prep recipe is some sort of rice bowl. It could be a burrito bowl, beef and broccoli or in this case, Larb Na. We usually double this recipe when we meal prep and pair it with 1/2 cup of rice and tons of fresh mint, basil and cilantro. The freshness of the herbs almost makes you forget that you just heated this up in your office microwave. If you’re not into spicy, dial it back on the chiles and the hot sauce.
Alyssa hack: Instead of chiles we use serrano peppers to dial down the heat. We also replace the sambal oelek with good ol’ siracha. When I eat this at lunch I top it with a few drizzles of Thai sweet chili sauce. I’m getting hungry just writing this!
Lentil Tortilla Soup
I was so excited the last time I made this soup that I forgot to take my own photo. It’s that good. Another one of my favorite soups and crock pot recipes is this Lentil Tortilla soup from Peas and Crayons. It’s packed with protein and flavor! Plus, like the butternut squash recipe, you can add toppings to it. I’m finding a pattern here that I love soup with toppings…
My husband loads this up with cheese, green onions and cilantro, but it’s also great on it’s own. We’ll double this recipe for two people, but it tends to be chunkier than a soup if I don’t add extra broth. If you like your soup more like stew, I’d keep the broth portions as is and pair it with some tortilla chips.
Alyssa hack: I skip on the heavy cream to keep this healthier, but if I am craving something creamier I will add a dollop of nonfat plain Greek yogurt and mix it in. It gives the soup a nice tang to cut down the spice.