One thing that always makes me feel like I can take whatever my week throws at me is having a game plan. That usually includes a workout schedule, making sure my house is tidy and most importantly meal prepping. I find that while I don’t enjoy having to switch up my plans if I don’t meal prep it is an uphill battle. Once I get home from work the last thing I want to do is think about is prepping lunches for my husband and I. That's 10 meals for lunches alone! This is why I find that using a few hours on my day off is well worth the sacrifice in the long run. Not only does this save me time but this is a HUGE money-savings as well. A week’s worth of lunches for two people, even at $5 a pop will run you $50...for one meal during the day. For that amount of money, I could go grocery shopping, have a date night or treat myself to a mani/pedi. It just makes sense to prep, especially once you realize how simple it could be.
This week I made one of my staples; taco salad. Now, this salad does not contain actual tacos or tortilla chips but you can add them to yours if you'd like. The beauty of salads and prepping your own meals is that you can switch out ingredients as needed and customize them to fit your dietary needs. As long as I have my base ingredients; rice, lettuce, and black beans then I’m set. I switch up my toppings based on my taste for the week, deals at the grocery or how much time I want to spend in the kitchen. For example, if I don’t want to eat or cook meat I’ll just increase the amount of beans I use and make that my main protein source.
The salad pictured contains; rice, lettuce, tomato, black beans, fajita veggies, shredded chicken and shredded cheese. Personally I don’t put a dressing on this salad as the individual ingredients are so flavorful you don't need it plus you’re saving yourself some calories.
When I first began meal prepping I avoided salads as they were boring and left me feeling hungry soon after. As time went progressed and I became more confident I began trying new things and realized a salad is only as boring as you make it. You can put almost anything in a salad. To keep them fresh throughout the week layering is key. More wet ingredients go on the bottom while drier ingredients go on top. Only mix your salad once you are ready to eat to help retain maximum freshness. I’ve also found that the more colorful my salads, the more visually appealing they are which makes me look forward to eating healthy. So be bold and mix things up!
This recipe yields 10 servings. This is enough for a full week of lunches for me and my husband but if you’re only prepping for yourself them awesome. Now you have a full week of lunches and dinners for probably $20 or less. This took me all in all about 1.5-2 hours but I was also doing other things so this may not take you as long.
2-3 romaine lettuce hearts
1 10oz package cherry tomatoes
½ red onion
½ red bell pepper
½ green bell pepper
½ yellow/orange bell pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
Pinch of salt
Pinch of pepper
Tip: You can also sub the salt and pepper for fajita seasoning which will give you a deeper flavor.
3 cups medium-grain rice
1 tablespoon turmeric
1 chicken bouillon cube (vegetable bouillon also works great)
1 tablespoon olive oil
Enough water to just cover the rice
Tip: Purchase prepacked yellow rice if you don’t have turmeric. If you can’t have rice, quinoa is a great substitute here or just skip this step and double up on veggies.
3-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 teaspoon black pepper
2 large tablespoons Sofrito
1 teaspoon olive oil
Tip: If you don’t have or want to buy individual spices taco seasoning will do just fine. Protein substitutes that go great with this recipe if you can’t have chicken are beef, shrimp and if you don’t eat meat then skip this step and double up on black beans.
2 cups shredded cheese
1 - 26.5oz can black beans
KITCHEN TOOLS I RECOMMEND FOR THIS RECIPE
Just so you know! Below are affiliate links to the products I recommend. Using the links below won’t cost you more anything more but I will receive a small commission.
The first thing I like to do is season and marinate my chicken. Apply all of the salt, garlic powder, onion powder, black pepper, sofrito and olive oil to your chicken. I like to do this in a gallon Ziplock bag. This allows me to contain the mess and massage the bag with my hands to evenly distribute everything. While not mandatory I highly recommend allowing your chicken to marinate in the fridge for a few hours to overnight. Because we aren't using any dressings on our salad having each individual component packed with flavor is key.
Place your chicken breasts on a rack in your Instant Pot on high pressure for 25 minutes in the sealed position. Add 1 cup of water or just enough to cover the bottom of your Instant Pot. This will allow for the juices to drip down which can be saved and used later as broth. I also like this method as it creates a drier chicken which will shred easier and store better in the refrigerator. If you don’t have an Instant Pot you can bake your chicken breasts for 20-30 minutes at 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Just be sure to remove the chicken from its juices before shredding.
While your chicken is cooking prepare your rice. Place a nonstick pan over medium-high heat and add your olive oil, rice, and spices. As the oil heats up continuously stir your rice and seasoning mixture. The rice grains may begin to turn a bright/more opaque color. This is what you want. Do not burn the rice grains. Once everything is incorperated add just enough water to the pan to completely cover the rice. Turn the heat to medium-low and cover the rice. Allow the rice to cook until all of the water is absorbed or about 20 minutes. Before you turn off the heat be sure to taste the rice to ensure doneness.
While the rice cooks you can move onto the fajita mixture. Place a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat and add your olive oil. Once the oil is hot add your onions, tri-colored peppers, and spices. Cook while constantly stirring for 2-3 minutes. The goal is to cook the onions just enough to take the raw edge off but to still have some texture in your veggies. Once done be sure to remove from heat otherwise your veggies will continue to cook and become soggy.
Slice your romaine hearts into ribbons and wash. I HIGHLY recommend you invest in a salad spinner. You can wash and dry your salad in an instant and the drier your salad, the more crispy it will be and the better dressings will adhere to it. I got my salad spinner a few years ago from IKEA for $4.99. Well worth it! If you don’t have a salad spinner wash and dry your salad as best as you can.
Strain and wash your black beans to remove any of the black bean liquid. Rinse until the water runs clear. Allow to sit and strain so your beans are not wet.
Last step! Wash and slice your cherry tomatoes in half.
Now for the fun part! Assembling your salad. Be sure to allow all ingredients to cool to room temperature before you move onto this step. Layering your salad will help keep it fresher longer. Wetter ingredients towards the bottom, drier ingredients towards the top. This trick even works if you do decide you want some salad dressing. Just place your salad dressing down first before you begin assembly and DO NOT under any circumstances mix your salad until you are ready to eat.
DUAL COMPARTMENT CONTAINERS
COMPARTMENT 1: SMALLER COMPARTMENT
COMPARTMENT 2: LARGER COMPARTMENT
Beans (I know, I know, in my photos the beans are on top but I had to make it look good for the gram)
SINGLE COMPARTMENT CONTAINERS
I hope you enjoy this recipe! Please feel free to mix it up, switch out ingredients and try new things. I would love to see your meal preps so if you post your photos online tag me! #creativecrucian