Sure, technically I suppose you could use a white cake mix and simply ~add strawberries~. But that wouldn’t be as good as this cake. I’ll tell you why.
Packed full of one cup of fresh chopped strawberries, this cake can get heavy. All those heavy strawberries in a light, white cake? Not a good balance.
This muffin mix provides a much sturdier, much heartier base to support the plethora of fresh strawberries. The strawberries stay put in the batter (not sinking to the bottom, as they’d do in a thinner, lighter batter of a regular cake) and provide fresh jammy strawberry goodness in each bite.
I recommend serving this as is, no frosting, with a side of whipped cream or your favorite vanilla ice cream. Some fresh chopped mint would complement the strawberries well.
Special Equipment (Kinda)
To make this strawberry cake, you’ll need a few special pieces of equipment.
These are all pretty common items. Pick up some cheesecloth at your grocery store if you don’t have any on hand. It’s relatively inexpensive and a versatile tool to have in your kitchen arsenal.
You’ll use the blender, cheesecloth and liquid measuring cup to create the strawberry milk. If you have a fat separator measuring cup (see below), use it! Rest the cheesecloth on the top strainer.
Again, if you don’t have these items, or if you just don’t feel like going through the effort of making the strawberry milk, you don’t have to. HOWEVER, I can’t guarantee the cake will be as tasty. Some things are worth the extra time, and this strawberry milk is one of them.
A Note on the Strawberries
I recommend slicing your strawberries for the 1 cup measurement ahead of time. Since strawberries can vary widely in size, it will be easier to measure this first. For the 3-4 strawberries in the strawberry milk, gather your most average-sized, consistent strawberries from the lot and use for this purpose.
Taste your strawberries before using them in the cake. For best results, use the darkest, ripest and sweetest strawberries. If yours are a bit tart, that’s okay too! The sugar in the muffin mix will help compensate for that. Serve the cake with a sweet whipped cream and no one will ever know the difference. *wink*
For reference, these are the giant strawberries we have here at the fruit stands on the Central Coast. They are consistently the size of my palm and typically weigh 3 ounces each.
Really, this cake gives you two hacks in one. The first, using the muffin mix. And the second — making your own strawberry milk.
See the instructions on the box call for 2/3 cup of water to be added to the batter. No sir. We don’t simply add water here.
Instead, we’re going to make our own fresh strawberry milk. Don’t worry, it sounds more complicated than it is.
Essentially, we’re going to blend our preferred milk (almond, oat, etc.) with a few strawberries. Then, to ensure the cake isn’t full of too many strawberry seeds, we strain it through cheese cloth. And voila! Strawberry milk.
Set up your cheesecloth directly over your glass measuring cup. That way you can strain and measure at the same time, stopping when you reach the 2/3 cup that the recipe calls for.
Strawberry Cake – Dairy Free
This quick and easy strawberry cake recipe uses blueberry muffin mix as it's base. Comes together in 15 minutes, with the help of some homemade strawberry milk for a super moist, luxe spring cake.
1boxKrusteaz blueberry muffin mixor other boxed muffin mix
1cupfresh strawberries chopped, plus 3-4 extra whole
⅔cupmilk of choicealmond or oat work great!
2wholeeggslarge is best
Make the strawberry milk
Instead of using water like the box suggests, we're going to make a quick strawberry milk, which will help to keep the cake super moist and infuse the strawberry flavor evenly throughout. Making the strawberry milk is technically optional, but for best results it's recommended.
First, take your 3-4 whole strawberries and remove the tops. Quarter the strawberries and add to a blender (or food processor) with 2/3 cup milk.
Blend the berries and milk together well, ensuring there are no chunks.
Set up to strain the milk. This step is optional, but makes the cake smoother by removing the extra seeds. Place a piece of cheesecloth over the top of the liquid measuring cup. You can use a fine strainer or sieve to place the cheesecloth on so it is more secure. Slowly pour the strawberry milk over the cheesecloth into the measuring cup, squeezing out extra liquid as necessary. Stop when the milk has reached the 2/3 cup mark on the measuring cup.
Mix the batter
Set the oven to 350°F. Line a 10"x7" baking dish with parchment paper. This makes it easier to remove the cake from the pan after baking.
Open the box of Krusteaz blueberry muffin mix. Remove the dry mix and the can of blueberries. Set the blueberries aside for later use. See recipe notes for ideas.
In a separate bowl, combine the dry muffin mix, vegetable oil, eggs, ⅔ cup strained strawberry milk. Mix well to combine.
Gently fold in the 1 cup chopped strawberries, ensuring even distribution throughout the mix.
Pour the batter into the pan lined with parchment.It may be thick. That's good! We want the batter to be thicker, because the strawberries will release their own juices as the cake cooks.Smooth out the batter as best you can to ensure even coverage.
Bake at 350° for 48 minutes, checking for doneness by inserting a toothpick into the center of the cake. It should come out clean.
Leave in the baking dish for about 20 minutes, then remove from the dish and let cool on a rack or cutting board until ready to serve.
Really, the key to a good buttercream is allowing the butter enough time to do its thing. Whipping the butter for a prolonged amount of time (either with a stand mixer or a hand mixer) is called creaming the butter. When making buttercream (this is also a trick for great cookies) it’s imperative to take the time to cream the butter first, then cream the butter with the sugar.
Doing so incorporates air into the butter, making it light and fluffy instead of heavy. Don’t rush this process! It’s crucial to achieve that creamy, light consistency.
You can absolutely make this buttercream ahead of time. Store it in the fridge and let it come to room temperature before attempting to decorate your cake.
For those fine details, I like to make my buttercream, then immediately fill my piping bags. If I’m planning on using different colors, I’ll mix the colors, fill the bags, then store them in the fridge until ready to use.
This recipe is intended to be as simple and streamlined as possible. Pick quality ingredients and you’re sure to have a delicious buttercream base for all of your creative cake creations.
Most importantly, have fun!
White Vanilla Buttercream
This White Vanilla Buttercream is the perfect base recipe for all of your decorating projects. Whether making a simple sheet cake, or a fully decorated birthday cake, this buttercream is easy to make and holds up well. Make a few batches and add different colors for easy decorating!
1 ½cupunsalted butter (3 standard sticks), softened to room temp.
¼cupheavy whipping cream
Beat butter until soft and fluffy.
Incorporate powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time, waiting until combined before adding more.
Once all powdered sugar is mixed into butter, add salt and vanilla extract.
Add the whipping cream in a slow steady stream with the mixer still on.
When making buttercream, it is imperative to scrape the sides of the mixer consistently, as this helps to incorporate everything evenly. Particularly if you have a mixer like mine, with a deep bowl, it is important to scrape the bottom to make sure everything is mixed in evenly.Adapted from a Preppy Kitchen recipe.
This is a meal prep recipe that can easily be adapted to supplement different proteins and side dishes throughout the week, or to be used as is for a delicious and healthy meal prep lunch!
It’s flavor profile is flexible and truly can be made into a side dish or entrée with anything. Similar to Spanish Rice, Spring Harvest Rice uses fresh tomatoes and a plethora of vegetables and spices.
Make as is and it will yield about 10 cups of rice.
Swap It Out
Not everyone likes peas and bell peppers, and that’s a-okay with me! Here’s a few substitution ideas to suit your tastes.
Instead of PEAS try edamame or sliced snap peas
Instead of BELL PEPPERS try carrots and celery
Instead of RICE try farro, barley, quinoa or couscous. Cook according to package directions and follow the rest of the recipe as written.
When swapping vegetables in this recipe, keep the measurements the same. This will ensure your rice comes out as tasty as possible!
Additionally, I encourage you to use simply whatever you have on hand. Even if it’s a combination of the vegetables in your fridge to match the measurements in the recipe – that’s great! You’ll prep a delicious rice dish and cut down on food waste. Win-win.
See recipe for a full list of substitutions.
Spring Harvest Rice Meal Ideas
Here’s a few ways you can make Spring Harvest Rice a meal.
Wrap rice with black or refried beans in a flour tortilla topped with shredded cheese for an easy vegetarian burrito.
Serve with rotisserie chicken for an easy weeknight dinner.
The Cooking Process
To make this rice the best it can be, the vegetables need time to simmer. Put the pot on while you’re doing other things around the house, and check it periodically. You won’t need to watch it the entire time it cooks, so it’s good to cook when you’re already at home and can peek in on it every once in a while.
Browse through the photos below to see different phases of the cooking process and the final product.
There’s no replacement for time when cooking. Each step of the recipe builds a layer of flavor, toasting the spices, sautéing the aromatics, and then adding the fresh tomatoes and allowing them to cook down. The result is a lightly spiced, flavorful rice packed with vegetables. It’s a hearty, flavorful dish.
Spring Harvest Rice (Meal Prep Recipe – Vegan)
This is a meal prep recipe that can easily be adapted to supplement different proteins and side dishes throughout the week, or to be used as is for a delicious and healthy meal prep lunch! It's flavor profile is flexible and truly can be made into a side dish or entrée with anything. Similar to Spanish Rice, Spring Harvest Rice uses fresh tomatoes and a plethora of vegetables and spices. Make as is and this will yield about 10 cups of nutrient-rich rice.
1tablespooneach of the following herbs: oregano, parsley, onion powder, garlic powder, smoked paprika, cumin
1green bell pepperdiced
4cupsfresh tomatodiced (subsitute canned)
½red bell pepperdiced
First, cook your rice. I prefer using an Instant Pot, or Rice Cooker, but you are welcome to use any method you'd like, including microwaved steamed rice (no shame in shortcuts). Substitute couscous, farro, or barley and cook according to package directions. Set aside for now.
In a large, heavy bottomed pot, or dutch oven over medium/medium high heat add oregano, parsley, onion powder, garlic powder, smoked paprika and cumin. Toast briefly (a minute or less) to bolster their flavors. Next, add in 3 tablespoons of olive oil, or preferred cooking oil, and heat until shimmering.
Add diced onion, garlic, and bell peppers. Sauté until tender, about 10 minutes.
Add tomatoes and simmer uncovered over medium heat about 30-40 minutes, until tomatoes are cooked down and there is minimal liquid left in the pot. Simply put, it should look less like tomato sauce and more like a big pot of sautéed vegetables.
Incorporate the bag of frozen peas and salt and pepper. Mix well to combine and defrost the peas.When using frozen peas, it's best to add them at the last minute. If they cook too long, they turn mushy!
Add the rice 1-2 cups at a time, mixing well. Be sure to break up the chunks of rice to blend with the vegetables. Repeat the process until all of the cooked rice is incorporated. Done!
Substitute rice for farro, barley, quinoa, or couscous. Cook according to package directions.
Combine any of your preferred spices for a custom blend. Add some cayenne if you enjoy heat, or swap basil for paprika if you prefer things more mild.
Substitute sliced snap peas or edamame for frozen peas, if preferred.
Substitute carrots and celery for bell peppers, maintaining measurements.
A quick and easy recipe for hearty, delicious chickpea salad. Think of it like chicken salad, but with chickpeas and bell peppers instead of chicken and celery! Enjoy on toasted bread, over leafy greens, or on your favorite crackers.
In addition to their enviable nutritional value, chickpeas are simply delicious! They are (in my humble opinion) the legume of all legumes. Their creamy texture lends itself well to dips like hummus. Alternatively, they make a delicious addition to any dish pan fried with some olive oil and spices, my favorite way to eat them.
Canned chickpeas are affordable and accessible, making them a must have pantry item.
Ways to Eat
Enjoy this chickpea salad on some toasted bread with spinach as a sandwich, or spooned over leafy greens for a hearty salad. Or spread over crackers for a quick snack!
This chickpea salad can be made in a large batch ahead of time and enjoyed throughout the week. It’s a great meal prep item because it lasts well in the fridge and can be enjoyed in a variety of ways.
A quick and easy recipe for hearty, delicious chickpea salad. Think of it like chicken salad, but with chickpeas and bell peppers instead of chicken and celery! Enjoy on toasted bread, over leafy greens, or on your favorite crackers.
This applesauce recipe provides a guideline to make easy, homemade applesauce. Adjust sugar and spices to your own tastes. Cut the apples according to how long you have to cook it, and how chunky (or smooth) you’d like your applesauce. Tastes great, simple to prepare and way better than store bought!
Cook the apples low and slow in a covered sauce pan. This eliminates the need to add water to the applesauce, which dilutes the flavor, and often facilitates the need for more sugar.
As Sweet As You Like It
Feel free to adjust the recipe to your tastes. Add more sugar if you’d like, or eliminate it completely for a delicious sugar-free treat.
Use any apples that you prefer. I prefer a gala or fuji for best flavor and sweetness. Taste a slice of the apples you will use. This will help determine how much sweetness will need to be added to the applesauce.
Chunky or Smooth
Just like peanut butter, everyone has their own preferences when it comes to applesauce. Whether you like it smooth or chunky, this recipe has you covered. Slice your apples into large chunks and forgo the mashing for a satisfyingly chunky applesauce. Or dice smaller apple pieces and mash (or blend/food process) well at the end for a silky smooth applesauce treat.
So Versatile You Can Eat It At Every Meal
Here’s a few ideas to serve and enjoy your tasty homemade applesauce:
Spooned over some oatmeal, topped with sliced almonds
Mixed with savory spices and served with pork chop
Layered with yogurt and granola for a filling parfait
Sealed in puff pastry for easy, flaky hand pies
On the side with some hot, fresh potato pancakes
Enjoyed straight from the jar as a midnight snack
Stovetop Apple Sauce
This applesauce recipe provides a guideline to make easy, homemade applesauce. Adjust sugar and spices to your own tastes. Cut the apples according to how long you have to cook it, and how chunky (or smooth) you'd like your applesauce. Tastes great, simple to prepare and way better than store bought!
1tablespoonyour favorite sugargranulated, brown or monkfruit (optional)
Peel and core the apples. Slice and dice into medium-sized chunks. The smaller the chunks, the faster the applesauce will cook down.
Add apples to a saucepan over medium heat. Add lemon juice. Cover pan with lid and let cook 10-15 minutes. The heat will release the apple's natural juices. This eliminates the need to add water to the pan. Just ensure the pan is not too hot so the apples don't burn. Stir occasionally.
Once the apples begin to release their juices and start to soften, add in sugar (optional), cinnamon and nutmeg. Cover pan again and let cook down another 10-15 minutes.
Test the apple's doneness by poking with a fork. If the fork slides easily, they are ready. If not recover and cook an additional 5-10 minutes until ready. The cooking time of the apples depends on the type of apple and how large the pieces were cut.
To mash or not to mash. If you prefer a smoother applesauce consistency, you can now mash the applesauce into a smooth paste or use an immersion blender. If you prefer chunkier applesauce, no need to mash.
Taste the applesauce and adjust spices if desired. If it needs a touch of sweetness, add agave or honey. Feel free to add more spices if desired.
Let cool and store in an airtight jar in the fridge.
Use a six-section apple slicer to make coring the apples a breeze. Leave slices in their larger size or cut in half for faster cooking time.
The smaller the apple slices, the faster they will cook.
Add additional spices like all-spice or ginger if you’d like.
Use honey or agave in place of sugar, or go sugar-free!
If not using sugar, start with 1 teaspoon of lemon juice and increase if desired.
We all know pine nuts right? Those small, decadent, outrageously expensive nuts that melt like butter on the tongue and give traditional basil pesto it’s signature flavor. But where do they come from? Today, we’ll find out!
Turns out, the answer is closer than we may think. It’s in the name! Pine nuts, in North America, come from pinyon pine trees.
The pinyon pine is well-equipped to live in treacherous desert environments — they are compact, slow-growing, and drought tolerant. Since they’re accustomed to hard desert life, the pinyon pine grows primarily in the southwest, with some as far north as Wyoming.
Now, while pine nuts harvested in North America may come from the pinyon pine, what about European pine nuts? Pesto, a staple of Italian cuisine, is made specifically with pine nuts. And these pine nuts come from a different tree.
Meet the stone pine, which has been cultivated as a pine nut machine for over 5,000 years in Europe. The stone pine is native to the Mediterranean region and Southern Europe.
Getting to the Good Stuff
Now that we know the basics — that pine nuts do indeed come from pinecones — we can get into the good stuff.
Before harvesting, the pine nuts need time to mature. This can take anywhere from 18 months to three years. Yes three years! Apparently good things do come to those who wait.
Typically, pine cones bud in the spring, grow through the summer, remain dormant in the cold months (fall/winter) and mature again through the following spring/summer. Each varietal of tree may have different maturation times. The trees that take three years go through cycles of growth and dormancy until the finally reach peak harvesting stage.
Turns out, harvesting pine nuts is no small feat, which accounts for their significant price tag at the grocery store. Thankfully, the Huffington Post debunked the myth of pine nuts for us:
“Pine nuts are ready to harvest about 10 days before the green cone begins to open.
The cones are dried in a burlap bag in the sun for 20 days, to speed up the process of drying and opening.
The cones are then smashed (as a way to quickly release the seeds) and the seeds are separated by hand from the cone fragments.
The fact that it takes a lot of time and patience is an understatement — and justifies the high price of pine nuts.”
So with the pine nuts finally mature and released from their cone casing, their all ready to use now right? Not quite. The pine nuts themselves have an external shell, which then has to be removed to reveal the sweet golden raindrop-shaped nut inside.
For the ambitious home gardener, you can learn how to harvest pine nuts at home from your very own pinyon pine tree. Read more at Gardening Know How.
Pine Nut Palooza
Now for the fun part! What to do with all these tasty pine nuts. Here’s three recipes to try.
Pine Nuts may be the most buttery of all the nuts. They are full of delicious oils that come out when they are lightly roasted in the oven, or toasted in a frying pan. Sprinkle them on pastas, salads, anywhere that could use a delicious, light buttery crunch.
1. Traditional Pesto Genovese
For an authentic use of pine nuts, try this Original Pesto Genovese recipe. This recipe uses a traditional mortar and pestle to create a luscious, smooth pesto bursting with fresh basil, parmigiano reggiano, and pine nuts.
2. Italian Pine Nut Cookies
For those with a sweet tooth, try out one of my personal favorite Italian cookies. While I can’t share my family’s secret recipe, this Food52 recipe is a good replacement. The sweetness of the almond paste (ground sugar and almonds) balances out the buttery pine nuts on top. It’s the perfect nutty cookie, not too sweet.
3. Pine Nuts on Pasta
Try some toasted pine nuts sprinkled on this nutrient-packed, extra flavorful Pasta with Kale and Garbanzo Beans. Toasted pine nuts go well with pretty much any pasta dish, so I encourage you to make your favorite and add a sprinkle of pine nuts on top. Or, use the pesto recipe above with your favorite pasta and add an extra pinch of pine nuts just before serving!
What’s your favorite way to enjoy pine nuts? Let us know in the comments below!
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This recipe was designed as a blank canvas. No vanilla, sugar or other flavoring is added to the crepes, making them to perfect vessel for any topping. Literally, anything. The sky is the limit!
A fun way to do crepes is with a crepe bar. Set out a plethora of topping items and everyone gets to make their own. Here are some ideas to set up your own crepe bar at home:
Jams, Jellies and Preserves
Cherries and Berries
Cheddar, Parmesan, or Mozzarella Cheese
Not your Average Crepe
Originally, I made these crepes as a featured weekend breakfast. I wanted them to be a bit heartier than your average crepe, with a secret sprinkling of protein. That’s where the almond flour comes in.
Because of the almond flour, these crepes have more of a bite than your average, tissue-paper-thin crepe. They’re more filling and naturally flavorful as well, without having an overbearing almond flavor.
Make it a Gluten-Free Crepe
To make these crepes gluten-free, swap the all-purpose flour for a gluten-free all-purpose flour.
I wouldn’t recommend making them only with almond flour, as they may come out too heavy to be enjoyable as a flexible crepe.
Layer it up
Crepes have a tendency to stick together when fresh out of the pan. Stack your finished crepes on a plate with a paper towel between each layer as you cook them. Or, use an empty sheet pan, lay the crepes out flat and use a sheet of wax paper between layers.
Swirl it Good
The secret to making crepes is all in the swirl. Hold your pan off the heat when you add the batter to the pan, and swirl as soon as you begin pouring in the batter.
Only add more batter to the pan if you absolutely cannot cover the entire surface. Otherwise, use the back of a spoon (preferably a plastic, not metal, spoon) to smooth the batter out and create one even thin layer.
Simple Sugar-Free Crepes
This basic crepe recipe is made with pantry ingredients, ready in 15 minutes and can be topped with anything your heart desires! The crepes are sugar-free, which means they can easily be made sweet or savory depending on your tastes. The almond flour makes these crepes more filling than the average crepe without weighing them down.See the recipe notes for crepe topping suggestions!
¾ to 1cupwaterstart with ¾ cup and add more as needed to thin out the batter
In the microwave, or on the stovetop, melt the butter. Set aside to cool.
Whisk eggs, milk, water and salt in a large mixing bowl. Add almond and all-purpose flour, then the butter. Ensure the butter has come to room temperature before adding it to the batter. Whisk until smooth.
The batter should be smooth and runny, not thick. Thinner than pancake batter. Add more water if needed.
Heat a 6" frying pan over medium high heat. Add a spot of butter to the pan if it is not nonstick.
Holding the pan at a slight angle, pour approximately ¼ cup of batter into the pan. Swirl immediately, coating the entire bottom of the pan. Use the bottom of a spoon to gently spread the crepe out if needed. Try to keep the crepe thin by spreading the batter out evenly.
Let the crepe cook for about two minutes, until the bottom is a light, golden color. Using a flat spatula, flip the crepe over to cook the other side. Typically, the second side cooks in less time than the first side.
Stack crepes on a plate with a paper towel in between each.
Serve warm. To reheat the crepes, Microwave for 30 seconds or warm in a low-heat oven.
Meal prep is growing in popularity as a method of saving money on going out, maintaining a healthy diet, or just being able to enjoy a home-cooked meal without actually having to cook the entire meal every night.
The intention of this article to shed some light on things:
At it’s most basic, meal prep is preparing your meals ahead of time. While meal prep was initially popular as a means of maintaining a healthy diet (think weight loss/muscle building) it’s come to be so much more. Having dinner prepared (or, mostly prepared) at the end of a day’s work makes things so much easier. I enjoy the ability to eat a home-cooked meal every night, without having to make it all from scratch.
There’s two general categories of meal prep we’ll cover:
Daily Meal Prep
Batch Meal Prep
Which one you choose depends on your personal needs, including how much time you have to get dinner “on the table” every night and how much cooking you’d like to do. Meal prep can be used to create a full slate of meals for the week, including breakfast, lunch and dinner, or can be used for that one meal of the day you never seem to have enough time to make.
If you are just starting off with meal prep, I suggest picking one meal a day to prep. It’s a nice way to ease into prepping and you’ll have the opportunity to try different meal prep methods to see what works best for you.
Daily Meal Prep
Daily meal prep involves fully preparing full meals to eat throughout the week. With this, you can prepare a weekday’s worth of breakfasts, lunches and dinners ahead of time. These can be the same dish for each meal, or a variety, depending on how much you’d like to prep.
Here is an example menu for all three daily meals utilizing the same dish for each. This is a typical workweek (M-F) meal prep menu.
These are all items I’ve made and prepped for the week. I chose them because they contain ingredients and flavors that I enjoy, and because they are relatively easy to make in large batches.
The biggest advantage I found with daily meal prep was not having to think about what I was going to make for dinner, or scrounge up for lunch every day. During the workweek, my meals were covered. I had filling and delicious breakfast, lunch and dinner all planned out.
Some daily meal plans also include snacks. I keep mine simple with fruit, nuts, or chips and salsa. I’m also a big fan of popcorn, which is easy to make on a whim.
There are a TON of resources for planning meal prep, some of which I’ve included at the end of the article. Recipes made for meal prep can be particularly useful, as not all dishes hold up well over the course of a few days. They may be safe to eat, but less enjoyable or lose their texture.
Batch Meal Prepping
Batch meal prep differs from daily meal prep primarily in that it involves cooking, or at the very least, assembling meals before you eat them. This may be more suitable for someone who has the desire to cook dinner every night, but may be short on time. Meal prepping this way saves cooking time and allows you to throw together delicious, homemade meals in minutes.
Here’s an example menu, where chicken breast and ground beef were batch cooked before the workweek.
Setting aside time to wash, dice and prep vegetables for the week is also a way of batch meal prepping. This type of meal prep allows for more flexibility, as well as fresh-made meals, but does require more time and planning. To do batch meal prep well, you’ll need a plan for the week on what you’d like to make. Now, that can always change, but it’s much easier to prep when you have an idea of what you’ll be cooking for the week.
Why Meal Prep?
Have complete control over what ingredients go into the food you are eating.
For some, meal prep is a way to control what goes into their food. I’m lactose intolerant, so having prepped meals that I knew contained not one trace of dairy was a relief, and much easier on my body. If you have specific dietary needs, such as gluten intolerance or practicing veganism, meal prep can be an easy stress-free way to eat with confidence.
Meal time convenience.
With your meals already prepared, no thought is required when meal time comes. Heat up your meal (or not, if its a no-reheat meal like salad or a fun bento box) and you are ready to eat. By having a homemade, prepared option, you’re less likely to eat out, grab fast food, or even substitute a granola bar for dinner (no shame intended, but you are worth more than a granola bar!).
Buying groceries in bulk and preparing your own food undoubtedly saves you money, particularly if you shop what’s on sale and in season in the grocery store. Saving money on weekday cooking means more funds for weekend fun! Personally, I’d rather save during the week and go somewhere special on the weekends.
Less dishes throughout the week/on days with prepped meals.
Need I say more? Typically, I deep clean my kitchen once a week, after we’ve completed prep. All it needs is simple maintenance throughout the week to stay clean and organized.
Improve your cooking skills.
Tackle basics you’ve been wanting to learn or branch out and try something new. Additionally, meal prep will improve your budgeting and planning skills, a completely unanticipated but warmly welcomed side effect of meal prep I discovered a few months into it.
It’s YOUR meal prep… make what you want to eat! Whether it’s low carb, vegan, high protein, all greens, you name it, you can prep it. There are some incredible resources available to assist with your meal prepping journey. You can choose to have meal plans created for you to follow, use a meal-planning service like Blue Apron, or do it all on your own. It’s up to you.
How does meal prep work in real life?
My husband and I both work full-time. Certainly having breakfast and lunch made work days easier, and saved us the time, effort, and money of going out to eat for lunch every day. Having dinner meal prepped allowed us the opportunity to heat and eat, and have more time to relax and enjoy each other’s company at the end of the day.
Honestly, when we first started meal prepping, I hated it. It takes a few hours on the weekend, and at first I felt I was wasting time. Despite my discontent, I increasingly appreciated being able to come home from work and have dinner ready. I didn’t have a mound of dishes in the sink, only our meal prep containers and plates to rinse and throw in the dishwasher. Eventually, I learned to love meal prep and couldn’t imagine doing it any other way.
Whichever way you choose to prep, the most important part is finding what works for you. Otherwise, you won’t be consistent about it. Whether that means carving out a few hours on a Sunday afternoon, or prepping for only three days at a time, find what works for you and run with it.
Everyone has different reasons for meal prep. For us, it was a time-saving, convenient way to enjoy homecooked meals. Additionally, it helped us save money, which we’d prefer to splurge on a nice evening out or stash away for a vacation full of fun new foods.
A note about time management
Depending on what and how much you meal prep, you may find yourself with all four burners occupied on the stove and both racks in the oven full. This can be overwhelming at first, cooking three full meals for multiple days at once.
My best advice, start slow. You’ll learn what you can do at the same time as you go, and you’ll get better at kitchen multitasking in the process. Here’s a basic method to tackle meal prep:
Dice your veggiesand measure ingredients — In the world of foodservice, this is called mise en place meaning everything in its place. Have everything ready to go, so that once you start cooking, its a seamless process of adding ingredients. This way you won’t be rushed to chop an onion when you’re pot of water is boiling and the chicken is ready to be taken out of the oven. It can get hectic, fast.
Start with the oven — Once your ingredients are ready, start with the recipes to be made in the oven. Whether it’s roasted veggies, or a sheet pan pork chop, get the oven heated and get those things in there first. Oven recipes are great for meal prep, because once their in there, the oven does all the work.
Move to the stove — While your food bakes away in the oven, turn your attention to the stovetop. Start anything you’ll be cooking and keep a close eye on it. In the meantime, clear counter space to place those hot pans once they’re ready to come out of the oven.
Let everything cool — Don’t store your food as soon as its done cooking. In accordance with food safety measures, it’s best practice to allow hot food to come to room temperature before placing it in the refrigerator. Otherwise, it may cool down unevenly and even leave food susceptible to spoilage. No one wants that. While everything cools, set out your containers.
Fill and store — Once everything is cool, fill up your containers and stick them in the fridge. For no heat meals like salads, keep dressing separate and items that may cause the lettuce to get soggy, like tomatoes or cucumbers.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Don’t you get tired of having the same thing every day?
A: The honest answer is… sometimes! When we make something I don’t like that much, or that didn’t turn out as I had expected, it gets tiresome to eat it day after day.
But when we make dishes I truly enjoy eating, that are filling and tasty and cooked to my preference, I do not tire of eating it throughout the week. Make no mistake — I greatly look forward to the weekends, but I’d much prefer eating the same dinner five days a week without the stress of whipping up a healthy meal after a full work day. Chicken Enchiladas and the Lemon Miso Pork with Coconut Curry Vegetables were two meal preps I 100% looked forward to eating every single day. As I said before, it’s imperative to find what works for you and to start with flavors and dishes you already know you love!
Q: Can you ever eat out? Aren’t you committed to eating what you prep?
A: Yes, you can eat out and no, you aren’t obligated to eat what you prep for every meal. The flexibility of your meal prep depends on your own personal preference. I’d rather make meals for the week and have that option. When plans change, or the opportunity arises to eat out, or with friends/family, it is simple enough to put the planned, prepped meal into the freezer to eat at a later date. By doing this, you’ll eventually build up enough meals to eat for a week without prepping! Believe me, it happens faster than you’d think.
Q: Does all of your prep really keep for five days?
A: It depends. Some ingredients hold up much better than others. An easy way to think about it: any food that would hold up to a trip to the beach, or a picnic is a great candidate for meal prep. There are also ways to preserve your food, like dressing salads only right before you eat them.
Foods that, once cooked, get mushy or undesirable in a day are not recommended for meal prep — my number one example: zucchini! Additionally, if you are concerned about the freshness of your food, you can prep for three days a time only, instead of the full five.
Ultimately, start small to learn what you are comfortable with. We’ve prepped this way for over a year and have never had issues with food going bad. There were some things that just weren’t tasty after a day, but those were experimental and things we won’t do again. Okay, so it was the one time I tried making roasted radishes. The internet made it look tasty but I do not recommend. Ever.
Meal Prep Resources
My all-time favorite meal prep resource. Talia, founder of Workweek Lunch, provides kitchen-tested meal prep recipes, sized and ready for you to cook. The website is full of free recipes, but to unlock all of the meal prep potential, including weekly meal plans complete with recipes and a shopping list, a subscription is required. I’d recommend starting with the free recipes if you’re new to prepping and consider a subscription if you’re having difficulty planning what to make each week.
Budget Bytes has an entire section on their website dedicated to meal prep recipes. Beth, founder of Budget Bytes, creates tasty recipes on a budget that don’t compromise nutrition or flavor.
(Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor. Consult your health professional if you have specific health concerns.)
What is intuitive eating?
Essentially, intuitive eating is the concept of eating according to what your body needs. It involves tuning in to hunger cues, understanding cravings (for sugars, protein, etc.) and not imposing limitations what is “good” and “bad” to consume.
“Intuitive eating is a philosophy of eating that makes you the expert of your body and its hunger signals.”
According to Healthline, “Intuitive eating is a philosophy of eating that makes you the expert of your body and its hunger signals.” This is what makes it the anti-diet; instead of restricting consumption, forcing over-consumption of certain foods, or abruptly cutting nutrients like carbs out of your diet completely, intuitive eating focuses on feeding your body what it really needs.
Of course, that concept is inherent in its name. Intuitive eating is all about listening to your intuition, trusting that your body will send you the correct signals for what it lacks, learning to understand those signals and eat accordingly.
For those regimented in the diet mindset of strict control and calorie counting, intuitive eating may seem like a radical, and at times dangerous, concept. There are many initial fears, mostly surrounding binge eating, like “If I want a cookie and I let myself have one, what if I eat the whole bag of cookies?” Those fears are valid, and often perpetuated by past participation in harsh restrictive dieting.
However, with intuitive eating, sometimes binging on a specific food is part of the initial journey. Once you (and your body) start to get used to the ability to eat what you want, when you want it, the desire to binge large amounts of a certain foods decrease. Instead of being in a constant state of “need more while I can have it,” you ease into a feeling of security and confidence. That when you want a cookie, indeed you can have it, and you’ll know when enough is enough without feeling the urge to consume as many cookies as possible while it’s “allowed”.
The flip side of intuitive eating, not only eating when you want to, is also stopping when you are full. The pressure to “finish your plate” is set aside, and listening to your body becomes paramount. What you don’t eat now, you can always save and eat later. Contrary to popular belief, nothing detrimental will happen if you don’t finish your food in one sitting.
What is intuitive eating like?
In order to tell you best what intuitive eating is really like, we’ll need to get personal. I became an intuitive eater after years of being caught in the restrictive dieting cycle.
At my worst restrictive eating, I consumed about half the daily recommended calorie count for my age and height. I was skinny, but in no way healthy. (Therein lies a crucial difference that often gets lost in a culture where being thin is held as an ideal of beauty. Thin does not always signify health, and having fat on your body does not make you bad, ugly, or unworthy.)
Eventually, I realized that my health was more important, and that choice enabled me to put my physical, mental, and emotional health first. I gave up the dieting and stopped denying my body. I read about intuitive eating and finally resigned to the fact that maybe what my body needed was to be a bit bigger, to have more fat and more muscle.
Realizing this was freeing. I started listening to my body. Sometimes that meant I wanted rice and a fried egg for breakfast. Sometimes I wanted a giant plate of roasted vegetables. And yes, many times I indulged in the french fries I craved, or ate half a papaya in one sitting. I also went through a bout with ice cream, until I realized sugar was a migraine trigger for me (more on that another time). And when its time for pasta, I eat as much as I want.
When my car tells me the gas tank is low, I fill it. It’s the same for my body. Food is fuel. It doesn’t matter if I’ve “earned” the food. I’m fortunate enough to be food secure, and so when I’m hungry, I eat.
Maybe intuitive eating is strange, and maybe it seems strange because its different than what we’re lead to believe is “normal”. Either way, it was (and still is) working for me. I weigh more now than I used to, but I’m also the healthiest I’ve been in my adult life. Most importantly, I’m comfortable in my own skin.
As unbelievable as it may be, I started craving “healthy” foods. Vegetables, fruits. My desire for greasy, salty, overtly sugary foods decreased. The more natural foods I eat, the better I feel, and the more I want them. Not because they are “good,” but because my energy is improved, my mind is clear, and I’m actually motivated to get moving (a big feat for me).
This may be the greatest irony of intuitive eating. When given absolute freedom to choose what to consume, it’s natural foods my body wants the most. Of course, I still eat fried foods, and still love my tater tots, but eating “clean” all the time isn’t the goal. It’s the fact that I’m free to choose, and this time I choose natural foods because I know how they effect my body, the positive effects they have on my overall health. It’s not a chore to eat healthy. It’s a privilege.
Now, I’m not a doctor, and I don’t know what will work best for you. I can’t say that intuitive eating is the best path or not. All I can share is my experience. For me, this philosophy of listening to my body has enabled a healing process in my relationship with food, increased my enjoyment of it, and ultimately, freed my mind from thinking that handful of chips I just ate ruined my daily calorie count.
How do I start my intuitive eating journey?
First, let’s make an important distinction, best articulated by Healthline’s “A Quick Guide to Intuitive Eating.”
“To eat intuitively, you may need to relearn how to trust your body. To do that, you need to distinguish between physical and emotional hunger:
Physical hunger. This biological urge tells you to replenish nutrients. It builds gradually and has different signals, such as a growling stomach, fatigue, or irritability. It’s satisfied when you eat any food.
Emotional hunger. This is driven by emotional need. Sadness, loneliness, and boredom are some of the feelings that can create cravings for food, often comfort foods. Eating then causes guilt and self-hatred.”
Let’s break this down. First, learning how to trust your body. Dieting essentially consists of us telling ourselves “No.” We train ourselves to ignore our bodies signals, instead force feeding it whatever the diet tells us we’re supposed to eat.
Intuitive eating requires listening to our bodies signals. After years of suppressing them, practice is needed to listen successfully. It will take trial and error. The more you practice, the easier it will become. However, intuitive eating is not something that happens overnight. It’s a journey, but one that is incredibly rewarding.
Second, the distinction between physical and emotional hunger. Emotional eating is what drives us to consume a pint of ice cream when we’re sad, or an entire family size bag of potato chips when we’re stressed. Intuitive eating does not condone emotional eating. Instead, it supports listening to your emotions as intently as you listen to your physical hunger. Acknowledging and honoring emotions, participating in self-affirming activities and prioritizing emotional self-care are all ways to retrain the body from satiating emotions with food to using intentional action to recognize and move through “big feelings.”
Now, we’ve just moved from the realm of physical hunger, dieting, and physical appearance to the much deeper under-layers of emotional well-being and how our emotions affect or reflect our relationship with food. This is a big leap. It’s not one that everyone is comfortable taking. For support in this journey, I’ve included a short list of resources at the end of the post.
Though it may seem like extra work, and it is, the effort is worth it. This may be seen as radical self-care, but in an era of social turmoil and global health crises, I’d argue that being radical in our self-care is exactly what we need. For it is only through taking care of ourselves that we can best take care of others. Extending kindness and understanding inward may be radical, but radical kindness, that is, compassion, is the heart of humanity, and we could all use more of that in our lives.
Intuitive eating resources
Tricia Parido of Turning Leaves Wellness Coaching provides great one-on-one support for your food journey. She’s an expert (literally a Master Coach) whose personal experience with disordered eating makes her an incredible resource on your journey to health and healing with food.
The Healthline article “A Quick Guide to Intuitive Eating,” which includes a list of the ten main principles of intuitive eating, and a short reading list to learn more. While diving more into the philosophy behind intuitive eating is important, remember that your journey should be personal. If you encounter a principle that doesn’t sit right with you, adapt it, make it your own and move forward. This is the anti-diet, after all.
What’s the difference between drinking fresh fruit/vegetable juice and making a smoothie? Juicing extracts the nutrient-rich juices from your fruits and veggies. Smoothies consist of pureed fruits (and sometimes veggies). Meaning the main difference is that in a smoothie, you retain the natural fiber in the fruit/vegetable pulp.
Juices are less filling than a smoothie, but provide more concentrated nutrients and benefits, since you are eliminating all of the fruit/vegetable mass and just consuming its rich nutrient juice.
Both are great options, and it truly depends on your preference. Smoothies can be a quick way to get your fruits and veggies and add other nutrients like a protein powder, super greens powder, or nut butters for natural protein and fats.
Disclaimer: Edible Ink does not endorse any kind of “juice diet” or “juice cleanse”. Juicing should be a part of a balanced diet, an addition to your lifestyle, not a meal replacement. Always consult a nutritionist or your doctor before doing any kind of “cleanse” or “diet”.
Juicing with a Blender
This method of juicing requires a few kitchen gadgets you probably already have in your kitchen:
Standard blender, NutriBullet or similar blending vessel
Fruit(s) and/or vegetable(s) of choice
Square of cheesecloth
Nice glass bowl
A jar or container in which to store your juice.
The process is simple. Add your washed and coarsely chopped fruits/veggies to your blender. If necessary, add a few tablespoons of water to help everything blend smoothly. Once blended, strain out the pulp using a cheesecloth over a glass bowl. Squeeze out all the excess juice from the cheesecloth, then use the funnel to safely transfer your fresh juice to your desired storage container. Mason jars work great for this!
To enjoy your fresh juice all week, make a large batch on the weekend. Store in the fridge and enjoy throughout the week.
A quick look at the blender juicing method. Here I made fresh beet juice.
No Waste Juicing
The process of juicing is aimed to extract the juice from your fruits or vegetables, leaving a lot of pulp (mass) behind. In order to make your juicing zero waste, save the pulp and reuse it!
To store your fruit/vegetable pulp, grab a reusable ice tray. Pack the pulp into the ice cube wells and freeze. Once frozen, add to a storage container of your choosing and keep in the freezer until ready to use. This ensures that the pulp is in small individual sizes, instead of one block of frozen pulp.
When you’re ready to make a soup or some vegetable stock, pop in a few of your vegetable pulp cubes. Or, for your next smoothie, add a few cubes of fruit pulp. No waste!
How to Juice without a Juicer (Blender Method)
use your blender to makes fresh "pressed" juice. No special equipment needed!
Standard blender, NutriBullet or similar blending vessel
Fruit(s) and/or vegetable(s) of choice
Square of cheesecloth
Nice glass bowl
A jar or container in which to store your juice
Fruits or veggies of your choosing
Water to blend
Select your fruits and/or veggies. Wash and dry them. Cut out the core/seeds any parts you do not want in your juice. Then dice. For harder vegetables such as beets, you’ll want to help your blender out by cutting them smaller. Fruits tend to blend easier, and may not need to be cut as much as vegetables.If you'd like to create a juice blend, for example, orange carrot, you can add them to the blender at the same time.
Add a splash of water. Depending on the tenacity of your blender, it may be able to handle the fruits or vegetables without any additional liquid. For example, a Ninja blender may be able to handle this.Having a Nutri Bullet, I know that I do have to add water or it won’t blend. A few tablespoons should work just fine.
Blend until smooth.
Place the cheesecloth over the glass bowl. This will serve to catch any pulp or mass in your juice. I recommend cutting the cheesecloth with overhang on the bowl, so it is easier to pick up and ring out. Carefully pour the entire contents of the blender through the cheesecloth.
Gently lift the cheesecloth from the bowl by bringing all the sides together to form a seal. Squeeze the pulp in the cheesecloth to remove any remaining juice. Your bowl should now be full of delicious fresh juice!
Save the pulp! Pulp can be frozen and used in smoothies, soups or stocks. For easy handling, pack pulp into an empty ice cube tray.When frozen solid, remove from tray and store in freezer-safe packaging until ready to use. No waste!
Keyword How to juice at home, How to juice without a juicer, Juicing, Juicing at home, Smoothie