I am kicking off a new series of posts centered on meal prep. Planning out your meals for the week is my #1 healthy habit that I use for myself and also to help others, like you, stay on track with healthy eating. Once you have your meals planned out, the other piece of this healthy habit is to meal prep. With this new series, I hope to show you … meal prep made easy!!!
Let’s start with the different ways to meal prep. Sometimes you prepare complete meals ahead of time to on the go. Or perhaps you make a meal that can easily be reheated later on. But, meal prep can also be doing pieces of a meal to help make dinner or lunch meal preparation easier when you get busy during the week. The whole idea behind meal prepping is to find ways to more easily and quickly prepare meals when you are short on time.
Why meal prep?
The main reason that I believe this is such a crucial healthy habit is that it helps you to make better decisions related to healthy meals. You have less excuse to take a short cut and order out for pizza or some other form of takeout or fast food. There is a place for these items and I don’t necessarily think that you can’t ever have them, but not everyday or even several times a week.
Today’s recipe for Asian Salad Bowls shows you how to take similar ingredients along with a few simple changes in order to end up with two totally different meals for your week. The basic strategy is to use the same vegetables, but you change up the grain or pasta base, the protein and the sauce to create two different meals. In one version of the salad the base is brown rice and quinoa with soy beans and in the other you will use noodles and sprouted legumes. Then you will make a Carrot Ginger Miso Dressing and a Spicy Peanut Dressing for two totally different flavors for your Asian salad bowls!!!
If you are new to meal prep and aren’t sure what items to prep when, I break it all down for you in the parts below. But if you are an expert – you can also just jump right to the recipe and whip up the salad.
Notes about recipe ingredients for Asian Salad Bowls
Dried yellow soybeans
This recipe marks the first time that I have cooked dried soybeans. Most of my experience has been with the green soybeans which are fresh and also other soy products. Soy beans must be soaked overnight and it is recommended that you do this in the refrigerator to keep the soy beans from beginning to ferment.
After soaking the soybeans, they take about 2-3 hours to cook. When I meal prepped this recipe, the soy beans took right around two hours to become tender. I really like the texture of the cooked soy beans. They have a texture to edamame which isn’t quite as mushy or grainy as other beans. Even though they are a bit time consuming, I am definitely a fan and will be including them more often.
However, if you do not wish to invest this kind of time to make the soybeans, then you can buy them canned or use shelled edamame in place of them. If your local grocery store doesn’t carry the canned version, check out the local organic store.
Sprouted Mung Beans
I have been sprouting beans and lentils regularly for the last several months as a meal prep made easy practice. It sounds like a pain in the ass but to be honest, it’s quite easy. You can check out my post on sprouting for more information.
The thing with the mung beans is that they sprout easily and quickly. The sprouts I use in this recipe were ready in just two days. If you soak them on Thursday night then they will for sure be ready to pack up on Sunday night latest!!
If for some reason, you don’t like mung beans or can’t find them another option that will work well in this salad are lentils and they tend to sprout just as quickly as the mung beans.
If you don’t want to invest the time, check out the produce section in your grocery store or organic store for sprouted legumes.
The noodle options for meal prepping your Asian salad bowls are pretty wide. I used a flour-based product for the test recipe but you can also use soba noodles, rice noodles or even whole wheat angel hair pasta.
Feel free to choose any type of cabbage though red cabbage will add some additional color to the salad. I chose to use a pre-shredded bag of cabbage mixed with shredded radish. This combination worked well and saved me the time of having to prep another item.
How to make Asian salad bowls
2-3 days before meal prep day
Begin to sprout mung beans or lentils 2-3 days before you plan to prepare the salads. After an eight-hour soak, they take virtually little effort to sprout. You can read about the process to make your own sprouts. But keep in mind that you can also buy them if it’s easier.
Night before meal prep day
If you are cooking dried soy beans, the night before you plan to cook them, place them in fresh, clean water and soak overnight in the refrigerator for at least 12 hours. Cover 1/2 cup of soy beans with 1 1/2 cups of fresh, clean water and 1/2 tsp of salt.
Meal prep day
The key here on meal prep day is to try to have several things going at once. However, don’t get too carried away, especially if you are relatively new to cooking or don’t multi-task well. But if it is possible, do the things in the order I have them listed. So the idea is that you can start your brown rice and once it is going, cook your quinoa. That way instead of it taking 45 minutes, you will have both items ready in 30 minutes. Once the quinoa is done you can start your noodles and maybe even end up with meal prep complete on three items instead of two.
While these items are cooking, you can even begin to prep the fresh ingredients or make the sauces. I promise, that if you don’t feel up to that much multi-tasking now, the more you cook, the easier it will get.
Let’s get started with meal prep
If using dried soy beans, place soy beans on to cook. (2-3 hours)
Cook brown rice (30 minutes)
I prefer to cook my rice with just a bit of garlic for a little extra flavor. Heat 1 tsp olive oil in a pan, add 1-2 cloves of minced garlic and sauté for a couple minutes. Then add 1/2 cup of brown rice and 1 cup of water. Heat to a boil, cover with a lid and reduce the heat. The rice will need about 30 minutes to cook. Yield: about 1 cup of cooked rice.
Cook quinoa (15 minutes)
Measure out 1/2 cup of quinoa and rinse well with cold water. Drain and then cover with 1 cup of water. Heat to a boil, then reduce heat and boil for 10-15 minutes or until all the water is absorbed. Yield: about 1 cup of cooked quinoa.
Cook Chinese noodles (5-7 minutes)
Follow the instructions on the package. Yield from 4 oz of pasta: 2 cups of noodles.
Blanch snow peas
Follow instructions in the recipe below. Steps are pictured here below.
Make dressings while items are cooking
Use a blender to make these quick and easy dressings. Each one will take about 10-15 minutes and you should end up with about 1/2 cup of each dressing.
Meal prep the night before
- Cut red bell pepper strips
- Cut tomatoes in half
- Cut green onions
- Julienne or chop kale or spinach
Pack up Asian salad bowls into jars
The trick with packing up the jars is to place all the heavier weighted items on the bottom with the lighter and more fragile ingredients on top. The order switches up just a bit as the sprouted mung beans are more delicate than the soy beans and so they need to be put close to the top of the jar.
Asian Salad Bowls
- 4 oz Chinese noodles dry*
- ½ cup brown rice dry
- 1/4 cup quinoa dry
- 2 cup sprouted mung beans
- 1 cup yellow soy beans cooked or 1 cup frozen edamame, thawed
- 1 whole red bell pepper
- 20 cherry or grape tomatoes
- 1 cup diced green onions green part
- 2 cups shredded cabbage
- 1 cup snow peas
- 4 cups shredded baby spinach or kale
- 4 large jars or containers for transport
Carrot Ginger Miso Sauce
- 1 ½ tsp olive oil
- 1 T rice vinegar
- 1 ½ tsp white miso
- ½ tsp sesame oil
- 1 small carrot
- 1/2 tsp fresh ginger minced
- 1-2 T of water to thin out dressing
- Salt and pepper to taste
Spicy Peanut Sauce
- 1/4 cup unsweetened peanut butter
- 2-4 T warm or hot water as needed to thin out the sauce
- 1 T honey
- 1 T reduced sodium soy sauce
- 1 ½ tsp unseasoned rice vinegar
- 1/2 ea lime juiced
- 1 tsp fresh ginger minced
- 1 cloves garlic chopped
- 1/4 tsp tsp dark sesame oil
- 1-2 drops sriracha sauce optional
Cook rice, quinoa and noodles
- Start with cooking the brown rice first. Add ½ cup of brown rice and 1 cup of water to a pan and heat to a boil, cover with a lid and reduce the heat. The rice will need about 30 minutes to cook.
- While the rice is cooking start the quinoa. Rinse 1/4 cup of quinoa well with cold water. Drain and then cover with 1/2 cup of water. Heat to a boil, then reduce heat and boil for 10-15 minutes or until all the water is absorbed.
- Mix together the brown rice and quinoa and place into the refrigerator to cool.
- While the other items are cooking you can also cook the noodles. Follow the directions on package of your noodles. When ready, drain and rinse with cold or cool water. After rinsing, place into refrigerator to cool them more quickly until you are ready to pack up for travel.
Prep and blanch snow peas
- Trim the ends of the snow peas and cut the longer ones in half on a bias. Heat salted water to boil on top of stove. When boiling, add the snow peas and cook 1 minute. Remove immediately and plunge into ice cold water. When cool, cut the snow peas in half on a bias.
Prep fresh veggies
- Slice red bell pepper into ¼” strips and then cut strips in half. Julienne the spinach or kale you are using in the salad into thin strips. Cut cherry or grape tomatoes in half.
Layer salads into jar
- In a medium-large jar, layer the ingredients for the noodle salad. Split up all the veggies evenly between the four jars.
- Start with placing 1 cup of noodles in the bottom of each jar. Then comes the snow peas, red bell pepper, green onion, cabbage, tomatoes, sprouts, cabbage and last the spinach or kale.
- For the other jars, start with brown rice and quinoa mixture topped with soy beans, snow peas, red bell pepper, green onion, tomatoes, cabbage and finish with the spinach or kale.
- Place all the ingredients for the Carrot Ginger Miso Dressing in a blender and process until smooth. Then repeat the same procedure for the Spicy Peanut Sauce. You will likely need to add water to each dressing to thin them out. I make suggestions but you can add more or less depending on the desired consistency you prefer.
- Split up each dressing into two containers. When ready to eat, simply add the dressing to the container or jar and shake to mix.
Here is the breakdown in nutrition for my recommended grain and legume combinations, then pick your preferred dressing to top it!!! The recipe is calculated splitting the dressing between each of the servings.
Note that the peanut sauce is higher in calories and fat. To keep in lower, you can thin out the sauce with more hot water. Doing so will increase the amount of dressing. You can use the amount you prefer for your salad and then save the rest for another day. The sauce is bursting with flavor and diluting it will still you leave you with plenty of flavor for your salad.
Chinese Noodles with Soybeans
Calories 289; Carbohydrates 48 g; Protein 17 g; Fat 5 g; Sodium 358 mg; Potassium 856 mg; Fiber 8 g; Sugar 12 g; Vitamin A 102%; Vitamin C 160%; Calcium 8%; Iron 25%
Brown Rice & Quinoa with Sprouted Mung Beans
Calories 333; Carbohydrates 63 g; Protein 14 g; Fat 4 g; Sodium 63 mg; Potassium 702 mg; Fiber 9 g; Sugar 7 g; Vitamin A 125%; Vitamin C 166%; Calcium 10%; Iron 22%
Carrot Ginger Miso Dressing
Calories 60; Carbohydrates 3 g; Protein 0 g; Fat 5 g; Sodium 150 mg; Potassium 82 mg; Fiber 1 g; Sugar 2 g; Vitamin A 84%; Vitamin C 3%; Calcium 1%; Iron 1%
Spicy Peanut Sauce
Calories 239; Carbohydrates 19 g; Protein 9 g; Fat 17 g; Sodium 394 mg; Potassium 11 mg; Fiber 4 g; Sugar 12 g; Vitamin A 0%; Vitamin C 11%; Calcium 3%; Iron 2%
Storing and serving Asian salad bowls
After you finish the meal prep and the jars are ready, store in the refrigerator until you are ready to eat or transport to work. All the ingredients held well for 24 hours and when I ate it the next day everything still tasted super fresh. I recommend consuming your Asian salad bowls within 48 hours of packing them up for the most freshness. If you think you will not eat within that timeframe, then simply hold off on prepping the fresh ingredients and packing up the salads until the night before you plan to eat. The starch, legumes and sauces will hold for 5-7 days.
I ate the brown rice and soy bean combination with the Carrot Ginger Miso sauce and ate it cold like a salad!! It was super delicious.
Another option, is to quickly stir fry the ingredients with 1 teaspoon of oil and eat it hot. I used this method with the sprouted mung bean and noodle salad and served it up with the Spicy Peanut Sauce. It worked super well!!
Did you try out this recipe for Asian salad bowls? What did you think? What are your thoughts on meal prep? Please take a couple minutes to rate the recipe at the top of the recipe card and also leave me a comment below as well!!!
If you liked this post and recipe, please check out these other recipes and posts!!!