I’m sharing 3 of my recent favorite and easy meal prep side dishes.

 I’m not a traditional meal prep person where you essentially cook 1 main protein and carb choice in bulk, then portion them into containers for the week.  That method is very helpful and efficient for many people and there’s TONS of ideas if you simply search “meal prep.”  However, I’ve never been able to stick with it because I love to cook and try new things!!

So while my method is very similar, I’m just adding the protein and bringing a little variety each day. So, whatever your method (or lack thereof) rock your next lunch break with one of these 3 delicious and easy meal prep side dishes!

The secret to my easy meal prep side dishes is having items on hand that require little to no prep and can be used in a variety of dishes. That’s right…meal prep that requires little prep.   Each recipe featured today includes edamame!

Meal Prep Side Dish idea #1: Roasted Sweet Potatoes w/edamame and fire roasted peppers and onions (Great alongside eggs for breakfast or paired with your choice of protein)

roasted sweet potatoes

This combination is bursting with flavor and packs a nutritious punch!  Roasted sweet potatoes are a staple in my fridge *almost* every week.  They’re ridiculously easy to prepare and super versatile.  Next time you turn your oven on, toss in a sheet of sweet potato cubes and other veggies you may enjoy.  Carrots, red onions, green beans & cauliflower are other favorites.

Meal Prep Side Dish Idea #2: Cumin & Lime Quinoa Salad w/Edamame and Mini Peppers
quinoa and edamame

Quinoa is so incredibly versatile.  I love the freshness of the lime juice paired with crisp mini peppers, edamame, and some corn for sweetness.  Sprinkle in a little cumin and it’s terrific as a standalone side dish or toss with some leftover chicken for a simple and very nutritious meal.

Disclaimer:  My favorite quinoa side dish is still my copycat BJ’s Brewhouse Copycat Bistro Grains. There have been several versions of this “bistro grains” on their menu, but I’ve never liked another one as much as the one I recreated.

Meal Prep Side Dish #3: Israeli Couscous with Edamame and Carrots 

israeli couscous salad

Last but not least Israeli couscous gets paired with edamame, matchstick carrots, and red onions for yet another super versatile meal prep side dish.  Shown above topped with leftover buffalo grilled chicken.

Israeli Couscous has a wonderful nutty flavor that pairs nicely with just about anything from sweet to savory.  Just a light drizzle of olive oil with some salt and pepper and I could eat the whole pot…

So there you have it!  3 super simple meal prep ideas that start with a main base – sweet potatoes, quinoa, couscous- and are versatile for whatever leftover veggies and protein you have on hand. 

ITEMS/METHOD USED:

*SWEET POTATOES: peeled, cubed, tossed in a bit of coconut or olive oil (or just lightly sprayed with non-stick) and roasted at 350* for 40 minutes.  Season with cinnamon or a combination of cumin/smoked paprika/cinnamon!

*FIRE ROASTED PEPPERS & ONIONS: frozen bag from Trader Joe’s.  Great for adding to omelets, quesadillas, paninis, soups, and more!  The fire roasted gives so much flavor that it’s worth finding a variety similar if you don’t have a Trader Joe’s nearby.

*FROZEN EDAMAME: provides a good amount of protein and crunch to more than just salads!

*QUINOA: if you’ve not given quinoa a try I recommend starting with the red variety.  Cook according to the package and try substituting chicken broth for water depending on the recipe.

 

 

Side Dish

 Seriously, who doesn’t love garlic mashed red potatoes?
Who doesn’t love mashed potatoes period?!

garlic mashed red potatoes

There was a time instant potatoes were my staple pantry item.  True story.  No real brain power needed to make those babies unless you’re really uncertain if you need 2 servings or 4 or should you just go for it and make 6? #realworldproblems

My family loves mashed potatoes and I serve them quite often.  IN FACT…I served these two nights in a row with two different main courses.

#winning

First, there was garlic mashed red potatoes + Perfect Dutch Oven Pork Roast.  Next dinner was garlic mashed red potatoes + Italian Sausage and Cornbread Stuffed Peppers.  Delicious with both meals and a huge time saver.

mashed red potatoes

While gravy is a primary food group these mashed potatoes need nothing more.  

 

Enjoy…

Garlic Mashed Red Potatoes – the ultimate side dish

Ingredients

  • 10-15 red potatoes, quartered
  • 2 TB unsalted butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely diced
  • 1/2 cup fat free sour cream ( I love Trader Joe's brand!)
  • 2 splashes milk, more if needed (about 1/4 cup)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 TB fresh parsley (optional) finely chopped

Instructions

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Add quartered red potatoes. (if you like less peel you can remove a little from a few potatoes prior to boiling). Allow to boil 10-15 minutes or until easily pierced with a fork.
  2. Drain and add to mixer bowl.
  3. In the same pot used to boil the potatoes add 2 TB butter and allow to melt. Add diced garlic and cook 1-2 minutes stirring continually to avoid burning. Use a spatula to scrape butter and garlic into mixer bowl with potatoes.
  4. Add sour cream, milk, salt and pepper. Mix on low until incorporated then whip on medium speed 1-2 minutes or until desired consistency. More milk can be added if desired. Finish with some parsley and mix just to lightly incorporate.
  5. Serve with Perfect Dutch Oven Pork Roast or Italian Sausage and Cornbread Stuffed Peppers!
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Side Dish

Turkey and quinoa stuffed jalapeño poppers are perfect for a healthy and filling side dish or a crowd pleasing appetizer.

Stuffed Jalapeno Popper

Jalapeno poppers don’t need to wait for a party to be served.  Serve them as fun side dish or pack them for a creative and healthy work-lunch!  Each popper is loaded with lean turkey and red quinoa making these little jalapeños not only healthier (leave off the cheddar cheese which was just added for photographing purposes…) than traditional versions but more filling too!

Each popper, that’s 2 halves, (without the addition of sharp cheddar cheese or dipping sauce), has only 80 calories, 3.6 grams of fat, 5.6  grams carbs, and a whopping 7.4 grams of protein!!  

jalapeno popper appetizer

Inspiration for recipes often happens at the most random and unexpected times.  Working my way through Costco grabbing my usual staples (ya know toilet paper, rotisserie chicken, frozen cod, egg whites, blueberries, lemons, lunchmeat…) my eyes caught a package of chicken and mango meatballs but I wasn’t crazy about the nutrition facts.  My brain started spinning as I thought of creating something healthier with a touch of spiciness.  The combination of spicy and sweet is amazing… so why not stuff  a jalapeño with some lean meat and make a sweet dipping sauce (literally)?! 

So I did and it’s delicious. duh.  Double dippers grab a plate because you’ll want to dip these bad boys more than once!  The sauce is made with apricot preserves, dijon mustard and non-fat plain greek yogurt.  It’s a slight spin on the sauce I use for my Baked Coconut Chicken.

quinoa turkey jalapeno poppers

If you’ve never worked with fresh jalapeños before there’s a few things to cover:

  • wear kitchen gloves or use plastic baggies in a pinch. You don’t want jalapeño juice any where near your eyeballs, mkay?
  • after slicing in half lengthwise, as shown, keeping the stem intact if possible, gently scrape out the seeds with a spoon and the long membrane that runs the length of the pepper. Watch your eyes, they can squirt a little too.

Removing the seeds and membrane will reduce the spiciness of the jalapeños.  I prefer to keep a little bit of the membrane to ensure a bit of that jalapeño heat…ya baby. And I’ll just add, without the seeds and membrane my daughter loves these and doesn’t find them spicy.  Although she can handle buffalo wings, so you be the judge…

jalapeno popper with sauce

This and future recipes will have meal suggestions at the end of every post if applicable!  Seems it will be helpful to many so here ya go:  

Lunch: Pair 4 jalapeño popper halves drizzled with 1 TB dipping sauce with some roasted sweet potato cubes (a staple in my fridge for breakfast or lunch) and a small side salad with light dressing (my favorite is Bolthouse Farms Ranch). Healthy and filling lunch under 400 calories.

Dinner: Serve just 2 halves as a side dish to grilled chicken or baked cod with either a salad or some roasted spaghetti squash with a bit of salt, pepper and fresh parmesan cheese. Leave out the dipping sauce to avoid the sugar and carbs late evening. Season the cod with my Fish Taco seasoning (minus the panko) which would pair nicely with the peppers.

My suggestions follow Erin Oprea’s 4×4 diet guidelines- low starch and low carb in the evenings.  More on this in a future Fitness Friday post.  

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Turkey and Quinoa Stuffed Jalapeno Poppers

Ingredients

  • 8 Jalapeños, sliced in half lengthwise with seeds and membrane removed
  • 1/2 lb. 93% Lean ground turkey
  • 1/4 cup cooked red quinoa
  • 3 TB. 1/3 less fat philadelphia cream cheese
  • 2 green onions, diced (green parts only)
  • 1/4 cup red onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp smoked paprika
  • dash of coriander (optional)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • sharp cheddar cheese (optional for melting on top, recommended for entertaining)
  • Sweet Dipping Sauce
  • 1/3-1/2 cup Apricot Preserves (I used Bonne Maman brand)
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard
  • 2 TB non fat plain greek yogurt (Oikos Brand is my go-to)

Instructions

  1. Prepare jalapeños and set aside on baking sheet.
  2. Cook quinoa according to package, rinsing first before adding to stove.
  3. While quinoa is cooking add turkey, red onion, and garlic to large skillet and cook until turkey is no longer pink. Drain any excess liquid from skillet and return to stove.
  4. Add cooked quinoa, green onions, cumin, smoked paprika, coriander (optional), salt and pepper and stir to combine.
  5. Remove from stove and add cream cheese stirring to incorporate everything. Mixture should be evenly coated and everything sticking together from the cream cheese addition.
  6. Begin stuffing each jalapeño pressing a nice mound of mixture in each. Top with cheddar cheese if desired.
  7. Bake in preheated 350 oven for 20-25 minutes or until peppers have wrinkled a bit and lightly browned. Remove from oven to cool while making the dipping sauce.
  8. In a small bowl stir together apricot marmalade, dijon mustard and greek yogurt. Serve drizzled over top, in separate little ramekin bowls, or double dip amongst yourselves...enjoy!
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Side Dish Turkey

Every potluck or holiday gathering needs this Guilt Free Creamy Broccoli Salad with a bountiful of simple ingredients and all for under 100 calories a serving!

guilt free creamy broccoli salad

Toss this beautiful broccoli salad in front of me as a kid and there would be screams of horror.  Today, it’s screams of “give me more!”  Bring this side dish to any potluck this summer and you’ll want need to be first in the buffet line!  No one will know it’s under 100 calories either.

The guilt free dressing evenly coats the broccoli and medley of ingredients-carrots, slivered almonds, red onion, dried cranberries-and doesn’t become runny overtime!  Major bonus so each scoopful results in a little bit of everything from this beautiful salad. 

broccoli side dish

With Easter just a few days away the menu planning has begun it’s final stages.  Just like last year we’ll be joining my parents at their house for a late lunch/early dinner and annual Easter hunt for the kiddos.  My mom makes what we call her “famous ham sandwiches” and we usually text back and forth for days prior to Easter about what sides we should have.  My assignment is my famous baked beans, our 2nd annual lamb cake and of course this guilt free broccoli salad that will replace the store-bought version we had last year!

creamy broccoli salad

Most store-bought broccoli salads include crumbled bacon which is obviously a delicious addition to anything.  If we weren’t going to be indulging in lots of heavy foods and desserts for the Easter holiday (#can’twait), a little crumbled bacon would be a great addition.  However, there’s no need to add anything additional to this recipe to be devoured and enjoyed by all. (ok maybe not your kids unless they like the “little trees”)

Wherever you share this dish, take the recipe with you as everyone will be begging for it!!…Especially when they learn it’s guilt free!

guilt free broccoli salad

Key things to know about this recipe:

*Nutrition data derived from MyFitnessPal using exact measurements and brands listed.  Serving size is 8 people. Per serving: 94 calories, 1.9 grams fat, 14 carbs, 5 protein. 

*Oikos brand non-fat plain greek yogurt comes highly recommended because it’s not sour tasting like some greek yogurt.  Use what brand you prefer but if you’re new to greek yogurt, start with Oikos.  Not sponsored just love the product!

*The dressing includes Creamy Queso Fresco Chipotle Laughing Cow Cheese.  Yes, you read right-Chipolte!  Don’t’ worry it’s not the traditional flavor of chipotle you have in mind nor is it the least bit spicy.  Trust me, it provides the perfect bit of flavor that pulls everything together.

Guilt Free Creamy Broccoli Salad

Ingredients

  • 6 cups broccoli florets, chopped (about 2 heads of broccoli)
  • 1 carrot, sliced thin 1" pieces (could substitute bagged matchstick carrots)
  • 1/4 cup red onion, chopped
  • 2-3 TB slivered almonds
  • 2-3 TB dried cranberries
  • guilt free dressing:
  • 2 TB honey
  • 2/3 cup Oikos plain non-fat greek yogurt
  • 4 Creamy Queso Fresco Chipotle Laughing Cow Cheese wedges
  • 4 tsp. red wine vinegar

Instructions

  1. Add chopped broccoli, carrots,red onion, almonds and cranberries to large mixing bowl or make right in the bowl to be served in!
  2. In a small mixing bowl stir together all ingredients for dressing until creamy. It helps to use the back of the spoon to smash the Laughing Cow Cheese while mixing.
  3. Add dressing to bowl with broccoli and gently stir to combine.
  4. Cover and refrigerate at least one hour before serving but no one will know if you sneak a bite before hand.
  5. Sprinkle the top with additional almonds and cranberries for a pretty presentation before serving (optional of course)
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Side Dish