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Prep Cook: Carrot-Ginger Soup, Lentil Sloppy Joes, and More
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Prep Cook: Carrot-Ginger Soup, Lentil Sloppy Joes, and More

Heather Yamada Hosley, Gawker Media

Happy Friday! This week on Prep Cook , where we plan and test a week's worth of meals so you spend your time and money on the tastiest ones, we have scones, portobellos with avocado chimichurri, creamy tomato barley risotto, and more.

Everyone has a different schedule (and different tastes), so the menu is organized by meal rather than day. I've ordered them to provide variety throughout the week, but you can skip meals that don't sound good to you or switch them around based on how much time you have to cook when you get home (slow cooker dishes are great for days when you want to eat as soon as you walk in the door). If you really want to get ahead, set aside two to four hours on the weekend to prep ingredients for the week (cut produce, mix up sauces that will last, mass cook items you can freeze, etc.).

Breakfast

Topped with grapefruit marmalade.

Easiest scones ever : Scones fresh out of the oven are a great way to start your morning. If you don't like to bake, or don't have time to, pick some up from your local bakery .

  • Prep difficulty: Easy (duh)-these scones are actually "cream biscuits" and are much easier to make.
  • Boost it: Stick to the coconut milk even if you eat dairy. It adds a slightly sweet, floral undertone. Mix in whatever you like to the dough, frozen or dried fruit, cinnamon, or fresh herbs.

Pan seared oatmeal : A different take on oatmeal, which can often have a mushy texture that just isn't that enjoyable to eat.

  • Prep difficulty: Easy. It's basically just oatmeal with a few added steps.
  • Boost it: Make your toppings great. Good quality syrup, fresh berries, a fried egg (for a savory approach).

Chickpea and onion omelette : Simple and easy to customize with whatever mix-ins or toppings you like.

  • Prep difficulty: Easy
  • Boost it: Add in garlic or any other mix-ins you'd normally add to an omelette.
  • Special notes: If you eat eggs, you can always use eggs instead of chickpea flour.

Lunch & Dinner

Eggplant roll-ups with slow cooker marinara : A shortcut way to make eggplant lasagna. Skip the layers but still eat all the tasty elements. Having made this marinara twice now, next time I'll skip the brown sugar, it makes the sauce too sweet for my tastes.

  • Prep difficulty: Easy
  • Boost it: Add a ton of basil to the filling. If you think you've used enough, you haven't.
  • Add meat: Include ground meat in the marinara after it's done slow cooking.
  • Pack it for lunch: Pre-cut the rolls so that they're easier to eat at work.

Easy ramen : Homemade ramen is just so good (and no, not the instant kind). Great for a cozy dinner in.

  • Prep difficulty: Medium
  • Boost it: Roast your veggies to make the broth flavor packed.
  • Add meat: Lay sliced chicken breast on top of your bowl.
  • Special notes: The prep is easy, but the cook time takes a while if you want a super flavorful broth. I suggest making this on a weekend day when you have time to start the broth a couple hours before dinnertime.
  • Pack it for lunch: Keep the noodles separate until you eat so they don't get soggy.

Slow cooker carrot-ginger soup with sausages and focaccia : Rainy spring weather is the perfect time for a light soup like this. Using a slow cooker makes it very low effort. Add roasted veggies for another side dish to bulk up this meal.

  • Prep difficulty: Easy
  • Boost it: Put in more ginger paste (or fresh ginger) than the recipe calls for.
  • Add meat: Use meat sausages, or substitute in a seasoned chicken breast or pork cutlet.
  • Special notes: Buy foccacia already baked (I made mine, but you don't have to) for a faster cooking time.
  • Pack it for lunch: Make sure to use a leak proof container for the soup.

Creamy tomato barley risotto with white beans and spinach : Extremely fast and easy to make, and it's filling, too!

  • Prep difficulty: Easy
  • Boost it: Drizzle a little balsamic over the top before chowing down.
  • Add meat: Pretty much any meat will go with this meal. Chicken, white fish, beef, or pork cooked simply and served on the side.
  • Special notes: Use Trader Joe's 10 minute barley and canned beans to make this dish go really quickly.
  • Pack it for lunch: Toss it into a container and get going.

Portobello steaks with avocado chimichurri and roasted potatoes : This chimichurri sauce is so fresh and bright. It pairs perfectly with the marinated mushrooms.

  • Prep difficulty: Medium
  • Boost it: Add some spice to the chimichurri sauce with dried peppers or chili oil.
  • Add meat: Use beef steaks instead of mushrooms.
  • Special notes: Marinate the mushrooms overnight.
  • Pack it for lunch: If your office has a toaster oven, use it to get the potatoes crispy again. If it doesn't, bring tin foil to wrap the potatoes in a packet and use a bread toaster to reheat them.

Cauliflower lentil sloppy joes and simply seedy slaw : Sloppy joes remind me of childhood, it's fun to get a little messy every once in awhile! You can have the slaw on the side or top your sloppy joe with it.

  • Prep difficulty: Easy (if you use pre-cut items, as recommended below)
  • Boost it: Make the slaw dressing super tangy with lots of vinegar.
  • Add meat: Use ground meat instead of lentils in the sloppy joes.
  • Special notes: Make this easy on yourself by buying pre-shredded cabbage and carrots (I used this mixture from Trader Joe's) and riced cauliflower (I used this frozen stuff from Trader Joe's, recommended on last week's Prep Cook by Ag Obair ).
  • Pack it for lunch: Keep the bun separate from the filling. Or consider eating it with a fork and skipping the bun (and the mess).

General Tso's tofu stir fry : A simple stir fry you can pull together for a quick dinner. Make this even faster by skipping the cornstarch dip step.

  • Prep difficulty: Medium
  • Boost it: Use this Japanese BBQ sauce when mixing up the sauce for this stir fry. I use this BBQ sauce so much I have the "family" size 2.64 pound bottle of it. Yeah, it's good.
  • Add meat: Swap the tofu for chicken. Although really, this dish is best with tofu.
  • Pack it for lunch: If you eat this with rice, pack the rice separate to keep it from getting soggy.

Share your own tips and tricks in the discussion below as you try these recipes out.

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