Today's post is a review of my friend Jackie Sobon's new cookbook, Vegan Yack Attack's Plant Based Meal Prep! I'll cover the basics of meal prep, tell you about the book, and share a sample recipe from the book, Southwest Salad with Cilantro Jalapeño Cashew Dressing.
So...what is plant-based meal prep?
Meal prep is essentially cooking in bulk so you have meals to grab and go throughout the busy week. And plant-based meal prep is making all of those meals vegan! There's also planning out your "menus", choosing recipes that will stay fresh for several days, and making your meals nice and portable. It's is a great way to save money and cut down on food waste because you're only buying the ingredients you need in the amount you need.
Meal prep is not a brand new concept, but there has been an uptick in popularity over the past few years. We all have busy schedules, but still want to eat well without spending money on takeout or cooking (and cleaning up after said cooking) multiple times per day. Don't get me wrong, I love to cook, but sometimes life gets busy and I don't want to default to a sandwich or eating snacks in place of a real meal.
Vegan Yack Attack's Plant-Based Meal Prep
Jackie's book is a minimal, but bright and colorful little hardcover filled with recipes, customizable menus, and gorgeous food photography. There's multiple ways to use the book whether you'd like to cook all of your meals for the week at once, mix and match recipes throughout the week, or forgo the meal prep concept altogether and just enjoy the recipes on their own.
I avoided delving into meal prep for a long time because cooking is one of my favorite creative outlets and ways to de-stress, and I dislike the idea of eating the same thing everyday. And how do I know what I'll want to eat 4 days from now? In the way Plant-Based Meal Prep is organized, Jackie shows that meal prep doesn't have to be all or nothing. I could benefit from prepping lunches ahead of time without having to give up the time I enjoy in the kitchen in the evenings.
Meal Prep Basics
In the first chapter, Jackie gives an overview of the way the book is organized, some tips on organizing your kitchen for meal prep, and ingredients to keep on hand. While you don't need to run out and buy any special appliances to make the recipes in this book, you do need some basic kitchen tools like utensils, mixing bowls, baking sheets, etc. If you don't have storage containers for dividing out your meals, you can reuse food containers (shoutout to the big tubs of Earth Balance I've reused dozens of times for leftovers), or save glass jars from pasta sauce.
Meal Prep for One
The first recipe section is geared toward one person (or two people if you double the recipes) who would like to make 5 days worth of breakfast, lunch, and dinner and doesn't mind eating the same thing each day. There are several different meal plans for a week's worth of food and each recipe in the plan often calls for similar ingredients so you don't have a mile-long grocery list. Each one is complete with a shopping list for all of the recipes and the recipes immediately follow the meal plan so you're not flipping to different parts of the book to find each recipe. These plans are a major time saver for a busy person , or a beginner to veganism or meal prep who needs to start simple.
Mix and Match
The next menu section is meant for couples, roommates, or families who would like to have a bit of variety in their meals day to day. The menus still include a comprehensive shopping list for all of the recipes and give you steps for preparing the dishes. Each one has a theme with a playful title like "Pudding, Peanut Butter, Polenta Pizza, Oh My!" (recipe examples: Avocado Lime Pudding Parfaits, Crunchy Lavash Wraps, and of course, the Springtime Sheet Pan Polenta Pizza) or "Flavors of East Asia and Then Some" (recipe examples: Matcha Oatmeal, Kimchi Mac and Cheese, and Teriyaki Tofu with Cauliflower Fried Rice) to help you choose your menu for the week.
While these menus are more complex than the Meal Prep for One menus, you can still do most of the prep work (chopping vegetables, making sauces, prepping simple recipes, etc) at the beginning of the week, which will make assembling the dishes a breeze throughout the week. Many of the dinners become lunch the next day or the day after, and most menus only repeat each dish 2-3 times over the course of 5 days. If you need to prepare your meals ahead of time as a necessity but crave variety day to day, these menus are for you!
The remainder of the book is organized like a regular cookbook with breakfast recipes, entrees, Instant Pot and freezer meals, kid-friendly foods, and more. The Mix and Match menus call for many of these recipes, but you can use them to make your own menus, or just use these chapters as you would any other cookbook.
As part of the cookbook review, Jackie gave me permission to share a recipe from the book, Southwest Salad with Cilantro Jalapeño Cashew Dressing. This salad starts with a bed of romaine lettuce topped with black beans, sliced red onions, radishes, and sweet bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, and avocado, topped with a creamy, flavorful, and mildly spicy dressing.
The dressing is super simple to make in a food processor or blender. The raw cashews give it a creamy base without the need for mayo or oil, and the cilantro and jalapeño give it a fresh taste with a bit of a kick. Jalapeños can vary in spice level, so your dressing could be anywhere from mild to medium. You can taste the pepper ahead of time and adjust the amount you add accordingly. If you absolutely cannot handle spice, you can replace the jalapeño with an equivalent amount of green bell pepper.
We made the salad for dinner one night, then prepped the leftovers for lunch the next day. While it is a lighter meal, the black beans, avocado, and dressing keep you full. But if you'd like to make it a heartier meal, you could add some baked tofu or another meat alternative (my Jackfruit Tinga would be a great addition!). You can also vary the types of veggies you use based on what you have in the fridge or what's on sale at the grocery store.
Cilantro Jalapeño Cashew Dressing
- ¾ cup raw cashews, 103 g
- ¾ cup water, 175 ml
- ½ cup firmly packed fresh cilantro, 8 g
- 3 tablespoons lime juice, 45 ml
- 1 teaspoon lime zest
- 1 fresh jalapeño, stemmed and seeded
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- ⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 ½ pounds romaine lettuce, chopped (680 g)
- 2 15-ounce [425 g] cans low-sodium black beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 yellow bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and diced
- 1 orange bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and diced
- 1 ¼ cups grape tomatoes, 188 g
- ⅔ cup thinly sliced red onion, 110 g
- ⅔ cup sliced radishes, 95 g
- ⅔ cup sliced avocado, 60 g
- 1 batch batch Cilantro Jalapeño Cashew Dressing, (recipe above)
For the Cilantro Jalapeño Cashew Dressing:
- Puree cashews, water, cilantro, lime juice and zest, onion powder, salt, and cayenne in a blender until the mixture is as smooth as possible, then let it rest in the pitcher for 5 minutes.
- Blend again to further break up the cashews.
- Season with additional salt to taste.
- Transfer to a jar with a lid and store in the refrigerator for up to 7 days.
For the salad:
- Set out five roughly 30-ounce (850 g) storage containers.
- Divide the lettuce evenly among the containers, then top with black beans, bell peppers, tomatoes, and onion.
- Top each serving with radishes and sliced avocado.
- Drizzle the dressing over the top of each salad (or divide into five small containers or jars).
- Store in the refrigerator for up to 6 days.
Reprinted with permission from Jackie Sobon and Fair Winds Press, an imprint of Quarto Publishing Group USA Inc. © 2020
Buy the book on Amazon.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 5 Serving Size: 1 salad
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 248Unsaturated Fat: 0g
Ready to meal prep?
More salad recipes
This salad starts with spring mix and is topped with roasted acorn squash, pears, red onions, dried cranberries, toasted squash/pumpkin seeds, and homemade maple mustard dressing.