5 Make-Ahead Vegan and Gluten-Free Lunches: Part 1

by Angela (Oh She Glows) on September 11, 2011

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Last week, a blog reader, Mary, asked me if I could put together a post on healthy lunches that could be made ahead of time. I thought it was a great challenge for back to school, so I got to work planning!

I spent a few days coming up with different lunches that could be prepped on Sunday.

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Complete with food stained paper!

I had several goals for the lunch recipes:

1) Most, if not all, of the prep work could be done on Sunday.

2) It would be made mostly from scratch for maximum savings (for example, using dried legumes instead of canned)

3) It would be vegan, gluten-free, and soy-free with easy nut-free options

4) In each lunch, I would have each of the following: protein, healthy fats, fibre, fruit, vegetables, and whole grains to make a well-rounded meal.

5) Chocolate, as necessary.

This challenge certainly lit a fire under my apron!

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For the recipes, I decided on the following grains and legumes (1/2 cup dry, each):

  • Millet or Quinoa
  • Wild brown rice
  • Chickpeas
  • Black beans
  • Lentils

 

Of course, you can use pretty much any grains and legumes that you desire. I purchased these from Bulk Barn and it was much cheaper than buying the canned or non-bulk variety. More money in my pocket means more money for chocolate covered cacao nibs! Wheee.

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Next, I had to figure out all of the various prep and cook times for each. I consulted the wonderful Clean Food Cookbook for some tips!

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Legumes and Grains Cooking Cheat Sheet

Use 1/2 cup dry, per.

Chickpea Cooking Instructions (needs soaking):

  • 1/2 cup dry chickpeas yields about 1 & 1/4 cup cooked.
  • Tip from Clean Food: Add a thumb-sized piece of kombu when cooking beans as it will aid in digestion.
  • Soak 1/2 cup dry chickpeas overnight in a bowl with about 3 inches of water covering the chickpeas. OR use the ‘quick soak’ method, which is what I did because I forgot to soak overnight! In a pot of water, bring the chickpeas to a boil for about 1-2 mins., then turn off heat, cover with lid, and let it soak for about 1 hour. This method is great in a pinch.
  • Drain and rinse the chickpeas
  • Place in pot covering with about 2-3 inches with water
  • Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer, covered, for about 30 mins or until tender
  • Drain and rinse

 

Black Bean Cooking Instructions (needs soaking):

  • 1/2 cup dry black beans yields 1 & 1/4 cups cooked.
  • Add in a thumb-sized piece of kombu when cooking beans as it will aid in digestion.
  • Follow same soaking and cooking instructions as chickpeas above using 1/2 cup dry black beans
  • Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer, covered, for about 15 mins until tender

 

Brown Rice Cooking Instructions (no soaking required):

  • 1/2 cup dry brown rice yields 1 cup cooked.
  • Rinse rice in a strainer (this removes some of the starchy material that makes rice stick together)
  • Use 1/2 cup uncooked brown rice and 1 cup + 2 tbsp water (and more water if needed)
  • Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to low, add pinch of salt, cover, and simmer for about 30 minutes until tender
  • Watch closely during the last 10 mins of cooking and add more water if it begins to stick to pot.
  • Fluff with fork

 

Lentils Cooking Instructions (no soaking required):

  • 1/2 cup dry lentils yields 1 & 1/4 cup cooked
  • Check for pebbles and discard
  • In a strainer, rinse well
  • Use 1/2 cup dry and 3/4 cup (or a bit more as needed) water
  • Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, simmer, and cook for 15-30 minutes, until tender
  • I used tiny black lentils and it only took 15 mins cook time, but larger green lentils will probably take longer

 

Millet Cooking Instructions (no soaking required):

  • 1/2 cup dry millet yields 2 cups cooked
  • Rinse and drain (I was lazy and skipped this)
  • In a pot or skillet, ‘toast’ the dry millet over medium heat for 4 mins or so, until it has a nutty aroma (this helps bring out the flavour as millet can be bland)
  • Now add about 3/4 cup water and bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, simmer, and cook for 20-25 mins, adding more water if necessary
  • Fluff with fork and season well.

 

Note: This was the ultimate multi-tasking challenge! I had about 4 things going on the stove-top at once (and multiple timers). If you are time-crunched, you can always use canned beans and chickpeas.

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It went from this…

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To this…

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All of that food only cost me about $3.50. Talk about savings!

While the legumes and grains were cooking, I did some other prep.

This trail mix, below, was one of my favourite recipes of the day. In fact, I’m munching on it right now. :)

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Go Go Glow Mix

Energizing, delicious, and packed with antioxidants. This is the perfect mix to throw into a packed lunch. Sub the almonds with sunflower seeds if you want it nut-free. All ingredients were purchased at the bulk food store, Bulk Barn.

Yield: 2.5 cups

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup goji berries
  • 1/2 cup almonds (or sunflower seeds)
  • 1/2 cup mulberries
  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate covered cacao nibs (or dark chocolate chips)
  • (I also added natural dried apple rings, but I was not a fan of their spongy texture)

 

1. Mix together and enjoy for a quick pick me up!

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Eric and I are seriously obsessed with this mix. The chocolate covered cacao nibs are phenomenal and something I’m going to have to re-create at home!

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I also chopped up 1 cucumber, 1 large red pepper, and 4 carrots. I put them into a big container filled with water as this will keep them fresh and crisp all week long. Quick and easy snacks paired with hummus or other dips.

Note: I would not advise putting the peppers and cukes in water as I just discovered that they don’t crisp up, but get soft! The carrots were fine all week though.

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When I had a burner free up, I made the Carrot Apple Ginger Soup using some beautiful garden carrots. Yes, my carrots are finally ready to harvest after planting tiny seeds way back on May 24. Happy!

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Dare I say it turned out even better using my garden carrots? ;)

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Once the prep work was done, I started assembling lunches.

First up, Monday’s lunch!

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Monday’s Lunch featuring Avocado-Lime Black Bean Salad

Adapted from Avocado-Lime Black Bean Salad

Ingredients:

  • 1 & 1/4 cup cooked black beans (from 1/2 cup dry)
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped (or herb of choice)
  • 1 avocado (cut this up and mix in just before serving)
  • 1/2 cup chopped red onion
  • 1 tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1/2-3/4 tsp ground cumin
  • S & P, to taste
  • Dash of maple syrup (or other sweetener), to taste
  • Other snacks: 1/2 whole wheat pita OR use Gluten-free bread if required, Banana and nut butter (or sunflower seed butter for nut-free)
  • Lemon water

 

1. Mix together the cooked black beans, chopped cilantro, and onion. In a small jar or bowl, shake or whisk together the lime juice, olive oil, cumin, S & P, and maple syrup, to taste.

2. Pour on the dressing and mix well. Season well to taste (I love adding Herbamare). Just before serving, chop avocado and mix into salad. Serve with 1/2 a whole wheat pita and a banana and nut or seed butter.

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I had this lunch yesterday and it was delicious! (I forgot to include the avocado in the picture, but it really makes the salad.)

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Up next, Tuesday’s lunch:

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Tuesday’s Lunch featuring Carrot Apple Ginger Soup

Ingredients:

  • Carrot Apple Ginger Soup (click for recipe) in a mason jar for portability
  • 1 cup cooked millet (or quinoa), with Earth Balance, salt & pepper
  • 1/3 cup Go Go Glow Mix (above)
  • 1 plum
  • Lemon Water

 

Be sure to heat up the millet with a bit of Earth Balance and seasoning. It’s also good mixing it into the carrot soup.

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All the prep work I did yesterday took me the entire morning (about 4 hours), but I’m glad that I did it now because I have a ton of food prepped for the week.

Here is a grocery list, if you want to follow along. Keep in mind that it’s just a guide and you can make any modifications that you desire! I just used mostly what I had on hand…I’m not suggesting you go out and buy the entire list, but get creative and see what you can use in your own pantry and fridge. :)

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What I used (for mains + all snacks)

Grains + Legumes + seeds + nuts

  • 1/2 cup dry brown rice
  • 1/2 cup dry black beans (or 1 can)
  • 1/2 cup dry chickpeas (or 1 can)
  • 1/2 cup dry millet or quinoa
  • 1/2 cup dry lentils
  • Mary’s GF Crackers or other crackers
  • Whole wheat pita or GF bread
  • Nut or seed butter
  • 1-2 tbsp hemp seeds (or seed of choice)
  • hummus or other spread
  • nuts (I used a couple tbsp walnuts)

 

Fruit + vegetables

  • 1 pear
  • 1-2 plums
  • 1 peach
  • 1 apple
  • 1 banana
  • 1 lime
  • 2 lemons
  • 1 orange
  • 1 red pepper
  • 1 cucumber
  • 2 lbs carrots
  • jar of Roasted red peppers or homemade
  • fresh herbs (I used parsley and cilantro)
  • garlic
  • 1 avocado
  • 4 inch piece fresh ginger
  • 2-3 cups Leafy greens (romaine, kale etc)
  • Red onion
  • Sweet onion
  • Green onion (or just use onion of choice)

 

Other:

  • Vegetable broth (4 cups)
  • cayenne pepper or crushed red pepper flakes (if you like adding a kick of spice)
  • garlic powder or if you prefer, mince fresh cloves
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • kosher salt and pepper
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • Dijon mustard
  • maple syrup (or other sweetener)
  • apple cider vinegar (or balsamic for dressing)
  • Scant ground nutmeg
  • Go Go Glow Mix: 1/2 cup each: Goji berries (I got 3/4 cup to use extra for salad), chocolate covered cacao nibs (or choc chips), mulberries, almonds, dried cranberries
  • Chocolate :)

 

I sincerely hope I didn’t forget anything on this list!

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In Part 2, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday’s lunches are coming on up! Click here for the post.

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Like many of you, I was touched deeply by the tragedies of 9/11. I’m watching along today and sending my thoughts to those innocent lives that were lost and families and friends who were impacted. Red heart Bless you all…

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{ 35 comments… read them below or add one }

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Karen September 13, 2011 at 11:15 am

The pita in Monday’s lunch would not be gf unless you have a source? I’d love to get my hands on some without having to make my own… Please post so people who are new to the gf diet understand they cannot eat that safely. Folks who have been around the diet a while will know but newbies may not…. It can be overwhelming at first.

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Morgan @ Endorphaholic September 13, 2011 at 1:22 pm

I think she said the pita was not gf, but could be subbed out for gf bread. I wish I knew of a gf pita, but I don’t think i’ve ever seen them. Good luck with gf living!

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Angela (Oh She Glows) September 13, 2011 at 4:04 pm

Yes I said it was whole wheat and then suggested to use GF bread or GF pita as a replacement. Sorry for the confusion, I will try to clarify it a bit more in the instructions.

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Liz Calloway September 15, 2011 at 9:04 pm

just found this site and am really excited – especially as a parent of a child with multple food allergies – (Dairy, Wheat, Eggs, and Peas). These recipes are fantastic and will make mommy’s life much easier – Thank You!!!

For a gluten free pita, might I suggest http://www.cybelepascal.com/?p=3320 for a recipe.

Thank you again!

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Angela (Oh She Glows) September 16, 2011 at 7:48 am

Thanks Liz!

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Nicole September 13, 2011 at 12:37 pm

Where would a person find mulberries? I so want to make the Go Glow mix!!!

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Angela (Oh She Glows) September 13, 2011 at 4:04 pm

Bulk Barn :)

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Lauren September 14, 2011 at 7:41 pm

hi angela! i love your ideas! i was just thinking that i wish i could chop up veggies in advance (like on sunday for at least the first part of the week) and saw your idea about putting them in water. i didn’t think of that! which veggies do you find work best to do that way? that would save me so much time in the morning!

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Angela (Oh She Glows) September 16, 2011 at 8:26 pm

the carrots worked great all week long, but the cukes only were good for 2-3 days. The red peppers got soft! I think the firmer the veggie is, the better it will hold up. :)

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Lauren September 18, 2011 at 2:53 pm

I just cut up my peppers, celery, cucumbers, carrots, and some peaches for my green smoothies. I just put everything in tupperware containers in the fridge, so I’m hoping it works. This would be a huge timesaver. :) Thanks for all of your awesome ideas!!!

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Diane September 19, 2011 at 12:34 pm

Hi Angela,

I just came across your website a few days ago and I am so happy I did! I am struggling with my weight and have been trying to lose and eat right! I have lost about 40 pounds but am so tired of counting calories all the time. I love your approach of only eating when hungry and eating the right foods! I am trying the vegetarian route (not sure if I am ready to or will go vegan) for a full week now and I feel great! I have lost 3 pounds, my skin and my hair look healthier too! I was so excited to find your meal plan for a week of lunches! I tried “Mondays” today and loved it! Any helpful tips for a newbie? I would love it if you could do easy weeknight dinners too! Thanks for the wonderful info you have truly inspired me!

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Angela (Oh She Glows) September 19, 2011 at 1:25 pm

Hey Diane, I’m glad to hear you are experiencing benefits of a plant based diet and are enjoying the recipes. :) Thanks for your suggestion re: easy weeknight dinners! Great idea.

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JenATX September 19, 2011 at 5:13 pm

does the Go Go Glow mix make you feel like Go Go Gadget?? haha

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Tara September 23, 2011 at 12:41 pm

Celery and radishes keep quite well in water though! And they are also great for lunch time snacking!

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Sara September 25, 2011 at 6:41 am

Anglea, I just wanted to say thank you!! This is absolutely perfect! I work some long, crazy weeks … for example this week I’m working from 6:30am-7:30pm Monday thru Thursday. I’m often too tired when I get home to cook a full dinner and to pack a lunch for the next day … so I eat whatever I can find. This is a great solution. I’ve thought of doing something similar before but I’m just too lazy and have never very creative at making meals. I am going to try your menu out this week. Thank you so much for doing this! I would love to see more examples in the future!

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Adrienne June 15, 2012 at 1:18 pm

I LOVE these ideas….after reading this i vowed to try and revise my lunch routine and have had the best eating week of the summer! I would love more simple lunch ideas like these. Thank you!

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Leigh November 19, 2012 at 3:08 pm

Just ate your delicious Monday lunch and I have the rest of the week prepped! I would love to see more weekly menus, breakfast, lunch or dinner!

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Jacquie December 10, 2012 at 8:41 pm

Wow! These recipes are the best I’ve seen yet! I am just getting started, trying a vegan gluten-free diet! Thank you so much for taking the time to invent, prep and share these!!!! I can’t wait to try them and I can tell my family is going to love them too!

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Angela (Oh She Glows) December 11, 2012 at 10:10 am

Thank you so much for your kind words Jacquie!

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Rebecca February 19, 2013 at 10:00 pm

I am new to your site and really enjoy it. I was just wondering once you have cooked all the beans etc how do you store them please?

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Angela (Oh She Glows) February 20, 2013 at 9:23 am

In the fridge or the freezer in small containers :)

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Alyson March 1, 2013 at 11:19 am

This is a fantastic post!! Thank you so much for throwing this together! I was wondering if you had an ideas for make ahead dinners as well. I’m a busy student who spends most of my time in the library. Frequently I don’t have a chance to make it home for dinner and usually end up eating out. Any thoughts?! I absolutely love your blog, especially as a busy vegetarian, I appreciate how balanced and healthy your recipes are!

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Megan March 14, 2013 at 12:37 am

Please, please, please post some more of these! One week is not enough, and I am so not creative in the kitchen!

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Mona April 21, 2013 at 10:56 am

Hi Angela,

I made this for the week and I am excited to have such a healthy array of food. I can’t believe the difference of what my normal vegan eats were and what they are now that I’ve made all this. I was wondering if you could do another segment like this, but including more salads? Pretty please?!?! :) I am just starting to become aware of what I need to pack, but one more may do the trick. I live in Arizona and its so dang hot that I salads have been doing the trick.

Thanks!

-M

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Helen October 14, 2013 at 2:49 am

Thanks for the great recipes!! I absolutely love them!

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Suzanne November 11, 2013 at 7:42 pm

Hi Angela,
This is such an awesome idea! I’m cooking the black beans, garbanzo beans, millet and lentils right now. But, despite soaking the beans for about 16 hours, they are taking waaaaaaay longer to cook than your time recommendations. Any ideas why? This is a common problem for me, which is why I cook beans in the crock pot. But I would love to do a bunch at once like you suggest! (oh, and the beans shouldn’t be old…. got them within the last few weeks… so I don’t think that’s why they are taking so long to cook).
Thanks, Suzanne

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Colleen April 13, 2014 at 9:10 am

HI Suzanne,

I too found, the first time I cooked beans, that they take WAY longer than 15 minutes. Most other sources online say that beans take at least an hour to cook! Not sure what Angela is doing to get such speedy beans!

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Cristina July 30, 2017 at 11:03 am

A pressure cooker makes beans in 15 minutes if soaked, or from dry in 22 minutes.

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kateinbkk November 27, 2013 at 7:09 am

Just found this post on Pinterest. It is so wonderful! Thanks so much!

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Daniela March 2, 2014 at 5:24 pm

Love this! I have been struggling with coming up with lunch ideas for work, and this is genius. Love the list, will definitely be packing that soup, trail mix, grains, and fruits & veggies!

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Shaili Parmar January 16, 2015 at 3:46 pm

I was wondering how many servings each meal makes? I would be making this for two people! Thanks!

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Salvatore October 20, 2015 at 1:15 pm

Thank you SO much for putting is together! Due to our schedules my husband and I do most of our weekly lunch meal prep on Sunday and, because of simplicity, we’ve relied on a lot of non-vegan dishes. I’ve kinda fallen off the vegetarian/vegan bandwagon over the past few months and dying to get back into it.
I’ve been searching high and low for make-ahead vegetarian and vegan “meal plans”, but you would be surprised how many just end up recommending pots of rice and beans or you get the “vegetarian meal plan – day one = fish with veggies”. Fish does not count as vegetarian!!!
Anyway, thanks again!!

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Salvatore October 20, 2015 at 1:16 pm

(Sorry for any typos – typing from an iPad isn’t always easy)

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Vegan Alert April 16, 2016 at 12:04 pm

I just started a blog where I write about what I meal prep for the week and everything is vegan. Please check it out, and I hope you find it useful! https://veganalert.me

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Carly October 26, 2015 at 7:51 pm

This is a great post! I work 12 hour shifts, and don’t have access to a fridge to store my meals in. These look great but if you did another post like this, could you focus on gf vegan meals to take to work that don’t need to be stored in the fridge? :)

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