The great healthy eating experiment continues. We’ve been doing a good job of starting the day with a healthy smoothie or small egg dish, but lunch has turned out to be the hardest meal for me to figure out. The days when a bag of chips and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich would do is a distant memory, and I must admit I miss the ease of throwing together a traditional brown bag lunch. Our new regimen is more complicated and requires some planning on my part, but I feel infinitely more satisfied that my son is eating a homemade lunch that is healthy and nutritious.
I can’t stress enough that planning and prepping ahead of time is the number one best way to stay on track when eating well and to avoid succumbing to last minute pizza runs.
I have been setting aside an hour or two on the weekend and batch cooking quinoa, roasting tomatoes, slow cooking chicken and making various sauces, pickles and slaws to get us through the week. With these base items in the fridge, it gives me options to quickly build a mix and match meal with minimal effort. We ‘ve been mainly subsisting on bowls, but I wanted to try to make an alternative to one of my personal favorites, instant soup cups. Most instant brands are full of added fats and preservatives and utilize freeze-dried vegetables, by making your own you can load them with fresh veggies and control the amount of salt and flavorings.
There are a lot of recipes out there for cup of noodles, but I wanted to try a different flavor profile and to use a grain instead of noodles. For a vessel you can use anything that will tolerate having boiling water poured into it. I use Weck canning jars since I have a decent supply on hand and make a lovely serving bowl as well. Wide mouth mason jars or any kind of Tupperware will work. It’s helpful to have something with a wide opening so you can easily layer your ingredients. You can always transfer things to a bowl if you’d like but half the fun of these bowls are eating them straight out of whatever you prep them in, just like a traditional cup of soup.
The trick to a successful instant soup is to pick things that will can sit in the refrigerator for a few days but cook quickly. Flavor bases are also vital to the flavor so I used a bit of concentrated soup stock and harissa paste. Spinach, cherry tomatoes, zucchini, chickpeas and couscous round it all out. If you are avoiding grains, cooked quinoa would make a good substitution for the couscous and you could easily substitute other veggies if you’d like. Just keep in mind that if use things like cauliflower or broccoli you want to cut it very finely or give it a quick steam in the microwave before adding to the mix. To serve you just top them off with boiling water, cover and let sit for a few minutes. You can also pop them in the microwave for 90 seconds if you want the vegetables to be a bit more cooked or a little bit hotter overall. Once assembled you can refrigerate the cups for 4-5 days so make a big batch and you’ll have an instant lunch ready all week long!
Check out the video to see how easy it is to do it yourself!
- 3 tablespoons couscous
- 1 tablespoon harissa paste
- 1 teaspoon concentrated soup base or ½ bouillon cube
- ¼ cup zucchini, thinly sliced
- ¼ cup cherry tomatoes, halved (about 4)
- ¼ cup chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 1 cup baby spinach
- To serve:
- lemon wedges
- kosher salt to taste (about ¼ teaspoon)
- Layer the ingredients in order into a wide-mouthed heat-proof container with a tight fitting lid. When you are ready to eat add 1 cup of boiling water or leave about ½-inch of headspace at the top. Shake or stir the ingredients, cover and let sit for 5 minutes. Serve with a squeeze of lemon juice and a sprinkling of salt.
- * Alternatively, you can fill your container with cold water and microwave for 2 minutes. Let sit for 5 minutes and then serve.