I spend a lot of time talking about meal planning on the Whole30, and the underlying message tends to be “keep it simple.” These days, I sometimes cook from recipes, but I mostly cook “ingredient meals.”
Ingredient meals are simpler and more flexible than a recipe, as they’re 100% mix-and-match with whatever you have on hand. Think of them like a template, requiring little to no measuring, tons of flexibility in terms of ingredients, and an awesome variety for several days’ worth of meals… with just one meal prep and cooking session. They’re also a great way to save money, by making use of all of the scraps and leftovers you have in your fridge. And they build kitchen confidence, helping you discover new favorite ingredient and flavor combinations.
You may love the idea of ingredient meals, but still feel unsure about how to get started. Because I want nothing more than to see you succeed and because these meal templates are so easy they should not be gatekept, I’ve decided to share them in detail in this special three-part Dear Melissa newsletter, with options specific to the Plant-Based Whole30.
Template 1: Tofu ‘n Things
- Firm or Extra-Firm Tofu
- Extra protein (chickpeas, black beans, plant-based “meats”)
- Diced veggies (thawed, uncooked)
- Herbs or spices
- Plant-based sauces or dressings
If you’re going to make a scramble, there’s no need to press your tofu first, as the water will evaporate out as you cook it. You can mash it with a fork or a potato masher right in the pan, or crumble it into the pan with your hands. If you’re going to make a frittata or muffins, you’ll need a bit more prep, so keep reading.
Add cooked chickpeas, black beans, or Abbott’s Butcher “chorizo” or ground “beef” for additional texture and protein.
Take anything you have on hand (leftovers, frozen, or canned) and dice quite small. If your veggies are fresh, you don’t need to pre-cook them (but if they’re already cooked, that’s totally fine). If they’re frozen, thaw them, but don’t pre-cook them. If they’re canned, drain them of water or oil.
Herbs or spices
Throw in a spice blend, individual spices (like cayenne, garlic powder, or onion powder), cooking blend (like Danielle Walker’s new line of seasonings, or your favorite Primal Palate blend), or a compatible hot sauce. Yes, add that right into the tofu mixture!
If you’re making a scramble, crumble the unpressed tofu into a pan, add your extra cooked protein, diced veggies, and herbs/spices/seasonings, then stir to combine and cook through.
If you’re making a frittata or muffins, add the following ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth, adding more non-dairy milk if needed:
- 1 lb firm tofu drained (not pressed)
- 2 tbsp nutritional yeast
- 2 tbsp chickpea or almond flour
- 1 tbsp unsweetened soy or almond milk
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp pepper
Then, mix with your cooked protein, diced veggies, and herbs/spices/seasonings. Add the mixture to a greased pie dish or lined muffin tins and bake at 350°F for 30 minutes, until golden on top and the filling is firm. Cool for 10-15 minutes before slicing or removing from the muffin tins.
Serve: Add a dressing or sauce on top to taste. Try Primal Kitchen Vegan Ranch; Yai’s Thai Curry Sauce, fresh salsa or guacamole; or your favorite compatible hot sauce. Serve with a side of greens, fresh berries and sliced avocado, or grab-and-go as-is for breakfast in a hurry.
Combos I love
While these aren’t “recipes” per se, I’m going to share some combinations I love to inspire you. Remember, the whole point of these templates is to mix and match whatever you have on hand, because I promise it’s all delicious. Add these combos to your tofu scramble or frittata mixture:
- Combo 1: Chickpeas + green peas + green onion + sliced mushrooms + Oomp Cooking Blend No. 1 (White Mushroom, Shiitake, Shallots, Parsley)
- Combo 2: Abbott’s Butcher “Chorizo” + hot sauce + broccoli + nutritional yeast
- Combo 3: Bell pepper + sweet onion + sliced mushrooms + Danielle Walker’s Burnt Broccoli seasoning, served with a side of roasted potatoes and a drizzle of Primal Kitchen Vegan Ranch
- Combo 4: Sun-dried tomatoes + baby spinach + black olives + basil, served with a side of greens and your favorite Plant-Based Whole30 dressing or oil and vinegar.
Tips and tricks
- Tofu muffins freeze beautifully (If they last that long). Just wrap them individually in cling film, and make sure they’re wrapped tightly so air doesn’t dry them out.
- If you want extra variety or don’t have enough leftover veggies to fill a dozen muffins, fill half the muffin cups with one set of veggies and seasoning, then fill the remaining cups with a different mix of veggies and seasonings. This is a great way to use up the last of the veggie or protein scraps, while giving you two different varieties of muffins from the same prep session.
- Frozen veggies are a quick and cost-effective option here, but avoid using watery veggies like zucchini or squash. Try carrots, broccoli, peas, cauliflower, or butternut squash instead. Just thaw thoroughly and drain or pat away excess moisture before mixing in with the tofu.
Explore the full series of plant-based meal templates. Part 2 is all about plant-based “stuff over stuff.” And see how a sheet pan can be your best friend in meal prep with Part 3 of the series.
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