Pantry staples are key for healthy cooking during the pandemic, but turning to the same foods over and over again can definitely lead to meal fatigue. (Rice and beans again, great!) Throughout May as part of Well+Good's Prep School meal prep series, we asked healthy eating experts to share ways to cook with pantry staples you definitely haven't thought of yet. This week, we're serving up easy recipes with chickpeas as the starring ingredient.
One of Casey Seiden, RD's goals as a registered dietitian is to prove that eating healthy doesn't have to be time-consuming or cost a lot of money. (And also that no food is entirely off limits.) As a meal-prep master (she's even written a book about it, BTW), pantry staples have long been key parts of her regular cooking routine, including a particular Well+Good favorite: chickpeas.
By now, you're probably an old hat at mastering easy recipes with chickpeas. You've likely tried chickpea pasta, and if you're super in-the-know, maybe even chickpea cookie dough or ice cream (which, surprisingly, doesn't taste like hummus), but chances are you haven't tried them as meatballs.
Seiden likes making a batch of high-protein chickpea meatballs on Sundays, then incorporating them into her lunches and dinners throughout the week. If you're having trouble finding beef or chicken right now, these balls are going to be your new best friend.
Keep reading for everything you need for a week's worth of easy recipes with chickpeas (starring Seiden's chickpea balls)
Ingredients to buy for the week
- 1-2 bunches leafy greens of choice
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes
- 1 cucumber
- 1 lemon
- 1 avocado
- 1 zucchini (or 1 package frozen zucchini noodles)
Eggs and dairy
- 1/2 dozen eggs
- 1 package mozzarella pearls
Spices and condiments
- 2 cans low-sodium chickpeas
- 1 jar kalamata olives
- 1 jar tahini
- 1 package brioche buns
- 1 package pita bread
- Roasted almonds (enough for 1/4 cup)
What you'll need for the pantry/fridge
The one recipe to cook on Sunday:
Mediterranean chickpea meatballs
Meal prep tip: These chickpea meatballs only take six ingredients to make; it's truly a simple recipe. The below recipe makes enough for 20 balls, enough for you have for dinner on Sunday as well as for dinner the rest of the week. For Sunday dinner, use four of the chickpea meatballs and a serving of quinoa to make a quick-and-easy soup, adding them both to two cups of vegetable broth, all heated up on the stove together.
Yields 20 meatballs
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F degrees.
2. Combine all ingredients for the meatballs in a food processor. Blend until mixture is well mixed and mostly smooth.
3. Using a small cookie dough scoop or spoon gather a large tablespoon amount in your hands and roll into a ball. Repeat to make about 20 meatballs.
4. Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add a drizzle of olive oil. Add a few chickpea meatballs at a time and cook for about three to four minutes, turning to brown on all sides, until golden.
5. Remove the meatballs from the skillet and place on a lined baking sheet. Finish baking all meatballs in the oven for about seven minutes.
6. When the meatballs are almost done, heat two cups of vegetable broth on the stove. This will serve as a soup base for your dinner on Sunday. Once it's warm and the meatballs are ready, pour the broth and a serving of meatballs into a bowl, with a serving of cooked quinoa. Store the remaining chickpeas in an air-tight container in the fridge.
Other foods to meal prep ahead of time:
Quinoa: Cook one cup of quinoa, following package directions, to use in your dinners on Sunday and Monday nights. Feel free to prepare more if you want to incorporate it into your lunches throughout the week as well. Store in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to one week.
Here are the remaining easy recipes with chickpeas to enjoy all week
Monday dinner: Mediterranean nourish bowl
Leftovers: 3 chickpea meatballs, 1/2 cup cooked quinoa
New ingredients: 2 cups chopped leafy greens, 1/4 cup halved cherry tomatoes, 1/4 cup sliced cucumbers, 1 Tbsp tahini, squeeze of lemon juice
For a Mediterranean-inspired meal, add a serving of your leftover chickpea meatballs to a bowl of leafy greens, mixed with the quinoa you made yesterday. (You can either heat up the quinoa and balls in the microwave or eat as-is.) Then, add the cherry tomatoes and cucumber. Add a spoonful of creamy tahini and then the lemon juice, which will brighten up the whole flavor profile. In less than five minutes, dinner is served.
tuesday dinner: chickpea meatball parm
Leftovers: 4 chickpea meatballs
Slathered in marinara sauce and mozzarella cheese, the balls are perfect for making a plant-based twist on the classic Italian sandwich. Toast a brioche bun, then put the balls on, sandwich style. Spoon on some marinara sauce and finish by adding the mozzarella pearls. Slide it in a toaster oven or under the broiler for a few minutes until the cheese is melted. Serve with a side of leafy greens and enjoy.
wednesday dinner: Chickpea Meatball Mezze Meal
Leftovers: 4 chickpea meatballs
According to Seiden, mezze is a popular Middle Eastern dish that's essentially a plate of small appetizers or snacks, but they work just as well for a meal too. Build your plate by starting with a few chickpea meatballs, add some kalamata olives, a handful of roasted almonds, cucumber slices, mozzarella pearls, and pita triangles.
Thursday dinner: Pesto Zucchini Noodles with Chickpea Meatballs
Leftovers: 4 chickpea meatballs
New ingredients: 2 cups zucchini noodles, 2 Tbsp olive oil, 1/4 cup pesto, 1/4 cup mozzarella pearls
Sometimes, there's nothing more comforting than a big bowl of spaghetti and meatballs. Rather than a flour-based pasta, use zucchini noodles (either homemade or pre-made) to up the veggie content in your meal. Seiden points out that the chickpeas will still provide you with carbohydrates and plenty of filling protein. Blanche the zoodles by tossing them in boiling hot water for 20 seconds, then remove and place in an ice bath. This will soften the zoodles without causing them to become soggy. Remove the zoodles from the ice water, then top them with jarred pesto, reheated chickpea meatballs, and a little mozzarella cheese.
Friday dinner: breakfast-for-dinner patties and eggs
Leftovers: 2 chickpea meatballs
New ingredients: 2 eggs, 1/4 cup sliced cherry tomatoes, 1 sliced avocado, olive oil
Because breakfast-for-dinner meals don't happen very often, they always feel like a treat—and they're so easy to put together. Lightly flatten the chickpea meatballs into patties that resemble breakfast sausage patties and reheat in a skillet on the stove. It should only take about six minutes (three minutes per side). When they're done, use the same skillet to cook two eggs your favorite way. Plate the patties and eggs together, adding the sliced avocado and cherry tomatoes. Drizzle the eggs, tomatoes, and avocado with olive oil.
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