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How to cook a week’s worth of healthy, easy, Mediterranean meals without spending hours in the kitchen

Emily Laurence

Emily LaurenceApril 10, 2020

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Photo: Getty Images/OlgaMiltsova; Graphic: W+G Creative

If you want to turn meal prep from a lofty wellness goal to an actual reality, Well+Good’s new Prep School series has you covered. Each month, we’ll focus on a different eating style, with four weeks of different delicious plans to try at home. All April, we’re focusing on plant-based eating, with each week focusing on a different type of cuisine. This week, the theme is easy, Mediterranean-inspired meals.

Some parts of the world paint a pretty idyllic picture of what it means to live in good health. While the U.S. has some work to do on that front, the Mediterranean region seems to have it down. Not only are Ikaria, Greece and Sardinia, Italy both Blue Zones, where people regularly live to be over 100, the Mediterranean diet has undergone a major resurgence in the past couple years as research continues to back its benefits for heart health, cognition, and longevity. Simply put, the Mediterranean has a glowing health halo.

Watch the video below to learn about the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet:

Fortunately, you can still live a busy, typical American lifestyle while still eating Mediterranean-inspired meals. The key, of course, is to plan ahead. Here to help is registered dietitian, chef, and The Mediterranean DASH Diet Cookbook author Abbie Gellman, RD.

Gellman’s pro meal prepping tip is to make big batches of two plant-based proteins that are versatile enough to be used in different ways throughout the week. In this case, it’s vegan meatballs and pinto beans. In order to cook both without it taking up her whole Sunday, she cooks one on the stove while the other is cooked in the Instant Pot. Smart, right?

Gellman shares the recipes for her two plant-based proteins to make on Sunday and gives five meal ideas on how to incorporate them into other dinners throughout the week—very minimal cooking required.

Keep reading to see the full week meal plan of easy Mediterranean meals, along with a grocery list of everything  you’ll need.

easy mediterranean meals shopping list
Graphic: W+G Creative

Ingredients to buy for the week:

Produce

  • 2 onions
  • 1-2 garlic bulbs
  • 8 oz. cremini mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 medium sweet potato
  • 1 large zucchini
  • 1 bag baby spinach
  • Vegetables of choice for roasting
  • 1 lemon
  • Fresh parsley
  • Fresh mint

Dairy

  • 1 7-oz container plain Greek yogurt
  • Shredded Italian-blend cheese

Sauces, condiments, and herbs

Pantry goods

What you’ll need from your pantry:

The two foods to cook on Sunday using your Instant Pot:

easy mediterranean meals
Photo: Abbie Gellman

recipe 1: vegan meatballs

Meal prep tip: This recipe makes four servings, enough for you to enjoy one for dinner on Sunday and to save the rest to be incorporated into meals later in the week.

Yields 12 meatballs (3 per serving)

Ingredients
1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 onions, chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
8 oz. cremini mushrooms, chopped
1 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 cup vegetable broth
2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried sage
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 cup parsley, chopped
1 can (15.5 ounce) white beans, drained and rinsed
1 Tbsp chia
2 cups cooked quinoa

1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or foil, or spray regular muffin tins with oil spray.

2. In a skillet over medium-high heat, add the oil. Add the onions and sauté until translucent, approximately four minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for 30 seconds. Add the mushrooms, salt, and pepper. Sauté for 15 minutes until most of the moisture is released and the mushrooms are cooked down.

3. Add the vegetable broth and deglaze the skillet, scraping up the brown bits. Cook for another five to 10 minutes. Add the oregano, sage, red pepper flakes, parsley, and beans. Turn off the heat and allow to cool slightly.

4. In a small bowl, mix the chia with two-and-a-half tablespoons of water. Allow the mixture to sit for approximately five minutes to set.

5. In a food processor, add the entire contents of skillet mixture. Process until smoother (can be slightly chunky) and move into a bowl. Add in the chia water mixture and combine well. Add in the quinoa and mix well.

6. Form 12 balls the size of golf balls. Place each one in a muffin tin spot or place on a baking sheet in a single layer. Bake in the oven for 25 minutes until golden brown.

7. Enjoy one serving of three meatballs tonight with a half cup of roasted vegetables (see instructions below) and your favorite jarred marinara sauce. Store your extra meatballs in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to one week.

easy mediterranean meals pinto beans recipe
Photo: Getty Images/Igor Dutina

recipe 2: Instant pot pinto beans

Meal prep tip: The below recipe makes four servings. Save them all to be incorporated in lunches or to have as extras. Store the beans in a container in the fridge for up to one week.

Yields 4 servings 

Ingredients
1/2 lb. bag dried pinto beans
2 cups unsalted vegetable stock or water
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper

If using an Instant Pot:

1. Add the dried beans and stock to the Instant Pot and mix well.

2. Close the lid, turn the valve to “seal,” and set the Instant Pot to cook on manual high pressure for 30 minutes.

3. Once the time is done, allow a natural release for 10 to 15 minutes then quick release any remaining steam.

4. Add salt and pepper and mix well.

If making them on the stove: 

1. Rinse and drain the beans. If possible, soak the beans in water overnight. If you don’t have time, add them to a pot of water. Cover the pot. Allow the beans to boil for one minute. Turn off the heat and let them soak for one hour. Then, drain the beans again.

2. Pour the beans and vegetable broth into a big pot. Add the salt and pepper.

3. Cover the pot and cook for two to four hours.

OTHER MEAL PREP STAPLES TO MAKE AHEAD OF TIME

Roasted vegetables: Chop and roast four cups of your favorite vegetables, which will be incorporated into four meals later in the week. You can cook them in the oven at the same time as the vegan meatballs. Just toss them with olive oil, salt, and pepper, place them on a baking sheet, and put them in the oven. Store them in the refrigerator in a resealable container until ready to use.

Roasted sweet potato: Wrap one sweet potato in foil and place in oven to roast alongside other vegetables and vegan meatballs. Store that in the fridge in a resealable container, too.

Here’s how to use these foods to make plant-based, Mediterranean-inspired dinners all week long:

monday dinner: beans, veggies, and sweet potato with tahini sauce

Leftovers: 1 serving pinto beans, sweet potato, 1/2 cup roasted veggies

New ingredients: 2 tablespoons yogurt, 1 1/2 tablespoons tahini, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, pinch of salt

To kick off your week, slice open the sweet potato and top it with vegetables and beans. Combine the yogurt, tahini, lemon juice, and salt together in a small bowl and whisk well to create a creamy tahini sauce. Drizzle the sauce directly on top of the sweet potato.

tuesday dinner: vegan meatballs marinara

Leftovers: 3 vegan meatballs

New ingredients: 1/2 cup jarred marinara sauce, 2 cups spiralized zucchini

Use spiralized zucchini in place of traditional pasta noodles and pair it with your vegan meatballs for a plants-on-plants dinner. The marinara sauce is really key for making this dish taste more like spaghetti. Add your favorite seasonings to add more flavor, too.

wednesday dinner: bean and vegan meatball Stew

Leftovers: 1 serving pinto beans, 3 vegan meatballs, 1 cup roasted veggies

New ingredients: 1 1/2 cups vegetable broth, pinch of salt and pepper

Combine the beans and vegan meatballs to make a delicious, hearty weeknight stew. Simply place all the ingredients into a small pot over medium heat, break up the vegan meatballs to make more of a stew texture, and cook until warmed through, approximately five to seven minutes.

thursday dinner: bean and vegan meatball spinach salad with citrus vinaigrette

Leftovers: 1 serving pinto beans, 3 vegan meatballs, 1 cup roasted veggies

New ingredients: 1 cup baby spinach, 2 tablespoons chopped parsley, 2 tablespoons chopped mint, 2 tablespoons toasted nuts, dressing (1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 1 teaspoon Dijon, pinch of salt and pepper

This tasty no-cook meal will be on the table in minutes. Add the beans, vegan meatballs, roasted veggies, spinach, and herbs in a large bowl. Whisk together the dressing ingredients in a small bowl, then toss it with the beans, meatballs and veggies. Top with your favorite toasted nuts.

friday dinner: pita pizza

Leftovers: 1 portion of beans, 1 cup roasted veggies

New ingredients: whole wheat pita bread, 1/4 cup Italian blend cheese, 1 cup baby spinach, 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar, pinch of salt and pepper

Friday night is pizza night! Use the rest of your roasted veggies by putting them on top of a pita with the cheese then broil on low for five minutes until golden brown. Round out the meal by making a side salad using baby spinach and a last portion of beans, whisking them together with olive oil, white wine vinegar, salt, and pepper. If you have any vegan meatballs left, feel free to crumble those up and add them to the salad as well.

If you want to use your Instant Pot to make more healthy meals, check out these easy beginner recipes. And join Well+Good’s Cook With Us Facebook community for more healthy meal inspiration.

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