If you're anything like the rest of us, you might tend to needlessly overcomplicate your life. You plan an elaborate dinner for a Wednesday night. You schedule a meeting across town at rush hour. With all of the small, daily challenges we face, when it comes to healthy eating, the key to success is making life as uncomplicated as possible, so that choosing the right foods is a piece of ... fruit.
You have likely seen pictures with refrigerators stacked full of organized containers and healthy weeknight meals ready to throw in a slow cooker. It's a great idea that is probably not in the cards for most of us, but it does serve as inspiration to make one or two small changes that can drastically improve the quality of our lives and our lunches.
Grain salads, like this recipe for Farro with Roasted Winter Vegetables, might be the key to healthier eating in the new year. If you're stuck in a lunch rut — ordering in to the office every day, eating a peanut butter sandwich, or skipping it altogether — grain salads are an easy way to mix it up. Made with nutritious and hearty whole grains like wheat berries, barley, and quinoa, grain salads are packed full of protein, fiber, and vitamins. When you combine grains with your favorite fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and nuts; and top them with flavorful vinaigrettes, herbs, and spices, you can eat a different salad every day, with just a small amount of effort.
At the beginning of the week, cook a big batch of grains to cool and refrigerate. Each day, add your favorite salad veggies or leftovers to make a satisfying lunch that changes every day of the week. In minutes, you could have a salad of wheat berries, roasted Brussels sprouts, dried cherries, and chopped pecans. And the next day, wheat berries with grilled chicken, roasted red peppers, and balsamic vinaigrette. Remember, grain salads aren't just for stuffing your lunch box. Mix your cooked grains with almond butter, a splash of honey, chopped apples, and cinnamon for breakfast-on-the-go. Or use a leftover salad to stuff bell peppers, cabbage, or halved acorn squash for a hearty dinner. How's that for meal prep?
Keep in mind that some farro sold in the United States is processed to remove some or all of its tough outer bran for ease of cooking. Labeled as "semi-pearled" or "pearled," this farro is stripped of its coveted whole grain status, as well as much of its nutrients. Whole grain farro requires a little bit of extra time to prepare; you'll want to soak it overnight before cooking it, to ensure the perfect chewy texture.
FARRO WITH ROASTED WINTER VEGETABLES
Start to finish: 2 hours, 5 minutes (Active: 35 minutes. Inactive: 1 hour, 30 minutes)
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 3/4 cups (about 8 ounces) diced butternut squash
1 3/4 cups (about 8 ounces) diced acorn squash
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons minced onion
2 cups uncooked farro
4 cups water
1 tablespoon oil
2 cups chopped cabbage
1/2 cup chopped parsley
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
In a medium bowl, toss the butternut squash and acorn squash with the olive oil.
Transfer the squash to a foil-lined baking sheet and place in the oven. Roast until the squash is cooked and brown around the edges, about 1 hour. Remove from the oven and set aside.
Meanwhile, in a medium pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until the onion has softened and is fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the farro and cook for about 2 more minutes.
Add the water and bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat. Cover the pan and simmer until the farro is cooked and the water is absorbed, about 25 minutes.
While the farro is cooking, heat the oil in a large pan over medium heat. Cook the cabbage until it is softened and browning around the edges, about 5 minutes.
Transfer the cabbage to a large bowl and mix it with the cooked farro and vegetables. Stir in the parsley. Serve hot, or refrigerate and serve chilled.
Nutrition information per serving: 486 calories; 142 calories from fat; 16 g fat (2 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 0 mg cholesterol; 12 mg sodium; 71 g carbohydrate; 14 g fiber; 2 g sugar; 13 g protein.