Kelly's Mediterranean Meal Prep

Welcome back to the blog! In the next two weeks, the protopantry is featuring a series of inspiring women and creating recipes that (attempt to!) overcome their most pressing barriers to cooking.

The first willing test subject is Kelly, a super-active healthcare consultant working in New York City. Kelly’s diet is mostly plant-based and gluten-free, which is great for her health, but it can be tough to maintain with a busy lifestyle. Plus, Kelly is an avid runner and relies on rice and legumes to fuel her frequent marathon training. For this meal prep, I set a goal to create several servings of two meals—sticking to Kelly’s dietary preferences—while saving some of every NYC-dweller’s most precious commodities: money and time.

This meal-prep “recipe” creates 1) about four Mediterranean-style Buddha bowls with a creamy balsamic dressing and 2) five or six servings of a tomato and rice soup that can easily be frozen for later. The key is to use an overlapping list of inexpensive ingredients, and prepare everything at the same time. Remember to season everything well—healthy food doesn’t have to be bland! I hope you enjoy.

Yield: About 4 servings of Buddha bowl and 5-6 servings of soup

Time: 50-55 minutes

The soup portion of this recipe is adapted from


  • 2 cups brown rice, uncooked

  • 1/4 cup olive oil plus several additional tablespoons or drizzles as desired for cooking and dressing

  • 2-3 14.5-ounce cans diced tomatoes (use more for Buddha bowls with a hearty serving of tomatoes)

  • 2 15.5-ounce cans of chickpeas

  • 1 large red onion, chopped

  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped

  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic (5-6 cloves if using fresh garlic)

  • 1 1/2 cups carrots, peeled and sliced into bite-sized pieces (we used a can to save time and money, but fresh carrots will produce heartier and more crisp results)

  • 1 6-ounce can of tomato paste

  • 1 quart broth or stock (we used vegetable stock)

  • 1 5-ounce bag of spinach

  • 2 teaspoons maple syrup, plus more to taste

  • 1/4 cup almonds (we used slivered with no skins for extra-creamy dressing)

  • 1 teaspoon mustard

  • 4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, divided

  • 3 tablespoons cold water, plus more as needed

  • 1 cup pitted kalamata olives

  • Italian seasoning to taste

  • Pepper to taste

  • Salt to taste


Prepare the rice

  1. Begin to prepare the brown rice according to package instructions. Set a timer for five minutes before the rice will be finished.

    Prepare Buddha bowl components

  2. While the rice is cooking, drain and rinse one or two cans of diced tomatoes, pressing gently with a spatula and/or paper towel to remove as much liquid as possible. Place the drained tomatoes in a food storage container with a drizzle of olive oil, salt, and pepper, and refrigerate until you are ready to assemble the Buddha bowls.

  3. Next, drizzle about a tablespoon of olive oil in a large soup or stock pot over medium heat.

  4. When the oil shimmers, add all but 1/4 cup of the chickpeas to the pot with a tablespoon of garlic and a generous dash of salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning. Set the reserved 1/4 cup of chickpeas aside for the Buddha bowl dressing.

  5. Saute the chickpeas for about ten minutes or until fragrant and very lightly browned. Place the cooked chickpeas in a food storage container and refrigerate until you are ready to assemble the Buddha bowls.

  6. Give the soup pot a quick wipe-down or rinse and add another drizzle of olive oil, keeping the heat at medium.

  7. When the oil shimmers, begin sauteing the onions until just translucent, then add the remaining tablespoon of garlic and saute for another minute.

  8. Remove half of the onion mixture and place it in a food storage container to refrigerate until you are ready to assemble the Buddha bowls.

    Prepare the soup

  9. Add the carrots to the pot with the remaining onion mixture. Also add the tomato paste and one tablespoon of balsamic vinegar. Stir to coat the vegetables with tomato paste.

  10. Add one can of diced tomatoes (with their juices) and the broth or stock to the pot along with a generous dash of salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning. Increase the heat to medium-high to bring the soup to a boil, then reduce the heat so that the soup is just simmering. Simmer until carrots are tender.

    Prepare the Buddha bowl dressing

  11. To a blender, add the reserved 1/4 cup chickpeas, 1/4 cup olive oil, almonds, three tablespoons of balsamic vinegar, two teaspoons maple syrup, mustard, salt, pepper, water, and Italian seasoning. Blend until smooth for the Buddha bowl dressing, and add additional water if necessary to reach a thick-but-pourable consistency. Refrigerate the dressing until you are ready to assemble the Buddha bowls.

    Finish the soup and Buddha bowls

  12. When the rice is five minutes short of being finished, add half the rice (with half the liquid) to the soup along with two large handfuls of spinach. Continue to simmer for at least five minutes. Add additional salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning as desired, plus a touch of maple syrup if needed to cut the acidity of the tomato. At this point, the soup is finished. Continue to steam the remaining rice in its original pot until finished, and then refrigerate the plain rice in a storage container with a drizzle of olive oil, salt, and pepper until you are ready to assemble the Buddha bowls.

  13. When you are ready to assemble the Buddha bowls,* add spinach, rice, tomatoes, sauteed chickpeas, and onions to a serving bowl or lunch container. Drizzle with a healthy dollop of dressing, and top with kalamata olives. Enjoy.

*For freshest taste, I recommend assembling Buddha bowls as close as possible to serving. If packing for lunch, pack dressing separately.

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Everything on is made using our 50-ingredient minimalist pantry list. We have recipes from all over the world and for most dietary needs—explore here.