I didn’t make any New Year’s resolutions per se, but as that hullabaloo that happens at the end of every year upended my routines, I did think about habits I wanted to institute once things settled down.

Photo by Lacey Baier/courtesy of Page Street Publishing Co.

Among them was adding more variety to my meals, lunches in particular, while keeping them healthy and homemade – and maybe even throwing in something hot sometimes. “Clean-Eating Breakfasts and Lunches Made Simple” by Lacey Baier had much of what I was looking for: salads and bowls packed with vegetables, beans and grains, plus smoothies and overnight oats that would be great upgrades to my morning egg, if I decided to add to my vague vision for a “new you.”

The cookbook consists of 11 themed sections, most with seven recipes each, from Fun Breakfasts for Your Inner Child (e.g. Homemade Strawberry Pop Tarts) to Shockingly Healthy Appetizers You Can Enjoy As a Lunch, from which the Buffalo Cauliflower “Wings” with Zesty Ranch Dipping Sauce were tempting but required buying both almond and chickpea flour that I wasn’t sure I’d ever use again.

I zeroed in on Lunch Bowls of Goodness, made up of more complex recipes for hot meals, and landed on the Sweet Potato and Black Bean Buddha Bowl, partly because giving sweet potatoes another try was also on my 2020 maybe-do list. The number of components in this recipe, each of which required preparation beyond knife work, made it tricky to prepare in a small kitchen, but the skill required to execute each one was minimal and different cooking times allowed for it all to come together pretty easily.

Although the ingredients were ones commonly found in healthy cooking, most recipes would include black beans or chickpeas with sweet potatoes or quinoa, not all four of them. But the carb-loaded dish managed to be filling without feeling heavy, though perhaps better suited as a posthike meal than a replacement for a sad desk salad. Also, the competing flavors of the components made it difficult to taste any one of them when combined – a good thing, for me, for the sweet potatoes (I still don’t like them), but not for the spicy sauteed chickpeas, which I’d make again.

This recipe encapsulated my impression of the cookbook as a whole, that it contained some good ideas but that the compositions weren’t exactly inspired. Some recipes seemed too simple – various combinations of chicken and raw veggies – but included spices, sauces and dressings that could be used to enhance any salad ingredients you happened to have. Others, like the one I tried, were overly busy but contained components, like the chickpeas, that could be incorporated into a more basic bowl. Considering the ambiguity of my ambitions for the new year, that’s plenty to work with for the first quarter.

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Buddha Bowl Photo by Lacey Baier/courtesy of Page Street Publishing Co.

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Buddha Bowl

Recipe from “Clean-Eating Breakfasts and Lunch Made Simple.”

4 servings

FOR THE QUINOA

1 cup multicolor quinoa

1/2 tsp sea salt

2 cups water

FOR THE SWEET POTATOES
2 large sweet potatoes, diced

2 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp sea salt

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp chili powder

1/2 tsp paprika

1/4 tsp ground black pepper

2 red bell peppers, sliced

1 can black beans with no salt added, drained, rinsed and patted dry

FOR THE CHICKPEAS

1 tbsp olive oil

1 can chickpeas with no salt added, drained, rinsed and patted dry

1 tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1/4 tsp sea salt

1/4 tsp ground black pepper

FOR THE TAHINI SAUCE

1/4 cup tahini

1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/4 tsp sea salt

1/4 tsp garlic powder

1/8 tsp ground cumin

1-4 tbsp water, divided

FOR SERVING

Lime wedges

Cilantro

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Rinse the quinoa in a fine-mesh sieve to remove any debris and dirt. In a deep saucepan, cook the quinoa over medium-high heat for 6 to 8 minutes, tossing frequently, to toast the quinoa. It’s done when the quinoa is no longer wet and begins to pop and turn golden brown. Add the salt and water and stir. Over medium-high heat, bring the water to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cover the pan. Cook for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the water is absorbed and the quinoa doubles in size. Remove the pan from the heat and fluff the quinoa with a fork. Set it aside.

For the potatoes, line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. On the pan, toss the sweet potatoes, olive oil, salt, garlic powder, cumin, chili powder, paprika and pepper until the potatoes are coated. Roast the potatoes for 15 minutes. Then, add the bell peppers, and toss to mix them with the potatoes.

Roast the potato mixture for another 15 to 20 minutes, or until the peppers are crisp-tender and the potatoes are tender. Remove the baking sheet from the oven, and toss the potato and pepper mixture with the black beans. Set aside.

For the chickpeas, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet. Add the chickpeas, cumin, garlic powder, salt and pepper, and stir to combine. Cook, stirring frequently, until the chickpeas are crispy and golden brown, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside.

Meanwhile, for the sauce, combine the tahini, lemon juice, salt, garlic powder and cumin in a small bowl, and whisk together until completely combined. If the sauce is too thick, whisk in water, 2 tablespoons at a time, until you achieve pourable, but not watery, consistency.

For serving, start with a base of quinoa in the bowl, and top with the sweet potato mixture, then the chickpeas. Drizzle the bowl with the tahini sauce, add the limes and cilantro, and serve.


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