Southwestern Nourish Bowls

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Southwestern Nourish Bowls-Brimming with colorful vegetables and plant-based protein, these nutrient-dense bowls are filling, adaptable and easy to prep for the week ahead. (Great portable work lunch, too!)

Brimming with colorful vegetables and plant-based protein, these nutrient-dense bowls are filling, adaptable and easy to prep for the week ahead. (Great portable work lunch, too!)

 

Do you have a favorite restaurant meal or prepared food option that you’d like to replicate at home? If so, what is it?

With the abundance of packaged foods, plethora of fast casual restaurants and general ease of takeout these days, it would be really easy to never cook. Happily, there are virtuous options if you look for them.

Restaurants like sweetgreen, CoreLife and Harvest keep the calorie counts down without sacrificing flavor or the need to feel satisfied -and there’s something on the menu for most every taste and eating style.

Not to be outdone, grocery stores have ratcheted up their offerings of wholesome prepared foods. Much of it is prepackaged but, more and more, these stores are cooking in-house so customers can take home a hot, “home-made” meal.

Granted, we pay a premium for this convenience, so there’s good reason to create our own short list of grab-and-go meals that we can prepare ourselves and have at-the-ready.

What’s more, we can often make these grocery store and restaurant offerings even more appealing by editing out what we might not love and added more of what we do!

Case in point: Nourish Bowls.

For those who may not have noticed, Nourish Bowls can be found in many supermarkets near the packaged greens. There are several varieties to choose among, all of which are green-, grain- and/or legume-based and contain a sauce and a variety of mix-ins for added flavor and texture.

(If you’d like a visual of the store-bought bowls, this is what they look like.)

My personal favorite combines hearty kale, sweet potatoes and black beans with a variety of Tex-Mex flavors. Neatly packaged in a handy bowl, the meal requires nothing more than a short cook in the microwave and a quick stir.

Southwestern Nourish Bowls-Brimming with colorful vegetables and plant-based protein, these nutrient-dense bowls are filling, adaptable and easy to prep for the week ahead. (Great portable work lunch, too!)

Of course, we’ve talked before about the recommended daily intake of veggies. It can be a challenge, right?  These bowls will make it easy!

Southwestern Nourish Bowls-Brimming with colorful vegetables and plant-based protein, these nutrient-dense bowls are filling, adaptable and easy to prep for the week ahead. (Great portable work lunch, too!)

While the store-bought option certainly convenient, too, I like to make them myself for several reasons.

The dressing: This is what pulls any salad together. The store-bought Nourish Bowls include a packet of black bean and corn salsa. I use a basic tomato salsa and then add the corn and the beans. This approach allows for a heartier serving of protein-rich black beans (there aren’t too many in the salsa), and the extra protein increases the staying power. Plus, as is often the case, the do-it-yourself approach saves a few pennies in the process.

(Note: I have a homemade salsa recipe, which I can share at some point if there’s interest. My favorite store-bought brands are Green Mountain Gringo’s medium and Newman’s garden salsa. Feel free to share your personal favorite in the comments section.)

Toppings: They are listed in the recipe as optional; I’ve eaten these bowls without any of them and have still been quite satisfied. That said, toppings are easy additions that provide extra layers of flavor, texture and overall appeal, and I do recommend. Following are my favorites:

  • Avocados or guacamole add creaminess and healthy fats, adding to the flavor and fill factor.
  • Likewise, pepitas (also known as pumpkin seeds) provide healthy fats, a wealth of nutrients and welcome crunch. I mention several others in the recipe, but feel free to think beyond my ideas.

Flexibility: Customization can happen through various topping choices, but it’s equally easy to adjust the core ingredients based on what you like and have on hand. For example, you could try edamame or kidney beans in place of the black beans, feta or cotija cheese rather than cheddar or butternut squash instead of sweet potato. I’ve even used peas, which don’t complement the southwest flavors as well but aren’t bad if you like peas!

The store-bought packages contain kohlrabi. As a harder-to-find vegetable, I’ve omitted it in my rendition, but you could give it a go. As always, as you try the recipe, feel free to come back and comment with feedback and any tweaks, as others may enjoy the insight.

Variations: For an added twist, you can prepare the bowls as directed and then add chicken or vegetable broth to make soup. Or prepare as directed and add to beaten eggs for a healthy scramble-or use the cooked mixture as an omelet filling.

Added bonus: These bowls are naturally free from wheat, soy, peanuts, tree nuts, gluten, and egg, making them ideal for almost anyone. For a vegan meal, simply omit the cheese or stir some nutritional yeast into the finished bowls.

Southwestern Nourish Bowls-Brimming with colorful vegetables and plant-based protein, these nutrient-dense bowls are filling, adaptable and easy to prep for the week ahead. (Great portable work lunch, too!)
Southwestern Nourish Bowls-Brimming with colorful vegetables and plant-based protein, these nutrient-dense bowls are filling, adaptable and easy to prep for the week ahead. (Great portable work lunch, too!)

In order to better gauge whether one of my ideas has broad appeal and to further test methods, options, and overall ease of preparation, I sometimes recruit recipe testers or drop off little packages of food with willing taste testers in exchange for honest feedback. (If anyone wants to be a future tester, please let me know.😋)

Comments from taste testers:

  • I thought the greens would make everything a little watery when heated but they didn’t. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed these!
  • The black beans and the sweet potatoes work so well together. The first time I stopped cooking after 2½ minutes because everything looked done, but the sweet potatoes really do need the full time stated. I’d make these on repeat.
  • Like a warm salad. (I added crouton-like crunch using broken corn chips from the bottom of the bag!) Comforting and healthy.
  • Salsa as dressing is a stroke of genius. Healthy and flavorful. I didn’t expect the small amount of cheese to do much, but it added a pleasant extra hint of flavor and cohesion.
  • I appreciate a meal that I can tailor to my own tastes. For one meal I mixed in a small amount of leftover rice and I’d do that again.
  • Superb work lunch! I could see packing these on a regular basis.
  • Proof that it’s possible to improve upon grocery store conveniences and save a few dollars at the same time. It’s a win for me!
Southwestern Nourish Bowls-Brimming with colorful vegetables and plant-based protein, these nutrient-dense bowls are filling, adaptable and easy to prep for the week ahead. (Great portable work lunch, too!)

Southwestern Nourish Bowls (with meal prep option)
Yield: 1 serving (can meal prep enough for the week)
Brimming with colorful vegetables and plant-based protein, these nutrient-dense bowls are filling, adaptable and easy to prep for the week ahead.
Ingredients
  • 3 lightly packed cups finely chopped kale, tough stems removed
  • 1/3 cup diced sweet potato (peel if desired; 1/4-inch dice for best cooking)
  • 1/3 cup diced cauliflower (may use stem pieces)
  • 1/4 cup black beans (cooked or from can, rinsed and drained)
  • 2 tablespoons frozen corn (may use drained canned)
  • 1/3 your favorite salsa (I like a thick, chunky salsa)
  • 2 tablespoons shredded cheddar or Mexican blend cheese
  • Optional: chopped avocado or guacamole; toasted raw or salted pepitas; leftover chopped chicken; crumbled tortilla chips; warmed tortillas
Instructions

Place the kale in a quart-size microwaveable container.  Evenly distribute the sweet potato, cauliflower, black beans, and corn over top. At this point you may cover with a lid or plastic wrap (just make sure the container is air-tight) and refrigerate for up to 5 days.

When ready to eat, remove the lid or plastic wrap, add the salsa, and stir to evenly distribute.  Drape a paper towel over the container (to prevent splatters), and microwave for approximately 3 to 3 1/2 minutes on high, stopping to stir after 2 and 3 minutes. The bowls are ready when the sweet potatoes are fork tender. Depending on microwave and precise size of the potato dice, you may need to adjust the cooking time slightly.

Stir in the cheese and optional toppings as desired. Some may enjoy stuffing the veggie mix into a warmed tortilla or two.

Notes

As I’m measuring, I lightly round the measuring cups of sweet potato and cauliflower for what (in my opinion) is just the right balance of ingredients. After trying once, feel free to adjust the add-ins according to personal preference.

If you don’t care for one of the add-ins or would like to bulk them up even more, frozen, shelled edamame would be another complementary addition to these bowls.

The Fountain Avenue Kitchen https://fountainavenuekitchen.com/

 

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Comments

  1. Harriette Stoudt

    The bowls sound delicious! I must try this.
    I am very interested in food without sugar. My husband doesn’t eat sugar, so I always am looking for those items without. I realize there are many, but if you run across anything extraordinary, please share. I use truvia in some dessert recipes, but have many times failed miserably!

    Reply
    1. Ann Post author

      Thank you, Harriette! I hope you enjoy them. Coincidentally, I’ve been working on more recipes that are either no sugar or very low sugar and will try to share more of them going forward. I adore sugar, so I’m always trying to figure out ways to make things taste great with less (and still enjoy a special, guilt-free dessert here and there). We can all motivate each other on this front!

      Reply
  2. Alexis M

    I will gladly take on taste tester duties! It sounds like such a challenge
    These bowls look tasty.
    I’ve got to admit I do not, as a rule, comment on blogs but I’ve left multiple messages for you. Thanks for being so relatable!

    Reply
  3. Karen Owens

    These look delicious. I use so many of your recipes. I would be happy to be a taste tester for you, and I believe I am in your neighborhood.

    Reply
    1. Ann Post author

      Hi Karen, I’m delighted you are a “regular” -and a neighbor! I will send you an email about the recipe testing, and I hope our paths will cross someday soon.

      Reply