You know, for someone who really loves to cook, I really suck at making lunch. Give me a notebook, a few magazines and the internet on a Sunday afternoon and I will whip up a menu of 5 (or more) delicious dinner plans, along side a grocery list sorted by produce/dairy/pantry/protein and some genuine enthusiasm for the week ahead. For dinner.
Cut to Monday afternoon at 1:25. I work from home and so after a few hours lost in my emails and to-dos, I often find myself starving and eating one or more of the following, spread out over an hour of return trips to the kitchen:
- Small Bowl of Costco peanut butter pretzels
- A Baby Bell wheel of cheese (white cheddar please)
- A Yoplait Oui yogurt (basically a dessert)
- San Pellegrino
- Leftover Christmas candy
- A spoonful of peanut butter
- A spoonful of COOKIE butter
- A few more peanut butter pretzels
- a Pickle
Not exactly filling. Not exactly on par with my generally tasty and wholesome dinners, which I plan for in advance, grocery shop for with joy, and happily (most of the time) prepare each evening! It sucks. I end up either A) eating way too much random crap and simultaneously feeling like crap and also still hungry or B) NOT eating at all, and starving by 4pm, in which case I THEN enjoy a small bowl of peanut butter pretzels and a few pieces of leftover Christmas candy. With some wine to go with it because ya know, it’s 4pm! Who wants dinner?
I’m not one for New Years Resolutions, but I found myself somewhat inspired and weirdly not really turned off at all when over the past few weeks I came across a handful of grain-based meals that piqued my interest and so I decided, what the hell, let’s give it a go. At the bottom of my carefully organized grocery list for the week, I scribbled, “grain” and sort of just went with what else I had at home. At the store I wandered into the Bob’s Red Mill area, scanning the aisle for something I hadn’t had before. I opted for Freekeh, partly because it allowed me to keep saying, “what the freekeh!” to my kids all afternoon, and partly because it sounded good. Freekeh is wheat. Young green wheat that is toasted and roasted and kinda nutty and chewy. Cooks up really easily and is hearty enough to stand up to some re-heating after a night or two in the fridge.
To add to my freekeh-base, I opted for the following, all of which I had at home already!
-Everything Chickpeas (which are just roasted chickpeas tossed in Everything seasoning. DELICIOUS)
-Diced, roasted sweet potato
-handful of halved cherry tomatoes
-handful of baby kale
-sprinkling of feta cheese
-one jammy hard boiled egg
-a meyer-lemon viniagrette to pour over the top (A grain bowl without dressing is a VERY sad bowl)
After making the first bowl, I combined the remaining Freekah, chickpeas and sweet potato into a bowl for easy re-heating. The chickpeas would probably benefit from a separate roast in the oven to re-crisp but who has time for that? It’s 1:30 by now and the Christmas candy is looming!
With the exception of the chickpeas, I kept everything pretty basic as far as flavor goes. I liked the idea of heating up the leftover grain/chickpea/sweet potato combo in the morning or afternoon and having some variation with minimal effort. I am new to this whole planning-lunch thing after all. That being said, I hate it when recipes are just tossed out there as suggestions because sometimes when things are vague, that’s when people stop trying to make lunch and start to eat Triscuits over the sink (a favorite meal of mine). So I came up with variations based on my freekeh/sweet potato/chickpea foundation at the bottom. This recipe makes enough for 3-4 grain bowls to get you through the week!
The I-don’t-really-do-grain-bowls Grain Bowls
Makes 3-4 bowls
Ingredients for what I’m calling the “Foundation”:
1 Cup cracked Freekeh
2.5 C Water
2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and diced into 1/2 inch pieces
1 15 oz can chickpeas
2 Tbsp everything seasoning
To cook the freekeh: In a medium saucepan, combine water, freekeh and 1 Tbsp kosher salt (you want to really season this, otherwise it will taste pretty bland) over high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and cover. Simmer until liquid is absorbed– about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand for 5 minutes, then fluff with fork. Set aside.
To make the chickpeas: Preheat oven to 425F. Drain and rinse one 15 oz can of chickpeas through cold running water. Carefully spread them out over paper towels and blot dry (drier chickpeas=crispier chickpeas). Toss on sheet pan with 1 tbsp vegetable oil, 1 tsp kosher salt and 1 tsp black pepper. Roast in oven for 15-20 minutes, rotating pan and shaking to redistribute halfway through cooking time. Once crispy, add to bowl and toss with 2 Tbsp “everything” seasoning. Put some in a small bowl to snack on!
To make the sweet potatoes: Preheat oven to 425F. Toss peeled and diced sweet potatoes with oil, salt and pepper and spread out on sheet tray. Pop in the oven for 20-30 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through cooking time. Test for doneness by eating one! Watch out, they’re hot. Set aside or add to bowl.
OG Freekeh Bowl
1 C “Foundation”
1/2 C baby kale or other preferred green
1 “ramen style” soft boiled egg
4-5 grape tomatoes, halved
2-3 Tbsp crumbled feta
Meyer Lemon Vinaigrette to taste
Breakfast Freekeh Bowl
1 C “Foundation”
2-3 pieces of bacon, crumbled and 2-3 Tbsp fat reserved
handful of greens
1 fried egg
Warm Bacon Dressing*
Slightly Spicier Chicken Harissa Freekeh Bowl
1 C “Foundation”
1/2 C shredded chicken
Handful of greens
Meyer Lemon Vinaigrette
2 Tbsp meyer lemon juice
1 tsp meyer lemon zest
1 shallot, finely minced
1 tsp dijon mustard
1-2 tsp honey
pinch of salt and pepper
6 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Combine all ingredients in mason jar. Shake the crap out of it. Taste and season with salt and pepper as warranted.
Warm Bacon Dressing
3 Tbsp reserved bacon fat
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 tsp maple syrup
pinch of salt and papper
Put bacon fat in small saucepan set over medium-low heat. Add apple cider vinegar, maple syrup and pinch of salt and pepper and whisk until emulsified and combined. Keep warm until ready to dress your bowl.
2 Tbsp Harissa (I like Mina)
2 Tbsp greek yogurt or sour cream
Combine harissa and greek yogurt/sour cream in small bowl. Add Olive Oil as necessary until the consistency is to your liking (basically– do you want to pour it vs do a dollop). Season to taste with salt.