Week 1: Basic Mexican Bowl

Rice, beans, veggies of choice, spices, and toppings

This is my favorite “go to” lunch. I make it when I am short on time and need to throw something together and also when I have an hour to lovingly chop my veggies and adjust the seasonings to perfection. Once you master this recipe, you can adjust the grains, beans, veggies, and seasonings to create a virtually unlimited number of healthy, vegan dishes. Let’s get started!

I know what you are thinking. That doesn’t look like a burger, burrito, or bowl. You are correct. Technically it’s a taco or maybe a quesadilla. It can also be a burrito or a bowl. A basic bowl is a good place to start.

First, gather your ingredients. French chefs have a very useful phrase “mise en place.” It means have everything in place and all of your ingredients ready to go when you begin cooking. This will make it so much easier once the heat is on and your veggies start frying.

To make this dish go faster, cook your grains and sweet potato ahead of time. Rice takes 35-45 minutes to cook on the stove. A medium sweet potato takes about 30 minutes to steam in a metal basket on the stove. You can make these a day ahead and put them in the fridge overnight, if you wish.

How to cook rice

My three favorite ways to cook rice are:

  1. Use homemade vegetable stock instead of water.

  2. Use 2-3 teaspoons of sweet white miso in the water.

  3. Use a mixture of vegetable stock and canned light coconut milk.

If you don’t have stock, miso, or coconut milk or you just prefer using water, go ahead.

My ratio for cooking rice is 1 cup of rice to 1.5 cups of liquid. I typically make 1 cup of rice, use half or it for a bowl for 2 or a third of it for a taco or burrito for 2, and put the rest in the fridge to use within 3 days. The rice will expand once cooked so you’ll have more than a cup.

  1. Rinse your rice thoroughly before cooking it.

  2. Bring liquids to a boil.

  3. Add rice, stir, and cover.

  4. Reduce heat to low (I put it on “1”).

  5. Set a timer for 35 minutes and do not open the lid until it goes off.

  6. When the timer goes off, check your rice. If it looks dry, add a little liquid, stir, and give it 2-3 more minutes. If it looks watery, leave the lid off and let cook up to 5 more minutes.

  7. Take off the heat and let it sit and rest uncovered for 5 minutes before fluffing it.

How to steam a sweet potato

I prefer organic hannah white potatoes. They are a bit sweeter and mellower than orange or purple sweet potatoes. You can use any variety you prefer.

  1. Wash your sweet potato thoroughly under running water.

  2. Pierce a few times with a fork.

  3. In a pot on the stove, bring two (or so) inches of water to a boil.

  4. Place a stainless steel food basket in the pot along with your washed potato.

  5. Cover, reduce heat to low (about 3 out of 9).

  6. Set a timer for 30 minutes. Check with a fork when the timer goes off.

  7. Continue to heat until it’s soft and the fork easily pierces the potato.

Basic Ingredients for 2 bowls

  • 1/2-2/3 cup cooked grain (rice or quinoa are my favorites)

  • half a can of cooked beans (black, pino, and three bean blend are my favorites)

  • 2-3 garlic cloves, smashed in a press or minced

  • 1/4 onion, diced

  • veggies of choice (cherry tomatoes, kale or spinach, broccoli, mushrooms, frozen corn, and red peppers are my favorite) chopped into bite size or smaller pieces

  • if making a bowl and not a burrito, use cubes of chopped, already cooked sweet potato in the stir fry, add it close to the end if you make it today and it’s warm or midway through if it spent the night in your fridge

  • salt, pepper, ground cumin, cinnamon, chili powder

  • 2 tablespoons sriracha

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable stock or water

  • 1 tablespoon coconut aminos

  • 1/2 tablespoon avocado or olive oil

Instructions for making 2 yummy bowls

  1. Heat a frying pan over medium heat for 5-7 minutes so it gets hot

  2. Add a glug of oil (if you prefer to cook without it, start with vegetable stock or coconut aminos)

  3. Add the onion, stir to coat, continue stirring for 2 minutes (the onion will brown if you don’t continue to stir, which is a good reason to have your veggies mise en place before you begin)

  4. Add the garlic, stir a few times, about 20 seconds, before adding more veggies

  5. Add your toughest or thickest veggies first so that the ones that need more time to cook get it (mushrooms actually take a while, so if using sliced mushrooms, add them early in the process) I usually add spinach last, if using. Kale takes longer. If using frozen corn, I soak it in hot water for 5 minutes before draining it and throwing it in midway through the cooking process.

  6. Season your veggies. Adding salt earlier in the process is good because it draws out more flavor from the onions. I often add half the salt I plan to use after I add the garlic and sprinkle half on the sliced cherry tomatoes. Salt is a great flavor enhancer for many foods, especially tomatoes. I like to use a dash of cinnamon to beans. It’s a great flavor companion for both beans and sweet potatoes.

  7. I use a dash of chili powder, two or three dashes of ground cumin, a dash of cinnamon, a glug of sriracha, and a splash of coconut aminos. This is my personal favorite flavor combination. You’ll find what works for you.

  8. The total cooking time varies based on the veggies used, but ranges from about 10-15 minutes of cooking time from the point where your pan is hot. Be sure to taste your creation before it’s completely cooked and adjust the seasonings to your preference. It’s done when the veggies are the degree of crispness or tenderness you prefer. (I like my veggies a tad on the crunchy side.)

At this point, you have a bowl. You can garnish it with a few slices of cherry tomatoes, a sprinkle of gomasio, a handful of sprouts, a swirl of sriracha, or my favorite, guacamole. If you’d like to make it into a burrito or a taco and you have another 10 minutes, in my next post I’ll be sharing my recipe for the vegan sweet potato quesadillas pictured below. They are delicious and easy to make. Until then, enjoy every bite.