It seems like I’m always searching for the perfect lunch food. It has to fit a lot of criteria: easy to pack, keeps well, requires minimal prep work, and it has to be filling but not too heavy while also being healthy and cheap. That’s a tall order! There aren’t many options that fit the bill for me, and then if I find one that works I tend to ride it out until I’m sick of it. Then the process starts all over again. I recently put together this sweet potato burrito bowl idea, and it has worked out perfectly for me. I like to eat this for one week straight, and then I shelf it for a bit so I don’t get too sick of it.
The only thing that requires any kind of planning ahead for me is buying the sweet potatoes and baking them in the oven after dinner. That’s so easy it’s hardly worth calling it “planning ahead.” If I heat up the oven while we’re making dinner, I just pop one or two potatoes in there (whole, pricked with a fork and on a foil-lined sheet pan) and let them bake for about an hour while we eat dinner and go about our evening. Then I let them cool so when I go to pack my lunch for the next day (usually around 9pm), they’re ready for me to plop in a bowl with everything else. So easy. I tend to have all of the other ingredients in my pantry, so it’s no big deal. You could always swap out the sweet potato for leftover chicken and/or roasted veggies from your dinner or something, but I just love the sweet potato with these flavors.
One of these days when I feel like doing more prep work, I want to make some cubed, oat-crusted sweet potatoes like Lindsey’s, tossed with taco seasoning. I think that would up the game of this bowl a little bit. However, I tend to just roast the potatoes whole for the ease of it.
This is practically a non-recipe, but as a food blogger and a food blog reader, I think it’s important to share the everyday recipes that we make. They can serve as a friendly reminder for someone in a cooking rut (or lunch-packing rut), but these also tend to be the recipes that get made most often. And as much as I love sharing outlandish desserts and specialty recipes with you guys, I also want to talk to you about the food I eat every day.
Now if you’re wondering about the logistics of how I pack and eat this for lunch so I’m not eating a bowl of cold sweet-potato-salsa-bean-weirdness, here’s how I roll: First of all, I love these ceramic containers that are designed for microwaving. Warming up my lunch in plastic totally freaks me out, so I feel better about microwaving things when I use something like that. When I’m packing it up I tend to layer my greens on the bottom, and then I nestle my sweet potato off to one side (usually a 1/4 or 1/2, depending on the size of the potato), with the beans, salsa and cheese next to it in a heap. I place my avocado (again – 1/4 or 1/2, depending on the size), right on top with the skin still on. When I’m at work, I take the avocado out before microwaving everything else for 1-2 minutes until it’s nice and steamy. Then I give my avocado a rough chop with my fork while the skin is still on and scoop it into the bowl. After that you just mix everything around and eat it! Sometimes I’ll chop up my sweet potato to get mixed in, but otherwise I just kind of scoop some potato out of its skin with each bite. (Oh – and I tend to like kale better for this method. I’d probably use baby spinach if I was eating this fresh, but spinach gets too wilty and gross for me in the microwave, whereas kale gets nicely wilted while still keeping some of its texture.) Make sense?
This post is actually part of a group of posts by other food bloggers (#FoodiesFightingHunger) where we are trying to raise awareness for hunger by sharing a meal that costs $5 or less. When Whitney of Jew Hungry asked me to participate, I said yes right away. I had been wanting to share this bowl recipe on the blog and I thought this would be the perfect opportunity. Blogging for a good cause just makes it even better. My heart breaks to think about the abundance of food in this country while poverty and hunger are still so commonplace.
The nonprofit organization MAZON is working to end hunger in the United States and Israel for all faiths and backgrounds. They teamed up with us for these posts, and they’ve got some statistics and resources to share with us:
• 1 in 7 Americans struggle with hunger
• 15.3 million American children struggle with hunger
• 5.4 million seniors are food insecure
(That’s not okay.)
I’m extremely fortunate to have access to fresh food (like through my CSA) and that I’m able to prioritize my food choices within my budget. Robert and I choose to invest our money in healthier, whole food choices every week, which can often feel expensive. But we DO have a budget, so I’m not immune to the search for budget-friendly healthy meals. That’s why I loved this challenge of creating a $5 meal, and I’m proud to say that this recipe falls WAY under that $5 limit.
Based on the current prices at my local grocery store (where I do 98% of my food shopping), here is the (estimated) breakdown of cost for each ingredient in this recipe:
1/2 of a sweet potato: $0.38
1/2 of an avocado: $0.50
Handful of spinach or kale: $0.42
1/4 of a can of black beans: $0.25
2 tbsp salsa: $0.14
Small handful of cheese: $0.16
$1.83 per serving!! That’s amazing! And it’s pretty healthy, too. The other thing that bums me out about food in this country is how much food we throw away. It’s so terrible, and I’m guilty of it as well. Bowls like this sweet potato burrito one are fantastic because they’re a great way to use up random bits you have hanging around. The recipe I have listed is where I usually start, but I’ll often add or swap things out depending on what I have on hand. Here are a few suggestions for you:
• leftover chicken, pork, chorizo, etc.
• roasted veggies
• pickled veggies
• rice, quinoa, farro, millet, etc.
• taco seasoning
• parsley, cilantro, etc.
• chipotle crema
• spicy mayo
• hot sauce
• sour cream
• crushed tortilla chips
• shredded carrots
• chickpeas, Northern beans, refried beans, etc.
• shredded brussels sprouts
The possibilities are endless! Go crazy and create your ultimate burrito bowl. Your lunch (or dinner) will never be the same.
If you’re looking for other $5 meals, you can find them listed below. If you’d like to help spread the word, please share this post along with the other ones in the series, and talk to your friends and neighbors about this issue. Find a way to help in your community. Maybe we can all join together in our efforts to make this situation better and fill everyone’s bellies with healthy, nutritious food.
• Ramen Alfredo with Fresh Herbs
• Rice Bowl with Egg
• Spring Vegetable Alphabet Soup
• Fried Green Tomato Sabich
• Crustless Veggie Frittate in Muffin Tins
• Black Beans and Cheesy Tortillas
• Avocado Toast with Foolproof Soft Boil Egg
• Vegan Kale Tortilla Salad
• Galette of Slow-Roasted Tomatoes, Caramelized Onions and Corn
• Peanut Butter and Chocolate Overnight Oats
Illustration at top created with pencil and Photoshop.
Prints of my illustrations (along with other products with my work on them) are available in my Society6 shop.
- ¼ - ½ of a sweet potato, baked
- handful of spinach or kale
- ¼ - ½ of an avocado
- a few tbsp of black beans or chickpeas, etc.
- 1-2 tbsp salsa
- sprinkle of cheese (sharp cheddar, feta, etc.)
- optional: spicy mayo, hot sauce, cilantro, sour cream, etc.
- Heat your oven to 425°F. Prick a sweet potato all over with a fork. Place on a foil-lined baking sheet and bake for 45 minutes to an hour, until a fork pierces through it easily. Allow to cool until ready to use.
- If you're using kale or another hearty green, feel free to saute it with some oil and garlic to wilt it a little bit. With spinach I would just keep it fresh. Layer all of your ingredients into a bowl and eat as you please. You can chop up your sweet potato or scoop it out as a mash. You do you.
- Place all of your ingredients in a microwave-safe container. Place the avocado on top with the skin intact. Before microwaving, remove the avocado from the bowl, and then add it later after everything else is warmed up. If there's another ingredient that you don't want to have warmed, pack it in a separate container.