March is a complicated month. We're all looking forward to spring, but winter mostly has a pretty firm grip on us still. Some of how I deal with that is bringing some of that push and pull to my table with menus that embrace our need for warmth and comfort food (winter: baked falafel and seasoned brown rice) with fresh and light ingredients (spring: baby spinach with cucumbers and sliced mini sweet peppers). The result is a bowl meal that is perfect for this time of the year.
To transform the rice and falafel into bowls, add hummus, crumbled feta or goat cheese, Greek yogurt, kalamata olives, sliced mini sweet peppers, baby spinach and cucumbers (ideally tossed with lemon juice, olive oil, and sliced green onions) to your table when getting ready for dinner. Since this is a bowl meal, you really just need to pour a glass of your favorite beverage and sit down to dinner. If you have picky eaters (and even if you don't), let them assemble their own bowls … it saves you time and gives them ownership over what's in front of them. Then enjoy a meal that gives you a little bit of everything!
Start by making your sweet potato falafels. You can use either orange or white sweet potatoes to make the falafels. I like to bake earlier and just peel the skins off right before it's time to put everything in the food processor. If you don't have one of those, just mash everything together with a fork until a thick paste forms. I love using the food processor because it makes this step literally take a couple of minutes! If you don't have time to make the falafels when you plan to serve them, they can be made up to three days in advance and reheated in the oven. I like to spray them with a little cooking spray when doing this.
- 1 baked sweet potato (about 10 oz.), skin removed
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 (14-ounce) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
- 1 cup chopped onion
- 2 tablespoons crushed garlic
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 2 teaspoons Turkish seasoning or similar seasoning blend
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
Combine all of the ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth.
Spray a rimmed baking sheet lightly with cooking spray. Using a cookie scoop or tablespoon, form the sweet potato mixture into small balls and place them 2-inches apart on the pan. Flatten lightly into patties.
Chill the falafel balls in the refrigerator to firm up, about 45 minutes.
Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat it to 425° F. Bake the falafel patties until golden, 9 to 11 minutes.
- Yields: 4-6 servings
- Preparation Time: About an hour
While the falafels are chilling in the refrigerator, I usually start my rice. I love the combination of super flavorful sun dried tomatoes and tender brown rice. In fact, more often than not, if I'm making rice, I'm making it this way. You can make it on the stove, but the Instant Pot will save you the better part of a half hour and who doesn't like saving time?
- ½ cup diced sun dried tomatoes in oil
- 3 cups brown rice
- 3 ½ cups water
- 1 teaspoon salt
Combine all of the ingredients in the pot of your Instant Pot and lock the lid in place in the pressure cooking position.
Set the Instant Pot to cook on high pressure for 15 minutes.
When the cycle ends, allow the Instant Pot to release the pressure naturally. Fluff the rice with the fork and serve warm.
- Yields: 4-6 servings
- Preparation Time: 30 minutes