Fall Meal Prep Bowls

These seasonal meal prep bowls feature all the good stuff you need to stay healthy and happy this fall: bright and crunchy kale, hearty sweet potatoes, punchy cilantro, quinoa, black beans, chicken, feta and guac. Easily adaptable, these little beauties can be served cold like a salad, or warmed in the office microwave-- the greens will steam and soften and the choose will get all melty for a perfect bite. You can also swap the toppings to suit your taste. Vegetarian? Try Tempeh in place of chicken. Can't find feta? Sub in cheddar. Not a fan of kale....well maybe we can't be friends....but spinach, arugula, and mustard green mixes also work great. Don't let the recipe keep you down-- use what you can find! Best of all, you can find almost all of these ingredients at your favorite farmers market. Pick up your ingredients on Saturday, prep on Sunday, and voila, you've got a whole week of easy lunches.

Here's what you'll need:

Winter Meal Prep Bowls

(makes 5 healthy lunches for 2)

Farmers Market Shopping List

1 large bunch of kale

1 large bunch of cilantro

1 whole chicken

2 cups dry beans-- check out Breslin Farms for locally-grown beans! (You can also substitute 2 cans of prepared black beans-- simply drain and add to your bowls at the end)

5 large sweet potatoes

1 package of cheese (We particularly like feta! But any sharp or tangy cheese from your farmers market will do).

Pantry and Spice List

2 cups dry quinoa (or rice-- Cahokia Rice is grown in Illinois and you can find them in local grocers and co-ops across Illinois).

4 cups chicken stock

1 package of pre-made guac from real avocados (or make you're own!)

1-2 limes

Directions:

1. If you've purchased frozen chicken, make sure to thaw it in the refrigerator the night before.

2. Prepare your beans. Add the dry beans to a large pot and cover with 3-4 inches of water and a good pinch of salt. You can also add a bulb of garlic or quarter onion for extra flavor if you'd like. Cover and place over high heat until water comes to a boil, then uncover pot and reduce heat to a bare simmer. Cook until beans are completely tender, 1 to 2 hours.

3. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Rub the skin of the chicken with olive oil and season with salt, pepper, or your favorite herb blend. For the perfect roasting techniques, check out NYT Cooking. Roast the chicken in the oven for 45 minutes to 1 1/2 hours, using a meat thermometer to check the temperature. Once that baby hits 160 degrees you'll want to remove her from the oven to keep from drying out. If you're using pre-cut chicken thighs or other pieces, you can also roast them in the oven, or cook them in a cast iron skillet on the stove top. Once your chicken is done, let it rest for 10 minutes and then shred it into pieces.

4. While your chicken is roasting, clean and chop your sweet potatoes into cubes. Toss them on a greased baking sheet and drizzle with a couple of Tablespoons of olive oil, and a sprinkling of salt and pepper. Add your baking sheet to the oven and cook for about 30 minutes, stirring the potatoes once while they're in the oven. If you time it right, they should be done about the same time as your chicken.

5. Start your quinoa or rice while the bird and the potatoes cook. Bring your chicken stock to a boil, add the quinoa, and then cover the pot and turn the heat to low. Let the quinoa cook untouched for 25 - 30 minutes. All of the liquid should be soaked up.

6. Wash your kale and cilantro thoroughly. Remove kale stems and tear kale leaves into pieces. Rough chop the cilantro.

7. Assemble your bowls, starting with a bed of kale, adding quinoa, sweet potatoes, black beans, and chicken, and topping with feta cheese, guacamole, and cilantro. Serve with a squeeze of lime.

NOTE: If you plan to serve these bowls warm, reserve the guacamole for adding later-- because warm guac is not tasty. Also, these bowls freeze great and can be reheated in a microwave, but once again you'll want to reserve the guac to add later instead of freezing it with the bowl.

These are the kind of lazy Sunday meal prep bowls that you start in the oven, then go watch your favorite tv show, then come back and check, then go watch another episode, and then come back and finish up. It's the perfect way to spend a winter Sunday and the finished produce has all the slow-burning carbohydrates, healthy fats, protein, vitamins, and flavor to make your tummy happy throughout the week.

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