Fresh, colorful bowls, filled with healthy ingredients, are just the tip of something that lurks under a hunk of used dishes and about 5,000 kitchen appliances. While I’m steering the ship, I’m heading straight for it, with a beer in one hand and a crooked parsnip in the other, screaming, “I’m supposed to do what with a what now?” However, I’ve actually agreed to this mess. I said to Nate and Alex, “Sure! Let’s eat amazingly healthy and tasty things that will make ALL of the dishes and wedding registry items from 21 years ago super useful.” Yes, the healthy bowls from Plant Power Bowls by Sapana Chandra take time and energy to make, but they are very much worth it. So, I have the following confession to share: I have been preparing vegan meals from this cookbook for the Fixin’ Leaks and Leeks Team (except Alex and Nate also get chicken) for over two weeks now, and I’m exhausted from the sheer amount of ingredients and steps, but these meals ARE healthy; they ARE tasty.
For a little context/background, I want you to know that the Plant Power Bowls cookbook was published by Sasquatch Books in Seattle, WA, which, as a horror writer, made me really excited, but Sasquatch Books is not that kind of publisher. I almost sent them my story about a menopausal axe-wielding Sasquatch. They would have sent me a rejection letter straight away, with a wholesome picture of vegetables and a big arrow that points to the word, “Learn!” Whew! The embarrassment I have saved myself for sure! So, in case you’re wondering, Sasquatch Books does NOT want your alien-space-brain-spattered-adventure. They want bloody red beets and finely mashed cashews instead.
One of our favorite recipes from Chandra’s book is the “Roasted Beet & Spicy Lentil Bowl with Creamy Turmeric Dressing” (pages 128-129 and page 82).
I’ll have to admit that I don’t follow all of the directions in the book, but I’ve done pretty well with this version, that somewhat matches the steps/ingredients in Chandra’s version:
For the beets: Wash and peel about two-three medium-size beets. Cut them into quarter-sized pieces. Toss them in a bowl with about a teaspoon of olive oil, some garlic, a little bit of sea salt, and about a teaspoon of lemon juice. Bake at 400 degrees for 30-40 minutes.
For the lentils: Place one teaspoon of olive oil into a medium-sized pot. On medium-high heat, cook ¼ of a cup of chopped onion and one clove of garlic. Add one cup of lentil beans and just enough vegetable broth to cover the beans. Add a bay leaf and a teaspoon or two of cumin. Add salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil and let simmer, covered, for about 45 minutes, until all of the broth is absorbed.
Other ingredients: ½ cup of diced carrots and ½ cup of chopped fresh cilantro.
Turmeric dressing: I do follow this recipe exactly, from page 82. It’s a lovely combination of raw cashews, turmeric, cumin, lemon juice, and cayenne pepper that you can blend together. If I’m short on time, I’ll mix some sour cream, a little bit of garlic, curry powder, a pinch of salt, and lemon juice as my dressing. It’s not as good as Chandra’s, but it’s pretty good.
At the end, I also heat up some chicken breasts for Nate and Alex because they love extra protein—from animals. We’ve also added grilled shrimp.
To assemble the bowls: Start with the lentils, add the beets, (layer in the cooked chicken/shrimp if you want), sprinkle with the cilantro/carrots, and drizzle the dressing on top. The resulting mix is warm, spicy, tangy, and nutty—and absolutely fresh.
The resulting kitchen is also tangy, nutty, woodsy—littered with beet tops and roots—boiled over pots—a stray lentil or two—olive oil that’s hard to see on the counter surface—and don’t slip on the lemon juice—also, you need to take apart the blender, scrub out bits of cashews, and put it back together again, but otherwise, guests and family will look at your creation and say, “What a beautiful thing! So effortless!”
In Other News: I had four short stories of fiction that appeared in literary magazines at the beginning of the week last week! Here they are, if you want to read for free:
“Hack for Saving Images” in 3Moon Magazine, pp. 36-37.
“Faithful Fan” in Dwelling Magazine, pp. 32-33.
“Honey Melt Baking Mix Chat Room” in Wretched Creations Magazine.
“Woman in the Trees” in Tether’s End Magazine.
Your Turn: What are your favorite, go-to weeknight meals?