Back when I first started to get into cooking, around 2008 or so, I lived and died by recipes. In other words, I followed those things to the LETTER, and if I didn’t have a listed ingredient for something, I didn’t make it. In fact, I distinctly remember in the first couple years of marriage, when we were eating dinner with some good friends. When I asked the husband how he’d made a particular dish, I was surprised (flabbergasted, really) to discover that HE’D MADE IT UP HIMSELF. I mean, I thought only professional chefs on the Food Network did that kind of crazy thing.
Fast forward to just two years ago, in 2016. I’d been reading a lot of books that reinforced the fact that normal people did, in fact, make up their own recipes all the time, and that it really wasn’t as scary as I was making it out to be. So that year, I set a new year’s resolution I titled “100 Hours in the Kitchen,” which was a project I solely started to get more comfortable going off-recipe.
Although I talked about it a few times on the blog, that year-long experiment really made a HUGE difference in how comfortable I got in the kitchen, especially with making substitutions, making do when I was out of certain ingredients, and even (gasp!) making up my own recipes. In fact, I’d say that now, I alter about 75% of the recipes I make in some way, and some drastically.
All that backstory is leading up to this fact—
This is a recipe I basically created myself.
Using two different recipes I found online (which I altered, some parts a bit drastically, and then stitched together), I came up with this here little spicy(ish) rice bowl back when I was in the throes of my Health(ier) Habits series, and I’ve been meaning to throw it up here on the blog for ages.
So, if you’re looking for a fabulous meatless option (that can easily be made vegetarian or vegan), look no further—because this baby is goooooood, if I do say so myself.
Sweet Potato + Black Bean Rice Bowls
Serves: 4-6 people
Total Prep + Cook Time: about 45-50 minutes
2 lbs. sweet potatoes (two jumbo sized or 3-4 smaller-sized)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon salt
2 cans black beans
2 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. chili powder
(1/4 cup broth or water reserved from rice; see note below)
2 tablespoons canola or olive oil
1 onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 tsp. cumin
1 can chicken OR vegetable broth (or you can sub in 2 cups of water)
1-1/2 cups long grain white rice (uncooked)
20 ounces salsa verde
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1. Line a rimmed cookie sheet with aluminum foil and spray with nonstick cooking spray. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
2. Peel and chop the sweet potatoes into small 1/2″ cubes. Toss together in a large bowl with olive oil, paprika, and salt. Spread out in a single layer onto the prepared cookie sheet and place in the oven. Roast for 35-45 minutes.
3. While potatoes are roasting, heat oil in a large skillet and add chopped onion once the oil is hot. Cook onions, stirring frequently, for 4-5 minutes until onion starts to turn translucent. Add in cumin and garlic, stirring constantly, until fragrant (about 30-45 seconds). Add in 1-3/4 cups of broth or water (make sure to reserve 1/4 cup for the black beans), all of the green salsa, and the rice. Stir to combine, and bring to a boil. Cover the skillet, turn down the heat to low, and continue to simmer on low for 18-22 minutes until the rice is tender. (You can add in more water by quarter cups if it needs more liquid near the end.) Stir occasionally to prevent the rice sticking to the bottom. When rice is soft and ready to serve, add the half cup of chopped cilantro and stir in.
4. While the rice is cooking, drain and rinse the black beans and put them into a small pot with the 1/4 cup reserved broth/water and the cumin and chili powder. Bring to a low simmer and leave on the stove, warming, until everything is ready.
5. Once the sweet potatoes and rice are finished, spread the rice in the bottom of a bowl and layer with black beans and sweet potatoes. Garnish with optional toppings. (I personally prefer sour cream to cut some of the heat and avocados.)
***Note: I recommend starting with the “mild” version of salsa verde, which adds a decent amount of heat as it is. If you like it spicy, gradually work your way up.