I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in my pajamas, about to climb into bed, when I stop cold and remember, “I forgot to pack my lunch for work.” The same thing could happen in the morning: I’m heading for the door with my my bag in one hand and my coffee thermos in the other, when I spot my empty lunchbox on the counter. Ugh. Am I the only one who dreads packing a lunch to go?
Many years ago, when I was the queen of the sad desk lunch, this would have meant rifling through the cabinets to pull together whatever semblance of a healthy meal I could find as quickly as possible. (The saddest desk lunch I ever had? A piece of bread and a few loose peanuts in a bag. It was rock bottom.) I’ve come a long, long way from those most pathetic lunches, but I still want something easy, fast, filling, and nutritious. Grabbing this Quick, Healthy Vegetarian Rice & Quinoa Bowl is what my packed-lunch dreams are made of.
Looking for an Easy, Healthy Lunch Idea? Look No Further
This simple but delicious quinoa bowl will fill you up and help you power through your afternoon. We can’t get enough easy, healthy lunch ideas, and this quinoa bowl is sure to become a staple in your lunch rotation. This simple but hearty bowl is packed with grains, legumes, and warm, rich flavor. What goes into this vegetarian quinoa bowl?
- Quinoa: Despite being about 5000 years old, quinoa has been having a cultural moment for the past several years, becoming one of the trendiest ingredients out there. It’s quinoa’s world, and we’re just living in it. Quinoa is loaded with protein, essential amino acids, and many potential health benefits, like balancing blood sugar and supporting gut health. And to top it all off, it’s got a wonderful nutty, savory taste.
- Brown rice: According to the Cleveland Clinic, “approximately 20% of the world’s calorie intake is connected to the humble rice grain.” Twenty percent! That’s amazing. Brown rice is one of the stars of the food world, and it’s also a star of this vegetarian dish. A packed source of fiber, manganese, and magnesium, this whole grain will help you feel full longer.
- Black beans: Another fiber-rich food, because we’re doing everything we can to stave off a hangry afternoon snack attack. Black beans are versatile, a great source of protein, and relatively inexpensive. (Our basement may or may not mostly be a place to stockpile cans of black beans. They are the perfect thing to have on hand!) We vote for the reduced sodium variety, to control saltiness and sodium levels in the quinoa bowl.
- Edamame: Frozen edamame is one of my favorite snacks to have on hand. I can eat edamame beans as mindlessly as a bag of chips while watching TV. (Just don’t eat the pods while you’re munching away!) Edamame beans are unripened soy pods. They bring tons of protein and no bad saturated fats to the table. (You may have seen conflicting information about soy consumption in the news. Like with any food or ingredient, it’s best to talk with your doctor, nutritionist, or dietician about what makes sense for your body and your diet!)
- Cherry tomatoes: Do you love the burst of juicy tartness from cherry tomatoes as much as I do? I love the pop they give, both in terms of texture and acidity. For this recipe, we just chop them in quarters and let them bring the party.
- Cumin, turmeric, and a hint of chili powder: Cumin is one of my all-time favorite spices. Its earthy warmth brings a bright tang to this quinoa bowl. It’s the presiding flavor in this dish, but don’t skip the turmeric. Turmeric adds a subtle, mildly mustardy depth that balances the punch of cumin and garlic. The chili powder is a background player but adds a very subtle underlying punch.
- Garlic: Ease is the name of the game for this recipe. So much so that we’ve found a way to make this already quick recipe even quicker. We are big fans of Seeds of Change Organic Quinoa & Brown Rice with Garlic packs, which we’ve used for this recipe. In less than two minutes in the microwave, you have a fluffy, garlicky, tasty blend of brown rice and quinoa. Of course, there are pros and cons to using pre-made mixes like this. There is salt in the Seeds of Change packs, so please note that if you’re watching your sodium intake. The garlic added to the quinoa and rice blend really rounds out the cumin and turmeric. If you’re cooking plain quinoa and/or plain brown rice for this recipe–which will absolutely work!–add some garlic powder to complete the flavor profile.
How to Make This Flavorful Vegetarian Quinoa Bowl
Now for the best part: How quickly this recipe comes together! In fact, once the prep work is done, it’s just a few minutes before you can start digging in or start packing up your lunch.
The microwave does most of the heavy lifting for this quinoa bowl, especially if you’re using Seeds of Change Organic Quinoa & Brown Rice with Garlic packs (see above). I like to multitask, so while the quinoa is spending 90 seconds in the microwave, I rinse the black beans and let them drain.
Once the quinoa and rice are out of the microwave, I put the edamame in. I prefer frozen edamame, because it lasts far longer than fresh edamame and is easier to find in the stores in my town. Having frozen edamame on hand also makes it easy to grab for a healthy and yummy snack (if I can justify grabbing a pint of ice cream out of the freezer, I can just as easily grab edamame). Read your package of edamame for cooking instructions; it might instruct you to boil the pods or pop them in the microwave.
While the edamame cooks, chop the tomatoes into quarters. All of the elements are ready! Next, add some balsamic vinegar or olive oil to a skillet. Either one works great. Balsamic vinegar will certainly add a sharper flavor, though it is mostly cooked out to become a subtle tang. After that, add the quinoa, brown rice, black beans, edamame, tomatoes, and your spices–cumin, turmeric, chili powder (and garlic, if using additional).
Heat everything on medium-low heat for about 3-5 minutes, stirring often. Since the ingredients are pre-cooked, this is primarily to cook the spices and help meld all of the flavors together.
Packing a Lunch is Easy with This Quinoa Bowl
This recipe makes six one-cup servings. Another reason I love taking it in my lunch? It’s equally good hot or cold. Enjoy for your lunch or dinner throughout the week! With this quinoa bowl in the refrigerator, you can sleep easy knowing you have a nutritious, delicious, and filling lunch all ready to go (especially if you have a slice of Meu’s Everything Zucchini Bread to go along with it!).