This meal in a bowl is one of my favorite comfort foods. The coconut rice is a nutty, slightly sweet, and satisfying base for soft roasted vegetables and fresh greens. Mild butternut squash and sharp brussels sprouts compliment one another, while deeply roasted mushrooms add a meaty flavor and texture to this plant based meal. Chopped toasted cashews add crunch, and a creamy avocado cilantro sauce brightens the whole dish. It is the kind of nutritious meal that feels indulgent, without the guilt.
There is no doubt that incorporating lots of fresh vegetables into meals involves time to slice, dice, and peel. The great thing about cooking in 2019 – if you are short on time, you can buy most everything pre-packaged. Diced butternut squash and halved brussels sprouts are sold in most every supermarket throughout the fall and winter, as is pre-washed boxed baby spinach. Roasted unsalted cashews are common fare as well.
This dish can be made with white rice or brown rice. Brown rice is a whole unrefined grain, and therefore offers greater nutritional value, including many vitamins, fiber, and healthy fats, from the bran and germ. If you are eating rice more often with meals, try experimenting with the different wild and brown varieties available in the market. My family prefers the white rice here, as it absorbs the coconut milk better, and creates a creamy texture. If you make this dish with brown rice, you will need to add 1/4 cup of water to the recipe, and additional cooking time, as recommended on the package. I recommend doubling the rice, as it is always a favorite.
Feel free to make this dish your own, or use what you have on hand. Swap 2 sweet potatoes for the butternut squash, or broccoli for the brussels sprouts. In the spring/summer try zucchini and carrots. Adding a poached or fried egg on top is amazing, and diced chicken breast, salmon or beans make for a heartier meal.
Comfort Bowl: Coconut Rice, Roasted Vegetables, and Greens
It is the kind of nutritious meal that feels indulgent, without the guilt.
- 1 small butternut squash peeled and cut into 3/4 inch cubes
- 1 1/2 pounds brussel sprouts bruised leaves discarded, ends trimmed, and halved
- 1/2 pounds mixed mushrooms wiped clean with a damp dish towel, stems trimmed, and sliced into 1/4 inch pieces (shitake, baby bella, crimini and white button mushrooms all work well here)
- 2 packages baby spinach or other baby greens
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
- Cayenne Pepper to taste
- 1 Lime
For Coconut Rice
- 1 cup white jasmine rice
- 3/4 cup full fat coconut milk (unsweetened)
- 3/4 cup water
- 2 teaspoons granulated sugar or unrefined coconut sugar (optional)
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/3 cup roasted unsalted cashews chopped
- 1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves lightly chopped
For Avocado Cilantro Crema
- 1/4 cup plain whole greek yogurt
- 1/3 cup water
- 1 lime juice of one lime
- 1 clove of garlic crushed
- 1/2 ripe avocado
- 1 cup cilantro leaves
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- a squirt of Sriracha sauce is optional, for some heat
In a small bowl, whisk together 2 Tablespoons olive oil, 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, and a pinch of cayenne pepper, to taste.
Place squash, and brussels sprouts on a large rimmed sheet pan, and toss well with olive oil mixture, coating all pieces. Add more oil if needed. Spread the veggies into one layer. If the pan is too crowded, the veggies will steam instead of caramelizing, and you may want to use two pans instead of one. Place mushrooms in a separate bowl, toss with a glug of olive oil, 1/4 teaspoon salt and some freshly ground black pepper. and set aside. Place pan with squash in the middle rack of oven, and roast for 15 minutes. Open oven, toss vegetables, and add mushrooms to pan. Continue cooking for 15 minutes or more, until vegetables brown around the edges.Prepare spinach.Add a small amount of water (about 1/4 cup) to a medium pot over medium heat.When water begins to simmer, add spinach (or other greens), a couple of handfuls at a time.When pot is full, toss spinach, cover with lid and reduce heat to low. Cook for 2 minutes or so, until greens are just wilted. Use tongs to squeeze any remaining water from greens. Toss with a squeeze of lime, a pinch of salt and black pepper. Set aside.
For Coconut Rice: While veggies are roasting, prepare the rice
Rinse rice well until water runs clear.
Add rice, water, coconut milk, salt and sugar (if using) to a medium pot.Bring liquid to a boil over medium high heat. Stir well and reduce heat to a simmer.Cover pot with a tight fitting lid, and cook for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let rest covered for another 10 minutes. You can keep covered until ready to serve.
For Avocado Cilantro Crema
Place all ingredients into a high speed blender, and blend until smooth and creamy. Add more water, if needed, to achieve desired consistency. Sauce will keep in the refrigerator for 3 days, and leftovers make a zesty salad dressing.
To Assemble Rice Bowl
Place a serving of rice into each bowl. Top with roasted veggies, wilted greens, chopped cashews, and cilantro leaves. Drizzle with an avocado cilantro crema drizzled on top.
You can substitute brown jasmine rice for the white rice to add more fiber and nutrients. Keep in mind, you will need to increase the amount of water by 1/4 cup, as well as increasing the cooking time (according to the package).