Sometimes I have so much going on at once I feel like I'm failing at everything. Other times I feel pretty on top of the game. Mostly it's somewhere in the middle.
I'm terrible at getting out of bed in the morning. I'm pretty good at scheduling exercise into my day. I rush out the door in a panic most of the time and tend to turn up to things either right on time or a few minutes late. I'm good at prioritizing my friends and family. I'm a 'time optimist' and often feel disappointed for not finishing everything I thought I could get done in a period of time. I mostly rock at packing my lunches.
Lunch packing takes a chunk of my Sunday afternoon - maybe a couple of hours - and I'd much rather be doing something else. But it is always, ALWAYS worth the effort.
First and foremost, I like to control what I eat. On the rare occasions I do pick something up for lunch it's never as nutritious as what I've packed myself, and more often than not it's not as tasty. I almost always save money by brown bagging it rather than buying lunch. But most importantly, I've discovered that my lunch hour is the most ideal time to fit exercise into my day. I bought a yearly membership at a swimming pool near my office and nip out at lunch for a swim as often as I can. It's great because I get out of the office, clear my head, come back energized, and my exercise is done for the day. Then I eat lunch at my desk (which, if you follow me on Instagram, is probably something you already know about me) while I work away.
Don't let this meze bowl intimidate you. There are components to be sure, but none are overly difficult, and most can be prepared in advance of assembly.
The inspiration for this bowl comes, ironically, from a take-out salad place near my office. If ever I treat myself to a bought lunch I pick up a meze bowl, and man is it delicious. Delicious, but a bit of an indulgence, both in money spent and calories consumed. It's a touch on the salty side, and comes with a lot more creamy dairy globbed on top than I care for. I was pretty sure I could replicate it at home, and last week when a colleague picked one up and I had my knock off version beside hers, I knew I had, more or less, hit the nail on the head.
So, you've got to cook up some sort of grain. The original salad uses savoury cooked oats, which is quite common in Sweden, but these sort of 'dinner oats' might be harder to find where you are. I've used barley and quinoa, both separately and together, and both are delicious. You've got to make some hummus (or acquire some hummus, whatever), and you've got to make a simple cucumber salad. Beyond that it's shredding a bit of lettuce (or using bagged greens), crumbling some feta (or leaving it out for a vegan version) and slicing up some avocado. Easy, right?
These meze bowls make a tasty, nutritious meal, and they pack well for lunches - I made a few day's worth at a time, leaving the avocado off until the last minute. Whether you're a lunch packer or not, and whether you'll make all of the bits and bobs or assemble your own version, I think you should give this a try. Let me know how it goes!
Looking for other bowls that pack well for lunch? How about:
Heather's Hallelujah Bowl
Multigrain Edamame Salad
Wild Rice and Chickpea Salad
Kale and Butternut Squash Salad
Brown Rice Sushi Bowl
Moroccan Carrot and Chickpea Salad
Meze Bowl Recipe:
If you've got all of the components made in advance, the meze bowl comes together in just a couple of minutes. Leave avocado off until just before serving if you're going to pack several lunches at a time. For extra flavour, cook your grains in vegetable broth.
Portions below are for 4 meze bowls
4 cups shredded lettuce or other greens
2 cups cooked barley, quinoa, brown rice or other grain (cooked in vegetable broth)
1 batch of cucumber salad (recipe below)
1 cup chipotle hummus (recipe below)
1 cup crumbled feta (optional)
2 ripe avocados
1 lime, sliced into quarters for serving
To assemble the meze bowl, layer the lettuce into the bottom of a large bowl, followed ½ of cooked barley (or other grain), and ¼ of the cucumber salad. Top with ¼ cup crumbled feta, ¼ cup chipotle hummus, and ½ of an avocado, sliced. Serve with a lime wedge to squeeze over the top.
½ of a long English cucumber, diced
½ of a large red pepper, diced
¼ of a medium red onion, diced
¼ cup chopped cilantro
juice from ½ a lemon
¼ teaspoon salt
Toss all ingredients together in a medium bowl, and set aside until ready to serve.
This will be more hummus than you need for 4 bowls, but it is delicious in other ways as well, and will last about a week in the fridge. Chipotle hummus recipe adapted from my Game Changing Hummus.
1 ¾ cups cooked chickpeas
½ cup tahini paste
2-4 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice (I use 4)
2 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
1-2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
½ – 1 teaspoon salt, to taste
¼ cup reserved chickpea cooking water, or water
Place the cooked chana dal or peeled chickpeas in a food processor and pulse for about one minute. Add tahini, lemon juice, garlic, chipotles, and salt, and pulse the food processor to combine. With the food processor running, add chickpea cooking water one tablespoon at a time, until the hummus reaches your desired consistency. You will need to stop and scrape down the sides a couple of times.
Avocados are an extremely fatty fruit! Around 80% of the calories in an avocado come from fat, which is about 20 x higher than most fruit. However, about 65% of this fat is
healthy monounsaturated fat, in particular oleic acid. Avocados also contain an incredible range of phytonutrients, and many vitamins and minerals. Avocados are a good source of vitamin K, fiber, vitamin B6, vitamin C, folate, and potassium – more potassium than a banana even!
Chickpeas are a super food! They’re a very good source of folate, protein, dietary fiber, phosphorus and iron. The fiber in chickpeas is mostly insoluble, which is really good for our digestive tracts. You can read more about the health benefits of eating chickpeas here.