These halloumi sandwiches have grilled bell peppers, zucchini, and halloumi with zesty herb sauce and a seedy bun. They make for a delicious, simple, summery dinner!
Sweet potato black bean bowls with kale, seeds, avocado, and lemon-tahini sauce make for a lovely meal prep situation. A light but filling sheet pan dinner that also just so happens to be vegan!
In case you’re getting to a point where you can’t stand to eat one more damn cookie from the batch that you thought would be a good idea to freeze in case you got snacky and sad, here’s some vegetables and super foods! When I said in my blog post last week that I meal prepped, I meant it! I threw together these sweet potato and black bean bowls early last week, and they lasted so long, that Marc and I definitely won’t be eating them again for at least two more months. But, it was fun while it lasted, and I learned how to switch up veggie bowls so that I don’t get entirely too sick of them!
On top of feeding us for lunch and dinner for a few days, these bowls also happened to make a great breakfast! Rice is unnecessary when you go the breakfast route, because you can just plop the veggie mixture on a plate, top with a runny egg, and voilà, it’s suddenly a hash.
Here’s what you’ll need for sweet potato black bean bowls
The best part of these bowls is that they require mostly basic pantry staples + a few things from the produce aisle! While the lemon-tahini sauce is optional, I would highly recommend making it! It adds so much delicious, nutty flavor to the dish. However, if you can’t find tahini, no worries. We’ll talk about it later.
Also, I realize this looks like a ton of ingredients, but a lot of it is spices and other typical things you probably already have in your kitchen. You can mix up the ingredients if you want to customize your bowls, but here’s what I used:
- Sweet Potatoes: I use jewel sweet potatoes, but any are ok!
- Olive Oil: Or whatever oil you like to use for roasting.
- Chili Powder: For spice.
- Smoked Paprika: Or regular!
- Cayenne: For more spice.
- Salt and Pepper: Always.
- Garlic: A necessary component of any savory dish.
- Rosemary: Fresh or dried is fine!
- Kale: I use curly, but get whatever you can find.
- Red Bell Pepper: Or pepper of choice.
- Black Beans: Just one can.
- Tahini: See substitutions below!
- Lemon: Goes perfectly with tahini.
- Brown Rice: Or any grain you like.
- Toppings: Avocado, seeds (I like pumpkin, chia, and flax), cheese, eggs, etc.
Time to make sweet potato black bean bowls!
Before you begin, remember to start your rice! How many times have you forgotten to start the rice and then dinner is half an hour late? The woooorst.
Next, spread the sweet potatoes on a sheet pan, and drizzle with olive oil. Toss with the chili powder, smoked paprika, cayenne, garlic, rosemary, salt, and pepper and bake at 400°F for about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, chop up the pepper and tear the kale. Toss with more olive oil, salt, and pepper, and add to the sheet pan. Bake for another 10-15 minutes, until the veggies are tender and the kale is crispy. Sprinkle the black beans over the sheet pan, and bake for another 3-5 minutes, just until the beans are warmed.
While everything is baking, you’ll want to prepare your rice, any toppings, and the sauce! If you’re making the lemon-tahini sauce, just whisk together the tahini, lemon juice, some water, a clove of garlic, and a pinch of salt. It will seize and get clumpy, but just keep going! If it’s thick, continue adding water or lemon juice until it’s nice and saucy.
Serve the veggies over rice with sauce, seeds, avocado, and other toppings of choice!
Sweet Potato Black Bean Bowl Toppings
These bowls are customizable, which is the best part! You can use different veggies, different grains, whatever you like. As for toppings, I like to add avocado, a squeeze of lemon, and lots of seeds to my bowls! (Seeds are basically savory sprinkles, yeah?) However, if you’re feeling a little ambitious, there are lots of other fun things you can add to round out the meal:
- Fried Eggs: Obviously not vegan, but so delicious!
- Feta Cheese: Parmesan or queso fresco are great too if you can’t find feta.
- Pickled Onions: Anything pickled, really.
- Fresh Herbs: There’s never a bad time for fresh herbs. Try chives or cilantro!
- Greek Yogurt: I’ll put plain Greek yogurt on anything.
- Chicken: If you need some meat, grilled or sauteed chicken would be delicious.
What if I can’t find tahini?
I’m lucky that tahini just sits on the shelves in my grocery store. However, I know that’s not the case for everyone. If you can’t find tahini, but you still want to make a sauce, try plain Greek yogurt! As much as I love tahini, I will never say no to garlicky, lemony yogurt sauce. Or, you can always order tahini online!
Bonus: Sweet potato black bean bowls are vegan!
If vegan is your thing, then these bowls are for you! Obviously, if you add eggs and cheese and yogurt, that will not be the case. But, they will still be vegetarian! They also happen to be gluten free. So, you can pretty much make these bowls for anyone which is gr8.
How to meal prep sweet potato black bean bowls
These are my perfect meal prep situtation! Once you get all of the ingredients prepped, all you have to do is layer the bowls together into six airtight containers however you please. Top with a lid, and store them in the fridge for up to one week. I would recommend adding seeds right before you eat, or they may get soggy in the fridge. Also, maybe add avocado last-minute, or it’ll get brown and funky.
A few tips and tricks
- Make sure not to crowd the veggies, or they will steam rather than bake. If necessary, use two sheet pans so that the veggies get nice and crisp.
- Double the tahini dressing if you have no self control (hi, me).
- The veggies may get a bit soggy in the fridge. To crisp them back up, reheat them at 350°F just until they are warm.
Other delicious veggie recipes!
Sweet Potato Black Bean Bowls
Sweet Potato Black Bean Bowls
Sweet Potato Black Bean Bowls
- 2 large sweet potatoes (about 1 lb.), peeled and diced
- 1/4 cup olive oil, divided
- 1 1/2 tsp chili powder
- 1 tsp smoked paprika (or regular)
- 1/4 tsp cayenne
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tsp rosemary (fresh or dried), chopped
- 1 head kale, ribs removed and leaves torn
- 1 red bell pepper, diced
- 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Brown rice (or another grain), for serving
- Avocado, seeds, feta cheese, fried egg, etc., for serving
- 1/4 cup tahini
- 3 tbsp lemon juice
- 3 tbsp cold water
- 1 small clove garlic, finely minced
- Salt, to taste
Sweet Potato Black Bean Bowls
- Preheat oven to 400°F. Grease a sheet pan. Spread the diced sweet potatoes on the sheet pan, and drizzle with 2 Tbs. olive oil. Sprinkle with chili powder, smoked paprika, cayenne, garlic, rosemary, salt, and pepper. Toss to coat, and bake for 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, toss the kale and bell pepper with the remaining olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Toss the mixture with the semi-cooked sweet potatoes, and cook for another 10-15 minutes, until the potatoes are tender and the kale is crispy.
- Stir the can of black beans into the veggie mixture and bake for 3-5 minutes, just until the beans are warmed through. Taste, and season with salt and pepper. Serve the veggie mixture over rice with avocado, seeds, tahini sauce, and/or other toppings of choice.
- While the veggies are baking, whisk together the tahini, lemon juice, water, garlic, and a pinch of salt. It will seize, but just keep whisking until it’s smooth. Add more lemon juice or water to get a saucy texture. Drizzle over bowls!
xo Sara Lynn
*Song of the day: What Would I Do? by Strawberry Guy
Cheesy, peppery, and perfectly al dente cacio e pepe with fried shallots is one of my all-time favorite pantry staple meals. It uses just a few ingredients but has a ton of flavor for a cozy pasta night.
So far this week, I have done enough squats for my legs to turn into jelly, planned (but not yet planted) a small front-porch garden, and made a Sunday dinner consisting of leftover Easter brunch cinnamon rolls and chicken with brown rice and veggies. I even *meal prepped* and took a two-hour nap which, for me, is unheard of. The line between productivity and self-annihilation is thin, but it is one I’m willing to ride out.
Anyways, I know it’s important to stay healthy right now, so we’ve been eating lots of veggies and working out every (week)day. But sometimes, things still feel a bit overwhelming, yes? And we must indulge ourselves with self-care and comfort food akin to mac and cheese! And that, my friends, is when we put on cashmere drawstring sweatpants and make cacio e pepe!
What is cacio e pepe?
Cacio e pepe is a Roman pasta dish that literally translates to “cheese and pepper”, a.k.a. two perfect ingredients. It’s made up with only the most basic pantry staples: pasta, black pepper, and Pecorino Romano cheese, and it’s pronounced “ka-chee-oh eh peh-peh” (which borderline reminds me of Lightning McQueen, but let’s not go there). Think of it as adult mac and cheese, but without all the fancy stuff that comes in “adult” mac and cheese recipes, like gruyere or prosciutto or spring peas. It really is the most basic of dishes but it’s a dream of a comfort food. And in this version, we take it up a notch with fried shallots. Because tbh, there’s really never a bad time for fried onions. 🙂
Cacio e pepe ingredients
I really can’t think of a recipe with more basic ingredients, but in this version, we’re getting a little *fancy* with fried shallots! However, this only requires two extra ingredients, so we’re really keeping it simple here. Pantry pasta forever. <3
- Shallots: Go for two large or three small! Sometimes, I make extra just to have around.
- Neutral Oil: You’ll want something neutral for frying like vegetable or canola oil. I usually go with canola!
- Pasta: You’re going to want a long pasta here. I believe that bucatini is the most traditional, but I usually use regular spaghetti since I always have it around!
- Freshly Cracked Black Pepper: The freshly-cracked part is important. The fresher the pepper, the more flavorful your pasta will be!
- Pecorino Romano/Parmesan: Some people swear Pecorino Romano is the only way, but I’m fine with Parmesan, and I think you should be too! Use what you have or what’s available to you.
- Salt: For flavoring the pasta water!
Let’s make fried shallots!
I know, frying, ugh. I can undoubtedly tell you that I usually hate frying. But, shallots are the exception, because they are sooo easy and not messy! Plus, the leftover oil is actually useful and doesn’t need to be thrown away immediately.
To fry shallots, I use the Bon Appetit method! You start by thinly cutting a few peeled large shallots. The best way to do this is with a mandolin, but I don’t like washing a mandolin over two shallots, so I just do it by hand. 🤷 You just want them to be about as thin as a dime! Next, place them in a pan, and fill the pan with just enough canola/vegetable oil to cover the shallots (about 1/3 cup).
Set the heat to medium-low, and cook until the shallots are deep golden-brown about 20 minutes. Stir often with the tines of a fork to separate the shallots! (Pro tip: Keep an eye on these, especially towards the end! Once they start browning, they will brown quick). Drain the fried shallots through a fine-mesh strainer (reserve the oil!) and place on a paper towel to mop up any extra grease. Season with salt and let cool! Store in an airtight container for up to three days.
How to make Cacio E pepe with fried shallots!
While you are frying your shallots, you will want to start your pasta! Fill a large pot with water and add a few heavy pinches of salt. Cook your pasta for one minute less than the package directions recommend. (We will continue cooking the pasta in the sauce later). Before you drain the spaghetti, make sure to save at least one and a half cups of the cooking liquid which will make up our sauce!
After draining your pasta, dry the pot, and return it to the stove. Heat three tablespoons of the leftover shallot frying oil over medium heat. Add 1 1/2 teaspoons of freshly cracked pepper (about 50 turns) to oil, and cook to bloom the flavor, about one minute. Stir in half a cup of the leftover pasta water until everything is combined. Add the pasta, and coat well with the sauce, stirring until perfectly al dente. Add more pasta water as necessary until the cacio e pepe is perfectly saucy.
Remove the pasta from the heat, and quickly stir in the Pecorino Romano/Parmesan until you have a smooth, silky sauce. Taste, season with salt, and divide between four bowls. Top with fried shallots and enjoy!
Parmesan or pecorino Romano?
Traditionally, Pecorino Romano cheese is used in cacio e pepe. But, I’m all about accessibility and not every store has the cheese aisle of a French market. If you can’t find Pecorino Romano, just use some grated Parmesan! P.S. of course freshly grated is always better than pre-grated. But I don’t like shredding cheese, and if you don’t either, let’s just use pre-grated and not feel bad about it, ok?
How do I know when spaghetti is al dente?
Pasta is al dente when it has just a tiny bite to it. It will not be mushy or crunchy, and the center will have a slight white core. Package directions are not always clear, so it’s important to try your pasta to make sure it’s perfectly al dente!
You need to use freshly cracked black pepper, trust
Ok, I know this seems fussy, but it’s v important for cacio e pepe! When pre-ground black pepper (or any herb for that matter) sits around exposed to air, it rapidly loses flavor over time. But, when we use freshly ground black pepper, it isn’t exposed for the air for too long before we start cooking with it. This will lead to bright, aromatic, spicy flavors, not dull and boring nothing-ness.
cacio e pepe is great with all kinds of pasta
Bucatini is the most common pasta used in cacio e pepe, but it’s not the only option! Usually, I use spaghetti because it’s what I can find in the grocery store. While long, thin pastas work best with the cheese and pepper sauce, there are a few other types of pastas you can use! Besides bucatini or spaghetti, I would also recommend:
- Fettuccine: A flat, long pasta
- Pappardelle: A very thick, long pasta. One of my faves!
- Linguine: A little thicker than spaghetti but not as thick as fettuccine.
- Stuffed pastas: Tortellini, ravioli, etc.
Unfortunately, tubed pastas such as penne or rigatoni don’t work great, because they don’t hold on to the sauce quite as well.
pasta water vs. regular water
The reason we use pasta water to bring everything together is the starch! The salts and starches in the water not only adds flavor, but it also binds the oil, pepper, and cheese to the pasta so you get a smooth, silky sauce! If you use regular water, you’ll just end up with a puddle of water at the bottom of the pot instead of a sauce.
Butter or shallot oil?
A lot of recipes call for butter in the sauce, because butter is just straight-up delicious. However, I like to use the reserved shallot oil, because 1. it’s adds soooo much good flavor, and 2. less waste. You will probably have more shallot oil leftover after this recipe, so just store it in a jar and use it for other sauces, stir fries, and salad dressings in the future!
Storing Cacio E Pepe
Cacio e pepe is really one of those dishes that is just better day-of. The pasta will dry out a little bit once you put it in the fridge. It’s not necessarily bad, just not as good as fresh cacio e pepe! If you refrigerate the leftover pasta, just keep it in an airtight container, and add a small splash of water before you microwave the pasta. Stir well, top with leftover fried shallots, and enjoy! Definitely don’t store the cacio e pepe with the fried shallots in the fridge, or the shallots will get soggy!
How to serve cacio e pepe
Cacio e pepe is honestly good on its own, but if you’re like me, a veggie or side completes a meal! Here are a few things we like:
- An arugula salad with a simple vinaigrette
- Roasted broccoli or green beans
- Grilled asparagus or zucchini
- Caprese salad
- Melon with prosciutto!
- Garlic bread (duh)
Cacio e pepe ad-ins
If you want to take cacio e pepe up a notch, you can always add:
- A couple handfuls of arugula or spinach (let it wilt before serving)
- Fresh spring peas!
- A few cloves garlic
- Cooked chicken, bacon, or prosciutto
- A squeeze of lemon!
- Fresh herbs. I like a little fresh parsley once in a while.
A few tips!
Cacio e pepe is a pretty simple dish, but there are a few things to keep in mind to make sure it’s perfect!
- When boiling the pasta, make sure not to use too much water! We want the pasta to cook in a small amount of water so it gets very starchy and flavorful.
- Reserve some of the pasta water right before you drain to make sure it’s nice and starchy!
- Bloom the freshly ground pepper by cooking it in the oil for about a minute. This will bring out all of the amazing flavors!
- Remove the pasta from the heat before you add in the cheese, or it will get too hot and clump up.
- Add more pasta water as necessary to get a nice, silky sauce.
- Top with fried shallots right before serving so they don’t get soggy.
Some other italian dishes you’ll love!
cacio e pepe with fried shallots
Cacio e Pepe with Fried Shallots
- 2 large shallots, peeled and thinly sliced (about as thick as a dime)
- 1/3 cup Canola oil (grapeseed or vegetable work too)
- Salt, to taste
Cacio e Pepe
- 8 oz spaghetti (or other long pasta)
- 3 tbsp reserved shallot oil or butter
- 1 1/4 tsp freshly-ground black pepper (about 50 turns)
- 2 1/2 oz Pecorino Romano or Parmesan, grated
- Salt, to taste
- Place the thinly sliced shallots in a pan, and fill the pan with just enough canola oil to cover the shallots (about 1/3 cup). Use a little more if you have to!
- Set the heat to medium-low, and cook until the shallots are deep golden-brown about 20-25 minutes. Stir often with the tines of a fork to separate the shallot rings! (Pro tip: Keep an eye on these, especially towards the end! Once they start browning, they will brown quick).
- Drain the shallots through a fine-mesh strainer, reserve the leftover oil, and place the fried shallots on a paper towel to mop up any extra grease. Season with salt and let cool. Store in an airtight container for up to three days.
Cacio e Pepe
- While the shallots are frying, fill a large pot with water and add a few heavy pinches of salt. Add your pasta, and cook for one minute less than the package directions recommend. (We will continue cooking the pasta in the sauce later). Before you drain the spaghetti, save at least one and a half cups of the cooking liquid which will make up our sauce.
- After draining your pasta, dry the pot, and return it to the stove. Heat three tablespoons of the leftover shallot frying oil (or butter) over medium heat. Add the freshly cracked pepper to the oil, and cook to bloom the flavor, about one minute.
- Stir in half a cup of the leftover pasta water until everything is combined. Add the pasta, and coat well with the sauce, stirring until perfectly al dente. Add more pasta water as necessary until the cacio e pepe is perfectly saucy.
- Remove the pasta from the heat, and quickly stir in the Pecorino Romano/Parmesan until you have a smooth, silky sauce. Taste, season with salt, and divide between four bowls. Top with fried shallots and enjoy!
xo Sara Lynn
*Song of the day: He Loves Me by Brittany Howard
Marinated white beans with vegetables, rosemary, garlic, and a quick vinaigrette. served over whole wheat toast for a light, delicious dinner!Continue reading “Marinated White Beans with Toast”
I’m writing this post late in the night purely because there’s a good chance I’ll be on a small hiatus for the next few weeks.
Because I’m moving! Yep, the past week all I’ve been doing is packing away. We even got a 26 foot trailer to pack it all in. Crazy!
So, about these tacos. I’ve been craving Mexican food so badly the past few weeks but have yet to get it. And even though what I’m really craving is deep fried chips with salsa, and globs of gooey cheese over shredded beef, this was a pretty good sub for a healthy dinner.
And just in case you’re wondering, my brother (and I quote) said these were “the best tacos he ever had”. A nice compliment if I do say so myself.
The best part? They’re sooo easy! They only took me about 1 hour to make from prep to dish-washing, and some of it can be made in advance if needed.
Keep reading for the best tacos ever 😉
(recipe not found or in draft status)
XOXO Sara Lynn
*Song of the day: Beach Demon by Wavves