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Sweet Pea Bowls with Soft-Boiled Eggs and Pea Pesto, from Build-a-Bowl

These colorful, family-friendly Sweet Pea Bowls are a snap to prepare, thanks to a few clever tips that will change your weeknight meal routine. {Jump to Recipe}

Sweet Pea Bowls with Soft-Boiled Eggs and Pea Pesto, from Build-a-Bowl // FoodNouveau.com

Sometimes when people see my blog, they wonder (and ask!) how I stay healthy while making so many desserts. The answer is super simple: I don’t like rich foods—except in dessert form. For mains, I like fresh ingredients and bright flavors in dishes that come together quickly and easily.

I wasn’t always like that. Before we had a baby, I’d spend so much time cooking and trying different recipes. We’d almost never eat the same thing twice! After baby arrived, though, everything changed. Time was sparse, which forced me to prioritize. The little time I had in the kitchen, I wanted to spend on what I loved making the most: desserts. Plus, as my son grew older, I cared more and more about what I served him and did my best to assemble balanced meals. Though my son has always LOVED fruits and veggies with a passion, I still had to navigate his toddler whims to avoid having to become a short-order cook (and lose my mind) at every meal.

I started to gather, in a single spot, recipes that both my son enjoys and we adults take pleasure in eating. First, it was just a list on the fridge, then it became a folder, and now I’m thinking of turning it into a binder. All the recipes I collect in there are quick and easy, with some components that can be prepped in advance, so I only need to do minimal prep and assembly when I come back from picking my son up from school. This collection of recipes has often “saved” us from ordering takeout—not that there’s anything wrong with ordering takeout, but I prefer saving it for special occasions, not reaching for that solution several times a week because I didn’t plan ahead.

Because I’m always on the hunt for new recipes to add to our favorites folder, I’ve also been expanding my collection of weeknight-themed and family-friendly cookbooks. There have been so many great books published in those categories lately, but my current favorite is Nicki Sizemore’s “Build-a-Bowl: 77 Satisfying & Nutritious Combos: Whole Grain + Vegetable + Protein + Sauce = Meal.”

Nicki Sizemore's Build-a-Bowl: 77 Satisfying & Nutritious Combos: Whole Grain + Vegetable + Protein + Sauce = Meal // FoodNouveau.com

Don’t you understand how clever the book is, just by reading its title? I’m a HUGE fan of formulas because they allow you to get inspired yet leave you some freedom to riff on a recipe depending on what’s in your fridge. Let me tell you: if you’ve been in a bind coming up with new ideas for weeknight meals, the Nicki’s Build-a-Bowl formulas will fire your inspiration right back up.

My friend Nicki is, like me, a mom who cares about what she serves her family. She came up with the idea for her book because—surprise, surprise—she was rushed for time, yet didn’t want to give up the pleasure of eating good food every night. (Clearly, she wrote that book for me. And you. And you, too!) Her trick to making bowls interesting is to pack in textures and flavors.

The ingredients to make Sweet Pea Bowls with Soft-Boiled Eggs and Pea Pesto // FoodNouveau.com

Here’s how her bowls are typically composed:

  • A serving of cooked whole grains: There’s a ton of delicious grains to choose from these days, and lots of gluten-free options too. Nicki dedicates a whole page to each of over a dozen different grains, providing nutritional info, cooking instructions, and serving tips. Build-A-Bowl is worth buying for that chapter alone! The good news is that grains can (and should!) be cooked ahead and frozen in portions so you can reheat some in minutes when you need it.
  • A combination of two or more vegetables: Use different textures and colors, combine cooked and raw. Or use fruit!
  • A protein: This is the element that’s going to sustain you for hours. Beans, eggs, poultry, beef, lamb, fish, seafood, tofu, or cheese all work!
  • A sauce: Don’t skip this one! As Nicki says, “A vibrant sauce or a drizzle of hot sauce or citrus juice ties everything together and takes the bowl from ordinary to extraordinary.” The sauce can, of course, be made ahead. Keep a few jars of your favorite sauces at the back of the fridge, and you’ll always be a spoonful away from deliciousness.
  • Last, but not least: garnishes. Finish up your bowls with something crunchy and bright. A sprinkle of toasted nuts or seeds adds texture, while fresh herbs brighten up flavors.

Build-a-Bowl is then divided into themed chapters, according to the recipes’ main ingredients: from easy, fruit-based bowls you’ll love to serve for breakfast, to more luxurious seafood-based meals, there’s something for everyone. The recipes are simple to execute, many feature make-ahead instructions and lots include substitution ideas (such as alternate sauces you can try) so you’ll get extraordinary mileage from the book.

Sweet Pea Bowls with Soft-Boiled Eggs and Pea Pesto, from Build-a-Bowl // FoodNouveau.com

But what I love best about the “bowl philosophy” is that I think it’s the most family-friendly way to serve dinner, ever. Indeed, you can lay out the different components in separate bowls in the center of the table and let each person assemble their serving to their liking. Kids love to have control over what they eat. If you only put nutritious things in front of them, they’ll inevitably eat a nutritious meal. Bowls are also great for toddlers and young kids who like to see ingredients separate on their plates. You can take a few minutes to assemble pretty bowls for grown-ups, and simply serve the components in separate mounds on your little ones’ plates. Everybody wins!

I’ve made many recipes from Nicki Sizemore’s Build-a-Bowl, but today I’d like to share our favorite so far: these Sweet Pea Bowls with Soft-Boiled Eggs and Pea Pesto. I’ve long made a habit of boiling eggs on Sundays so I can turn them into instant snacks or meals during the week, so the “Eggs” chapter in Build-a-Bowl appealed to me immediately. This recipe just gathered so many of my family’s favorite ingredients in a single bowl, I could not pass it up.

Sweet Pea Bowls with Soft-Boiled Eggs and Pea Pesto, from Build-a-Bowl // FoodNouveau.com

Helpful Tips to Make Sweet Pea Bowls

  • Go fresh or frozen: Although this is a great recipe to highlight seasonal sweet peas, you can make it using frozen peas, too. Frozen peas are blanched and ready to use in seconds.
  • Vary the veggies: If you can’t find sugar snap peas, substitute green beans, spinach, kale, or avocado.
  • Soft- or hard-boil the eggs: My son likes his eggs fully cooked, while we like runny yolks. What to do? Simply take some of the eggs out of the hot water at the soft-boiled stage, then drain the remaining eggs at the hard-boiled stage. Store the eggs in separate, labeled containers until ready to use. (See note below for egg cooking instructions.)
  • Switch up the grain: I love to make this Sweet Pea Bowls with barley because I think the nutty, chewy texture of the grain does really well with eggs, but you can use brown rice or quinoa, too.

Nicki shares more easy, delicious, family-friendly recipes on her blog, From Scratch Fast, and she also makes fun, helpful recipes videos on YouTube. Make sure to follow her on Instagram, too! 

 

Sweet Pea Bowls with Soft-Boiled Eggs and Pea Pesto

Prep

Cook

Inactive

Total

Yield 4 servings

These colorful, family-friendly Sweet Pea Bowls are a snap to prepare, thanks to a few clever tips that will change your weeknight meal routine.

Ingredients

For the barley

For the pesto

  • 1 lb. (454 g / 3 to 3 1/2 cups) fresh or frozen sweet peas
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled
  • 1 cup (250 ml) lightly packed fresh mint leaves
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) toasted sliced almonds
  • Finely grated zest and juice from 1 lemon (about 1 tbsp/15 ml zest and 1/4 cup/60 ml juice) (see note)
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp (30 ml) extra-virgin olive oil

To assemble and serve

Instructions

For the barley: Rinse the barley in cold water, then drain well. Place the grains in a medium saucepan and add the water and salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cover and cook until the grains are tender yet chewy, 40 to 50 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and let sit, covered, for 5 minutes to steam. Drain off any excess water and set aside.

For the pesto: Bring a small saucepan of water to a boil and season it with sea salt. Fill a bowl with ice water. Cook the peas in the boiling water until bright green and tender, about 2 minutes for frozen peas, or up to 4 minutes, for fresh peas. Drain and immediately transfer to the ice water to stop the cooking. Let sit for a couple of minutes, then drain again. Set aside 1 1/2 cups (325 ml) of the peas to sprinkle over the bowls later.

To the bowl of a food processor, add the garlic, mint, almonds, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Process to a coarse paste. Add the peas (not the ones you set aside) and season with salt and pepper to taste. Process to a coarse paste, scraping down the sides as needed. With the blade running, drizzle in the oil until incorporated. If you still find the pesto too thick (I like it to be slightly runny) add some water, a couple tablespoons at a time, until you reach the right consistency. Taste and season with additional salt and pepper, if needed. The pesto can be made ahead and refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Assemble and serve: Peel the eggs and cut each egg in half.

Divide the grains into serving bowls (you’ll need about 1/2 cup/125 ml per adult—refrigerate any leftovers.) Add 1 to 2 spoonfuls of the pea pesto to each bowl and toss to coat the grains. Arrange the reserved peas, sugar snap peas, and eggs over the grains. Season with coarse sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, and olive oil. Dollop with a bit more of the pea pesto. Garnish with shaved cheese, toasted almonds, and a lemon wedge, and serve immediately.

Notes

How to soft- or hard-boil eggs

Arrange the eggs in a single layer in the bottom of a saucepan and cover with cold water by 1 inch. Add 1 tsp (5 ml) salt (this will make peeling the eggs easier). Bring the water to a boil. Once the water comes to a rolling boil, immediately remove the pot from the heat and cover. Let sit for 4 to 6 minutes for soft-boiled eggs, or up to 12 minutes, for hard-boiled eggs.

Transfer the eggs to a bowl of ice water and chill just until the eggs are barely warm, about 2 minutes. Drain. You can either peel and serve the eggs right away, or refrigerate the eggs (with the shell on) in an airtight container for up to 3 days for soft-boiled eggs, or up to 1 week for hard-boiled eggs.

Courses Lunch, Dinner

Recipe adapted and shared with permission from the author, Nicki Sizemore. I received a complimentary copy of Build-a-Bowl for review purposes. All opinions are my own. For more information, please review my disclosure policy.

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