I love meal bowls! Eating my dinner out of one bowl is so comforting. I’ve noticed that lately I reach into the cabinet and pull out the bowls much more often than any other piece of dinnerware. My poor plates are being ignored. Veggie meal bowls are very popular right now. Usually bowls are reserved for one dish – soups, stews or pasta. With a meal bowl, you get the entrée and the side dishes all in one. Meal bowls are easy to make and extremely versatile. There is a basic formula of which categories of food go into a meal bowl but the combinations are endless. Every bowl can be personalized to your specific tastes. They can be any ethnic flavor profile, super healthy or indulgent, big or small. Meal bowls can be eaten for breakfast, lunch and dinner. You can add whatever ingredients you like and it always adds up to a nutritious and delicious meal. Here are some tips on how to make different meal bowls for every type of flavor craving.
Step 1: The Grains
The base of the bowl should be the grains. Use about ½ cup per bowl. Choose healthy whole grains which are more filling and more nutritious. Choose brown rice, wild rice, barley, oats, quinoa, buckwheat, wheat berries, amaranth, millet or cous cous. Cook the best grains every time with Your Guide to Cooking Perfect Whole Grains.
The base can also be made up of noodles, vegetable noodles, or kelp noodles. Try something new like Sweet Potato Noodles, Green Tea Soba Noodles, Rutabaga Noodles, Zucchini Noodles, Carrot Noodles, Broccoli Noodles, Yam Noodles, Eggplant Noodles, Butternut Squash Noodles, or Black Bean Noodles. Learn How to Use Spiralized Veggies as Noodles and How to Make Bean Pasta.
Step 2: The Greens
I think of greens as a separate category from other vegetables. Dark, leafy greens are super-healthy and should be a part of your meal bowl. The greens can be raw or cooked. If cooked, they will take up much less room in the bowl. You can choose to steam them, saute them, or stir-fry them. If you are planning to put other hot ingredients on top of the greens, you can add them raw and they will naturally wilt from the heat of the other foods. Choose dark leafy greens such as kale, spinach, Swiss chard, collard greens, kale, beet greens, broccoli rabe, dandelion greens or mustard greens. See The Essential Guide on How to Work with Every Type of Greens to see all your options and then learn Tips for Cooking Greens So They Taste Delicious.
Step 3: The Veggies
The next step is to add lots of delicious vegetables. Again, they can be raw or cooked. Steamed veggies work wonderfully since you are going to add a sauce or dressing in the end anyway. The sky’s the limit with the types of veggies you can add. Try to add different colors and textures for the best experience for your eyes and your mouth. Think root vegetables like carrots, parsnips, rutabagas, and sweet potatoes, Add color and crunch with red, green, yellow and orange bell peppers. Winter veggies like beets and butternut squash are beautiful additions while summer zucchini and snap peas are also good choices. Broccoli is my favorite vegetable so I would definitely add some of that. In total, you want about 2 cups of vegetables. Check out Try These 10 Methods for Cooking Flavorful Vegetables, How to Avoid These Common Mistakes When Cooking Vegetables and 7 Tips for Cooking Vegetables So They Taste Delicious for cooking tips.
Step 4: The Protein
There are so many choices when choosing protein to add to your bowl. You can add tofu, tempeh or seitan. For the best advice, read 6 Tips that Will Make You Love Tofu, How to Use Tempeh and What It’s Best Paired With, and How to Make Perfect Seitan. Take the time to marinate whichever you choose and then grill, bake or pan-fry to get the best flavor. Check out The Ultimate Guide to Making Flavor-Packed Marinades. Beans and legumes are packed with protein. Choose red kidney beans, black beans, chickpeas, lentils or edamame for color, flavor and protein. See 7 Ways to Cook Beans to Make Them More Exciting. Crumble up a veggie burger, dollop a spoon of hummus or add falafel to your bowl. Your bowl should have about 4 ounces of some type of protein.
Step 5: The Sauce or Dressing
Once you have put all these delicious components into your bowl, make them extra good with an amazing sauce or dressing to tie it all together. How much dressing or sauce you use is up to you but ¼ cup is a good amount. Go Asian with Garlic Sauce, Sweet and Sour Sauce or Spicy Orange Sauce. Add even more protein with a Spicy Peanut Sauce or Thai Curry Coconut Sauce. Make it Mexican with Salsa Verde or Ancho Chile Sauce. Mix in a Spicy Balsamic or Chinese BBQ Sauce. Be healthy with a bright Pesto or indulge in Queso Cheese Sauce. Top your greens with a Cilantro Citrus Vinaigrette , Peanut Ginger Dressing or Lemon-Tahini Dressing. For a lot more ideas, see 10 Simple and Awesome Homemade Sauté Sauces, 10 Ways to Make Amazing Salad Dressings, and 10 Creative (and Delicious) Ways to Flavor Raw Leafy Greens.
Step 6: The Garnishes
We’re not finished yet. We can add more flavor, texture and color with garnishes. Add fresh herbs like parsley, cilantro or basil to the bowl. Sprinkle nuts and seeds over top for crunch. Choose sunflower seeds, sliced almonds, chopped walnuts or spicy pepitas. Add chewiness with raisins, dried cranberries, figs or dates or fresh blueberries, strawberries or whatever your favorite fruit is. Dried seaweed can add saltiness as can sliced olives or capers. Spoon some guacamole, salsa or vegan sour cream on top of your bowl. About 2 tablespoons of garnishes is good for each bowl.
Step 7: The Recipes
Now that you know the steps, you can use your likes, cravings and imagination to make any number of combinations for your meal bowls. But you know we wouldn’t leave you without lots of recipes you could try. Start your day with this Protein-Packed Breakfast Quinoa Bowl that has cranberries, blueberries and lots of warm spices. Non-dairy yogurt and fresh fruit make up this Easy and Healthy Breakfast Bowl and this Creamy Pumpkin Acai Bowl. You’ll love having veggies for breakfast when you taste this Butternut Squash Breakfast Bowl that is sweet and savory at the same time.
The Perfect Whole Grain Protein Bowl for Your Post-Workout Appetite has banana, nut butter, goji berries, coconut and whole grains for a protein-packed meal. This Veggie Quinoa Bowl is filled with tofu, beets, spinach, carrots, tomatoes, avocado and chia seeds. Learn How to Make a 100 Percent Clean Version of Chipotle’s Veggie Burrito Bowl or indulge in this Mexican Bowl over Spaghetti Squash and these Tamale-Inspired Bowls with Beans. My Soy Maple Tempeh Bowl has marinated tempeh, greens, veggies and grains. Tempeh bacon, squash, freekah and chickpeas are topped with a spicy ginger-peanut dressing in this Tempeh Bacon Bowl. Kale pesto is just part of the reason to love this Glow Bowl with Baked Sweet Potato, Pesto Pasta, Tomatoes and Pumpkin Seeds. This Roasted Buddha Bowl has cauliflower, broccoli and radishes in a creamy lemon white bean sauce.
One of my favorite dinner bowls is my Indian Vegetable Curry with Mung Bean Fettuccine. Here’s how to make it: Heat 2 Tbs. vegetable oil in a large skillet or saucepan over medium-high heat and saute 1 chopped onion for 5 minutes or until softened. Add 1 Tbs. fresh ginger, 4 minced cloves of garlic, 1 Tbs. mustard seeds, 2 Tbs. curry powder, 1 tsp. chile powder and 1 tsp. turmeric to the pan. Stir well so that the onion is fully coated in the spices. Let cook 2 minutes until fragrant. Add 1 large chopped eggplant and toss to coat in the spices. Cook for 4 minutes until the eggplant softens. Add 4 cups cauliflower florets and 1 chopped zucchini to the pan and mix. Add 2 chopped tomatoes, 1 ½ cups coconut milk and ¼ cup water. Stir to combine. Add salt to taste. Cover the pan and let cook on medium heat for 10 – 15 minutes or until the vegetable are tender but still have some crunch. If the sauce cooks down too much, add more water. While the vegetables are cooking, prepare the mung bean fettuccine. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add salt and boil the noodles until they are al dente. Drain and set aside. Shred raw carrots and broccoli stems for garnish by shredding them with a vegetable peeler. Divide the mung bean fettuccine into bowls. Top with the vegetable curry. Garnish with the carrots, broccoli stems and fresh chopped cilantro. Serve hot.
Meal bowls are comforting, filling, healthy and versatile. You can make bowls every day and still make it different each time. Your plates may get dusty but that’s ok, delicious meal bowls make it all worth it.
Lead Image Source: Glow Bowl with Baked Sweet Potato, Pesto Pasta, Tomatoes and Pumpkin Seeds