I make a warm bowl of veggies and protein for about 90% of my breakfast or lunch meals. Honestly, each bowl is different and yet, every one I have made is delicious!
I often eat a hot bowl of food because it is easy for me to add a large quantity and variety of vegetables to my protein. It is also a lot faster to eat a bowl of cooked food than a salad. For a woman on the go lie me, time is important. Besides, if I am going to cook up a protein like eggs or meat, why not throw on veggies and cook them all together?
It occurred to me that there are basic principles I apply each time I make a bowl lunch and that information may be helpful to others who are trying to pack nutrients into their daily eating routine.
Basically, a meal bowl is a form of cooked salad, so if a person can make a salad with ingredients from the fridge, there is little thought in cooking up those ingredients with a few seasonings.
I do not plan what I am going to eat in each bowl I build. I open my fridge and decide what to do in the moment.
1. Choose a protein. It can be leftover cooked chicken or beef, eggs, uncooked meat, fish-raw or cooked, canned meat like tuna or sardines. Protein can also be found in nuts, cheese, peanuts, seeds, beans, or quinoa.
2. Once the protein is decided, pull out veggies that need to be used or will work well with that particular protein. I always keep a huge container of spinach in my fridge. It works with everything and is very nutrient rich. Okra, zucchini, cucumber, and tomatoes are also some of my favorite veggies to keep on hand. I also always keep garlic and onions, celery and carrots. I love peppers, but find they are not as versatile as many of the other vegetables due to their strong flavor. A lot of veggies are used in a bowl. I can pack 2-3 times the veggies in a bowl compared to fresh cut vegetables. For instance 3 handfuls of spinach melts down to half a cup of cooked spinach; a whole onion cooks down to a mild 1/4 cup of flavor. I can eat an entire cubed cucumber if it is sauted, vs. a few pieces chopped on a salad. So cut up entire vegetables for this dish.
3. Pick a fat to cook. The kind of fat should coincide with the flavor profile you feel like creating. For instance, if I am going to make an Asian bowl, I would choose sesame oil. For Italian or Greek…a strong olive oil would be appropriate. For beginners…a couple tablespoons of butter is easiest to blend and butter simply makes everything taste good!
4. The final step is to choose the seasonings. Garlic always ends up in my bowls, either in its fresh chopped state or dried and powdered. Again, choose seasonings that will create the flavor profile you are craving. For again, ginger, soy sauce, and garlic are great. For Mexican, cumin and red pepper with a bit of oregano work well. For an Italian flair use oregano, basil, parsley, and thyme with lots of garlic. For starters, garlic is sufficient. I like to toast fresh garlic in my butter to give it a nice crunch.
5. After the oil is heated cook up the protein if needed. If your protein is pre-cooked it can be tossed in just after the veggies are cooked. Nuts and seeds can be toasted at this point if desired. Once the proteins and nuts are cooked, they can be removed.
6. Cook up the vegetables in the same pan. More oil or butter can be added if it is needed. The vegetables should be cooked one layer at a time, starting with the vegetables that are the most firm like carrots and progressively added to the tenderest vegetables. Leafy vegetables like spinach should be tossed in last and cooked very briefly.
7. Dump the veggies and proteins together in a bowl and either layer them or mix them together. At this point any uncooked ingredients can be added like fresh avocado, fresh tomato, shredded Parmesan, olives, or toasted sesame seeds.
8. Vegetable bowls can also be layered with steamed brown rice or quinoa for a punch of a healthy grain. For breakfast, I will mix up my vegetable bowl and throw a fried egg on top. Easy and nutritious.
9. Don’t forget to add salt. I simply sprinkle it on after the food is cooked and before I plate it.
10. Have fun being creative and enjoy the healthy hot bowls of food you can churn out of your kitchen.
Check out some bowl recipes for inspiration too!
Scrambled Egg and Zuccini Bowl