The quinoa-bowl, rice-bowl meal concept is hot right now, and for good reason(s). For one, any of us can toss together a simple mixture of quinoa, veggies, a protein, and top it off with a light dressing, nuts, or avocado. Therein lies the magic: a pretty complete meal, no hassle, very little prep-work, and it tastes delicious!
Especially in Rochester, NY there are at least a few restaurants offering this type of meal regularly. I can think of at least The Red Fern and CoreLife Eatery off the top of my head. But this type of meal can also be made at home with very little on-the-spot effort...just a little bit of thinking and planning ahead.
I've found lately that I am regularly recommending this meal idea to clients - not only as a means of eating healthier - but also as an opportunity to teach others how to put together healthy meals quickly and with a little bit of preparation for a week in advance.
Here I'll lay out a few simple steps to help you take on this concept of "grain bowl" in the convenience of your own home! ;)
Step 1: Cook the Grain(s) and/or Beans/Lentils
This is a sure-fire way to have plenty of healthy, nutrient-dense, complex-carbohydrate foods on hand in your refrigerator throughout the week.
At the start of your week (or whenever, if ever, you have a major meal-prep day), cook up 1-2 cups (dry) of your grain du jour. To cook the grain, rinse under warm water, then place in pot with twice the amount of (filtered) water. Place on stove top, add one heaping tablespoon of coconut oil or butter, one teaspoon of sea salt, bring to a boil and then let simmer until all water is absorbed and grain is tender. Cooking should take about 20-30 minutes, depending on the grain.
You can cook lentils the same way. And alternatively, you could cook any of these in vegetable or meat broth instead of water.
If you want to cook beans, you'll have to soak the dry beans in warm water and a bit of lemon or lime juice for at least 24 hours. Rinse, then cook in fresh water for about an hour!
Now you can keep your cooked grain/lentil/bean on hand in the refrigerator for about one week.
Step 2: Prepare Your Veggies and Protein
This is important. Veggies are important; proteins are important. Remember, though, that you already get an excellent dose of protein from the grains/lentils/beans. If you want additional protein, consider adding a small portion of fish, tofu, or meat.
Veggies: veggies galore. Go all out here. Add at least 2 cups of veggies for every 2 cups of grain/lentil mix you have. Choose seasonal veggies; try sprouts and micro-greens; try something you haven't had before; add them raw; saute them lightly; add fresh or dried herb; chop coarsely; chop fine. Whatever. You. Want. Literally.
This is your lunch.
Step 3: Top with Fats and Optional Dressing
Also extremely important: don't overlook those necessary fats. Think of topping your grain bowl with nuts, seeds, avocado, olives, whole-fat sour cream or cottage cheese.
You may also want to make a quick dressing of extra virgin olive oil or avocado oil, with lime juice, mustard, and balsamic vinegar (or as the summer roles in, skip the mustard and replace the classic balsamic vinegar with white balsamic vinegar).
Step 4: Devour (slowly) and Enjoy!
Here is an example of what I made today:
2 cups quinoa/lentil mixture
1/2 cup olives
1/2 cup tomatoes
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup walnuts
1/4 cup red onion
2 heaping handfuls of baby lettuce or "super greens" mix
If your quinoa/lentil mixture is fresh, simply toss all ingredients in a bowl and then dress with a light dressing.
In this case, I took leftover quinoa/lentil from my fridge, and reheated it (4-5 minutes) in a fry pan with the onion, tomato, olives, and walnuts. I then scooped the mixture into a bowl (off the heat now) and tossed with the pumpkin seeds and avocado. I plated the lettuce, topped with the grain-lentil mixture and then drizzled some dressing on top (see dressing recipe below).
1/8 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/16 cup lime juice
1/16 cup balsamic vinegar
3 Tbsp mustard
Mix together in small mason jar
I actually timed myself today. This literally took me 10 minutes (okay, maybe 11) from the time I put the fry pan on the stove, turn the heat on, and started prepping the veggies.
The key is having the ingredients on hand before you know you'll need them!