The Master Bowl Blueprints: From burrito bowls to breakfast bowls
Breakfast bowls, pudding bowls, acai bowls, burrito bowls, quinoa bowls, brown rice bowls, grain bowls, black bean bowls, lentil bowls, salmon bowls, dinner bowls, lunch bowls…. In the world of healthy eating, bowls are hot stuff.
Bowls began showing up on menus shortly after the paleo and gluten-free eating movements starting picking up steam. The premise was smart enough: get rid of the bread or the tortilla or the pasta or any other not-so-healthful carby ingredient, keep the healthful protein and the plants. For instance, a burrito bowl allows you to have the nutrient-dense beans, veggies, salsa, guacamole, lettuce and lean protein without having to eat the carby tortilla. A breakfast bowl delivers healthy fruit and acai or coconut or chia or eggs or vegetables, without the milk, cow’s milk yogurt or cereal.
And so on.
As a someone who loves food, I adore all the great-tasting combinations you can get in a breakfast bowl, lunch bowl or dinner bowl. As a busy entrepreneur, writer and mom, however, it’s the versatility, economy and ease that really impresses me: You can put together a bowl with just about anything you have in your kitchen—even if you only have small amounts of this and that. Plus, bowls are super portable: Just layer in a mason jar or “grab-and-go” container, toss in your bag, and you’ve got an easy breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
If you need some ideas on how to create the best-tasting, healthiest bowl around, check out these easy recipe blueprints. And don’t forgot to read my family’s fun “bowl bar.” It’s a custom buffet that lets everyone throw together their own signature bowls (and lets me get rid of small amounts of leftovers that aren’t enough for a full meal).
Acai Bowl Blueprint
Makes one to two servings
Acai bowls are super trendy and super tasty! Made with the pulp of acai (that superfood from South America), acai bowls are a cinch to make. Here’s a customizable recipe for you to try:
2 frozen unsweetened Acai packs (Sabazon is one brand that makes them)
1/4 cup coconut milk
Optional: 1/2 tablespoon raw honey or coconut nectar
Optional: 1/4 to 1/2 cup fresh fruit for topping
1. Add the contents of the acai packs, the coconut milk and the frozen berries to a blender.
2. Pulse the blender to liqueify the ingredients. Then blend on high until mixture is smooth and silky. This may take several minutes.
3. Add to a bowl or container, top with toppings of your choice, and serve immediately. (Acai doesn’t like to be kept waiting!)
Chia Pudding Breakfast Bowl
Makes two servings
Protein-rich chia provides an easy, steady supply of energy that works as well for the average person trying to get through the day as it does for an endurance athlete. To experience the benefits of chia, may I suggest something sweet and delicious—like this chia pudding recipe made with coconut? It’s so easy and versatile. It’s also high in fiber, omega 3 fatty acids, phytonutrients and protein—meaning it’s a great way to start the day. It also makes a lovely mid-afternoon snack or can be dressed with few shavings of dark chocolate for an easy dessert. This comes from my coconut book, Coconut: The Complete Guide to the World’s Most Versatile Superfood (Sterling).
2/3 cup chia seeds
2 cups canned or fresh coconut milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Optional sweetener: 1 to 3 teaspoons coconut nectar, honey, maple syrup, or other natural sweetener
Optional layering ingredient or topping: 2 tablespoons currants or chopped dried figs, or dates, or 1/4 to 1/2 cup berries, fresh fruit, or diced cooked sweet potato
Optional layering ingredient or topping: 2 tablespoons unsweetened coconut flakes
Optional topping: 1 or 2 tablespoons coconut cream
1. Put chia seeds, coconut milk, vanilla and, if using, optional sweetener, in a 1-quart glass jar with a lid. Tighten the lid and shake well to combine thoroughly. Or stir together these ingredients in a bowl.
2. Allow the pudding to thicken for 30 minutes or more. (Or, even better, make the pudding in the evening and let it sit, covered, overnight in the fridge.)
3. Adjust liquid if necessary. Spoon the pudding into bowls, layering and topping (if desired) with fruits, coconut flakes and/or coconut cream.
Superfood Bowl Blueprint
Makes 2 servings
Everyone needs a great, easy, flexible blueprint for a yummy, healthful, high-protein bowl—a hearty, dense, fiber-filled, fill-you-up dish made with high-protein beans, lentils, dried peas and/or superfood grains, such as millet, amaranth, quinoa, teff, buckwheat, barley black or another whole-grain rice. Something fun to make and super portable (perfect for bringing to the office or on a picnic) that is designed to deliver the nutrients your body needs to help keep your energy high all day.
I call this a blueprint because it is much more flexible than a traditional recipe: Use what you love eating or what you have on hand, and avoid any ingredients that you don’t digest well or that your healthcare practitioner has advised that you avoid. Sprinkle in a liberal amount of your favorite herbs (herbs are superfoods by the way, thanks to their ultra-high phytonutrient content), a bunch of chopped veggies, that leftover piece of chicken or salmon or those falafel balls waiting in the fridge to be eaten and voila! Something you can’t wait to enjoy! Is it lunchtime yet?
¼ cup (or more) vinaigrette or your favorite salad dressing (homemade or store-bought)
1 tablespoon (or more) of your favorite herb or mix of herbs
1 garlic clove, minced
¼ cup onion, scallions or shallots
Pinch salt and pepper
4 cups cooked beans or grain of your choice
1 cup chopped cooked or raw vegetables
Optional: 1 cup animal or plant protein of your choice
Optional: ¼ cup (or more) nuts or seeds, for crunch
Optional: 1 or 2 tablespoons minced herbs of your choice
1. In a large bowl, whisk together salad dressing, herbs, garlic, onion, salt and pepper.
2. Add in beans or grains and vegetables, tossing gently until well coated.
3. Adjust salt and pepper.
4. Allow to sit for 30 or more minutes so flavors can blend
5. Arrange animal or plant protein, if using, on top of the mixture. Then top with nuts or seeds, if using, and herbs, if using.
Stephanie’s Build-A-Bowl Bar
Makes as many as it makes
This truly flexible blueprint is a fun, fast nutritious way to do two things: Get dinner taken care of fast AND clean out the fridge. Are you ready?
Take all cooked leftovers out of the fridge and place each in it’s own serving dish. Place dishes on kitchen table or a buffet table.
Chop or grate a one or two or three of the cooked and raw veggies you have on hand, each placed in it’s own bowl. Place on the table.
If you have a boiled egg or a piece of cooked meat or fish or chicken, chop it and put it in a bowl. Place on the table.
Find a few smaller bowls and fill each with any nuts, seeds or dried fruit you may have.
Place a few bottles of salad dressing on the buffet table or whip up a quick vinagrette.
Place a 1/2 cup of cooked quinoa, black rice, millet, lentils, beans or whatever other grain or legume you may have on hand. In the bottom of two or four or however many bowls (one for each member of the family who is dining with you) and place on the table.
Call everyone to the table, ask them to line up buffet style, and they get to add what they want to their bowl.
Voila! Dinner! (Or lunch!)
—Thermos Stainless Steel 16-ounce Food Jar. You can’t go wrong with a good, leakproof Thermos food container! Make sure it holds at least 16-ounces, which is around two cups (Otherwise, you’ll be hungry!)
—Wean Green 4-Pack Meal Bowls 22-ounce Large Tempered Glass Leak-Proof Bowls. At 22-ounce, this offers a more generous amount of food than the standard 16-ounce container. Plus, the sturdy glass containers are very leak-proof. Because there are four of them you can pack a bowl for someone else, as well.
—Ball Collection Elite Wide Mount 16-ounce Pint Jars (Pack of 4). Unlike the tall, tumbler-like mason jars, these ball-shaped, wide-mouthed jars make it easy to pack and enjoy a two-cup serving of food. I love making batches of chia pudding in these, which I then turn into a quick breakfast bowl (see recipe, above).
—Sistema To Go Collection Breakfast Bowl Food Storage Container, 17.9 Ounce/2.2 Cup, Clear with Assorted Color Accents. Although Sistema calls this a Breakfast Bowl container, you can use it for lunch and dinner bowls, as well!
—Sistema Klip It Collection Salad to Go Food Storage Container, 37 Ounce/ 4.6 Cup. Good for heartier eaters, this leakproof container by Sistema, holds over four-and-a-half cups of food.
—Wooden 3-piece Spoon Fork Chopsticks Set Lunch Tableware Set Japanese Style (with black cloth case). This gorgeous utensil set features a fork, spoon and chopsticks. You can toss it in your bag or keep it in an office desk drawer, making it easy to enjoy a breakfast or lunch bowl at work. To clean, just sponge with soapy water, rinse, dry, and tuck into the carrying cloth.
—Portable Stainless Steel Cutlery Chopstick Spoon Fork Dinnerware Set With Box Travel Kit. This easy-to-use, portable set features a fork, spoon and chopsticks—all stainless steel—nestled in an adorable hard protective case.