Building a Food Bowl

Grain bowl, Buddha bowl, harvest bowl, burrito bowl, big ass salad — or the perfectly fine and broadly used — food bowl.

I was introduced to the term “food bowl” by my brother-in-law. He was chopping veggies in the kitchen while we were on vacation, resulting in a family favorite, gado-gado. I am not a big fan of the term “food bowl” – probably because it makes me think of a dog bowl. While the simple and descriptive name leaves something to be desired, a well built-food bowl does not.

A bowl is cozy and informal.  As a simple vessel they make us happy. When your create a successful good bowl, you bring together complementary flavors in one space, mixing and matching each bite. The supported sides allowing a particular architecture a plate simply doesn’t provide.  Food bowls are great for those of you overachievers out there who manage to food prep during the weekend. Without making a major commitment to a menu, you can slice and dice your a variety of veggies which makes creating your food bowl easier during the week.

An aside…I haven’t been able to bring myself to make a smoothie bowl. Yes, the colors are beautiful and I’m sure they are also delicious, but for me it’s entirely impractical. I make a smoothie so I can feed myself with one hand while accomplishing some other task like driving or checking email at the office. I have no extra time for such luxury are a breakfast food bowl.

A satisfying food bowel (for lunch or dinner)  takes simple ingredients and balances flavors, textures and livens them with small amounts of flavor-enhancing goodies, like a slice of lime or drizzle of a nice balsamic vinegar to tie it all together.

I have had only two food bowl fails, both were simply too much of a good thing — carbs.  Thanksgiving leftovers and a southern veggie bowl that was poorly planned. The textures and flavor profiles were too similar, resulting in a heaping bowl of…..mush.

My kids aren’t into spicy food or even strong flavors, but I am. One reason I so enjoy making food bowls is the ability for us to build exactly what we want, and I am spared from another boring dinner and from their complaints.

Some of my favorite combinations (this week) are: Rice and romaine base + “ground beef” style tofu + avocado slices + pickled jalapenos and mangoes + lime juice and salsa

My kids, who seem uninterested in flavor,  eat a version of it like this: Rice + refried black beans + guacamole + lettuce + tortilla on the side

Before you begin building a bowl choose a flavor profile.  Are you in the mood of Thai? Seasonal garden fare? Tex-mex? Japanese? Italian? Mediterranean?

Base: Soba noodles, bow-tie pasta, quinoa, rice, chopped kale, crispy romaine lettuce, pearled couscous, millet, barley…. Or mix and match.  Note: To effort to keep my calories in check and eat more greens, half of my base is almost always romaine lettuce, lightly sauteed kale, or broccoli. These work with basically any flavor I’m in the mood for.

Protein : Chickpeas, black beans, tofu, tempeh, veggie burner of your choice, favorite meat substitute (I’m not a super fan), portobello mushrooms

Toppings: Cucumbers, sliced cherry tomatoes, green peas, sugar peas, roasted broccoli, chickpeas, sprouts, steamed green beans, roasted okra, diced/roasted sweet potato, steamed broccoli, all the veggies. All of them.

Goodies: Matchstick carrots, sprouts, pumpkin seeds, sliced almonds, chopped walnuts, maderin oranges, pickled red onions, mangoes

Extra flavor: Squeeze of lime juice, balsamic reduction, pico de gallo, salsa, thai chilis, salad dressing, shot of soy sauce, homemade Chinese garlic sauce.

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