Grain Bowl Inspiration
by Grace from Oregon
I love rice bowls! They were a favorite of mine in college and were a special treat to power me through the long weeks of studying.
It’s been awhile since I was in school, and man have their prices gone UP in restaurants! So in the last couple years I looked into making them myself.
Seemingly the most daunting part of making these bowls was recreating the signature sauce from restaurant bowls. I found a great recipe that gets pretty close. My brother-in-law even says he likes mine better; the difference is mostly in the texture. You might have more success with a high-powered blender; I only have an immersion blender. Step one. . .here is the very simple recipe! This sauce is delicious on rice bowls, but also has many other uses in the kitchen!
1/2 cup oil
1/2 nuts (toast them if you feel like it!)
1/2 cup chickpeas - cooked and drained
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/3 cup nutritional yeast flakes
2 cloves garlic crushed
1/2 teaspoon slat
1 teaspoon curry powder
1/4 cup cilantro chopped
Combine nuts, chickpeas, and water in a food processor and process until smooth.
Add remaining ingredients and again process until smooth.
Store with a light covering (yeast might expand) in refrigerator until ready to use.
Basic Grain Bowl Recipe
After you have the sauce, which goes well on a number of things, not just grain bowls, you need to prep the other items for the bowls. My bowl has diced tomatoes, cooked beans (I use canned beans), black olives, salsa, sour cream, cilantro, cheddar cheese, avocado, brown rice and sauce. About half of these items are covered by my WIC benefits.
For one bowl I think you’ll need approximately these amounts, but the best part about making this at home is you get to decide how much you want!
¼- ½ ripe tomato
¼ cup cooked beans (whatever kind you like)
About 3 black olives, sliced
2 teaspoons of salsa
1 dollop of sour cream
A sprinkle of chopped cilantro
¼ cup of cheddar cheese
¼- ½ sliced avocado
1 ½ - 2 cups of rice (or whatever kind of grain you like)
Sauce to taste (I like 3 tablespoons, but they don’t give you that much at restaurants)
The instructions for this are really simple. After you prepare your rice according to the package instructions, you place that in a bowl and put your other toppings on top of it. Depending how you prepare your beans (I just open the can and rinse), you can put those straight on too. And that is it for the basic bowl!
Try tofu for one. . .
Some of the extra toppings you can get at restaurants are seasoned tofu or chicken. On my pregnancy benefits I can request to get some tofu and so I have been learning how to fry it, and while it’s a bit different than at restaurants, I personally do love any style of salted and fried tofu. I learned how to make tofu by asking other moms online actually, so I don’t have a recipe to follow, but I will do my best to explain it. . .
I take half the block of firm tofu and I gently press it with a tea towel or paper towel to get as much moisture out as I can.
Then I cut it into long slices and bread it with about 2 teaspoons of cornstarch mixed with my favorite seasoning; usually for me it is salt, pepper and a bit of garlic powder.
Next I get out a medium to small size frying pan and put a thin layer of canola oil in the bottom of the pan and let that heat up on medium high heat.
Once the oil is hot I gently set the tofu in the pan using tongs, and I let it cook to a golden brown on the widest sides (honestly I am a bit lazy and don’t like to meticulously fry each side, who has the time?).
When done I take those out with my tongs and set them on a paper towel on a plate and then they are ready!
Or try chicken. . .
If you are more of a chicken fan, I found a great way to make easy pan-fried chicken without using any additional oil and just salt and pepper. I got this recipe, or method is a better word, from the youtuber Pro Home Cooks. I will leave an abbreviated set of instructions here but will also leave the link for his video as well. If you follow the link to the video you will see that it is actually a video detailing how to make teriyaki chicken, also great on a rice bowl, but if you skip to the time signature 4:20 you can see that he goes over how to just make the chicken in a pan. That is what I will be explaining here; he gives a lot more detail on the video!
Take whatever cut of chicken you have, it doesn’t matter too much; thaw it if necessary and salt and pepper each side of the chicken.
Put it on a plate and cover it in the fridge for at least 30 minutes but overnight if you want.
After the time you’ve allowed it to sit you’ll notice it is very wet! Carefully pour the chicken juice down the drain of your sink.
Now get out a cold pan, nonstick or other, and set your chicken on the pan and turn on to medium heat. The salt brings out the chicken’s natural fat and this is why you won’t really need any oil. Caveat here, if you have a skinless breast you’ll want to watch the chicken pretty carefully because this cut naturally has very little fat.
Now just cook the chicken until it is a golden color on the bottom and flip. Cook until the other side is golden brown; just to be sure, take a sharp knife and check for a cooked center, especially at a thicker part of the chicken.
Take out of the pan and put on a plate to cool.
Since we mostly make these at home, I also have found some decent substitutions for some of the less common ingredients in these bowls. I don’t usually buy sour cream; it is nothing against the ingredient, I just don’t always have it on hand. Three acceptable substitutes for this are plain yogurt, sparingly, ranch dressing, or plain mayonnaise. Mayo gives it that creaminess but the greasiness that it can have goes unnoticed because of all the other amazing ingredients
I also don’t always have cilantro; I actually try to make rice bowls when I do buy cilantro just because there seems to be so much of it and it can be hard to use up otherwise. But when I don’t have it I will often want a colorful crunch to go on top like shredded cabbage, spiralized carrots or crunchy iceberg lettuce.
We love grain bowls!
I like making this dish for many reasons, but one of them is that I can get about 3 solid meals for the family out of it, and even more from the extra sauce. Once I slice the tomatoes and open the can of beans, leftovers can easily be put away in my reusable containers and are ready for the next mealtime. I also love that it is super customizable, and everyone can get what they want. My son, who is now 18 months old, loves it; and since he is a little bit of a picky eater, I am thankful when I can serve him anything reliably. The basic bowl is also vegetarian, which is a bit cheaper than buying meat for each meal! Not to mention environmentally conscious. The benefit of these bowls too is that they are nutritionally well balanced. I love my son getting protein from the beans, a whole grain from the rice, and plenty of vegetables in the mix. I hope you can give my favorite meal a try!
This blog was written by one of our guest bloggers, Grace.
About Grace. . .
I am a stay-at-home mom and I live with my wonderful husband and fun little boy. Since we have been on one income, things have been tight, so I make every effort to feed us in a healthy and affordable way. This is probably my only “hobby” at present, as most of the time I am super busy trying to keep up with my young son! I am expecting number two in August and am focusing on healthy eating and exercise for the whole family. That said, I can’t wait for summer and all the fun things we can do outdoors, not to mention the farmers markets with all the fresh fruits and veggies!
Want more inspiration in the kitchen? Check out our Health eKitchen at www.wichealth.org. We have beginner, intermediate, and experienced recipes for all ability levels.
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