Healthy Grain Bowls

Healthy Grain Bowls

A grain bowl is a dish full of healthy fresh ingredients, robust flavours, different textures that meld together to deliver a wholesome delicious experience. It makes a fantastic lunch, dinner or a make ahead meal. It can be layered in a mason jar to preserve the freshness of the produce and mixed together for a quickly put together lunch on the go. It’s definitely convenient. But it can also be really really flavourful and delicious.

As I watched my toddler polish off a quinoa bowl and ask for more, something I often think of as a dish that doesn’t require a recipe, I suddenly felt a need to create an actual recipe for.

Mise en place is an important culinary concept of getting all your ingredients in one place. Unlike in a restaurant, I don’t think mise en place is always useful in home kitchens. In my opinion, bowls and salads, are a huge exception to that. 

While my quinoa was cooking, I gathered my mise en place for my bowl. I was really hoping to pair up the balsamic dressing with strawberries, unfortunately I only had raspberries on hand. I love this type of a dish, because you can really throw just about anything you have in the fridge, but please, practice some restraint! Try to find flavour combinations that make sense. Dress quinoa while still warm, do not overdress. Also pre-dress your greens (Mesclun, quinoa, lettuce, spinach – whatever you use,) as it will ensure they are properly coated and don’t get soggy. You can mix everything together yourself, but I prefer placing the ingredients in the bowl and letting each diner gently mix their own. Serve some additional dressing on the side.

Here’s my basic bowl recipe as well as some of my most popular bowls:

Brown Rice Bowl


The bowl in the picture above has the Asian dressing, raw beets, carrots and braised Japanese eggplant.

Japanese eggplant cooks really fast so it makes a perfect addition to a quick grain bowl. Simply slice the eggplant in half, then slice each half of the eggplant in half, season with salt and pepper, sear it on all sides in a hot pan. Then add a bit of liquid, very small amount to just coat the bottom of your pan (I use couple of tablespoons of chicken stock, splash of soy sauce, splash of fish sauce), cover the pot and simmer on low for just about 5 minutes until tender.

Brown butter rice and sweet potato bowl

I will make a separate post on brown butter, but it’s very easy to make. Melt your butter over medium heat. And watch it closely for a few minutes until it browns (but not burns) to about the colour of Graham crackers and smells nutty, swirl the pan from time to time. Some strain the butter from little solids that form in it – I do not as I love the flavours they bring. There’s a reason why French call it beurre noisette which literally translates into “hazelnut butter!” Although there are absolutely no nuts in the brown butter sauce, the nutty aroma may just fool you!

Mise en place used to create a perfect grain bowl

DifficultyBeginner

Yields4 Servings

 2 cups cooked grains (brown rice, quinoa, etc - you may only need 1/2-1 cup of dry grain to make 2 cups of cooked)
 veggies of choice (could be fresh veggies like cucumbers, radishes, carrots; or cooked veggies like roasted sweet potatoes, braised asparagus, etc.)
 fruit of choice
 avocado, sliced or cubed
 greens of choice (lettuce, spinach, Mesclun greens, kale)
 nuts of choice
 seeds of choice
 dried frut of choice
 protein of choice
 Salt and Pepper to taste
 dressing of choice. Brown butter is a good option to substitute in for the regular dressing
 runny fried egg for visual effect and additional protein

1

Pre-dress your greens with a bit of the dressing. Pour the dressing into a bowl and place the greens on top (do not pour directly on them as it will wilt them.) Gently toss the greens with your clean hands. Ensure each leaf is coated well but not swimming in the dressing. Season with salt and pepper. Place in a section of a large plate/bowl.

If using red or white onions, slice them thinly, put in a small bowl and cover with cold water for at least 10 minutes. This will take away their pungency, while keeping all of their crunch intact.

2

Place the rest of the ingredients you are using into the bowl in sections. Place the dressing or brown butter in a small container, so that each diner can mix all of the ingredients themselves and control how much dressing they use. Serve!

Ingredients

 2 cups cooked grains (brown rice, quinoa, etc - you may only need 1/2-1 cup of dry grain to make 2 cups of cooked)
 veggies of choice (could be fresh veggies like cucumbers, radishes, carrots; or cooked veggies like roasted sweet potatoes, braised asparagus, etc.)
 fruit of choice
 avocado, sliced or cubed
 greens of choice (lettuce, spinach, Mesclun greens, kale)
 nuts of choice
 seeds of choice
 dried frut of choice
 protein of choice
 Salt and Pepper to taste
 dressing of choice. Brown butter is a good option to substitute in for the regular dressing
 runny fried egg for visual effect and additional protein

Directions

1

Pre-dress your greens with a bit of the dressing. Pour the dressing into a bowl and place the greens on top (do not pour directly on them as it will wilt them.) Gently toss the greens with your clean hands. Ensure each leaf is coated well but not swimming in the dressing. Season with salt and pepper. Place in a section of a large plate/bowl.

If using red or white onions, slice them thinly, put in a small bowl and cover with cold water for at least 10 minutes. This will take away their pungency, while keeping all of their crunch intact.

2

Place the rest of the ingredients you are using into the bowl in sections. Place the dressing or brown butter in a small container, so that each diner can mix all of the ingredients themselves and control how much dressing they use. Serve!

Grain Bowl

And here’s my go to vinaigrette. It works with every salad! If you have a salad with the sweet notes and fruit – consider adding some optional honey to the vinaigrette.

Category, DifficultyBeginner

salad mise en place

Yields8 Servings
Prep Time5 mins

 1 shallot, finely minced
 2 tbsp white wine vinegar
 1 tbsp lemon juice (or other liquid such as water, orange juice, etc.)
 2 tsp Dijon mustard
 1/2 cup plus 1 TBSP olive oil (replace part of olive oil with another vegetable oil for lighter flavour)
 salt
 freshly ground black pepper
 2 tsp honey, OPTIONAL - do this for sweeter variation

1

Whisk everything until emulsified.

Ingredients

 1 shallot, finely minced
 2 tbsp white wine vinegar
 1 tbsp lemon juice (or other liquid such as water, orange juice, etc.)
 2 tsp Dijon mustard
 1/2 cup plus 1 TBSP olive oil (replace part of olive oil with another vegetable oil for lighter flavour)
 salt
 freshly ground black pepper
 2 tsp honey, OPTIONAL - do this for sweeter variation

Directions

1

Whisk everything until emulsified.

Go To Vinaigrette

Happens to be Vegetarian: Just omit protein or add vegetarian protein.

Make it Vegan: do not use honey or butter in your dressing.

Make it Dairy-Free: do not use butter in your dressing.

Happens to be Gluten-Free: as with all gluten-free recipes, ensure all your ingredients are gluten free and not cross-contaminated, including your selected grains and mustard.

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