Bowls, Bowls, Bowls!

Rice bowls are my mainstay meal when I have no idea what to cook, and when I desire something fresh and healthy that doesn’t take a long time to make.  I can spend 20 minutes in the kitchen and prepare enough food to last the day, while still being sure that it’s nourishing, filling, and veggie-full.
A bowl of Bibimbap, my favorite rice bowl of all time.  This Korean fave has a really thick and spicy sauce and is topped with an assortment of prepared veggies and tofu.

Another great thing about rice bowls (or bowls with any grain base) is that they fit in very well with standardized food guides, which typically advocate a lot of vegetables and grains, and moderate to conservative portions of protein and fat.

This Tabouleh-Inspired Salad Bowl is a balanced meal, chock-full of nutritious goodies like kidney beans, bulgur wheat, avocado, and fresh herbs and vegetables.

For a big, filling bowl that will keep me going for hours, I typically start with a base of around a cup of rice, sometimes more depending on my appetite.  I’ll use an approximately equal amount of fresh vegetables which are almost always prepared raw, partly for convenience but also for a great crunchy texture that happily contrasts the soft chewy rice.  And, you know, raw veggies are pretty much the healthiest thing you can and should consume.

Though I don’t find adding a “protein” to these bowls necessary from a nutritional standpoint since there’s plenty of protein to be found in the rice, sauce and veggies, I do like adding it for satiety’s sake.  Foods like chickpeas or tempeh contain plenty of calories, so including them will give you a bowl that’s more likely to keep you full for longer – and I don’t know about you guys, but I strongly dislike getting hungry at 3pm, because then I snack incessantly, and snacks are seldom as nutritious as the real meal.  
Middle Eastern Bowl with creamy tahini sauce, chickpeas, kale, olives, avocado and fresh veggies.

The final step to an awesome bowl is to dress it in a great-tasting sauce.  My favorite sauces are creamy ones like tahini for an Eastern flair or peanut for an Asian-esque bowl.  Oil-based sauces and vinaigrettes are solid choices for lighter bowls, like a simple teriyaki or ginger lime dressing.  Another favorite is to dress the bowl with salsa, hot sauce and guacamole, as I never tire of bold Mexican flavors.  Creamy and comforting dressings like cashew-based alfredo or ranch are always welcome, especially with some barbeque tofu.  Mmmm…

And of course, you’re never limited to just rice!  All kinds of bases are possible, and they don’t just have to be grains, either – starchy vegetables like potatoes and winter squashes can all form the foundation of a hearty meal, and let’s not forget pasta and noodles!  If you want to omit starch and grains entirely, there isn’t anything wrong with a bowl of zucchini noodles, or cauliflower “rice”, or even just a pile of leafy greens.  

A Mexican-style potato bowl, topped with salsa, guacamole, romaine and bacon bits.

Wholesome buckwheat soba noodles form the base of this fresh stir-fry, except in this case nothing has been fried.  Sunflower sprouts are a simple topping that amplifies the gorgeousness of this meal.

There’s no saying you’re limited to using an actual bowl, either – as the above and below meals attest, all of the components of a bowl can be spread out on a plate for a beautiful appearance.

A Vietnamese-style rice bowl, with simple ingredients spread out in a unique manner for some healthy eye candy.  Little changes in a meals’ aesthetics makes a huge difference in how much you desire to eat it.

They say that we eat with our eyes, and I believe it to the core.  Fresh and colorful vegetables are the most visually appealing foods on the planet, and making a rice bowl loaded with them is a treat for your senses and taste buds.  I can’t think of a single time I’ve sat down to one of these rice bowls and said “meh”.  They just look too darn beautiful, and their substance is just as fantastic as their surface appeal.

Rice bowls, man.  Do it up!

  • Jolene – EverydayFoodie

    Rice bowls make me very, very happy. Must explain why Korea House and 13th Ave are my two favourite restaurants in the city!

  • Mandee

    Yum, so many delicious bowls, I'd like that Middle Eastern bowl, it looks great!

  • Allysia

    Ditto on the 13th ave, Jolene! I can't remember if I've been to Korea House, but I've been to Korean restaurants here and had some happy bibimbap (sans egg and beef, of course).

    I just ate the Middle Eastern bowl yesterday, it was soooo good! Can't wait to share that one! 🙂

  • jessy

    such an awesome post! this got me thinking about foods in bowls. we eat a lot of beans-rice-'n-veggie bowls, but i never thought to use squash or potatoes as a based. brilliant and tasty, and your middle-eastern bowl is calling my name. so yum!

  • Jared

    I love this post! Really colorful and inspirational, full of good information and new ideas. Great one, Allysia! 🙂

  • Erin

    Bowls are the best! I subsisted only off bowl meals when I lived with my boyfriend's mom for a little while and didn't want to take over her kitchen. I looooove shredded purple cabbage in a grain bowl too, the perfect crunchy element.

  • Allysia

    Thanks, guys! 🙂 Purple shredded cabbage is my fave too – it's so freaking tasty raw. And since it's so colorful it makes bowls look way more exciting. And it's cheap too, you really can't go wrong with purple cabbage!