One of my goals in the New Year has been to take care of my husband and myself better by means of more vegetables. I’m horrible at serving vegetables. I prefer one-pot sort of things, where you put it altogether. Too often, my definition of vegetables is “it has potatoes in it.” It’s too often an afterthought. It’s not a matter of weight loss, or special diet. I just want to get more vegetables in our lives, and not be miserable about it.
Spending Christmas with my sister she was telling me how she and her family are doing more “bowl meals.” I’ll admit, I’ve never considered making such a thing, but there is a local restaurant by us that is famous for it’s “bowls.” They have this amazing thai bowl, with steak and this sauce, and the veggies…my mouth waters just thinking about it. Oh, and their salmon bowl. They are my favorite splurge, more often than I should admit.
What I love about the bowls is how all the flavors work together. It’s just so yummy. But there’s just so many pieces to the meal. How could I do that much preparation?
I made a goal of serving my family 3 bowl meals a week, just to increase our vegetable intake, and encourage the kids to make vegetable eating more normal. Before this, I would occasionally steam some frozen vegetables, serve a bag of salad (which only our 2 teenagers would touch) or consider spaghetti sauce their vegetable for the day. I would often try to make soups, because you can sneak all sorts of vegetables in there.
I still love soups, but for some reason, I’m having trouble getting my little ones to like it. (My new trick: give the 3 younger ones an ice cube to play with in their soup. They love to swish it around as it melts, and at least they lick their spoon. Hey–whatever works.)
I didn’t know my kids would love bowl meals so much!
So, here’s the basics of bowl meals, at least for our meat-eating family. You build it in layers.
Layer 1: fresh greens, or spinach
Layer 2: grain like rice or quinoa
Layer 3: vegetable assortment
Layer 4: meat
Layer 5: garnish/sauce
You can make up your own bowls, or follow ones I have found on Pinterest.
Here are the 3 bowls I’ve tried out that we are eating like crazy
We’ve been having taco bowls on our homeschool group days. I’ve been making ahead rice and meat mixed with chili powder, and refried beans. I bring those 2 things in glass containers, put them in the oven at the church during class break time, and serve as soon as the kids get out of class. The kids get paper bowls, fill them with rice, beans/meat mixture, salsa, cheese, sour cream and precut cilantro. They use corn chips and spoons to eat it up.
OK, so there’s not much veggies in this one besides the salsa. But it’s filling, warm, and relatively healthy. It’s been getting us out of our sandwich slump on our community/packed lunch days.
Layer 1: fresh greens
Layer 2: coconut rice. I use THIS RECIPE.
Layer 3: sliced cucumbers, a bag of fresh sugar snap peas (my kids favorite!), and a bag of shredded carrots. I’ve also used THIS RECIPE for pickled onions that are bright pink that we’ve been loving. It literally took 5 minutes to make, and the jar has lasted us about a month. The kids are required to pick at least 2 vegetables from the table to add to their bowl. The sugar snap peas go quick, but they like being able to pick.
Layer 4: Salmon. My family loves salmon, as long as it’s wild and skinless. I usually bake it, but for this recipe, I cook it on my cast iron pan, using THIS RECIPE which is an enormous hit.
Layer 5: cut up cilantro, and a bowl full of cut limes, that the kids get to squeeze over the whole thing. Knut sometimes puts some sesame oil on top as well.
Layer 1: fresh greens
Layer 2: coconut rice. I use this same RECIPE. I substituted quinoa for the rice once, and it was really good too, (and super filling for the teens) although the little kids eyed it suspiciously.
Layer 3: Like the pickled pink onions, I found this asian refrigerator pickles recipe that was also just a 5 minute job the night before. They are AMAZING and I think they will be a new staple in our house. Also, sugar snap peas, the pickled onions, and then some bell peppers, carrots, and zucchini, all fresh, sliced, and sautéed in a bit of avocado oil. Again, the kids have to pick at least 2. Knut and I and the older kids who are always hungry pile it on.
Layer 3: Stew meat, marinated in the morning using THIS RECIPE. I marinate it right in my cooled instant pot as it’s thawing. After a few hours, leaving the marinate completely on, add about 2 cups of beef broth, and turn the instant pot on manual, for 30 minutes. Leave it, as it keeps it warm until suppertime.
Layer 4: Cut up cilantro and fresh basil. Since one of my kids still can’t have peanuts, I made THIS almond sauce and can I just say now THIS MAKES THE BOWL AMAZING. Don’t skip it. It has a little kick, but not a strong one, but it makes the whole bowl something to melt into. If you wanted it to have more of a kick in the spice, it wouldn’t be hard to do.
What I like about it, is I’ve been able to do so much of the prep work ahead of time, and lots of it is stuff I can hand off to my kids as they’ve been begging me to teach them how to do stuff in the kitchen anyway. If my kids say, “I wish we could do something together!” we make the almond thai dressing. Or I show them how to cut peppers or cilantro. 10 minutes, their attention is gone, and I got one thing done for supper. The pickled vegetables, and dressings can be used for several meals. The sautéed or roasted vegetables can be done ahead of time, and just reheated for a few minutes. It doesn’t make it taste bad to do it that way. In fact, I think it allows the flavors to meld longer for a better flavor.
Ahead of time:
pickled onions- 5 minutes prep, once every couple weeks
pickled asian cucumber- 5 minutes prep, once every couple weeks
chopping vegetables- 10 minutes, can be done at random points throughout the day
chopping garnishes/limes – 2 minutes, can be done at random times
mixing dressing- 5 minutes, done twice a month
marinating meat – 5 minutes, earlier in the day.
The only thing that I do at supper time is make the rice, (if it’s the salmon bowl, I also make the meat while the rice is cooking. If it’s the thai bowl, I have to also sauté the veggies while the rice is cooking). That has made these 30 minute meals, which has surprised me.
It’s been fast, it’s been healthy, and all of our tummies are very happy. I have bits of time to cook now, which makes freezer meals and prep difficult. This low-commitment in the time factor has been a huge plus!