Grain Bowl Basics
I think I mentioned this in another entry, but grain bowls and mason jar salads are what inspired me to start a blog in the first place. It was right after the New Year in 2015, and I fixated on making both of these things. I think I covered mason jar salads pretty thoroughly over 2 different posts (though my pictures could use some updating). But I never got around to grain bowl basics until now (I first saw these “Health Bowls” in an old Real Simple issue.)
Another new year, another reason to start fresh. This year I’m planning to do a 10 Day Elimination Diet—not for weight loss, but because my stomach has been irritated a lot lately, and I’m curious if it’s because of certain types of foods. I’m no expert, and I haven’t even started yet. (As I write this, it’s New Year’s Eve. I told my family I will not start this until everyone is back in school and at work because I don’t want to punish everyone by not having caffeine in the mornings if they’re all here).
You may already know what an Elimination Diet is, and usually it is supposed to last for a month or so. But I’m not sure I’m ready for that. Instead I’m trying 10 days, and I’ll gauge it from there. There is a long list of food types to avoid—types that can cause stomach irritation. After you’ve done a week or more on an elimination diet, you’ve kind of given your digestive tract a restart, and then you slowly add back one food group at a time to see how you feel. It doesn’t determine allergies, just sensitivities. I’d like to know what I’m eating that’s making my stomach act funky.
Some of the types of food you cannot eat include caffeine, alcohol (obviously), beef, pork, raw fish, shellfish, nightshades (like eggplant and tomatoes), white potatoes, soy, gluten, certain fruits like bananas and grapes, peanuts, dairy, and eggs. It sounds like a lot! But I decided to look at it as what I can eat: chicken, fin fish, rice, gluten free oats, lentils, quinoa, sweet potatoes, lots of vegetables, lots of fruits like apples and pears, olive and coconut oil, every type of nut except for peanuts, tea, most herbs, almond milk and coconut milk, vinegars, even cocoa powder. When I look at it this way, I think…hmmm, what can I make? I have a lot of ideas coming very soon!
Immediately I think of grain bowls. My family likes grain bowls, and while I’m certainly not asking them to do this diet with me, it will be nice to make things we can all enjoy. A grain bowl starts with a bed of grain– any kind you like. For me, it’s usually Perfectly Cooked Brown Rice or Quinoa. After that, I pick a type of protein like beans (if I’m doing vegan), or salmon or chicken if not. I almost always add sweet potatoes, seasoned and roasted. Then a few raw veggies and cooked veggies (for contrast), something rich like olives or avocado, some herbs, and a dollop of hummus in the middle. I think of it as a salad, but the base is a grain instead of a lettuce. From here on, I’ll just list some options, and let you go to work and become inspired.
Total Time: 10 Minutes plus time to cook any veggies or grains
Difficulty Level: Easy
- Grains (Pick 1): brown rice, barley, quinoa, oats, farro
- Proteins (Pick 1): Egg, chicken, salmon, tuna, cannellini beans, chickpeas, black beans, lentils
- Cooked Veggies (Pick 2-3): roasted sweet potatoes, roasted acorn squash, roasted red pepper, steamed mushrooms, blanched asparagus, shelled edamame, roasted kale, blanched broccoli florets
- Raw Veggies (Pick 2-3): diced cucumber, scallions, sliced radishes, shredded carrots, shaved Brussels sprouts, alfalfa sprouts, purple cabbage, grape tomatoes
- Something Rich (Pick 1-2): olives, avocado, feta, almonds, walnuts, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds
- Herbs (Pick 1-2): basil, parsley, chives, cilantro
- Extra Flavor (Pick 1): hummus, pesto, chimichurri, Greek yogurt, tahini, tzatziki, olive oil and vinegar
Assemble your meal in a large, shallow bowl. Start with the grain, and then layer the different vegetables and toppings. In the center of the bowl, add dressing or hummus.