a simple formula for a healthy grain bowl

hi friends! i’ve been thinking about what meals to cook for the week ahead, and one thing seems clear to me — i am going to make grain bowls for lunches this week! i’ve been thoroughly enjoying them, so i’m going to give you the simple formula for how to create a delicious grain bowl.

1. cooked grain – cooked grains can last all week in the fridge. i like to cook about 2 cups of uncooked grains, so that it will last me several days. lately i’ve been digging the sweet and brown rice (recipe here), regular brown rice, quinoa, and farro. all of these are whole grains! white rice is fine, but i love to use whole grains because of their health benefits, and they’re a little bit more fun in my opinion. whole grains are packed with nutrients including protein, fiber, B vitamins, antioxidants, and other minerals like iron, zinc, copper, and magnesium. whole grains have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and some forms of cancer. (grabbed the health info from here.)

2. protein – i LOVE baked tempeh as my protein. one hot tip is to make sure to cut tempeh as desired (squares, rectangles, or triangles, and whatever size you want!) and then add an inch of water to a pot where you can steam the little guys. then marinate them for 30+ minutes to overnight. the love and lemons tempeh recipe (recipe here) details that process, but i would recommend doing this for all tempeh recipes because it enables the tempeh to absorb so much more flavor. that’s also my favorite tempeh recipe, along with amy chaplin’s dijon marinated tempeh (recipe here). a soft boiled egg is another option here, and one that you can prepare in advance.

3. greens – i am a little obsessed with kale right now, and i just found the easiest way to cook it, which was an accident! i cleaned and chopped the kale into bite-size pieces (my preference). i heated up a cast iron skillet on medium heat with some olive oil. i added the kale, spread out evenly, to the skillet. i then left it (this was the accident! it was probably a few minutes) until it was cooked quite well, and then i stirred it a bit and let it continue cooking. i somehow made kale that was cooked like kale chips! so it was crunchy and a very welcome addition to my grain bowl. otherwise, i sauté up whatever greens i have laying around, whether that’s cabbage, spinach, or collards. i think leafy greens are SO important to eat every day, so i love to add them to my grain bowl.

4. toasted sesame seeds – i usually have toasted sesame seeds already prepared, so i simply sprinkle these on top of the items listed above. they make for a pretty presentation and they have loads of health benefits (healthy fats like polyunsaturated fatty acids and omega-6, and they also contain fiber, iron, calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus that helps to boost energy levels), so why not?

5. sauce – this is arguably the most important part of the grain bowl, because it’s what makes me want to eat every last morsel and then lick the bowl. sure, you can eat the other ingredients in a bowl without the sauce, but with a sauce, the dish becomes transformative! i have been making an unmeasured sauce (it’s a little different every time, but always delicious) with kewpie mayo (<3), rice vinegar, coconut aminos, and sriracha. i whip it up at the time i’m making the grain bowl. measurements for one grain bowl would be something like: 1.5 tbsp mayo, 1/4 tsp rice vinegar, 1/4 tsp sriracha, and 1/2 tsp coconut aminos. something like that, and taste to adjust! if i have some cilantro and limes laying around, i LOVE to whip up this cilantro-lime dressing (recipe here). you can also always add a little soy sauce to jazz things up a bit too if you don’t have a sauce handy or don’t have time to make one.

6. fermented foods – sometimes i forget to add this element, and grain bowls are fine without it. BUT why not add something fermented to your rice bowl? kimchi is my go-to because we always have sooo much in the fridge (our neighbor makes it and is so kind to gift us with a jar when he does!). i’ve also found a kimchi that i love, volcano kimchi, which is sold at the sf ferry building farmer’s market and an amazing little preserved goods store in oakland called preserved. check out this article (linked here) for more information on the health benefits of kimchi, including probiotics (healthy gut!) and potential anti-aging and weight loss benefits!

so, there you have it. this is why i LOVE grain bowls!

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