bowl building: ready to roll

How to Build a Bowl

Bowls have been a thing since long before you saw “bowl” on offer everywhere you looked. I’m a grazer, so bowls are pretty  much my favorite way to eat. This super simple guide promises super easy bowl building with whatever ingredients and combos float your boat.

Bowls optimally include the following:

  • Dressing, which goes on the bottom of the bowl; for this one, I made a balsamic mustard maple vinaigrette.
  • Grain or starch: I used quinoa here, into which I grated a beet.
  • Roasted veggies; here, I diced up some sweet potatoes.
  • Raw veggies: Kale and cabbage are ideal because they’re so sturdy.
  • Protein: Mine of choice was feta cheese.
  • Something sweet: I had a pomegranate on hand.
  • Something crunchy, and if you’re traveling, packed separately: I roasted some walnuts.

bowl building ingredients

I used this recipe from Clean Eating pretty much verbatim, except that the dressing they recommend is WAY too tart for me (1/4 cup of vinegar and no oil?? that’s nuts.) So I just made your basic vinaigrette, which is pretty dark due to balsamic and maple syrup.

Now the thing with published bowl recipes is that they put them in Mason jars, which looks beautiful but has never worked for me. I like to be able to toss my salads so they really get coated in dressing, and just shaking a packed Mason jar up and down doesn’t cut it for me.

We like to do a little bowl building before a road trip, so we just layer ours in this handy plastic bowl. As noted, keep the roasted crunchiness (nuts in this case) separate and add when you eat. Soggy crunchy stuff is for the birds. Actually, watching the birds chow down on sunflower seeds right now, I must argue with myself and say birds look askance at soggy crunchy stuff, too.

Here’s how our to-go pack looks.

bowl building: salad packed and ready to hit the road

And here, taking with unfortunate night-time overhead lighting, is how our salad looks plated. It tasted really good. Please excuse the near-sepia tone.

bowl building: plated salad

Bowl Building: Inspirations and Ideas Aplenty

You can find good bowls all over online. Check out my Pinterest board for suggestions from around the web, or try one of my recipes.

Or just give bowl building a shot on your own. Enjoy!



rapini and how to make it tasty

Rapini

How do you solve a problem like…..rapini? On the shelf, it looks so adorable, bright emerald green baby broccoli flowers amid plenty of leaves that look like mustard greens, with crispy-looking jade green stems…

rapini, raw and innocent looking

You may think, well, there’s nothing to that but to pop it in a pan with some garlic, and…Yum! But should you do that very thing, you are likely to see troubled looks on the faces of your fellow diners—they trusted you, and you give them this?—and may end up barely able to swallow what seemed like a great idea.

If that sounds as if it comes from bitter (pun very much intended) experience with this particular vegetable, you have perceived correctly. I once innocently sauteed up a pan of rapini, blithely served it to Steve and Henry. I insist on honest reactions to my creations here, and I got them. Steve, normally a totally easy keeper on the vegetable front, said, “Wow. This is horrible.” Henry stood up and poured his in the garbage. Steve and I followed suit.

Rapini, you saucy trickster! You’re not broccoli at all, but a very stylish member of the turnip family. Hence the extreme bitterness. So why bother, when you could just get broccoli, which is honestly pretty hard to screw up? Because if you can get rapini right, it’s a wonderful way to zazzle up your taste buds. Tempered correctly, which you will shortly learn how to do, rapini provides a pleasant bang of bitterness, a wonderful texture—it doesn’t get mushy, but you also won’t feel like a horse chewing it—and a veritable powerhouse of nutrition. Vitamin K and C, cancer-fighting properties, anti-inflammatory, alkalizing: Read all about it at this link (though I caution against preparing the soup recipe unless you follow the de-bittering step here).

What is this magical step to render rapini ravishing? A big old pot of boiling water. Bring it to a boil, throw in about a tablespoon of salt, and blanch for about 2 minutes. (I break off any tough-looking stems prior to boiling.) The process mellows the bitterness to a manageable amount, and the broccoli stays bright green. Then simply drain, squeeze out as much water as possible, and chop coarsely. The amount shown below is the yield from the big batch of rapini at the top of the page (probably about 2/3 of a pound).

Rapini loves garlic. Heat your pan, heat some oil (olive is perfect), sauté your super thin garlic slices with a little salt for about 45 seconds so they’re just starting to turn gold. Then add your chopped rapini.

Rapini is no delicate creature. I give it about 8 minutes, but it can go longer. You’ll end up with a lovely big batch that you can keep on hand for about 3 days and throw into all kinds of things.

The night I made this up, Steve threw a big handful into some soup. I had some naan on hand, which I brushed with a little garlic oil, toasted briefly in the oven, then topped with the sauteed rapini, some leftover meatballs sliced thin, and some fresh mozzarella and a little parmesan. A heavenly little personal pizza. Don’t stop there. Throw some sauteed rapini into pasta or rice. Use it as your green in a bowl; it would be amazing as a bi bim bop component. Just one warning: Now that you know how rapini should taste, you would be wise to avoid ordering it in U.S. restaurants, and if you see it in a deli case, be sure to get a sample. Rapini always looks good. It stays bright green pretty much no matter what.

Of course, if you see it in Italy, go nuts. They kind of invented the stuff.



quinoa crust quiche

Quinoa Crust Quiche

I love quiche—or at least, the idea of it. I order it when I go out and it usually delivers my requirements: buttery crust, eggy goodness, cheesy decadence. But when I’m honest, I know that most of those buttery crust that I’m paying other people to fill came straight out of a package. Meanwhile, I have a perfectly fine, infinitely healthier alternative on hand. That big old package of quinoa calls my name. And one of the best ways to use it up is with a quinoa crust quiche.

quinoa crust quiche

Jump to recipe.

Why, you may ask, do I happen to have said gigantic quinoa package? Well, I’m not trying to be mean, but quinoa tastes weird. There’s always an odd, sort of dusty taste to it. I know it’s not this package either, or that it’s old, or any other explanation. Nonetheless, its nutritional perks are impressive. Protein-rich, fiber-rich, chockful of vitamins and minerals—read all about quinoa’s specific health benefits here. And in its favor, quinoa morphs easily as a substitute for all kinds of grains, particularly those that are already fragmented into small pieces like cracked wheat and couscous.

And as a pie crust substitute, it’s super easy and SO much healthier that it’s worth a try. Just be forewarned: You are not making something that will taste like a pie crust. A quinoa-crust quiche does not flake with buttery goodness. Rather, it sits on the plate as a hearty earthy base for all the eggy-cheesy-veggie goodness you want to throw in it. These items I had on hand just begged to be added to a tasty quinoa crust quiche.

quinoa crust quiche likes veggies

(I just realized I’m writing as if I’m Kathy Najimy’s character in The Fisher King. Is she the one responsible for that thing where we add a y to the end of basically every single word? If so, huzzah to you, Kathy.)

So with the quinoa crust, you gotta remember that weird quinoa flavor that you want to camo just a tad. That means that, at the very least, you need to cook the quinoa with salt (or the no-salt sub of your choice), preferably in broth rather than water. Once all the water’s cooked in—and do make sure the quinoa’s not wet at all—and the quinoa’s cooled, add an egg. But you can add even more flavor by sauteeing and adding an onion, or lots of chopped herbs, including scallions, and—most decadent of all—a big old handful of your favorite grated cheese.

Now, simply place the mixture into a pie pan that you’ve sprayed with no-stick, or oiled, or buttered; up to you. I like to take a piece of wax paper and use that to press the quinoa into shape…

quinoa crust quiche: use parchment paper to press evenly

…keeping it even on the bottom of the pan and nicely rising on the sides.

quinoa crust quiche, the crust ready to pre-bake Then bake, and voila. Your quinoa crust is about to become a quinoa crust quiche. I used this recipe from Clean Eating as my jumping off point, but in addition to the broccoli and kale we had on hand, I had a bunch of mushrooms that were quite happy to jump into the pan. I also used quite a bit more cheese, and was in general more decadent.

quinoa crust quiche gets filled with a mix of vegetables

Either place your veggie mix directly into the quiche, which is what I did here. Or mix it in with a batch of eggs, some type of milk, and more cheese, Gromit. My, the movie refs are flying thick and fast today. They’re my Christmas gift to you! If you’ve kept the eggs/cheese/etc. separate…

quinoa crust quiche, ready for the milk cheese mixture

…just pour them over the top…

quinoa crust quiche gets a layer of egg and cheese filling

…and top with….more cheese. (This is actually kind of a modest amount, but I have some in the crust and also some feta mixed into the eggs. Go as wild as you like!) By the way, the speckles are from the mustard I used.

Quinoa crust quiche before going into the oven.

There you have it. You’ve used up quinoa, and you’ve got a healthy meal you can pack up for a road trip or nosh on at your desk. Some cherry tomatoes sparkled up both the visual and flavor palates. Enjoy with your own seasonal variations throughout the year.


Quinoa Crust Quiche: The Recipe

roasted cabbage from Le Chou Fou

Roasted Cabbage

I do love my cabbage, which is obvious if you have a little high school French. (And if you haven’t, “chou” means cabbage and “fou” means crazy). It’s a simple, salt-of-the-earth veggie that grows absolutely everywhere. I predict it will soon overtake Brussels sprouts as the Next Big Veggie. And, as far as preparations go, roasted cabbage raises the ante considerably from the terrifying boiled cabbage of yore.

Jump to recipe.

four veggies, ready for roasting

Like all the other roasted veggies this week—kale, cauliflower, and carrots—roasted cabbage is ridiculously easy. Unlike them, cabbage takes on a decadent quality. Roasting brings out the cabbage’s sweetness. The fat that you use makes every bite feel sumptuous. The seasonings you choose up the ante a little more, though just salt and pepper work beautifully, too. I loved the seasonings in this recent Cooking Light recipe , though I did find working with softened butter to be a challenge. I recommend melting half the amount of butter, mixing with an equal amount of oil, then tossing the seasonings directly on top. It’s a lovely combo.

Also departing from most other vegetables, cabbage needs a little bit of extra love. Cut it in wedges; depending on the size of your cabbage, 4-6 is a good number per half of cabbage. As you can see from the photos here, I only had about a 1/4 wedge on hand, so I just cut it in 3 pieces. But don’t toss in the oil and spices with wild abandon. Rather, gently turn the cabbage in the fat. For extra-decadence, melt a little butter with the oil; cabbage and butter, like cabbage and pork, make each other very, very happy. A little sugar (I like coconut) adds some nice carmelization and a little more sweetness.

Roasted Cabbage prior to roasting

Then, place the wedges on a cookie sheet, and roast as usual. At the 20-minute mark, turn the cabbage carefully with a spatula. If you can keep the wedges at least somewhat intact, they work out to be excellently-sized portions. And even if they fall apart, you can still see the demarcation lines pretty clearly.

roasted cabbage from Le Chou Fou

Roasted Cabbage: The Recipe

roasted carrots from le chou fou

Roasted Carrots

Unlike so many vegetables, carrots sell themselves. They’re sweet, crunchy, and always the first thing to disappear on the crudité platter. I like them pickled and on hand to add to pretty much any handheld food. In fact, they satisfy so nicely raw, you might not consider cooking them. Roasted carrots may change that.
Jump to recipe.

I particularly like roasting (and pickling for that matter) when it comes to those bags of multicolored carrots. Truthfully, I’m not sure if it’s just me or if the lighter colored carrots, the yellow and white ones, really don’t have as much flavor as the orange and purples, but when I see them next to the dip, I avoid them. Not so when they’re roasted and tasty.

If you’ve been following the roasted vegetable posts over the last few days (including roasted kale chips and roasted cauliflower ), nothing here will shock you. Simply slice the carrots nice and thin; alternatively, you can leave them whole, in which case you’d roast them longer.

multicolored carrots, cut up and ready for roasting

Then toss with oil and seasonings, roast for 15 minutes, stir, test to see how much longer they need to cook, which might be 5 or 15 minutes.  Eat them hot or save to toss into things later in the week.

roasted carrots from Le Chou Fou

I like this recipe idea from the allrecipes print magazine; they toss roasted carrots with salad dressing, blue cheese, dried cranberries, and arugula. I just gave you the recipe, pretty much, but if you need exact amounts, their official roasted carrot salad recipe is at the link above.

Roasted Carrots: The Recipe

roasted cauliflower, delicious and easy to make

Roasted Cauliflower

I love cauliflower. Apparently, so do a lot of other people at this particular culinary moment. Like kale before it, it’s hot. Unlike Brussels sprouts after it, it’s versatile. A batch of roasted cauliflower keeps for several days, and in that time you can throw it into pretty much anything—a bowl, pasta, on a pizza, etc. And, as with all roasted vegetables, it’s easy, easy, easy.

Jump to recipe.

This cauliflower is hanging out with its roasting buddies. (And in case you want a different vegetable from this pic, here’s the recipe for Roasted Kale Chips.)

cauliflower waits to become roasted cauliflower

You can sub cauliflower for a huge mass of things. Paleo and ketogenic diets use it as a potato swap, though I will warn you that it won’t ever be as creamy as mashed potatoes. It makes an ok pizza crust as long as you don’t try to pretend it’s the real thing. I see it standing in for meat; cauliflower steaks pop up all over the place. That particular iteration strikes me as a little too trendy. I’m not a huge fan of the “let’s pretend this is something it isn’t” phenomenon when it comes to food. Just use the florets as nature intended, naturally bite-sized, without all this silly knife and fork biz.

As will all Roasted Vegetables, the process is ridiculously easy. Start by heating the oven to 400º. While it heats, cut the florets of the main cauliflower stem; many will be the right size, but some will be unweildy to stab and put in your mouth. Keep that in mind as you halve any giant florets. Put them in a bowl with some oil—you can use melted coconut, olive, or grapeseed—salt to taste, and the spice mix of your choice. I really like the Harissa blend from Whole Foods, but use whatever you want. cauliflower prior to roasting

Toss the florets well, lay them out on a baking sheet covered with parchment. Roast, then check after 20 minutes. Stir, then roast another 10-15 minutes. I like the florets beginning to brown, soft but still possessing some texture. The roasting brings out a wonderful sweetness.

I’m fond of having these on hand to add to whatever I’m eating that day. I’m equally fond of just noshing on them. Enjoy with a complete lack of guilt, because on the health front, cauliflower—with properties that fight cancer and inflammation and a load of vitamins and minerals—rocks.

roasted cauliflower after cooking

Roasted Cauliflower: The Recipe