Easy Planning for Mealtime

Anyone else feeling a bit frazzled trying to manage virtual schooling, ‘winterizing’ the yard before the first snow and getting the fall decorations up before it’s time to put up the Christmas tree?

Even with a degree in nutrition, I’m still finding it hard to get healthy meals on the table more than one or two nights a week.  These days, I’m too busy chasing around a 15-month-old to plan and prep meals the way I used to.  I’m failing in both planning and execution, which has led to a lot more pizza-ordering than I’d care to admit.

Enter the ‘power bowl.’ 

Call them what you want—Wegmans offers ‘grain bowls,’ Melissa Urban of the Whole30 calls them ‘ground meat with stuff over stuff,’—the ‘power bowl’ is basically a salad on steroids, packed with good-for-you food with no (immediate) cooking involved.  Even the East Aurora Cooperative Market has a salad with quinoa in their refrigerated to-go section.  A friend in college first turned me on to this concept of simply mixing different grains, veggies and protein in a bowl and calling it a meal.  At the time, I didn’t think my hubby would go for it.  I still don’t know if he’ll go for it, but I’m desperate to have healthier options at the ready for lunches and dinners.

One of my favorite cookbooks is ‘Run Fast. Eat Slow.’ by Shalane Flanagan and Elyse Kopecky, and they feature ‘power bowls’ in their second book, ‘Run Fast. Cook Fast. Eat Slow.’  Their basic recipe includes choosing a ‘base,’ such as rice or quinoa (salad greens if avoiding grains or short on time), topping with veggies, adding protein (to include a fried egg in a pinch), and drizzling with sauce.

Disclaimer: There may be cooking involved, but it’s minimal.  Basically, you’ll need to cook up a grain, a protein and some veggies.  Ideally, you’re doing this from scratch in order to avoid the laundry list of hard-to-pronounce ingredients in most processed foods and dressings.  Nowadays, you can find all those items pre-cooked in any grocery store, in the form of microwavable rice pouches, steam-in-the-bag veggies and a rotisserie chicken.

I haven’t started doing this yet, but after weeks of failing to get it together in the meal department, I’m about to.  In fact, I just ordered some specific dressings from a favorite brand that will make perfect sauces to drizzle on top. While I’ll miss choosing recipes out of a cookbook, just knowing I have the building blocks for healthy meals ready to go will help take a load off.

Shalane and Elyse give examples of their favorite bowl combos, including a pulled pork/brown rice/slaw/black bean/guacamole mix. 

Here are some super-simple ideas for your next power bowl:

-couscous, broiled salmon, kale, pickled onions and bell peppers, balsamic vinaigrette

-brown rice, BBQ chicken, corn, tomatoes, lettuce, shredded cheese, ‘ranch’ dressing

-salad greens, ground beef, kalamata olives, roasted red peppers, mozzarella cheese, marinara sauce

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