We love big bowls filled with mix-and-match foods. This is the one time that we break the rule (which is actually based on good evidence) that people should use smaller plates and bowls because they’re much more likely to eat less that way (1,2). We ourselves are high-volume eaters, and we’ve spent several lovely evenings cooking, assembling, and then eating while watching something interesting or absurd on television, depending on whom you ask.
The best thing about bowls is their versatility. You can be as creative as you want in terms of vegetables, proteins, grains and sauces. You can keep the ingredients separate and let everyone build their own gorgeous dinner. Today’s featured recipe includes cooked quinoa (be sure to check out Janice’s quinoa secret!) topped with steamed spinach topped with grilled shrimp topped with red pepper and mushrooms. One bowl has roasted Brussels sprouts, and one (the blurry picture) has grilled eggplant. The quinoa could have been another grain or brown rice or pasta. Or spiralized vegetables if we didn’t want a grain. There are any number of raw, roasted, steamed, or grilled vegetables that would work. The protein could have been tofu, beans, fish or chicken. You can put nuts or seeds on top. You get the picture. There’s no sauce in this particular recipe today, but there are so many that would work well — pesto or tomato sauce come to mind.
Jay — Preparing dinner bowls with other people is a great way to make dinner a collaborative process. It can be a great way to cook with friends or with children. When I stay with Janice, one of our go-to dinners is some sort of large bowl of filling and nutritious ingredients. I love eating this way because we can both prepare the food at the same time, and that means that we get to spend time together. I love this routine, as it makes preparing dinner feel like a joint and communal effort. The other reason I like this routine is that when we cook together, we both learn about new ingredients and new ways of cooking things.
Janice — Now that my children and Jay have abandoned me, I comfort myself on Sunday afternoons by eating a big bowl of stuff while I watch my beloved (and improbably fantastic!) Philadelphia Eagles. Yes, football is a grotesquely violent game, and probably no one should be allowed to play it; but I love it, and it brings back such happy memories of my husband referring to be as “The Family Trashbrain.” In any event, I sit there with my bowl of food and yell at the television and scare the dog, and it’s all good.
Jay — Here are some of my suggestions for combinations you might like. If you have children, it can be a great way to get them involved in food prep. The added bonus is that you’re helping associate healthy and nutritious food with positive family memories.
Jay's Bowl 1
Farro or another grain or whole wheat pasta
Cooked chicken or fish
Carrot ribbons, steamed or raw spinach and mushrooms
Roasted beets &/or broccoli
Lime juice or any sauce you like
Jay's Bowl 2
Corn, diced jicama, diced tomato, avocado slices, cilantro
Salsa with lime juice
Jay's Bowl 3
Roasted broccoli, asparagus, &/or sweet potato
Toss with soy sauce and a little sesame oil. Maybe a dash of hot sauce, too.
And Now for Today's Recipe:
Grilled Shrimp Bowl with Quinoa and Vegetables
- Peeled raw shrimp (preferably wild)
- Cooked quinoa (see note)
- Fresh spinach
- Eggplant, cut into one-inch slices (see eggplant note)
- Brussels sprouts, trimmed and cut in half.
- Fresh mushrooms, halved or quartered
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Minced fresh garlic
- Red bell pepper, sliced
- Cook the quinoa (see quinoa note).
- Mix oil and garlic. Brush over shrimp and eggplant slices.
- Toss the Brussels sprouts with some of the oil and garlic, too. Roast them at 400 degrees until they're tender, but not mushy.
- Do the same with the eggplant (or grill it).
- Sauté or roast the mushrooms in a little more of the olive oil and minced garlic.
- Steam or sauté the spinach.
- Grill or sauce the shrimp until just cooked (warning: this happens fast!)
- Assemble: place some quinoa in a bowl. Top with spinach. Top with vegetables and red pepper slices. Go Eagles!
You know how they tell you to that before you cook quinoa, you need to rinse it to remove the bitter coating? Forget it. Instead, put the quinoa in a dry pot and cook it over medium heat for a few minutes until it's light brown. Then add the recommended amount of water and cook as usual. This will save you a step and also make the quinoa taste nuttier and toastier and just better.
As we mentioned at the end of a previous post, look for the smaller varieties of eggplant — Italian or Japanese. They're less bitter, and you don't have to go through all that salting, rinsing, and drying nonsense.
(1) Hollands CJ et al. Portion, package or tableware size for changing selection and consumption of food, alcohol and tobacco. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2015; (9):CD011045. Doi: 10.1002/1465.
(2) DiSantis KI et al. Plate size and children’s appetite: effects of larger dishware on self-served portions and intake. Pediatrics 2013; 13(5):e1451-8.