Classic dinner plates tend to keep categories of food separate: veggies in one quadrant, meat or potatoes or grains in the others. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with this structure, it’s sometimes nice to let different tastes and textures play together. Enter the one-bowl meal.
Bowls are like a heartier take on salads that, when properly built, are satiating and nutritious enough to serve as your main course. They offer a way to incorporate fresh greens along with grains, high-quality protein, roasted veggies, and robust sauces.
“A bowl allows you to combine a variety of quality ingredients and various flavors, tying them together with complementary sauces, spices, or herbs,” says Ryan Dodge, executive chef for Life Time’s LifeCafes nationwide. “The bowl is also a healthier vessel than some others we more commonly use to pull together foods, such as certain breads or tortillas.”
Dodge approaches bowl building by focusing on combinations that are healthy, anti-inflammatory, and contain a balance of macronutrients. He also aims to use whole foods or those that are minimally processed.
Here, he shares the blocks he includes in every bowl recipe he creates. The possibilities for mixing and matching are endless.
As a bonus, and perhaps as motivation to start experimenting, he is also sharing the recipe for the LT Bowl, the newest bowl on the LifeCafe menu.
“The base for the bowl is the first thing I determine, as it guides me to what other ingredients I’ll add,” says Dodge. “This is typically either greens or grains. However, sometimes I use both — I love when warm grains mix to wilt fresh greens.”
Amount: 2 cups loosely packed greens or 1/3 to 1/2 cup grains
Suggested choices: Organic spinach or arugula; brown rice, quinoa, oats, barley, buckwheat, or bulger
“Another perk of bowls is the versatility they offer with proteins,” says Dodge. “The most important thing to focus on here is quality: Look for clean, well-sourced proteins. Personally, I make a conscious effort to purchase humane options, often opting for ones such as venison, elk, duck, or bison. I also love to cook an egg over easy in some grass-fed butter and top my bowl with it — the yolk is like nature’s sauce.”
Amount: 4 to 6 ounces (or 1/2 to 3/4 cup)
Suggested choices: Organic, pastured chicken; grass-fed beef; ground turkey; wild-caught salmon or tuna; shrimp; bison; eggs; or tofu
“People often assume veggies need a lot of treatment to taste great, but I actually feel the more you do to them, the less desirable they become,” says Dodge. “I focus on minimal preparation and choosing what’s available from local growers, and in season. This is an area where most people struggle to get their daily intake, so load ‘em up.”
Amount: 3/4 to 1 cup
Suggested choices: Broccoli, green beans, carrots, beets, edamame, zucchini, eggplant, peppers, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, snap peas, corn, onion, garlic, artichoke, squash — or whatever is in season.
“I often like to include my fat source in the dressing for my bowl, such as using olive or sesame oil combined with other herbs or spices,” says Dodge. “You can also top with nuts and seeds for great texture.”
Amount: 1 tablespoon
Suggested choices: Olive, avocado, coconut, or sesame oils; nuts; seeds, such as flax, hemp, chia, or sunflower; or sliced or diced avocado
“The choices you make here will help give your bowl a specific flavor profile,” says Dodge. “Look to different global cultures for inspiration, such as Italian, Latin American, Thai, Indian, or Moroccan cuisines.”
- Sauces: pesto, curry, hummus, tahini, peanut, salsa, vinaigrettes, or yogurt-based sauces
- Herbs: cilantro, rosemary, basil, parsley, tarragon, or chives
- Spices: sea salt, black pepper, cumin, thyme, oregano, ginger, turmeric, smoked paprika, or red pepper flakes
- Cheese: blue or goat cheese, gruyere, Manchego, or Parmigiano Reggiano
- Fiber: beans, chickpeas, or lentils
- Fermented foods: kimchi or sauerkraut
The LT Bowl
Makes four servings
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 25 minutes
- 4 cups brown rice
- 1 bunch broccoli (stalks included)
- 4 4-oz. chicken breasts
- Olive oil to taste
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 8 roasted red peppers, julienned
- 4 to 6 garlic cloves, minced
- 4 tbs. harissa (see below)
For the Harissa
- 1 can pimientos, drained
- 2 fresh hot red chilies (preferred, but can substitute 1 tbsp. dried red chilies)
- 4 garlic cloves
- 1 tsp. coriander
- 1 tsp. cumin
- 1 tsp. cardamom
- 1 tsp. salt
- 4 tbs. olive oil
- Cook the brown rice according to package directions or in rice cooker.
- Break down the broccoli, making florets of equal size that include the stalks.
- Pat the chicken breasts dry and season with olive oil, salt, and pepper.
- In a large pan over medium-high heat, cook the chicken breasts until they’re seared. Flip the chicken and add the broccoli, peppers, and garlic to the pan. Cover the pan and place on medium-low heat, cooking for six minutes. Be sure to cook the chicken until it’s no longer pink and reaches 165 degrees F.
- After six minutes, turn the heat off and allow the pan to sit on the stove covered for 10 minutes.
- Add all of the harissa ingredients to a blender or food processor and blend until it’s the consistency of a paste.
- Build your four bowls: To each bowl, add 1 cup brown rice, 1/4 of the broccoli, 1/4 of the roasted red peppers, and one chicken breast, and top with 1 tablespoon harissa.