If you can learn to cook without a recipe, your life will be easier.
Recipes are great sources of inspiration. They can give you meal ideas that you would never have thought of. They can teach you new skills and get you to work with new ingredients. When you have no clue what to make for dinner, a recipe tells you what to make, along with what ingredients you need.
And there’s the problem. You don’t always have those ingredients! And, you don’t always want to make a trip to the grocery store to get them. Also, there are so few recipes that are fast. If you’re following a recipe, it’s going to take you at least 45 minutes to make dinner and you might not be up for that. Even if the recipe goes fast, the fact that you have to read something and follow along while you cook means that it will take longer than anything that comes right out of your own head.
You resort to a bag of chips and some toast. Or something equally terrible and unsubstantial.
The trick is, when you want to eat well but are not feeling up for a big production: keep it simple and cook without a recipe. This is where the almighty bowl comes in.
5 Steps to Create a Bowl on the Fly
- Know your top 3 favorite veggies.
- Keep a favorite base on hand.
- Have a favorite sauce.
- Pick a protein.
- Clean out your fridge.
These 5 steps are the building blocks of your bowl. They make it so you can go into autopilot when you want to eat a healthful dinner but you don’t want to work for it.
Let’s break it down:
1. Know your top 3 favorite veggies.
If you are making a bowl in order not to think too hard about making dinner, tonight is not the night to attempt to cook with that vegetable you never eat. Go to your known favorites. This way you can pick them up from the store quickly or you might even have them at home already. Some examples might be:
- avocado (fruit, veggie – tomayto, tomahto)
2. Keep a favorite base on hand.
A base for a bowl is something like: rice (white or brown), quinoa, soba noodles, salad greens, cauliflower couscous, etc. This is part of the bowl can really help to fill you up. Quinoa cooks up in 15 minutes and is full of satisfying protein so it makes a great base. Soba noodles also cook up quickly. Brown rice, on the other hand, can take 45 minutes, so if you don’t already have some made up in the fridge, you might want to skip it.
Aside from the fresh ingredients like greens and cauliflower couscous, many bases you can keep in the pantry for a long time. Make sure they’re well stocked and you’ll always be ready to whip up a bowl.
3. Have a favorite sauce.
Sauces do not have to be fancy. The point of a sauce, so to speak, is just to add some moisture and pizazz to your meal. If you are making a Mexican bowl, the “sauce” can be as simple as avocado (very creamy and sauce-like) and sriracha or salsa.
Sauteeing your veggies in oil and garlic can often be sauce enough. Or you can add a healthy sauce of lemon juice and a bit of salt.
Beyond these, refried beans, tomato sauce, soy sauce and peanut sauce are some easy sauces to get to know and add to your bowl.
4. Pick a protein.
You’ll get to know the bowl balance that you like the best. Sometimes your “protein” will be covered in your “sauce” (like with refried beans) or your “base” (like with quinoa). If you’re looking at your ingredients and you think something is missing, it might just be a hearty protein like chickpeas, pinto beans, tofu, tempeh, prepared tofu and tempeh, vegan sausages, lentils, etc.
5. Clean out your fridge.
Ok, now let’s double back. Before you make an unnecessary trip to the grocery store or you start to sauté some tofu when you already have some leftover from last night’s dinner, LOOK IN YOUR FRIDGE.
Bowls are a great alternative to garbage disposals. If you only have the tiniest amount of quinoa in a tupperware in the fridge, throw it in the bowl! Same goes for prepared veggies, sauces, other grains, and, of course, proteins. You can sometimes make an entire meal out of what’s in the fridge if you just combine it in a bowl and top it with some hot chili sesame oil.
At Plenty Vegan, a go-to bowl is to sautéing up mushrooms and kale in garlic and olive oil, putting that on quinoa and adding in avocado, lime and sriracha. If there are beans lying around, those get thrown in too. Done and done.
5 steps to make a great, easy bowl:
Are you planning on making a bowl this (busy) week? It’s always fun to get ideas from each other on yummy combinations. Share your creations so we can make them too! Comment below or tag your meal with #plentyvegan on Instagram.
WANT HELP GETTING STARTED?
Download a vegan grocery list for beginners.