I’m back and finishing this post up so you can hear the rest of the story. Also, I knew I could probably hold myself a little more accountable if I had a start and finish. As you saw in the first post, Fast Food Part 1, I waxed on about how I turned one fast food indulgence into a healthier alternative. In this one, I’m tackling another favorite – those delightful fast food bowls. In a world that has been turning away from the carbs and not wanting to eat a salad all the time, these bowl of goodness concepts really have taken off. I love to go to a fast food place like Chipotle or Moes for a burrito bowl with all the fixings, or even a Panera or First Watch, and delight in delish protein or quinoa tossed goodness.
I don’t know about you, but there is something fun about having one of those for lunch instead of another salad. However, my own budget AND waistline was itching to figure out a way to practice eating salad a little more frequently and be a little smarter about ingredients that weren’t so sugar, sodium, calorie laden. After a little bit of research, I found two good alternatives to fix the cravings, and save some money in my wallet in the process.
The Taco/Burrito Bowl Substitute
I found this great take on the Chipotle and Moe’s burrito bowls, plus mixed in some heart-healthy baked fish to increase some healthy alternative to the usual meat additions. The nice part about this is very easy assembly and ingredients so you aren’t frustrated, or tempted to run out and buy when you can put together on your own turf. Surf n’ Turf? (sorry, that was really bad humor) I combined my recipe based on these two awesome ones I found online. The first, Spicy Fish Taco Bowls, at Jo Cooks is a simple easy version and uses all kinds of the yummy, spicy, and crunch I like in my burrito/taco bowls. The second one, Grilled Tilapia Bowls with Chipotle Avocado Crema, at Joyful Healthy Eats has this awesome spicy avocado crema drizzle that just made my mouth water even reading about it AND it was a snap to assemble. As I’ve begun to learn you can change up your recipe to suit your needs, or that of the party you’ll be throwing at your dinner table. The first one is really a dash and dine dish. Assemble and prep, cook, throw down on the table, eat. The second, while very similar in concept has a little more flare and a bit more attention (but nothing over-complicated!) and a different feel. I have the two also in case I have to work late and my sous chef, the Hubs, has to step in and make the dish. He is not always game to get into the sauces, or in this case the crema coolness, so I’d send him to the easy slice and dice taco bowl and avoid frustration and get dinner on the table.
It takes some trial and error to get your fish to be light, crispy, AND avoid drenching it in oil, butters, etc. that you think may taste great but aren’t so great on the diet.
The Oven Packet – I think people get intimidated making fish but in our house we know the easy/fast way is to bake up in the foil or parchment packets so we can limit prep, clean-up, and monitor what goes in. Plus, in the packets you can assemble early and throw in the oven while you get the rest of dinner together. No watching it cook in the skillet or bake into oblivion on a baking sheet.
The Fish – We, being of budget mind, buy the big frozen filet bags of fish. I rely and use the light whitefish types- tilapia, swai, etc.- if getting frozen. We recently found that we love the value bags at your Sam’s Club/Costco of the sea bass. I’ll also confess that my husband does fish/kayak so I’m often lucky enough to have fresh river/lake fish ready to go in the freezer so rainbow trout, bream, and bass end up on my menu during the summer and fall, and if lucky into winter. I like a meaty fish when I’m making fish tacos so keep that in mind and find your preference.
Season It Up – I suggest a little lemon juice, drizzle of oil or broth, and season by choice. Blackened, old bay, lime pepper, chipotle spices are often our go-to to sprinkle and then bake in your packets at 350 or 400 in the oven for 15-25 until flaky.
Once you bake your fish and assemble the bowls, you are ready to go! A fun dinner and one that doesn’t drag out your schedule when time is short and so is your patience.
The Healthy Trendy Bowl
Let me guess, you’ve been out and seen all the trendy quinoa, pomegranate, acai, protein, superfood bowls out there and love to munch on all that happy, healthy stuff but your wallet is screaming at the upward of $9 -12 price tag. Plus, I wistfully dream of that healthy trend as I’m racing to throw together a meal but sometimes have to rely on the boring 3 ingredient easy meals. Nothing glam, but good. Well after doing some research and the #100DayProject, I stumbled onto a really cool combo that made me feel healthy and trendy. I was on my weekly meal planning expedition and was checking off ingredients I had in my pantry, fridge, and freezer when I found Sweet Peas and Saffron’s Cauliflower Cashew Lunch Bowls. I got excited when I read how it had all the ingredients I already owned AND was easy to assemble, plus that extra bonus of I could make extra for lunches for the week. I changed mine up and added some extras to make it my own, plus use up stuff I had on hand. It incorporated my “use what I have” mantra and also helped with some “no food waste” which was happening in my food storage. The beauty of these bowls is you CAN make it your own. Use what you have and don’t complicate.
1 bag of frozen cauliflower, or fresh if you have it
1 15 oz can of chickpeas, drained
2/3 c. uncooked pearl barley (makes 2 cups)
2 tbs. Trader Joe’s Pesto & Quinoa
1 5 oz. can tuna, drained (I prefer albacore in water)
1/2 – 1 tsp of seasoning: garlic powder, pepper, salt, paprika, etc.
Olive oil for roasting cauliflower
- Start cooking your pearl barley. I suggest the quick cooking kind but the barley always adds some good substance to the bowl. Plus, low in fat and high in antioxidants!
- Roast your cauliflower – fresh or frozen, toss in olive oil, and seasoning – I even added some hot sauce and roast on parchment-lined baking sheet in a 350 degree oven for 15-20 min. While that is baking, turn your attention to your bowl.
- Mix together your tuna, pesto, capers, and seasoning. You could throw in the chickpeas but I actually ended up simmering them a bit in the cooking pearl barley. Once the barley is done, add in your remaining ingredients mixing together.
- The roasted cauliflower should finish and then just mix in enough to get ingredients together but careful to not over mix to get mushy.
- Serve and any extra portion out for lunches and extra meals during the week.
I served on top of fresh spinach and a side of hummus. We really went crazy with the protein at lunch that day. You could sub in chicken instead of tuna, or baked tofu. Add a hardboiled egg, or avocado. The options are endless. It was a great recipe find and pushed me to try a healthy bowl PLUS cleaned out the frozen cauliflower I was uninspired to make crust, the chickpeas that never were made into a dip, and the pesto & quinoa that had a little left in the jar but not enough it seemed for a full recipe. A good win all around.
Next time you want a little jazzy, fun bowl just check out your own kitchen.
P.S. that super awesome dressing you see in the photo is right here.
Wholegrain Mustard Dressing from Bon Appetit. I put it on salads, a boring chicken breast, pasta, and drizzle on these bowls. I am addicted and it is super easy to mix up!