Meal Prep 101: Easy Grain Bowls

The key to success in plant-based eating is to always have healthy options on hand for the days you don't have anything prepped and don't feel like cooking. Those are the days you will be tempted to hit the drive-through or order delivery. One super-easy way to avoid this situation is with grain bowls.

The college kids have gone back to school and I’m getting lots of inquiries for EASY and CHEAP ideas for healthy meals young adults can put together easily.

The key to success in plant-based eating is to always have healthy options on hand for the days you don’t have anything prepped and don’t feel like cooking. Those are the days you will be tempted to hit the drive-through or order delivery. One super-easy way to avoid this situation is with grain bowls.

Each week I make a pot of rice, quinoa, or other whole grain (wild, black or red rice, farro, spelt and barley are some of my favorite options) to use throughout the week. If you aren’t ready for cooking your own grains, look for brown rice or quinoa in the freezer section of your grocery. 

I often cook my beans, peas, or lentils from dried, though canned beans are fine, too, preferably low or no sodium. Drain and rinse your canned beans before using to reduce gas. If you are not used to eating a lot of legumes, or have digestive issues with them, start with smaller portions until your body adjusts.

I keep fresh and frozen pre-chopped veggies, an assortment of spices, and some go-to oil-free sauces and dressings on hand. With these ingredients, I can make quick grain bowls, as well as wraps, soups, tacos, or salads.

Four Easy Grain Bowls

To put together an amazing grain bowl, start with:

1/2 cup cooked grain of choice: brown, wild, black or red rice, quinoa, farro, barley, spelt, freekah/farik…so many choices!

1/2 cup legumes: beans, peas, lentils (cooked or canned.) There are too many varieties to list. Some of my favorites include black beans, pinto beans, red beans, kidney beans, mung beans, chickpeas, green peas, pigeon peas, black-eyed peas, and lentils.

Try some of the following combinations:

Asian Fusion

  • 1/2 cup brown rice, quinoa or other grain
  • 1/2 cup chickpeas or edamame beans (soybeans)
  • 1 cup any combination of these chopped veggies: broccoli, snow peas, carrots, zucchini, green or red bell pepper, baby corn, green onions, mushrooms
  • Salt, pepper, garlic powder to taste

Microwave for 2-3 minutes at 80% power or the reheat setting.Dressing: Use teriyaki sauce or vegan ginger or peanut salad dressing.Top with sunflower seeds or sesame seeds

Tex-Mex

  • 1/2 cup brown rice, barley, farro, or other grain
  • 1/2 cup pinto beans, kidney beans or black beans
  • 1 cup any combination of these chopped veggies: onion, red or green bell pepper, avocado, corn, black olives
  • Salt, pepper, garlic powder to taste

Microwave for 2-3 minutes at 80% power or the reheat setting.Dressing: Use salsa, vegan ranch or thousand island salad dressing, or Just brand Chipotle Mayo. Top with: pepitas (pumpkin seeds), fresh Cilantro, or this plant-based Queso Cheese Sauce

Italian Inspired

  • 1/2 cup quinoa or freekah
  • 1/2 cup cannellini beans, navy beans, or chickpeas
  • 1 cup any combination of these chopped veggies: broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, yellow squash, artichoke hearts, green beans, spinach, mushrooms
  • Salt, pepper, garlic powder to taste

Microwave for 2-3 minutes at 80% power or the reheat setting.Dressing: marinara sauce or balsamic vinegar. Top with: Fresh basil, thyme, or oregano, and this Hemp Seed Parmesan

Southern Style

  • 1/2 cup brown rice, farro, spelt, or barley
  • 1/2 cup black-eyed peas, pigeon peas, navy beans or pinto beans
  • 1 cup any combination of these chopped veggies: steamed collard greens or kale, fresh spinach, onions, green beans
  • Salt, pepper, garlic powder to taste

Microwave for 2-3 minutes at 80% power or the reheat setting. Dressing: Hot sauce or vinegarTop With: green onions, fresh parsley

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