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Weeknight Dinners

November 4, 2021

Happy weekday!

I know, I know. The weekends fly by so fast you can’t even remember them and the weeks just drag on. Between work, school, football/soccer/basketball/baseball practice and tennis/ballet lessons followed by after work errands - it’s almost impossible to fit it all in! And then add to that any emergency, like broken brace brackets that need to be worked in. It’s hard! I know. I get it. And on top of all that you feel the stress of feeding your family crap on the go. Again.

Listen, I can’t fix the flat tire or perform orthodontic work but I can help you feed your family tasty, nutritious meals quickly. It’s hard to be Mom or Dad these days with all the balls in the air! It’s easy to run through the closest Wendy’s/Little Caesar/Burger King because they’re on EVERY CORNER. But you want your kids to be healthy and engaged in school. And you want them to sleep at night. And you wanna sleep, which is tough with caffeine coursing through your system. It’s a vicious cycle for sure and it just gets worse and worse every time you pull through that line.

But it doesn’t have to be that way! It can be better! It isn’t hard to feed your family well during the week. And it’ll actually take about the same time as it does to sit in the drive-through line or to wait in a restaurant. Plus the food will be more nutritious and better for your overall health. And you’ll get to see your kids faces, not the top of their heads while they scroll through their phone or their reflection in your rear view mirror.

So how does this miracle happen? What’s the name for it?

It happens by you preparing a simple meal and that meal is call THE BOWL.

Bowls are simple. I’m going to share with you my instructions for them but there really aren’t any hard and fast rules to them. I do believe to make a bowl great and keep everybody satisfied you need layers to your bowls and that’s what I’m going to walk you through here. My bowl layers are as follows:

  1. BASE LAYER - I use everything from noodles to grains to greens in this layer. One of our favorite bowls is a quinoa bowl (I alternate between tri-color and plain quinoa. Both are ready in 20 minutes and by that time my other ingredients are ready to roll.). We have that once a week usually. We also do noodle bowls a LOT (twice last week) with Ramen noodles (which are ready in 3 minutes). Sometimes I use greens as a base as well. For breakfast my base layer is yogurt (which is what Marshall had today.) By switching up the base layer you can make the bowl seem completely new and original. Even having the same dressing on your bowl can seem new if you have a different base layer. 
  2. VEGGIE OR FRUIT LAYER - So this is where you hide all the nutritious stuff. I sauté some of my veggies, like onions, bell peppers, potatoes, Swiss chard, broccoli and spinach, while I dice and serve others raw for more of a crunch, like celery and carrots. This layer gives you color, crunch, flavor and nutrients. I use a LOT of veggies in our bowls because, let’s face it, very few of us get enough fruits and veggies in our diets. And for a breakfast bowl this layer is full of fresh fruits and berries. 
  3. PROTEIN LAYER - I use any leftover meat I have on hand. It doesn’t take a lot - the bowl pictured in this blog used the leftover chicken from a roasted buttermilk chicken I made this weekend. If you want to keep your bowl vegetarian friendly, black beans, tofu, tempeh or edemame are good options. I try not to fix meat from the raw state here. I just use leftover chicken, beef or pork. Or I leave the protein out and just add more veggies. Bowls are fantastic ways to introduce more veggie-centric meals to your family.
  4. DRESSING LAYER - Well we all knew this was coming, right? I mean you can’t just serve up a bowl without a sauce. Use whatever you like that’s handy. I tend to make a lot of our sauces because they’re easy and it’s so much cheaper to make your own versus buying bottles and bottles at the grocery store (plus it saves on some preservatives and calories). My go-to sauce for a noodle bowl is: 1/2 cup low-sodium soy sauce, 1/4 cup brown sugar and 1/8 cup sesame oil. Shake it up and pour it on. You can just use that or add a little bit of ginger and garlic to it. Sometimes I do a burrito bowl and use 3/4 cup homemade salsa and 1/4 cup ranch dressing. I have a barbecue chicken bowl in the summer with Romaine lettuce and spinach as a base, grilled (leftover) corn, leftover chicken, bacon add a dressing of 3/4 cup barbecue sauce and 1/4 cup ranch. But whether you make your own or use a store bought dressing, it’ll keep your meal bright and give it a pop. 
  5. CRUNCH/TOPPING LAYER - For breakfast bowls I use granola. Noodles bowls get crunchy garlic, sesame seeds and fresh cilantro. Burrito bowls get cheese and fried (or baked) tortilla strips. Bowls with a green base get croutons made from stale bread. I also keep pickled red onions, carrots and radishes on hand for a crunch and pop of flavor (not pickled together but pickled none-the-less). Bean sprouts and nuts are also yummy. 

However you make your bowls they are great, flexible, nutritious and quick. Which is great on weeknights when everybody’s running around. And presentation is the key. Use a big bowl with everything layered in or if you have picky eaters (and who doesn’t), put your offerings on a big charcuterie tray and let everybody fill their own bowl. That seems to increase the fun and it makes kids more interested in what they’re eating (and usually helps them eat more veggies, too). 

So. I hope this encourages you to try something new and different. The bowl you see pictured in the blog is a chicken, avocado, bacon bowl with Mexican street corn, Romaine and spinach, blistered tomatoes, baked tortilla strips and fresh cilantro drizzled with a homemade chipotle Ranch sauce. It took 20 minutes to pull together (because I roast the bacon at 400 degrees in the oven which takes 20 minutes). We had a meal everyone loved and even asked for seconds of!!

I can’t wait to see what you do!


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