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Simple, Healthful Summer Meals

One of my favorite meals to make all year long are bowl combos. If you understand the basics, they can work wonderfully for breakfast, lunch or dinner. During this time of year, the fresh produce possibilities seem endless! As an added bonus, bowls can be a quick way to pull together a tasty, healthful meal when time is short.

A bowl is essentially a single-dish meal made up of an assortment of components that work well together. Pretty much anything goes, limited only by taste preference, dietary guidelines, and your imagination. Bowls offer a simple way to prepare a meal that combines a balanced portion of macronutrients, and an easy way to accommodate special diet restrictions (or picky eaters!) with portion flexibility and any single element able to be substituted or eliminated as needed. Many of the components can be cooked ahead and assembled as needed.

Start with ½–1 cup of a cooked grain or starchy vegetable, depending on the overall level of carbs in your diet. Feel free to go for variety or even combine a couple. Millet blends well with rice or quinoa, for example. Consider quinoa, einkorn, buckwheat, oat groats, baked sweet potato, turnips—whatever sounds good to you.

Add a few ounces of a complementary legume, mushroom and/or animal protein (roughly ½ cup). Lentils, chickpeas, dal, free-range eggs are all great prospects. Again, it’s perfectly appropriate to combine here. Sautéed mushrooms in particular contribute a nice savory flavor.

Round it out with approximately 1½ cups of a non-starchy vegetable, give-or-take. Try to go for something fresh and in season. This can be cooked ahead as well—either with a basic prep such as steaming or oven roasting with S&P, or specially seasoned according to the theme of your bowl.

Garnish with a little crunch, fresh herbs, pickled veg, and/or cheese. Sprouts, chopped mint, slivered scallions, chopped nuts, etc add a tasty and vibrant flair.

Finally, if the base ingredients of your combo don’t render it “saucy” enough, drizzle it with a dressing or other condiment. Tahini with lemon, garlic & yogurt, or shallot lemon vinaigrette are both delicious and versatile. For breakfast bowls, consider a spoonful of nut butter or low-sugar fruit preserves.

Here are a few personal favorites that you are welcome to try, or perhaps use to spark your own inspired creation. Eat well, and enjoy!

For breakfast:

  • amaranth porridge; fresh peaches; brown figs; nut or goat kefir; pistachios; shaved coconut
  • steel cut oats; cardamom; baked strawberries; hemp hearts; almond milk

For lunch or dinner:

  • quinoa; steamed or baked flounder dusted with cumin; roasted carrots; coconut curry sauce (shallot, garlic, ginger, curry powder, coconut milk, lime juice); quick-pickle red onion; lightly toasted slivered almonds; cilantro
  • baked sweet potato; black-eyed peas; chopped collard greens sautéed with coconut oil & diced onion; diced smoked turkey; dash of Cholula or Tabasco, cilantro
  • kasha (toasted buckwheat groats); steamed kale; French lentils cooked with sliced shallot, thyme & bay leaf; halved steamed baby potatoes; sautéed crimini mushrooms; crumbled feta; parsley
  • brown rice; soft-boiled egg; chopped avocado; chopped tomato; minced onion or scallion; lime juice; drizzle of EVOO; toasted sesame seeds