What is it about spring and cleaning? Last Saturday morning I spontaneously emptied out my pantry, washed down the shelves and reorganized all the food. Meanwhile, James swept out and scrubbed the garage. What’s strange is that we both had fun, and I promise you that these types of activities do not usually fall into the “Sizemore entertainment” category. Maybe it was the warm weather and the open windows, but we had the undeniable urge to de-clutter and freshen. I’ve found that this has extended to food as well. I’ve been craving vegetables and fish, and James has started making himself smoothies in the morning (a serious shocker, if you knew his predilection for pancakes and waffles).
While we’re not ones to go on cleanses, we’ve been (almost subconsciously) incorporating cleaner foods into our diets. One of our favorite “feel good” meals is a big bowl of whole grains, vegetables and nuts tossed in a super flavorful dressing. We call them “big bowl dinners,” and they can be adapted a million and five different ways. I start with cooked quinoa or brown rice (farro is also great, if you can tolerate gluten) then layer on a few different types of vegetables—this is a great time to use up leftovers. Texture is key, so I usually do one or two roasted veggies along with sautéed or raw greens and diced avocado. A generous handful of toasted nuts and/or seeds get tossed in for crunch, and everything is drizzled with an assertive vinaigrette, pesto or tahini sauce. It’s surprisingly filling and so good that James has requested it three weeks in a row (although, in full disclosure, our four-year-old dining companion isn’t so enthusiastic and usually gets scrambled eggs with vegetables on big bowl nights).
I also think it’s fun to eat—one big bowl with a ton of different flavors and textures, and all I need is a fork. Our versions are without dairy or meat (or gluten) in the spirit of clean eating, but you can always throw in some crumbled cheese, or shredded chicken/fish if you’re feeling deprived. Although, I promise you won’t miss them.
Now if only I could work up the gumption to clean out the basement.
Big Bowl Dinner
This is a make-your-own guide to a big bowl meal. Big bowls are a great way to “cleanse” without having to sacrifice flavor or fun. They’re also a delicious way to use up leftover vegetables and grains—just remember that a diversity of textures is key. Try a few different vegetables—some roasted, some sautéed and some raw—and don’t forget plenty of nuts or seeds for crunch. We make ours without dairy, meat or gluten in the spirit of eating clean, but you could always add some crumbled cheese or shredded meat/fish if you’re feeling deprived (although, I promise you won’t miss them).
Grains: Choose 1
- Brown rice
- Farro (for gluten-eaters)
Vegetables (the options are endless, but here are some ideas to get you started): Choose 3-4
- Roasted cauliflower, broccoli, asparagus, fennel, cherry tomatoes, carrots, and/or squash
- Blanched peas
- Sautéed or raw greens (spinach, Swiss chard, kale, arugula, mesclun, bok choy, and/or mustard greens)
- Diced avocado
Crunch: Choose 1-2
- Toasted seeds (pumpkin, sunflower and/or sesame)
- Roasted nuts (almonds, pecans, cashews and/or walnuts)
- Roasted chickpeas
- Fried shallots
Dressing: Choose 1
- Tahini dressing (tahini + grated garlic + lemon juice + s&p + evoo)
- Roasted red pepper pesto (roasted red pepper + garlic + pine nuts + lemon juice + s&p + evoo)
- Herb pesto (basil, mint and/or parsley + garlic + pine nuts + lemon juice + s&p + evoo)
- Lemon Dijon vinaigrette (lemon juice + grated garlic + Dijon + s& p + evoo)
Optional (for the adventurous): Choose 1-2
- Chile flakes or gochugaru
- Dulse flakes
- Nori sheets (toasted and thinly snipped)