Steve’s Cooking: Bowl Meals

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I’m continuing posting some of my favorite cooking tips and recipes for my fellow creatives and professionals. After all, we’ve got to eat and eat healthy, but we’re also busy, stressed, and 95% caffeine. We don’t have time for fancy stuff but we also don’t want to live on corn chips.

So let me talk about one of my favorite meals where delicious, fast, and healthy meet – Bowl Meals

Bowl Meals are things we’e always had before – a big bowl of food that’s an entire meal. Bibimbap, Poki Bowls, your average stir-fry, etc. are great examples of this near-universal meal type. Throw it all in a bowl and eat.

But how do you come up with stuff that’s fast, healthy, and delicious. Fortunately, I have a formula.

Steve’s Bowl Meal Formula

1 1/2-2 Cups of vegetables, at least one cup being healthy greens. You can steam these easily in the microwave with a bowl with a bit of water, microwaved 3-4 minutes.

  • For greens try spinach, broccoli, kale, cabbage, or brussel sprouts.
  • For other vegetables try shredded carrots, diced onions, chopped peppers, bean sprouts, and other non-starchy vegetables.

1 cup of a cooked healthy grain. Try brown rice or a mixed grain, maybe even noodles!

3/4 to 1 cup of legumes or a similar healthy protein like tofu.

  • Experiment with this a lot. I use garbanzo beans for their solidity, but also use baked tofu, green peas, and black eyed peas which have a fascinating strong taste.

A few extras like sesame seeds, sun-dried tomatoes, artichoke hearts, olives, and other kicky and interesting additions.

Your favorite sauce or spice sprinkle. My favorite three are:

  • 2 Tbsp of kimchi.
  • 1 Tbsp low-sodium soy sauce, 1 Tbsp lemon juice, a dash of hot sauce or oil.
  • 1/2 Tbps gochujang, 1/2 tbsp low-sodium soy sauce, 1 Tbsp rice wine vinegar. If you don’t know what gochujang is, its a fermented pepper paste you can find in Korean markets, and it’s amazing.

This is easy to put together with canned, purchased, or premade and frozen ingredients. You can also scale this in bulk, if only by just dumping everything into a big bowl and having people use a spoon. I use this simple formula a lot, and have a few favorite variants I go into later:

The reason Bowl meals work is because this formula is:

  • Nutritionally balanced.
  • Satisfying with plenty of flavors and fiber.
  • Easy to make. Experiment and write down your best findings to repeat.

Now a few tips:

  • If you’re not a mostly-vegan like me and/or just want some meat in this, add about 1/2 a cup of cooked/shredded meat or a cooked/hardboiled egg, but remove about 1/4 cup of grain and 1/4 cup of the legumes.
  • If you’re not up for a lot of grains (sometimes you want a less carby meal) just make it half legumes and half vegetables. I’ve done this a lot. If you’re using meat, just cut the grain and up the legumes.
  • Try various “extras.” For instance, one of my strange findings is that raisins and sun-tried tomatoes are amazing together.
  • Learn to make sauces and freeze them so you can throw them on the bowls as you make them. Home-made sauces are a good bet as you can make them healthier and with lower sodium.
  • Stock up with canned beans, get fresh greens (or freeze them), make and freeze rice and/or pasta, get those easy pre-heat rice packs, and if you want to use meat cook it in bulk and freeze it. You can then just churn various bowl meals out.

Now two of my favorite bowl meals:

  • 1 cup of rice, 2 cups of spinach shredded, half a can of garbanzo beans, 2 Tbsp kimchi. Stir.
  • 1 cup of rice, 1 1/2 cups of steamed broccoli, half a block of tofu. Sauce is 1/2 Tbsp gochujang, 1/2 tbsp low-sodium soy sauce, 1 Tbsp rice wine vinegar – mix the sauce separately and mix it into the rice first.

So there you go, one of my healthy, fast, and delicious cooking meals. Give it a try and let me know your best findings.

Steven Savage

Healthy Cooking: Chazuke

Next up on my healthy cooking hit parade is Chazuke, at times called Ochazuke.  It’s usually thought of as Japanese comfort food or quick food, but stick with me here.

Anyway, Chazuke really started as something simple in Japan – green tea poured over rice.  Sort of a simple porridge.  Over time people added seaweed and condiments like pickles or dried meat, making it a kind of healthy comfort meal and quick-to-assemble out of common ingredients.  In some cases it was also something you served to guests to note they kinda overstayed their welcome.

However when I heard of Chazuke my brain began to analyze it. It uses rice.  It uses tea.  It at times adds veggies and proteins.  I began breaking down the recipe into something healthy, and quickly I found a new favorite quick dish.  My Chazuke formula lets you make something healthy, delicious, and nutritious fast.  It works like this.

Main Ingredients:

  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups green tea (I use regular American green tea for less caffeine).
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups cooked rice (traditionally white, I use brown), or another grain
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups of a vegetarian protein (I use tofu, seitan, or garbanzo beans)
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups of a vegetable that has been cooked/prepared.  I usually use steamed broccoli, collards, or spinach (note measure the cups after its prepared), but as pickled vegetables were traditional you could also try sauerkraut or low-sodium pickled vegetables (again, broccoli or cabbage is excellent).

Merely mix all of these together.  Now to jazz it up, try any or all of these in combination:

  • Roast, crumbled seaweed (Always good)
  • 1 Tbsp Soy sauce (also good)
  • About 1/4 cup kimchi
  • About 1-2 tbsp pickled ginger
  • 1 tsp Gojachung (Korean Hot Pepper paste)

My personal favorites are to use garbanzo beans (that go well with the tea), steamed collards OR pickled broccoli.  I usually spiced it with soy sauce, but lately have been trying Gojachung with a bit of soy sauce and/or Kimchi – usually 2 tsp soy sauce and 1 tsp Gojachung OR 1/4 cup kimchi.

Take the above meal, add a nice piece of fruit for desert, maybe an additional veggie side dish (like sweet cherry tomatoes), and you created a kind of healthy onslaught – legumes, greens, whole grains and then some fruit.  All made from stuff you have around the kitchen (well my kitchen) and in the pantry, all delicious, flavored with that unique green tea taste.


I usually make it once a week, and it always satisfies.

– Steve