my go-to dinner: the grain bowl

So, life is a little crazy right now. I had big plans to cook up some festive Thanksgiving dishes to share on the blog. But, I'm sort of dancing a quickstep rather than a waltz right now if you know what I mean. Dancing with the Stars, anyone?

It's a good thing, though, because I got a job! I was offered a full-time position with Seattle & King County Public Health as a dietitian specializing in pediatric and prenatal nutrition for the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program. I am beyond thrilled and can't wait to start!

There's one thing though. The job is in Auburn, which is 58 miles from our house in Lake Stevens.

The scale of this map really doesn't do it justice.

Google Maps says it will take me 1 hour and 6 minutes to get there. Oh, but Google Maps, you are very, very wrong. That may be the case on a Sunday morning at 7:00 am, but everyone who lives in the Seattle area knows better. With the abomination that is traffic around here, it will most definitely take me up to 3 hours one-way on some days, especially on days in which there is rain. So pretty much every day.

The husband works as a business and financial analyst for Boeing in Everett. I just asked him to describe what he does, and let's just say that I think I will have to sum it up for you. Basically, he manages the cost of the workforce and materials needed to build 777 airplanes.

So, we have a bit of a conundrum, seeing that the husband works in Everett, I will work in Auburn, and I might go crazy if I spend 4 to 6 hours per day in the car. Our plan was to move somewhere in-betweenish, so we spent the entire week trying to figure out what to do with our current house and determine a new place to live. We found a place in the Issaquah/Sammamish area that we like and are moving in less than 2 weeks. So more like 1.5 weeks now. Life is crazy.

Anyway, the whole point of me rambling on about my recent life events is to talk about what I typically rummage up for dinner during busy times like this. At our house, long busy days with minimal food in the house and declarations of "hungry" quickly turning to "hangry" all lead to conversations like this:

Me: "What do you want for dinner?"

The Husband: "Um, I don't know. Maybe a grain bowl?"

Yes, that's it. One simple exchange leads us to a "grain bowl" every single time.

So, what is a "grain bowl"?

Basically, it's our colloquial term for a bowl filled with foods (one of them usually being, ahem, a grain) that are well-balanced, delicious, and cook quickly. Sort of like a build-a-bowl, though not nearly as fun as Build-A-Bear. (Which the husband and I did on one of our first dates, by the way. We named our bear "Cookie". Food is a big part of our relationship, you see.)

Anything can go into a grain bowl. I like to see what I have in the fridge and get creative with any odd combination. But, I also make sure that it's balanced so we won't be scooting back into the kitchen an hour later.

So, what exactly goes into a healthy, balanced meal? I like to make sure I have each of these:

  • grain or starch
  • protein
  • vegetable or fruit
  • flavor (for a bit of oomph!)

Now, don't you go skipping that "flavor" part. As my personal favorite, it's what makes the meal sing. The flavor is just a small amount of what really satisfies you. I like at least one part of it to contain fat to balance nicely with the carbohydrates and protein we already have in the meal.

On the (unplanned) menu last night:

Oh, drippy eggs, how I love thee. Trust me when I say that when in doubt, stick a drippy egg on it.

  • grain or starch: millet
  • protein: sunny-side up egg
  • vegetable: sauteed rainbow chard + roasted delicata squash
  • flavor: toasted pumpkin seeds with sea salt + sprinkling of aged cheddar

Get creative! The possibilities are endless. This doesn't have to be fancy or exact and categories can overlap (like squash can be a starch or a vegetable and cheese can be a protein or a flavor), but it's a great way to create a quick, healthy, and balanced meal using whatever you have on hand.

Other combos I love:

  • grain or starch: farro
  • protein: cannellini beans
  • vegetable: arugula or dandelion greens
  • flavor: gorgonzola + crumbled bacon + balsamic vinegar
  • grain or starch: brown rice
  • protein: roasted tofu or chicken
  • vegetable: sauteed bell peppers
  • flavor: curry spices + coconut milk + cashews + cilantro

What would your bowl look like?