bowl life

I have a new obsession with things in bowls.

Maybe that’s misleading. I have always loved food in bowls. There’s something deeply comforting about that well of food, held so easily in one hand you can shovel forkfuls of it into your masticating jaws without taking your eyes off the TV screen or the book in front of you. When I was a kid, and the only thing I knew how to cook was Ramen noodles, I would invariably drain all the broth but eat the noodles from our Corelle non-breakable bowls. I also made a lot of Knorr pre-flavored rice packets, which I considered extravagantly gourmet when I added frozen peas to them. (Rice medley was the best one and don’t even argue with me about it. I ate the whole packet by myself every single time—four servings of rice without batting an eye.)

Time and my metabolism have changed. I can still eat that much rice, but frankly I’d rather not and with my waistbands getting ever tighter, I can no longer afford to try. In an effort to slough off some of the weight we gained during quarantine and in the last year of over indulgence, my partner and I have changed our eating routines and restricted ourselves from consuming grains, dairy, processed sugar, and alcohol (except on weekends for the latter—a girl needs her coping mechanisms). At first I was morbidly depressed about this, thinking I’d have to give up all of my favorite foods (namely pasta, bread, and cheese) in the name of being slightly thinner, but it has turned out to be a lot of fun. The challenges of cooking without these ingredients are few, and focused mainly on how to bring more vegetables into the daily eating, which is what we should all be doing anyway.

That said, I’ve been making a lot of things in bowls. Salads, mostly. But roasted vegetables take very well to bowls. So does curry, like the curried yams and plantains I made based off of a recipe from Yewande Komolafe (SPICY but so good). Last night, it was a veggie bowl. Some might call it a power bowl or a Buddha bowl, which latter I find slightly offensive and certainly do not endorse. I like to call things what they are, and in this case, it was a bowl full of vegetables. Let’s get started.

I got the idea for this from Real and Vibrant, a great site I’ve only recently discovered thanks to Pinterest. I also got the lemon-tahini dressing from them and boy, am I grateful. What I like about recipes like this is the flexibility; I’m learning how to use what I have on hand and substitute, rather than follow recipes so strictly these days, and it’s been an incredibly freeing experience. Yesterday, like most days, I got home ravenous and determined to throw as much into dinner as possible, so it turned out to be a little…much. But it was good. Here’s what I did.

I halved Brussels sprouts and sliced summer squash and a yellow pepper that was about to call it quits, and threw them in a bowl with olive oil and my good ol’ friends Diamond Crystal and Tellicherry. Those went on a couple of baking sheets to roast until soft and browned. Meanwhile, I whipped up the tahini dressing, sliced a couple of radishes and green onions, and steamed two fat sweet potatoes till quite soft. I cooked quinoa with ghee and garlic powder, salt and pepper, chili flakes and positive vibes. I sautéed chickpeas until crisp and popping, then added ghee (bad idea—too greasy, dumped it out) and butter (good idea) and fennel seeds (bad idea again but not nightmarish). I built a bowl-base with mixed salad greens and cilantro. I laid on the couch and chugged a lemon Spindrift (which is my new favorite thing) and waited till everything was cool enough to heap onto my salad greens without wilting them.

Let me interject here that by the time dinner was ready I wasn’t even hungry anymore. I formed a diligent and self-punishing plan to stop snacking on trail mix when I get home, which I do every day before my run, and it ruins my appetite every time. But that did not stop me from eating all of it and sneaking a bite or two while I was cooking (another bad habit). The leftovers, which I portioned into Tupperware without the greens and doused in more tahini sauce that I made after dinner because it was so delicious, were perfect and had me aching to open my lunchbox all morning. I will be thinking about this meal for several days to come, appreciating how filling vegetables and complex carbs are.

A few months ago I would never have considered making dinner without a form of animal-based protein, and now I make vegetarian meals at least twice a week and I love them. It’s another part of this experience that has been freeing—I no longer feel tied down to any one way of cooking or eating. I’ve been experimenting and trying new things, and challenging myself to grow as a cook and it’s been wonderful. Especially when I can put it in a bowl.

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