How to Cook Healthy

5 easy grain bowl recipes for comfort food without guilt

5 easy grain bowl recipes, by healthista (1)

Grain bowls are a delicious way to get a filling carb meal the healthy way. In her How To Cook Healthy for Beginners column this week, Vanessa Chalmers shares five recipes from now cookbook Grain Bowls

For me, there is nothing more wholesome feeling than a carby dinner after a workout, pasta with red wine flowing in an Italian restaurant, or lashings of butter on toast with a hangover. Humans seem to have an innate craving for carbs, but somewhere along the line we were made to feel guilty about it.

Luckily I could easily survive day to day life without carbs if I had to – it’s my sweet tooth that’s the enemy. But I so often hear people worrying about their carbohydrate consumption. White rice or – God forbid – a slice of bread can feel like the ultimate sin if we are watching our weight.

I turn into a grouchy monster if my diet feels restricted, or ‘hangry’ – hungry and angry

In my eyes, there is nothing more self-destructive to your health than self-hate or mentally bullying yourself for your ‘bad’ choices that don’t conform to your latest fad diet. I don’t know about you, but I turn into a grouchy monster if my diet feels restricted, or ‘hangry’ – hungry and angry. Bingeing normally follows, along with self-pity. What’s the use of a diet if you end up miserable? ‘No carbs before marbs’, a slogan originating in Essex before summer blow outs in Marbella, sounds like a holiday not worth going on.

5 easy grain bowl recipes, vanessa chalmers, by healthista.com
I don’t mean to brag, but my mushroom risotto and chicken paella are a big hit in my household

Let me remind you we physically need all the different food groups to function properly, with carbs, fats and proteins being the most important three. Carbs are our main source of energy, keep our cravings at bay, metabolism going, and brain functioning.

MORE: Do carbs make you fat? 3 experts answer the question 

‘There are two main types simple (short) and complex (long)’, explains personal trainer Grace Lavinia. ‘Complex carbohydrates take a lot longer for the body to break down and therefore provide us with energy for a much longer period of time. These include starchy vegetables (potatoes, sweet potatoes, beetroot), whole grains such as oats, buckwheat, quinoa and pluses including lentils, chickpeas and all beans. These are the carbs you need’.

MORE: How CARBS can keep your brain healthy

The carbs you don’t need so much of, are the short or ‘simple’ carbohydrates, which you may have noticed missing from that list – white rice, white bread and pasta. Nutritionist Rob Hobson explains these are ‘broken down more rapidly causing blood sugar spikes and troughs that can lead to hunger pangs which can encourage you to eat more’. They aren’t necessarily unhealthy, but aren’t in our best interests if eaten leisurely and regularly.

Good carbs contain insoluble fibre, which is essential for good digestion and ultimately, weight loss

So, the question begs – how can I eat a satisfying meal with all the goodness that carbohydrates has to offer, remaining full of energy and healthy? Grains are a readily available source to look at. Brown rice, buckwheat, bulgar or quinoa are normally next to the fussili and penne in the supermarket, but it’s easy to dismiss them as ‘boring healthy people’s food’.

carbohydrates-5-easy-grain-bowl-recipes-by-healthista.com

However, I beg to differ, that they are much more flavoursome and versatile, unlike white pasta which can tend to quite bland and repetitive (a carb queen somewhere is cursing me). They work in refreshing light salads, hearty meals with meat, and are an excellent choice for vegans, vegetarians and some for coeliacs. Grace explains how good carbs such as some grains contain insoluble fibre, which is essential for good digestion and ultimately, weight loss. Hurrah!

MORE: 8 ways diets can make you fat

5 GRAIN BOWL RECIPES FOR COMFORT FOOD WITHOUT GUILT

Recipe book Grain Bowls, by Anna Shillinglaw Hampton, sets out just how simple it is to put together a handful of ingredients to create a delicious meal in minutes. They are also perfect for office lunches, lasting well in the fridge and being tasty simply drizzled with a dressing.

To get started with swapping into healthy carbohydrate alternatives, I have dipped my toes in the popular quinoa and bulgar, but these * grain bowls are leaving me feeling adventurous – as adventurous as a beginner cook like you and I can be!

Quinoa chilli

quinoa chilli, 5 easy grain bowl recipes, by healthista (4)

 

Serves two

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 teaspoons chilli powder

90 g (3 oz) uncooked red and white quinoa

300 g (10 1⁄2 oz) tinned chopped tomatoes

140 g (5 oz) pinto or red kidney beans

100 g (3 1⁄2 oz) sweetcorn kernels, cooked

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

15 g (1⁄2 oz) coriander (cilantro), to garnish

30 g (1 oz) Cheddar, grated, to garnish

watermelon feta salad, 5 easy grain bowl recipes, by healthista (10)

Method

Heat the oil in a pan and toast the chilli powder and quinoa for two minutes. Add the chopped tomatoes, 450–500 ml (14–17 oz) of water, the beans and sweetcorn. Cook for 20 minutes until the quinoa is tender. Season, divide evenly between two bowls and garnish with the coriander and grated cheese.

MORE:

Watermelon and feta

watermelon feta salad, 5 easy grain bowl recipes, by healthista (10)

Serves two

250 g (9 oz) cooked quinoa (125 g/4 oz uncooked)

200 g (7 oz) watermelon, diced

100 g (3 1⁄2 oz) cucumber, chopped

3–4 tablespoons Cherry Tomato Topping (see below)

40 g (1 1/2 oz) crumbled feta

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

watermelon feta salad, 5 easy grain bowl recipes, by healthista (10)

Method

Divide the quinoa, watermelon and cucumber evenly between two bowls. Top with the Cherry Tomato Topping and crumbled feta. Season.

Cherry tomato topping

Makes 450 g (13 oz)

275 g (9 1⁄2 oz) cherry tomatoes, halved (or quartered if large)

150 ml (5 oz) olive oil

1⁄2 red onion, finely chopped

2 tablespoons sherry vinegar

1 garlic clove, very finely chopped

1 teaspoon sea salt
1⁄2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Method

Gently toss all of the ingredients together in a bowl. Store in an air-tight jar in the refrigerator for up to 2–3 days

MORE: Review: Mindful Chef healthy recipe box – ideal for new cooks

Celery and apple waldorf  

watermelon feta salad, 5 easy grain bowl recipes, by healthista (10)

Serves two

200 g (7 oz) cooked buckwheat

(75 g/2 1⁄2 oz uncooked)

1 tablespoon olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

60 g (2 oz) butterhead lettuce, torn

70 g (2 1⁄2 oz) celery, sliced

1 red apple (80 g/3 oz), julienned

2 tablespoons Dill Yoghurt (see below)

40 g (1 1⁄2 oz) walnuts, toasted and chopped

watermelon feta salad, 5 easy grain bowl recipes, by healthista (10)

Method

Toss the buckwheat with the oil and season with salt and pepper. Divide evenly between two bowls. In another bowl, toss the lettuce, celery and apple with the Dill Yoghurt and divide between the bowls. Top with the chopped walnuts and season.

Dill yoghurt

Makes 250 ml (8 ½ fl oz)

200g (7 oz) plain yoghurt

2 tablespoons dill, chopped

2 tablespoons lemon juice (1 lemon)

Sea salt and ground pepper

Stir together and season with the salt and pepper to taste

Brussels sprouts and bacon

watermelon feta salad, 5 easy grain bowl recipes, by healthista (10)

Serves two

250 g (9 oz) Brussels sprouts, thinly sliced

Pinch of sea salt

3 tablespoons Dijon Dressing (see below)

150 g (5 oz) cooked quinoa (75 g/2 1⁄2 oz uncooked)

4 bacon rashers (30 g/1 oz), cooked and crumbled

2 tablespoons Parmesan, grated

Pickled Red Onions (see page 180)

30 g (1 oz) walnuts, toasted and chopped (optional)

Freshly ground black pepper

watermelon feta salad, 5 easy grain bowl recipes, by healthista (10)

Method

Toss the Brussels sprouts with the salt and one tablespoon of the dressing. Marinate for 5–10 minutes. Divide the cooked quinoa evenly between two bowls, then add the Brussels sprouts, bacon and grated Parmesan. Drizzle with the remaining dressing and add the Pickled Red Onions and walnuts, if desired. Season with black pepper.

Dijon dressing

Makes 150ml (5 fl oz)

1 tablespoon honey

1 tablespoon Djon mustard

1 tablespoon lemon juice

125 ml olive oil

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Whisk the honey, mustard and lemon juice together in a bowl until smooth. While whisking, slowly add the oil until the dressing comes together. Season to taste

Pickled red onion

Makes 400ml (13 fl oz)

230 ml (8 fl oz) apple cider vinegar

2 teaspoons sea salt

1 bay leaf

1 ½ tablespoons granulated (raw) sugar

½ teaspoon black peppercorns

1 large red onion, finely sliced

Heat the vinegar, salt, bay leaf and sugar in a pan over a medium heat, stirring until dissolved. Add the peppercorns. Put the onions in a 400 ml (13 fl oz) jar and pour the pickling liquid over the top. Keep chilled for 30 minutes, then store in the refrigerator for up to one week.

MORE: Meat-free Monday recipe: Vegan chocolate mousse with banana, avocado and honey

Mushroom and barley

watermelon feta salad, 5 easy grain bowl recipes, by healthista (10)

Serves two

3 tablespoons olive oil

200 g (7 oz) raw wild mushrooms (such as shiitake, oyster, enoki and chestnut)

Pinch of sea salt

1 white onion (100 g/3 1/2 oz), diced

100 g (3 1⁄2 oz) uncooked pearl barley

40 g (1 1⁄2 oz) goat’s cheese, crumbled

20 g (3⁄4 oz) baby rocket (arugula)

Small handful of flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped

Freshly ground black pepper

watermelon feta salad, 5 easy grain bowl recipes, by healthista (10)

Method

Heat two tablespoons of the oil in a pan. Add the mushrooms and salt and cook for 5–7 minutes until tender. Remove the cooked mushrooms from the pan and set aside. Add the remaining oil to the pan. Sauté the onion and barley for three minutes, toasting the barley and softening the onion. Add 450 ml (15 oz) of water, cover and cook for 25 minutes until the barley is tender. Add the reserved mushrooms, cheese and rocket. Stir to combine, season with black pepper and add the parsley. Divide the mixture evenly between two bowls.

Buy Grain Bowls: Bulgur Wheat, Quinoa, Barley, Rice, Spelt, and More, by Anna Shillinglaw Hampton, £12.08

If you try one of these recipes, make sure to tag us on Instagram @HealthistaTV. Are you a beginner cook? Let us know what you would like to learn by writing on our Facebook page.

 

Vanessa Chalmers is a Food and Lifestyle Writer at Healthista, and enjoys finding new healthy living hacks, especially when it comes to her favourite thing – food. Her column How To Cook Healthy For Beginners is every Friday, for the busy everyday woman who is nothing more than an amateur chef, but loves food and to cook.

Follow on Instagram and Twitter to watch her healthy living journey.

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