The fail-safe dinner solution your whole family will love

by Parent Co. April 09, 2015

At our house, dinner is my deal. I feel pretty lucky that my kids and my husband will eat nearly anything I serve. (I don't say this to brag: we fight plenty of battles—often big ones—just on other fields.) But many of my friends have kids with more discriminating tastes, or partners with eating styles that just don’t align with their own. For them, I have two words: Rice Bowls. Totally customizable, the Rice Bowl is a fail-safe dinner solution that will please the pickiest of eaters. It accommodates visiting vegans and gluten-free friends. Think: taco bar with much, much more flexibility. Every ingredient is basically 100% interchangeable with whatever you have on hand. Which means that rice bowls are incredibly easy to pull off, any day of the week. And that’s why they have secured the #1 spot in our rotation of go-to weeknight dinners. Sold? Here’s a general formula to follow: Start with rice (or “rice”). Whatever type you choose—brown, wild, jasmine, black (our favorite of late)—rice is essential because the bowl needs a base. Then again, rice really isn’t essential because quinoa, farro, couscous or bulgur also work great. (These, then, are “rice” bowls.) Present a couple of proteins. Protein is what will give this meal some substantial staying power. Typically, I’ll quick-cook (sort of poach) some chicken and set out a bowl of beans (e.g., black, kidney, garbanzo—usually from a can, rinsed). Sometimes, I’ll offer tofu I baked the previous night. I keep meaning to add fried eggs to the options (mmm…) but keep forgetting. Pork, beef, meatball: all great ideas. Basically go with what your family likes to eat. Include lots of colorful vegetables. The key is to offer the kinds your people like best but also to include some enticing other stuff too. Our spread often includes broccoli (roasted), green beans (sometimes roasted; sometimes raw and chopped small), carrots (sometimes shredded, sometimes diced, always raw), red peppers, shredded cabbage. Don’t be afraid to make things super easy on yourself. My kids love frozen mixed vegetables—the kind with the carrots forced into unnaturally shaped squares—so sometimes I’ll just nuke the contents of a bag of these mixed veggies and serve it up. Offer many accoutrements. These final-touch toppers usually come in the form of fat (nuts, seeds, avocados, shredded cheese, sliced olives) and, generally are the easiest ingredients of all to prepare. Save for avocadoes, all you need to do is dump these babies into bowls. (I do like to the toast the nuts and seeds, particularly pepitas and sunflower seeds: three minutes or so in a dry skillet adds a big boost of flavor.) Set out flavorful sauces. Salsa, soy sauce (low-sodium, or liquid aminos), sriracha. Those are the main players at our place. Let your fam go wild. Once the bowls—and so many spoons—are on the the table, invite each of your unique eaters to custom-curate their perfect plates. Try not to care if they’re grabbing only peppers and pork, or reaching just for orange foods. We do usually need to remind our boys that it’s not polite to consume allllll the avocado. At the end of the dinner, you’ll probably have a bunch of leftovers. Save them for made-to-order omelets or wraps and you’re already half-way done with another night’s dinner. Score! rice-bowl2

Parent Co.


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