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ATK Bowls Cookbook: Now, Create Your Own Bowl!

There are a lot of articles and blog posts out there about how to create your own bowl. Like this one. Or this one. And they all say similar things. Pick a grain or rice or noodle. Choose a protein. Add vegetables. Top with some garnishes and a sauce or vinaigrette. Here’s a recipe or two.

In following that formula, I found that I could build a bowl that created a balanced meal. But I was never inspired by these bowls.

So I bought the America’s Test Kitchen Bowls cookbook (vibrant recipes with endless possibilities) because I was hoping for inspiration and not just formulas. And, during March 2021, I made eight bowls from the cookbook.

From the America’s Test Kitchen Bowls cookbook

four panels showing composed bowls from the Test Kitchen bowls cookbooks.

Top left: Pork lo mein bowl (p110) – a keeper, but needs more bok choy/ vegetables.

Top right: Thanksgiving quinoa bowl (p83) plus braised carrots, spinach, and toasted pecans. I wanted stuffing and gravy!

Bottom left: Harvest bowl (p21)

Bottom right: Moroccan chicken salad bowl (p35) plus quinoa, roasted butternut squash, and topped with sour cream sumac sauce (not pictured). Next time, I’d add some crunch with toasted pine nuts.

another four panels showing composed bowls from the Test Kitchen bowls cookbooks.

Top left: Spicy basil noodle bowl (p122) made with my crispy tofu.

Top right: Green goodness salad bowl (p17), roasted asparagus subbed for broccoli, pecans subbed for pistachios, plus carrots before the dressing (very thin) was added.

Bottom left: Skillet burrito bowl (p61), subbing cilantro rice for the plain white rice, and adding avocado, cherry tomatoes, and quick baked tortilla strips for crunch.

Bottom right: Buffalo chicken bowl (p26) plus green beans. The dressing here was again very thin.

The outcome? The more I make bowls, the more I love them. They provide endless variation, they use up leftovers, and my kiddo loves these “little bit of everything” meals. I’d recommend this cookbook for anyone who wants a little more inspiration for their bowls. Just don’t consider a recipe as a rule and be open to adding more vegetables and changing up the dressings.

For the next month or so, I’ll be playing around and creating some more bowls of my own.

Ugly Duckling Bakery greens and grain bowls

pulled pork bowl with cornbread croutons, corn, sweet potatoes, and quinoa.

rainbow poke bowl with seared tuna, sushi crab salad, japanese scrambled eggs, and rainbow of vegetables.
lamb meatball bowl with Israeli couscous, hummus, feta, vegetables, and garnished with pine nuts, parsley, and cilantro.

FAQs about creating your own bowl

Are grain bowls healthy?

They can be healthy, but they aren’t inherently so. Use lean proteins, lots of veggies, and a small amount of vinaigrette, and they will be. Add cheese and sour cream to your Tex-Mex inspired bowl, and your deliciousness becomes a little worse for your arteries.

Can I prep anything ahead of time?

Absolutely. Pan roast chicken breasts on the weekend for the entire week. Make extra rice or quinoa. Toast your nuts. Leave a jar of your favorite homemade dressing in the refrigerator. Just don’t wash greens and vegetables until right before you want to use them, and definitely don’t dress your entire bowl until you’re at the table [Now I’m having an Amelia Bedelia flashback].

Can anything be made into a bowl?

Yup. The only limitations are the size of your bowl and the extent of your imagination.

What’s next?

If you make any of my grain and salad bowl recipes or if you build your own bowl, please comment here!

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mis en place for the noodle bowl with snap peas, greens, noodles, and sauce.

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