I’ve been experimenting in the kitchen again. In our family we laugh about my experiments, because I get in the kitchen and just start putting things together. I had a mission with this last one though – to figure out how to make healthy lunches that were quick and easy to prepare.
One of the most common symptoms of fibromyalgia is fatigue. We know if we eat healthy foods they can support our energy needs better and maybe help with the fatigue, but we’re often too tired to spend time in the kitchen preparing that healthy food. Finding nutritious foods that are easy to prepare can make all the difference in keeping our energy levels steady.
I’ve always loved the idea of cooking in bulk so I had healthy meals available whenever I needed them, but the thought of spending hours in the kitchen kept me from trying it. Recently, though, I had one of Panera Bread’s Warm Grain Bowls and thought, “this would make a great healthy lunch” so a couple of days later I got to work.
Grain bowls are outstanding meals energy-wise. They combine vegetables which are chock-full of nutrients with whole grains that give us energy and protein that keeps us full.
If you haven’t had grain bowls before, they usually consist of some sort of greens – spinach, arugula, kale, etc., grains (often brown rice and quinoa), and some sort of protein. The possibilities are endless, because you can just use whatever combinations of ingredients you like.
Making Meals for the Week
I cooked enough grains and proteins for my husband and me to have a grain bowl every day. Believe it or not, that was just 1 cup of brown rice (cooked in 2 1/2 cups of water), 1 cup of quinoa (cooked in 2 cups of water) and 1 cup of lentils.
I spread my prep work for the week’s meals over two days. I cooked the grains and lentils on Monday, since we wanted a vegetarian option. The brown rice has to simmer (or cook in the rice cooker) for 45 minutes, which is the longest cook time. If you cook everything at one time, that means it’s all done in 45 minutes. If you go ahead and prep whatever veggies and make your dressing while the grains and lentils are cooking, everything can be done in less than an hour!
On Tuesday, I cooked the chicken for the week. I browned a pack of boneless, skinless chicken breasts and put them in the crockpot with 1/2 cup of water and 1/2 teaspoon of Better Than Bullion. I seasoned them simply, with just salt and pepper. That way, they don’t clash with other flavors in the bowl. This gives you lots of versatility.
These are the three bowls I’ve come up with so far, but I’m already thinking of other ways to expand our menu….
Mediterranean Grain Bowl with Lentils
This bowl is perfect for your meatless Monday. It starts with a bed of spinach, and is topped with brown rice, quinoa, and lentils. Add in some heirloom cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, and a drizzle of Mediterranean dressing (I made mine with olive oil, lemon juice, and McCormick Mediterranean Spiced Sea Salt), and you have a delicious grain bowl. A sprinkle of feta cheese is the finishing touch.
Pesto Chicken Grain Bowl
This bowl also starts with a bed of spinach. Next are the grains – brown rice and quinoa. This time I used some of the chicken breasts I cooked in the Crock Pot. As with the lentil grain bowl I added cherry tomatoes and cucumbers. This one is drizzled with a pesto vinaigrette (lemon juice, olive oil, and prepared pesto) and sprinkled with a little shaved Parmesan.
Mexican Chicken Grain Bowl
For the greens here, I used Romaine lettuce instead of the spinach used in the others. The grains are the rice and quinoa I cooked on Monday. I warmed the chicken breasts in a pan with some taco seasoning to give them that Mexican flavor. I finished it off with heirloom cherry tomatoes and a sprinkling of cilantro. If you wanted these flavors without the meat, you could substitute black beans for the chicken.
For each bowl, you may want to use the portion sizes we talked about in Easy Peasy Portion Control. For us, that was about 1/4 cup of each grain for me and about 1/2 cup of each for my hubby.
Energy can often be in short supply when you live with fibromyalgia, so finding things that help us support our energy needs is important. These grain bowls definitely fit the bill for my hubby and me. I’d say this experiment was a total success!
What are your go-to meals for those days when your energy is low? Have you ever tried grain bowls? What do you think of them? Please share!