6 Essential Elements of a Simple Recipe-Free Dinner Bowl

No one loves a good recipe more than we do. With the boundless inspiration from food blogs and cookbooks, we could try a new recipe every day and have plenty of fodder for years to come. But sometimes, you want to free-style it without a recipe – and that’s where a simple recipe-free dinner bowl can save the day. All you need to do is grab a bunch of your favourite delicious and healing ingredients and toss ’em together for a one-bowl meal. But which ingredients to include?

Here are what we believe to be six essential elements of a simple, recipe-free dinner bowl.

1. A good source of protein

Protein is essential for healing, repair and growth. Whether you’re vegan or Paleo, a clean source of protein will help you feel satiated, balance your blood sugar and keep you feeling fuller for longer. For a meatless option, try chickpeas, lentils, mung beans, almonds, cashews, sunflower seeds, hemp seeds, baked tofu, or crumbled bits of your favourite veggie burger, and if you consume animal products opt for free range meats, eggs or fish.

2. A nourishing, anti-inflammatory fat

Healthy fats, such as ghee, coconut oil, olive oil, or omega-3 fatty acids such as flax oil or hemp oil, add flavour along with a multitude of healing benefits for our brains, joints, skin, muscle tissue and cells. As with protein, a nourishing fat will keep your blood sugar levels even and prevent you from reaching for mindless snacks an hour later. Wondering which oils are safe to eat or heat? Check out this handy infographic.

Simple Recipe-Free dinner bowl

photo: iStock/anakopa

3. Heaps of dark leafy greens

These leafy powerhouses are packed with antioxidants that prevent cell damage, as well as B vitamins, fibre, iron and calcium. They’re also rich in chlorophyll, otherwise known as the ‘blood of plants’, which means it can help nourish our red blood cells, cleanse and detoxify, and can help prevent cancer, too.

Any dark leafy green will do here, so pick your favourite (or a mix of a few different ones). Depending on the time of year, you can have your dark leafy greens raw or lightly steamed – it’s up to you!

4. A lip-smacking, delicious sauce

You truly cannot make a simple recipe-free dinner bowl without a great dressing or sauce. You can choose a vinaigrette or dollop on a thick, creamy dairy-free sauce. Often, a dinner bowl dressing will contain some of the elements above – like an amazing anti-inflammatory fat, or protein-rich, blended nuts and seeds. Some sauce ideas are:

  • Basil or kale pesto
  • Tahini + garlic + lemon + salt
  • Almond butter + ginger + maple syrup + tamari + garlic
  • Cashew cream
  • Hummus, with a little bit of extra water to make it pourable
  • Tapenade
  • Lemon + olive/flax oil + chopped herbs of choice
  • Avocado + cumin + lime + red pepper flakes
  • Coconut milk + curry powder + salt

Simple Recipe-Free Dinner Bowl

Photo: iStock/AlexPro9500

5. Seasonal vegetables

Nature is pretty smart. It offers us nutrients in abundance during the times of year we need them most. What’s seasonal depends on where you live – but here at the Academy of Culinary Nutrition headquarters, we like to roast winter veggies, garlic and onions for our recipe-free dinner bowls during the fall and winter and add asparagus, tomatoes, bell peppers, eggplant, zucchini and even fresh fruit during the spring and summer months.

Seasonal veggies not only provide us with excellent nutritive properties, but they also add fibre – which keeps us pooping on a regular basis!

6. A mix of textures.

A variety of tastes and textures can really help your simple recipe-free dinner bowl sing! So pair fresh vegetables with cooked veggies, combine crisp greens and crunchy toasted seeds, toss fresh herbs into your vinaigrette, spiralize your vegetables for added texture and flair, toss in cubes of velvety avocado. You get the picture!

Optional: a gluten-free grain or pseudograin

If you consume grains, a cooked gluten-free grain adds texture, fibre, protein and energy-boosting B-vitamins. Try cooked quinoa, buckwheat, sorghum, brown rice, wild rice, teff, millet or gluten-free oats. You could also sprinkle on some raw buckwheat for a tasty crunch. However, if you don’t eat grains, all of the essential elements above will create a full and satisfying meal.

Feature photo: iStock/nata_vkusidey

So what did we miss? What do you like to add to your power bowls?