Recipe: Monday Night Fast Whole Grain & Protein Bowls

I don’t remember where I originally got this idea, but I think it was the lucky cross-pollination of one too many Bon Appetit magazines and the discovery of quick-cooking faro at the grocery store, combined with a goal to eat better whole grains and lean proteins in 2019. 

We make these grain bowls on busy weeknights because they come together fast – in less than 30 minutes. If you’re using a leftover protein (literally anything could work here), then you could be done in less than 15.

The secret: this dressing! It packs a lot of flavor and punch. Print off the recipe and take it to the store with you this weekend. You’ll have to invest in some ingredients initially, but they’ll last you for several weeks, bringing the total cost of this recipe into what i consider “great quality food for way less than I’d pay at a restaurant” – and that’s good eats!

Also, you can swap freely — use an oil you have on hand, use a different vinegar, try a new flavor. If it tastes good after you shake it, you’re good to go!

Monday Night Grain Bowl | RameyLady cooks
This grain bowl was made with leftover pork, but we usually go with salmon or another “healthy” fish when we can catch some on sale. This bowl includes quick-cooking faro, fresh spinach and tomatoes, roasted red peppers (from a jar), edamame and cashews, orange slices, and avocado with leftover roast pork loin from the previous day.

Lori’s Monday Night Grain Bowl

Here’s the basic outline:

  1. Start cooking the protein or pull out leftovers
  2. Start cooking the grain (farro, brown rice, etc)
  3. Make the dressing – maybe double it for use again next week
  4. Prep the fresh vegetables, fruit, garnishes
  5. Assemble! Pour a little dressing over every layer, especially the grains so they soak up that flavor!

The Dressing

Make extra and leave it in the frig for next week’s bowl. 

These are proportions, not measurements. Taste and see if it’s good; adjust as needed. If you aren’t sure where to start, try going with 1-2 Tablespoons as your “1” in the 2:1:1 ratio and multiply accordingly.  You’re going to need enough to dress the vegetables, the grain, and the meat, so make enough!

  • SECRET WEAPON OF GOODNESS:  2 parts toasted sesame oil
  • 1 part  flavored olive oil – we use chile oil
  • 1 part sherry vinegar or rice wine vinegar or …use what you’ve got; taste and adjust until it’s tangy and flavorful without being obnoxious
  • 1 part orange or lemon juice – fresh squeezed is nice
  • ½ part srirachaoptional  (lighten up on this if you don’t like hot) – can use any hot sauce that carries flavor as well as heat
  • a few dashes soy sauce or fish sauce or other salty but flavorful dark liquid
  • dash of minced or ground or grated garlic and/or ginger or use a paste that combines both!
  • pinch of salt (if you didn’t use soy sauce)
  • pinch of pepper (fresh ground of course, if you can)
  • pinch of dry aromatic herb- optional — I like oregano or thyme

Tool: Salad dressing shaker — OXO makes an inexpensive one; I use a Tupperware shaker that’s been in my kitchen forever.  Perk: Double the recipe and store the rest for next week. If sealed, it’ll keep for a couple weeks easily.

Cook a Grain

Here’s how we do it: Put ½ cup dried quick-cooking farro* per person (maybe ⅓ cup if you need to stretch it) into a saucepan with 2 cups of water and 1 Tablespoon of Mexican adobo seasoning* or chicken bullion granules.  Cook for 10-12 minutes (per package directions) once it comes to boil. Drain and divide among bowls – we usually pile it in the center, near the spinach.

*We use quick-cooking 10 Minute Farro from Trader Joe’s. It cooks in 10-12 minutes and it’s done! Costs about $2 a bag at TJ.  Link goes to Amazon; you can buy quick-cooking faro in most grocery stores for WAY cheaper than what you’ll pay on Amazon, but at least you’ll see the packaging.

*My store carries Adobo seasoning in the Mexican shelf, but the standard Goya brand is reaaaally salty (which is partly why I use it when cooking the farro).  You can buy organic adobo blends that are less salty, but don’t forget to salt the farro or rice while it cooks.

Assemble your Bowl!

Again, use what you’ve got!  Swap in other fresh salad ingredients or proteins.  We build up from greens to grains to protein, adding a little dressing on every layer, parking produce, citrus, and avocado around the sides of the bowl, then garnishing.

  • 3-5 oz per person of cooked protein – *see below for ideas
  • handful of kale, spinach, arugula or other sturdy fresh green – no iceberg lettuce!
  • ½ cup per person cooked “quick” farro or brown rice (or any cooked, hearty grain)  *see above for notes
  • fresh produce:  we use cherry tomatoes (sliced in half), thin-sliced red or green onion, sliced bell peppers or jarred roasted peppers — pretend you’re making the best salad of snacking vegetables and go at it
  • orange segments or other citrus, optional
  • edamame and/or roasted nuts (almonds or cashews) really add a crunchy punch
  • sliced avocado – also helps cool off the heat from the chile oil and sriracha

*Proteins – We sometimes roast a piece of salmon and split it into 3-4 oz portions for the top of the bowl.  Or pan-sear shrimp.  Or used cooked chicken, pork, or steak that’s been reheated.  You can pan-fry or bake tilapia.  Consider cooking a little extra next time you’re making supper, and plan to use the left-overs in the grain bowl the next day.  If you’re vegetarian, maybe fry an egg on top – that would be delicious!

The key is to think ahead just enough that you have a leftover ready to go or a fast-cooking protein, or maybe a rotisserie chicken from the store on your way home.  And you could make things even faster by cooking rice or wheat berries or farro ahead of time and having them in the frig, ready to reheat, dress, and eat!

Monday Night Grain Bowl | RameyLady cooks