The Burrito Bowl: A Perfect Vegan Meal

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As evidenced in my post about my daily eating habits, a plant-based lifestyle can be easily well-rounded, providing all of the nutrients that the body needs, sans cholesterol, hormones, excess fat, and other animal by-products. Over the last three years, I’ve found ways—including my Fresh Formulas, of course—to obtain a ton of nutrients accompanied by a ton of flavor, all while feeling satisfied and not having to count calories.

The more I think I about this, the burrito bowl concept just might be the perfect vegan meal. In one bowl, you can combine whole grains, protein, and fresh fruits and vegetables. You’re guaranteed full and satisfied without the guilt that comes with meat, cheese, and sour cream.

I’m not a big fan of fast food, but if I’m going to indulge, I love the fast-casual establishment Chipotle. Even though I don’t eat it, I even appreciate the company’s stance on meat! Chipotle just knows how to do it right, and when I think of a burrito bowl, their buffet-style setup is the first thing that comes to mind. Chipotle—and burrito bowl—fans, you’re definitely going to want to keep reading!

Yes, a dish with the word “burrito” in it can be vegan, and more importantly, healthy. It’s all about smart substitutions: brown rice for white, beans for meat, etc. In today’s formula adaptation, I’m using ground tofu (pictured below the basic formula) and the black beans and fresh vegetables below:

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Corn is an easy veggie to have on hand in the freezer. I don’t use a lot of it because other fruits and vegetables certainly pack more nutrients, but I love the texture and flavor, especially in a dish like this. Next, we have green onions, which I’ll be using as a garnish. Then, you see a salsa I quickly threw together with yellow onion, roma tomatoes, sweet red peppers, cilantro*, and fresh-squeezed lemon juice (I’m all out of lime). Making salsa can be easy, ya’ll; stay away from the jarred stuff that’s packed with sodium.

*There is cilantro growing in my front yard! In my post about starting your own garden, I promised you that if you took care of the birds and the bees that they would do their job in pollinating and spreading seeds. Between our backyard critters and the wind, we now have a randomly delicious cilantro plant driveway-adjacent. Very cool.

Finally, we have shredded baby kale. When I order Mexican food, it is often topped with or including shredded iceberg lettuce. While there is nothing wrong with this, if you’re looking for the freshness and texture of a leafy green in your burrito bowl, why not use something like spinach or kale instead? One cup of baby kale, for instance, has double the protein content, three times the iron content, nine times the calcium content, nearly thirty times the Vitamin A content, and over forty times the Vitamin C content of one cup of iceberg lettuce. Whoa. Need I say more…

DSC_1918Switching gears, you’ll notice that this formula contains very little salt. I combat what might be perceived as a lack of flavor by really ramping up the spices. I cook my whole grains and tofu (when I use it) in a variation of the spice blend I use in my chili formula. The entire formula—which serves 4-6 people—contains less than ½ tsp of salt. Impressive, huh? You don’t even need to use any at all if you don’t want!

On to the beans. Beans are the only product I buy in a can and I wish I didn’t. Dried beans are less expensive. In addition, even though beans don’t contain the level of BPA-leaching acid present in tomatoes (see my homemade marinara post), they are still somewhat exposed to this chemical in the cans’ linings. For some reason, when I prepare dried beans, I am sick the entire next day after I eat them…bloating, gas, terrible cramps…you get the idea. Let me know if you have any ideas about this or better yet, a solution. 🙂

Finally, more about the tofu. Check out my post on vegan yogurt for a more detailed explanation of tofu and why some people love it and some hate it. For today’s purposes, just know that a little bit of tofu won’t hurt you and when sautéed in crumbles on the stove, a mock “ground chicken” is born, if you’re having a tough time kicking meat. I swear it’s good! On top of that, the tofu I use is organic and non-GMO. Wins across the board (until I learn to make it myself)!

DSC_1920It’s time for a burrito adaptation that you won’t regret eating and that combines the necessities of a healthy diet. Enjoy!

FORMULA BASE: BURRITO BOWL

Serves 4-6

  • 2 cups whole grains (e.g. brown rice, farro, wheat berries, quinoa, etc.) –>  I’m using brown rice.
  • 2 cups protein (e.g. beans, lentils tofu, tempeh, etc.) –>  I’m using black beans and crumbled tofu.
  • 2 cups raw fruit/vegetables –>  I’m using baby kale, corn, and salsa.**
  • 1 cup “crunch” (e.g. tortilla chips, nuts, seeds, etc.) –>  I’m using broken tortilla chips.
  • ½ cup garnish (e.g. fresh herbs, green onions, etc.) –>  I’m using thinly-sliced green onion.
  • Spices, herbs, salt, and pepper to taste –>  I’m using the following spice blend for my rice:
    • 1 tsp chili powder
    • 1 tsp paprika
    • 1 tsp dried cilantro
    • 1 tsp dried minced onion
    • ½ tsp garlic powder
    • ¼ tsp cumin
    • ¼ tsp pink Himalayan sea salt

**Guacamole would be delicious as well. I just don’t happen to have any avocados on hand. Either way, DIY to avoid excess salt and other preservatives.

First, get your grains cooking in homemade veggie stock or water. Add all of your seasonings directly to the cooking liquid so that the grains absorb the flavor as they cook.

DSC_1922Next, prepare your protein. If you’re using canned beans, they are already cooked and simply need to be drained and rinsed. If you’re using dried beans, soak them in water overnight and then boil on the stovetop while your grains cook, until tender. Tofu and tempeh are also precooked, but I like to doctor up the tofu so that it more so resembles the texture of ground meat.

After opening a package of tofu, drain the water and wrap the block in a clean towel to absorb even more water. Then, crumble into a medium-hot pan and season. I am using the same spice combination that I am using for the rice, just in a lesser amount. No measurements needed; just give the tofu a healthy sprinkle of the spices you like and stir so that it is evenly seasoned. After about 5 minutes, turn the heat down to medium low and stir occasionally. The tofu crumbles will reduce in size as they lose moisture, giving them a more meat-like consistency (if that’s what you’re going for).

DSC_1923While your grains and protein are cooking and/or hanging out, chop all of your produce and prepare your crunch and garnish. When all components are ready, layer them in a bowl in this order:

  1. Grains
  2. Protein
  3. Produce
  4. Crunch
  5. Garnish

Then, eat! I would store leftover components separately in the fridge…although I doubt there will be any. J This formula would be easy to make in large quantities and set up buffet-style for a family dinner or party.

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