10 Delicious and Frugal Power Bowls You Want Right Now

By Marla Walters on 11 April 2016 1 comment

Power Bowls are the new "it" girl, or "the new black," in the food world. It's not without good reason, though, because as far as food trends go, this one is pretty good. Filled with a variety of healthy ingredients, Power Bowls are also usually quite visually appealing — and we eat first with our eyes, so that's important. They can be modified for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, and are transportable.

So what's the downfall? Having a tried a few myself, I'll tell you: They can be expensive. Ones I have sampled have run between $12 and $22. I don't blame the restaurants, though. If you're ordering a bowl with grilled salmon, red quinoa, kale, and enoki mushrooms, be prepared to pay up. The kitchen uses additional prep time, since how the bowls look is important. Presentation is everything, after all. Instead of tossing all ingredients together, chefs need to take the time to "compose" bowls. Each fresh ingredient lives in its own boldly colored quadrant.

According to the NYMag, the ideal Power Bowl "consists of 15% lean protein, 25% whole grains, 35% vegetables, 10% sauce and 30% extras (including nuts, seeds and sprouts)." Quinoa is a popular "base" in bowls, as just a cup of it has double the protein found in white rice. Brown rice is also a good choice, as it is also higher in magnesium potassium, and selenium.

Here are some tips, tricks, and winning Power Bowl combos.

Prep

To keep costs low, you'll need to do some preparation. To get ready for a week of bowls, cook a pot of brown rice and a pot of quinoa on Sunday. Cool and package in plastic sandwich bags. Roast a large pan of vegetables, chop greens, cook meats, and boil eggs. This will make assembly go quickly during the week. I cheat and use purchased sauces and salad dressings.

1. Roasted Chickpeas, Brown Rice, Diced Chicken, and Red Peppers

Chickpeas are great on their own, but try roasting them for extra crunch. Drain a 15 ounce can of chickpeas and blot dry with a paper towel. Toss with olive oil, red pepper flakes, garlic, and sea salt. Roast in a 400º F oven for 30 to 40 minutes, until crunchy. Add to your bowl with brown rice, diced cooked chicken, and chopped red peppers. And I like peanut sauce and chopped cilantro on top.

Keep it frugal: Watch for canned chickpeas to go on sale; and use Costco rotisserie chickens.

2. Burrito-Inspired Bowl

You've likely had one of these at Chipotle, but they're so easy to make at home. Begin with brown rice. Drain and rinse a 15 ounce can of black beans; use about ¼ cup per bowl (freeze any leftovers). Add chicken, corn, chopped tomatoes, cilantro, onions, and sliced avocado. Top with salsa and sour cream, and serve some tortilla chips on the side.

Keep it frugal: Here is another use for that Costco rotisserie chicken. Also, use the carcass to start a pot of stock.

3. Teriyaki Salmon, Quinoa, Roasted Sweet Potatoes, and Red Pepper

Brown rice works equally well in this one. Roasting the vegetables brings out their natural sweetness, which tastes good with the salmon. If possible, grill the salmon, otherwise pan-fry with the red peppers. Top with sliced green onions and a little prepared teriyaki sauce.

Keep it frugal: Buy large pieces of salmon and cut into smaller serving pieces; bag and freeze to use as needed.

4. Buckwheat Breakfast Bowl

Boil buckwheat noodles and broccoli pieces in chicken or vegetable broth. Add a quarter cup of firm, sliced tofu; stir to warm. Gently poach an egg in the pan; serve in bowl sprinkled with sesame seeds. Drizzle with soy sauce.

Keep it frugal: Make your own chicken or vegetable broth; freeze in one-quart plastic sandwich bags. Asian markets may have less expensive noodles than your regular grocery store.

5. Butternut Squash, Quinoa, Kale, and Peanuts

This one is best served hot. Peel and cube squash; microwave. When tender, stir in a tablespoon of peanut butter and mix until coated. For even more flavor, cook quinoa, or reheat, in "lite" coconut milk. Serve with chopped kale; garnish with chopped peanuts and cilantro.

Keep it frugal: Peel and cube your own squash instead buying prepared squash in the plastic containers. (See also: 20 Surprisingly Delicious Squash Recipes)

6. Beefy Bowl

Grill and slice steak; place in bowl with brown rice, roasted beets, sliced avocados, baby spinach, and crumbled goat cheese. Drizzle with Sriracha sauce.

Keep it frugal: Use London broil, usually a "top round" cut, which is less expensive. Wash and dry your own spinach instead of buying in bags. Fresh beets are easy to roast. Just wrap in foil, place on a cookie sheet, and roast at 400º F for 40-50 minutes. Skins will slip right off.

7. Peanut Butter-Banana Bowl

This delicious combination will keep you going all morning. To a serving of warm oatmeal, stir in a tablespoon of peanut butter. Top with a sliced banana, flaked coconut, and a few walnut halves.

Keep it frugal: Buy oatmeal in bulk, rather than individual packets.

8. Dad's Special

As a teenager, my dad picked peaches and almonds in the California valley, and that inspired this combination. To warm oatmeal, add sliced peaches, chopped raw almonds, raisins, and vanilla Greek yogurt.

Keep it frugal: Invest in a yogurt maker and make your own, which is super-easy and much less expensive that purchased Greek yogurt.

9. Lentil Curry

Cook lentils in "lite" coconut milk; add prepared red curry sauce to taste. Add to bowl with brown rice, cubed butternut or kabocha squash, shredded purple cabbage, and garnish with cashews.

Keep it frugal: Stock up when squash is in season.

10. Breakfast Fried Rice Bowl

Heat cooked brown rice in a little olive oil; toss in any leftover cooked vegetables — edamame, carrots, and broccoli are good. Crack an egg over the hot rice and vegetables; stir and scramble the egg. Leftover shrimp and tofu are particularly good in this, too. Garnish with soy sauce and green onions.

Keep it frugal: Try to stick to the generic soy sauce, since it basically tastes the same as major brands and will be way cheaper.

Once you have mastered basic "bowl construction," the combinations are endless. Keep in mind that you are looking for lean protein, whole grains, vegetables, and fruits. Just be sure to watch the calories in any dressings or sauces added.

Any favorite power bowls not listed above? Share with us in the comments!

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Guest's picture
Kelli B

I love having bowls for lunch. Thanks for the roundup of new recipes to try!

Guest's picture
Rene

To be even more frugal...you don't need a yogurt machine to make yogurt. Just a working oven, a jar, a pot and some active yogurt culture.