Brown Rice Grain Bowl with Basil Dressing

What’s the best part about grain bowls, you ask? Well, you didn’t actually ask. But if you did, I’d say – the best part is customizability. Hands down.

A grain bowl, for the uninitiated, is a single bowl or dish meal containing smaller amounts of several different foods placed atop a grain base such as quinoa, farro or brown rice. There are endless variations of this theme which include meat or fish, served hot or cold, with all manner of cooked and raw vegetables, legumes, raw or dried fruits, seeds, nuts, cheese, and dressings.

This grain bowl has a base of brown rice topped with sweet potato cubes, wilted spinach, thin red onion slices, fresh juicy blueberries, crunchy pumpkin seeds and a make-your-mouth-water basil vinaigrette. Vibrant color and varied textures galore. I mean, just look at this picture, it’s a thing of beauty.

My Healthy Harvest – Brown Rice Grain Bowl with Basil Dressing

Let’s talk about the dressing a little more, shall we? The olive oil and apple cider vinegar dressing is absolutely bursting with fresh basil. This is the real, basil-y deal. A whole 1/4 cup of packed basil goes into this dressing. And there is not very much dressing here, people. Just enough to give a good drizzle over the top of the whole grain bowl. This stuff is seriously yummy.

The aroma of fresh, local basil in your kitchen should be intoxicating. The arrival of basil in markets and gardens practically announces the start of summer as far as I am concerned. If you can get your hands on some ultra fresh, fragrant basil, please use it here.

No garden or market? You’re in luck. Thankfully, this time of year, many grocery store produce sections sell entire potted basil plants. This will be the best tasting basil in the store. Buy this instead of the pale (in comparison) green leaves in the plastic mini clamshell if possible.

Regardless of where your basil came from, this is a hearty meal. It’s fair game for breakfast served warm and topped with a runny egg . To do this, I suggest preparing all ingredients ahead of time. Store the onion, blueberries and pumpkin seeds separately from the cooked ingredients. This will allow the cooked ingredients to be reheated selectively and minimize morning prep time. After heating, continue with assembly as instructed in the recipe below with the addition of the aforementioned runny egg if this sort of thing floats your boat.

Headed back to the office? Going on a picnic? Returning to school? Throw this one dish meal into a food storage container and away you go! Not only can you choose which ingredients go in your grain bowl, you can choose what time of day to eat it, too. Customizable to your tastes. Customizable to your day.

Brown Rice Grain Bowl with Basil Dressing

A base of brown rice topped with sweet potato cubes, wilted spinach, thinly sliced red onion, fresh juicy blueberries, crunchy pumpkin seeds and dressing packed with fresh basil.
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time40 mins
Total Time1 hr
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: dairy-free, egg-free, gluten-free, nightshade-free, nut-free, soy-free

Ingredients

Brown Rice Grain Bowl

  • 1 cup brown rice, dry I used brown basmati rice
  • 1 3/4 cup water or quantity recommended in the instructions on your package of rice
  • 4 cups sweet potato, peeled and cut in 1/2 to 3/4" cubes
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 sprinkle salt
  • 1 handful spinach
  • 1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup blueberries
  • 1 Tbsp pumpkin seeds

Basil Dressing

  • 1/4 cup basil, lightly packed
  • 1/2 tsp dijon mustard
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 pinch pepper
  • 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil

Instructions

  • In medium size sauce pan, cook rice according to instructions on package. For my rice, I boiled the water. Then added the rice, covered with the lid, and reduced the heat to low. Rice took about 40 minutes to cook.
  • While rice is cooking, cook sweet potatoes in a large skillet. Put skillet on cooktop over medium-high heat. Heat oil until shimmering, then add sweet potatoes and a pinch of salt. Reduce heat to medium. Stir occasionally. Cook until tender and lightly browning on edges. Heat may need to be adjusted depending on your cooktop. Rice and sweet potatoes finish cooking about the same time. Remove from heat when cooked.
  • Add spinach to pan with sweet potatoes, stir lightly to combine. Spinach will wilt from residual heat in the pan, especially if using enameled cast iron as I did.
  • Using rice as the base, assemble the grain bowl in individual bowls or dishes. Toppings can be scattered over the top (as pictured) or clustered into little sections. Top rice with sweet potato and spinach mixture, sliced red onion, blueberries and pumpkin seeds.
  • To make the dressing, add all dressing ingredients in a blender. Blend until basil leaves are no longer intact, a couple minutes depending on your blender. Scape down sides as needed. Dressing will be green and homogenous. Drizzle dressing over top of grain bowl. Serve right away or refrigerate and enjoy later cold.

Notes

May use an immersion blender or food processor instead of a traditional blender for basil dressing, though results may not be quite as good. If you don’t have any of these tools, I suggest chopping the basil as finely as possible with a chef’s knife. Add all dressing ingredients, including basil, to a mason jar. With the lid on the jar, shake vigorously until evenly mixed.
May use pressure cooker such as Instant Pot to cook rice instead of using stovetop method, if preferred. 

Blueberry Lemon Baked French Toast

Creamy and custardy with sweet blueberries, bright lemony zest and corners of crisped french toast ends poking through, this breakfast casserole has special occasion or long weekend written all over it.

Often, baked french toast recipes instruct you to assemble the casserole the night before, refrigerating overnight. But what if your fridge is full or you wake up in the morning with a hankering for french toast without having done the evening prep work? No problem with this recipe!

This indulgent, comforting Blueberry Lemon Baked French Toast can be easily assembled while you are still half asleep in about 20 minutes. Let it sit for 1 hour, while you enjoy your coffee or straighten up your house before guests arrive (once the pandemic is over, of course!), then pop it in the oven for 50-60 minutes to bake. Grab a spoon, a bottle of maple syrup, and some bacon – you’re in for a treat!

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Blueberry Lemon Baked French Toast

Comforting french toast casserole perfect for entertaining in the spring – gluten free, dairy free.
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time1 hr
Total Time2 hrs 20 mins
Course: Breakfast
Cuisine: American
Keyword: dairy-free, gluten-free, nightshade-free, soy-free
Servings: 8 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 loaf EnerG Texas Toast cut into 1" cubes, lightly toasted
  • 1 pint blueberries
  • 12 egg yolks
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup plus more for serving
  • 3 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 zest of lemon
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Instructions

  • Place toasted bread cubes in large baking dish. Sprinkle blueberries on top. Set aside.
  • In large mixing bowl, whisk egg yolks, coconut milk, maple syrup, lemon juice, lemon zest, vanilla, nutmeg, and salt. Pour mixture over bread and blueberries. Cover dish and let sit for 1 hour.
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Bake uncovered for 50-60 minutes. Cover with foil to prevent burning, if needed. Baked french toast is done when bread is lightly browned and no liquid remains in the center of the dish.
  • When done, remove from oven. Serve immediately with maple syrup drizzled on top.

Notes

Feel free to substitute your favorite bread or milk.
Leftovers reheat well and may be stored in the fridge for two days.


several varieties of citrus fruits on a plate and platter, each stopped with pomegranate and mint

Winter Citrus Salad

This celebration of seasonal fruit is the antidote to dreary, overcast winter days on a plate. Unlike the brown and gray of short December days, my Winter Citrus Salad is a feast for the eyes. Containing four different types of citrus fruits – naval oranges, pink grapefruits, pomelos, and mandarin oranges – this salad is beautiful, refreshing, and uplifting.

Oranges are a classic, staple fruit in many households, but why stop there when there’s so much variety to enjoy? Citrus fruits of all kinds have a few things in common: they’re vividly colored, bursting with bright acidity and sweetness, juicy, and oh-so fresh smelling! Take advantage of the winter growing season and try some of the others this year; I bet you’ll be glad you did.

Slices of pomelo, grapefruit, naval orange, mandarin orange, and clementine with pomegranate and mint leave sprinkled on top.

Fruit salad, while always tasty, typically makes its appearance during the summer months at picnics and graduation parties. It’s much less often that we think of fruit salad as an option during the winter. But why? With all this delicious fruit in season right now, we’ve been missing out! Bring a little pizzaz to your table this winter. Grab a sharp knife, cutting board, some fruit and try my Winter Citrus Salad!

Vibrant slices of pink, orange, red, and yellow citrus are eye-catching on a platter, especially when accented with slivers of deep green mint leaves and pops of dark red pomegranate. Not only that, but these fruits are a much needed contrast to the warm, cooked foods we often eat as winter-fare.

Close up of slices of citrus fruit with pomegranate and mint on top.

One last thing. This salad is highly forgiving. Can’t find pomelo? Tangerines or clementines look better than the mandarins? Dying to try some blood oranges? Swap out whatever citrus fruits are available or sound good. For best results, I would include a minimum of three different citrus varieties, though four or even five is definitely preferred. (I actually thought I had grabbed some clementines, but instead ended up two different types of  mandarins – oops!! Those things happen sometimes when shopping while distracted!) Also, I don’t recommend subbing in lemon or lime as these are much more sour than sweet, unlike the other fruits. Have fun with this no-cook beauty!

Winter Citrus Salad

A celebration of seasonal fruit, this salad contains slices of pink grapefruit, naval oranges, pomelo, clementines, and mandarin oranges topped with pomegranate arils and sliced mint leaves. (AIP, paleo, gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, egg-free, nut-free, seed-free, nightshade-free)
Prep Time20 mins
Total Time20 mins
Course: Breakfast, Dessert, Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Servings: 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 pomelo
  • 2 pink grapefruits
  • 2 naval oranges
  • 6 mandarin oranges
  • 1/4 cup pomegranate arils
  • 1/4 cup mint leaves

Instructions

  • Peel fruit with soft, thin, easily removable skin, like mandarins, by hand. Using a sharp knife, chop off end with stem and opposite end to create two flat surfaces. Stand up fruit on one flat end. Using knife, cut off peel in strips, rotating the fruit around in a circle until all peel has been removed.
  • Cut each citrus fruit into cross-sectional slices of even thickness. Arrange citrus slices randomly on platter or plate. Sprinkle pomegranate arils on top.
  • Chiffonade a few mint leaves (stack and fold mint leaves together, then cut with sharp paring knife into thin strips). Sprinkle over plated fruit. Garnish with remaining mint leaves.

Notes

May make in advance. If doing so, recommend waiting to cut and add mint leaves until time of serving, for freshness. Cut mint leaves can discolor on the edges.
Leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator.


Rustic banana muffin on marble slab

Rustic Banana Muffins

Some banana muffins are so tender, delicate and fluffy that 10 minutes after you eat it, your tummy feels just as hungry as before you snacked. This isn’t that kind of banana muffin. This muffin is a rustic, sturdier kind of muffin. The kind that you can grab on your way out the door and eat one-handed without making 1000 crumbs. The kind which are low enough in sugar, they aren’t dessert in disguise. You can enjoy these banana muffins at breakfast, yet they’re sweet enough to enjoy as a lower sugar treat. My favorite way to eat these banana muffins is topped with a smear of nut or seed butter and a mug of chai tea.

These gluten-free Rustic Banana Muffins are made with cassava flour. Cassava flour is one of my favorite gluten-free flours, because it bakes very similarly to wheat flour. Often it can be substituted 1:1 for wheat in recipes. It’s a little bit heavier than wheat, contributing to the overall weightiness of your baked goods – and its ability to satisfy your appetite. Cassava flour is mild and relatively neutral in flavor. Interestingly, this flour isn’t a grain. It’s a dried, ground South American root vegetable, yuca. It’s not yet quite as mainstream as some other gluten-free options, but popularity of cassava flour is rising. It’s now available at Whole Foods and on Amazon, making it more accessible than ever before.

Have time to make muffins, but not looking to eat them right away? Freeze a batch to have on hand. Individual muffins can easily be added to a lunchbox for adults or kids. Or stash them all away for when overnight guests come; defrost the night before for a head start on making breakfast. A breakfast casserole and some fresh fruit would be low-maintenance, crowd-pleasing accompaniments.

3 rustic banana muffins in a row on a marble slab

Rustic Banana Muffins

Rustic, satisfying banana muffins made with cassava flour. Perfect for adding to a lunchbox for school or work, breakfast, or dessert. (gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, egg-free, nut-free, and nightshade-free)
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time55 mins
Total Time1 hr 5 mins
Course: Breakfast, Dessert, Snack
Cuisine: American
Servings: 9 muffins

Ingredients

  • 1-1/2 cup cassava flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 3 large bananas, mashed
  • 7.5 + 2 Tbsp water
  • 3 Tbsp ground flaxseed
  • 3 Tbsp maple syrup
  • 3 Tbsp honey
  • 3 Tbsp palm shortening, melted
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. In a small cup, prepare "flax egg" by adding ground flaxseed and 7.5 Tbsp water. Stir and allow to sit for several minutes, until water is absorbed and consistency changes to look more like a gel. 
  • In a mixing bowl, add cassava, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Whisk to combine. In a second mixing bowl, add mashed bananas, 2 Tbsp water, maple syrup, honey, melted palm shortening, vanilla extract, and "flax egg". Whisk vigorously until smooth.
  • Pour dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Using a spatula, mix until combined. Spoon batter into muffin pan. 
  • Bake for 55 minutes. If checked with a toothpick, it should come out clean. Allow to cool before removing from pan.

Notes

Makes 8-9 standard size muffins depending on size of bananas used. 
Muffins are easy to remove from a silicone muffin pan. If using a metal pan, may benefit from using paper/parchment muffin liners.
May make in advance. Store leftovers covered in refrigerator for longest "shelf-life". Muffins freeze well.
While many muffin recipes also turn out similarly well if baked in a loaf pan instead of a muffin pan, I don't recommend making banana bread with this recipe. The bread remains a little doughy, especially towards the center and bottom of the loaf.