Book Club Tuesday: Whole Bowls

Last week I talked about how mindsets are changing regarding what a “proper” meal should look and taste like. What I struggle with is the disconnect between my food experiences when I was a kid and the types of food experiences I’m offering my daughter. I was not raised a vegetarian so it is sometimes challenging to make our vegetarian meal times feel like they did when I was a kid. But it’s a new world.  Is “bowl food” a passing trend? To be completely honest I don’t think so. Wholesome, nourishing, comforting food is not a trend but a goal. So when I received Whole Bowls by Allsion Day in the mail I was eager to start trying recipes from it!

For those of you who might be unfamiliar with Day’s work, she is the mind and creator of the blog Yummy Beet. All of her recipes are plant-based and gluten-free and I think her aim is to encourage people to cook delicious food from whatever beautiful, seasonal produce they find at the market. What I really appreciate about Whole Bowls is that the recipes are completely accessible for any diet preference (this may sound funny but I didn’t even notice that the recipes were gluten-free until I looked at the cover. By choosing ingredients that are inherently gluten-free —  like rice, corn, quinoa — I never felt like I bought specialty ingredients, I just used what I already had in my pantry).  Her culinary writing earned her gold in the inaugural blog category at the 2015 Taste Canada Food Writing Awards. In a couple of months she’ll find out whether she’s taking home another Taste Canada award — she’s been shortlisted in the Health and Special Diet Cookbooks category for Whole Bowls.

I could eat like this all of the time! Hint, hint! Is exactly what my husband said right after trying the first few bites of the Baked Polenta w/ Caramelized Onions, Mushrooms, and Marinara (pictured below). And it’s not like we don’t eat well — just check out my IG! — but I think what really spoke to him was how delicious and well-rounded (no pun intended) the dish tasted. The mild, creamy polenta paired with the tangy marinara and the sweet, caramelized onions and mushrooms tasted luxurious — just like “restaurant food.” Each component complimented the other instead of over-powering or competing.

This is what Whole Bowls is all about — understanding how to take different components and put them together in order to come up with harmonious (as she puts it) meals. So while the book is full of gorgeous and delicious recipes that draw upon this concept, Day has written a section in the book that speaks to her Whole Bowls Formula by showing the home cook how to use pantry staples to create their own bowl or understand how to tweak one of hers. Flexibility is important because who hasn’t come home at the end of a long work day only to discover seemingly unrelated ingredients in the fridge? Her formula and recipes teach flexibility so that instead of grabbing anything within reach, you can use her strategies to create food that nourishes and makes you feel taken care of.

Hey Mom! You need to make this for other people! It’s delicious! Is what my three-year-old daughter said when she tried the Purple Vegetable Rice Bowl (picture below). In keeping with the colour theme and seasonal eating I added some fresh, local, Nova Scotia blueberries. While the bowl pictured was what the “adult” version looked liked hers looked almost the same except that she had less cabbage and radicchio. Needless to say that with the blueberries, beets, pistachios, chickpeas, and rice this bowl won a special place in her heart (it also awakened her to the idea that berries or fruit is not just for breakfast or dessert).

I think that this bowl looks so incredibly appealing! I couldn’t wait to dig in and I really appreciated that I could pick and choose what each bite would be — a bit of beet, blueberry, and rice or some chickpeas and pistachios. Endless combinations, so many flavours and textures working in harmony.

One of the things that Day does really well is using different flavours and ingredients to re-imagine classic recipes. Take this Rainbow Vegetable Slaw w/ Pistachios & Harissa Dressing — definitely not the mayo-ladened, anemic-looking BBQ side dish! Full of vibrant colour and a lovely heat from the harissa paste, this recipe takes slaw from side to main. So many descriptors that can be used to talk about this dish — crunchy, spicy, sweet, creamy, juicy — and just by looking at the photo I’m not wrong about any of them. If you’re curious about what else I’ve been cooking up from Whole Bowls then check out my special IG hashtag #eatworthywholebowls or my dedicated Facebook post where I add photos as I make recipes.

As I mentioned earlier, I didn’t find myself struggling to source ingredients because the primary ingredients can be located at any farmer’s market or in the fresh produce area of any grocery store.  Fresh or cooked or a combination of the two mean that each bowl will be unique in it’s flavour and texture. She offers so much variety in her recipes! They truly are suitable for everyone. These bowls are ideal for solo cooks as much as they are for an entire family…there is no precept to these dishes, including how you eat them, serve them, and savor them — after reading her introduction these comments are the ones that really stuck with me. Day’s philosophy behind Whole Bowls can accommodate any home cook or dining situation.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Skyhorse Publishing for providing me with a free, review copy of this book. I did not receive monetary compensation for my post, and all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.

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