5 Affordable Dinners Anyone Can Make

I used to work in fashion and I remember thinking more than once how heavily influenced designers are by teenagers and youth culture. Just think about all the things you were wearing and doing before they showed up on the runways (thumb holes in long-sleeved shirts, anyone?). I think the same goes for food.

Case in point: Grain bowls. I used to live off of grain bowls in college (this one in particular), but it wasn't until recent years that grain bowls became part of the national food conversation. And while part of me wants to act like the guy from this Portlandia skit, I have to admit that more grain bowls can only be a good thing for everyone. Here are the five grain bowl recipes I can't live without.

Photographed by Eric Helgas; Food Styling by Jen Beauchesne.
I love a grain bowl that can be served for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Here's an excellent example that is perfect for the cold winter months.
Photographed by Eric Helgas; Food Styling by Jen Beauchesne.
Creamy Wheat Berry Breakfast Hash Bowl
Serves 1

Ingredients

1 cup prepared wheat berries, warmed
1 cup diced butternut squash
1 egg
1/3 cup ricotta cheese, part skim or full milk
2 tsp butter, divided
Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions
1. Melt 1 teaspoon of the butter in a nonstick pan. Toss in the butternut squash chunks and sauté over medium heat until browned and soft, about 15 minutes. It should look mashed. If it doesn’t, smash it a bit with the back of your spatula. Remove from heat and set aside.

2. Fry the egg in the remaining teaspoon of butter. Spoon the wheat berries into the bottom of your serving bowl, leaving a well for the squash. Place the squash in the well, then top with ricotta followed by the fried egg. Season with salt and pepper.
Photographed by Eric Helgas; Food Styling by Jen Beauchesne.
Speaking of cozy meals, this one pot wonder will keep us cranking through winter.
Photographed by Eric Helgas; Food Styling by Jen Beauchesne.
Big Bowl Of Barley & Chicken Thighs With Winter Vegetables
4 servings

Be sure to use quick cooking barley for this recipe. It becomes tender much faster than the traditional variety.

Ingredients
1 1/2 cups quick cooking barley
2 cups vegetable or chicken broth
1 cup coconut milk or cream
4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
3 cups chopped kale
2 cups baby carrots
1/2 cup pearl onions, such as Trader Joe’s
Olive oil spray
Sriracha, optional

Instructions
1. Preheat oven to 400ºF.

2. Mix the barley, broth, and coconut milk in the bottom of a large dutch oven or deep casserole dish.

3. Submerge the thighs in the broth mixture, then arrange the kale, carrots, and onions on top. Spray olive oil over the vegetables that are sticking out of the liquid. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through and the barley is tender.

4. Arrange the bowl by putting barley at the bottom and piling on the chicken and vegetables. Add some sriracha, if you like spice.
Photographed by Eric Helgas; Food Styling by Jen Beauchesne.
Some pantry staples — like canned beans, quinoa, and chicken broth — mixed with a few easy-to-find and inexpensive ingredients can make an excellent alternative to your afternoon Chipotle order!
Photographed by Eric Helgas; Food Styling by Jen Beauchesne.
Quinoa Burrito Bowl With Chipotle Lime Sauce
Serves 1

Ingredients
1/2 cup dry quinoa
1/4 cup green salsa
3/4 cup vegetable or chicken broth
1 tbsp fresh or dried chopped cilantro
1/2 cup drained and rinsed black beans
1/2 of an avocado, sliced
2 tbsp chunky pico salsa
2 tbsp nonfat Greek yogurt

For chipotle lime vinaigrette

1 tbsp olive oil
Juice of one lime
1 tsp minced chipotle in adobo sauce
1/4 tsp grainy mustard
Salt and Pepper to taste

Instructions

1. Bring broth and salsa to a boil in a medium pot. Add quinoa, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 12 minutes, or according to package directions. Remove from heat, stir in cilantro, cover and steam for 5 minutes.

2. Whisk together the vinaigrette ingredients in a small bowl. Spoon the quinoa into the bottom of your serving bowl. Arrange the beans, avocado slices, chunky salsa and nonfat yogurt on top. Pour vinaigrette over everything and enjoy!
Photographed by Eric Helgas; Food Styling by Jen Beauchesne.
Just because you're a vegan doesn't mean you have to be left out of the hearty grain bowl club! Check out this delicious bowl of goodness.
Photographed by Eric Helgas; Food Styling by Jen Beauchesne.
Tabouli Bulger Wheat Bowl
Serves 1

Ingredients

1 cup prepared bulgar
1/3 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
1 small Campari or Pearl tomato, chopped (about 1/4 cup)
1/4 cup chopped cucumber
1 tbsp chopped onion
Small handful of microgreens, any variety
2 tbsp olive oil, divided
1 medium lemon
Salt and Pepper generously to taste

Instructions
1. Mix together the bulgar, fresh parsley, and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Chill for at least 15 minutes. Spoon into the bottom of a rimmed bowl.

2. Arrange the chopped tomato, cucumber and onions on top, and the microgreens around the rim.

3. Drizzle the remaining tablespoon of olive oil over the bowl and squeeze the lemon on top. Season with salt and pepper.
Photographed by Eric Helgas; Food Styling by Jen Beauchesne.
I'd bet that most of us use our canned tuna to make a quick and easy sandwich (I like mine drenched in mayo!). But you can also use tuna in a flavorful and filling grain bowl. Here's how!
Photographed by Eric Helgas; Food Styling by Jen Beauchesne.
Italian Farro Bowl With Tuna & White Beans
Serves 1

Ingredients

1 cup prepared farro
1/2 cup canned white cannelini beans
1/2 cup chopped raw spinach
1/4 cup chopped red peppers
4 oz good quality canned or jarred tuna. (We love Tonnino tuna in olive oil.)
1 tbsp capers, optional
1 tbsp olive oil, we used the high quality oil from the tuna jar.
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/4 tsp fresh or dried oregano
Pinch of red pepper flakes, optional

Instructions
1. Spoon the prepared farro into the bottom of a medium sized bowl.

2. Drain and rinse the cannelini beans. Arrange cannelini beans, kale, carrots tuna and capers (if you are using them) on top.

3. Sprinkle the oregano and red pepper flakes over the bowl, then drizzle on the olive oil and balsamic vinegar.