Easy and Versatile Rice Bowls

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Rice Bowls are an easy and versatile dish to serve to everyone, even picky eaters.

I don’t really like to address the idea of “picky eaters” because I think the term is very relative. If someone doesn’t like what you like, you might call them picky. And that’s not really fair, especially to kids who are still learning about different tastes and textures and how to get over the gross-appearance factor of some foods.

My husband doesn’t love the all-time favorite Getskow family feast, Sauerkraut and Spare Ribs. My dad might call him picky. He might claim he’s smart. Just because he doesn’t like one of the best meals of all time, doesn’t make him picky.

I once despaired that none of my children would eat Sauerkraut and Spare Ribs. I thought I was beat. But, no. Last week I prepared it, and five out 6 children were licking their plates clean, one quite literally.

Tastes are developed over time. I want my kids to have open minds about the world of tastes out there.

That said, sometimes it can be hard to feed my family. What they loved last week they might scorn next week. Kids can be fickle.

Rice Bowls are easy and versatile.

Lately one of the best meals we’ve had has been the Rice Bowl. It is nothing fancy or elaborate; in fact, it’s quite simple, economical and filling. Everyone can find some toppings that he likes.

Since so many cultures in the world enjoy rice as a basic starch, you can go in many different flavor directions. Here’s how we put together rice bowls at our house at least twice a week.

1. Start with steamed rice, Rice Pilaf, or Mexican Rice.

Usually I just steam some rice in the rice cooker, but you can get fancy by serving Rice Pilaf or Mexican Rice. The latter may limit some of the other flavors you include.

2. Add some protein.

We usually serve Seasoned Taco Meat, Marinated and Grilled Chicken or Steak, Cooked Fish, or Black Beans.

3. Include lots of vegetables.

Since we get a weekly supply of vegetables in our produce box, the contents of the vegetable drawer may vary from week to week. I usually saute a bunch of chopped vegetables as well as offer some fresh. These might include:

  • chopped tomatoes
  • diced onions (red, brown, or green)
  • corn kernels
  • sauteed mushrooms, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, onions, zucchini, or peppers
  • chopped fresh peppers
  • roasted chiles

4. Offer special toppings.

Special toppings might include sauces, salsas, shredded cheese, chopped herbs, or even something crazy like a few potstickers or taco chips. By varying the options I can make a meal that really is never the same thing twice. No one gets bored and we all enjoy a filling meal.

5. Follow no recipe.

There’s really no right or wrong way to make this. I prepare all the components and then lay them out in serve-yourself-buffet. The kids start with rice and pile on the toppings. I require some protein and veg and then they can customize their bowls however they like.

This meal is very make-ahead and so versatile, it’s really a non-recipe. But, it’s keeping us eating well and satisfying even the picky people of the day.

About Jessica Fisher

I believe anyone can prepare delicious meals—no matter their budget.

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  1. What a great idea! Thank you so much! I don’t know why I never thought of this 🙂

  2. I’m linking up pan-fried fish because as a kid we LOVED it. I think because we could dip it in ketchup, which makes everything better 🙂 Although my niece dips everything in ranch instead of ketchup.

    • Jessica Fisher says

      Ranch is the new ketchup. 😉

  3. Steph says

    I really like your perspective on “picky” eating…it has me thinking.

  4. Deb says

    Oh we love rice bowls, too (we call them taco bowls since that’s the only way we flavor them – I should branch out!)! Such an easy and cheap meal.
    For picky eaters I make pizza:)

  5. Thanks for the great idea!
    We often do this with a pasta bar, but I had never thought of starting with rice, which might even be easier. Thanks!

    • Jessica Fisher says

      It’s gluten free, too, in case that matters to anyone.

      • Brenda says

        Thanks, Jessica, we are gluten free because of celiac disease. I am always looking for good gluten free recipes.

  6. Dana says

    My 10 soon to be 11 yr old who has been my “picky” eater has recently on his own started opening up his palet a wee bit more. Which makes me soooo happy!! He was the chicken nugget kid, seriously it was either chicken, eggs or peanut butter but he didn’t eat much more than that. and not a veg eater at all but just this week alone he has eaten alfredo noodles where he normally would want rice, and even broiled salmon :O I about fell out of my chair when he asked could he try it and then asked could he have the rest. I AM OVER THE MOON!!! Its just a phase and that is what his pediatrician told me years ago, just to give it time and his tastebuds would come around!! I am so glad they finally have!!!

    • Jessica Fisher says

      Yeah for kids growing up!

  7. it’s tough when you’re a food literacy educator and your own kiddo is a reluctant eater! makes you wonder, is it him or me? it was him. he was sick, but well on the road to recovery and my reluctant eater with poor appetite is disappearing. here are some of his current fave recipes, plus i answer 5 picky eater questions in an interview.

  8. You’re so right — rice bowls are so versatile, making them perfect for picky eaters. Thanks for the inspiration!

  9. Shell says

    I love this blog. The only complaint I have is that it makes me hungry every time I come here. I’ll be fat if I keep it up. The photos are really good.

    • Jessica Fisher says

      I like those kinds of complaints. LOL

  10. Shannon says

    Just discovered your site. I could KISS you!!! I DESPISE planning, shopping, etc. You’ve done it all for me and I’m a happier woman, lol. I love that it’s normal everyday items, nothing fancy, but something different every nite. It seems perfect.

    Quick question – in the first recipe, Mexican Style Rice Bowl, the ingredient list is 1 cup shredded lettuce, then 2 cups shredded lettuce? I imagine one of those is supposed to be something else, lol?

    • I’m not sure if my assistant saw your comment and fixed it. But, it shows one is cheese and one is lettuce. So glad you found some meals that will work well for you. Normal everyday is my specialty! 🙂

  11. lisa s says

    We even do rice bowls for breakfast. My son’s favorite is buttered rice topped with an over easy egg and sauted greens.

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