The new benefit bowls at Oregon State University are real menu multi-taskers, with the goal of helping students to live the “good life” as their name implies. Just take it from the school's dietitian:
“What I love about the BeneVita Bowls is that they are loaded with bold flavors and great textures," says Tara Sanders, dietitian, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR. "There's also a great contrast of hot grains and beans and cool veggies."
Introduced last fall, the vegetarian bowls are part of a stealth health eff ort to encourage more plant-based foods that are packed with nutrition.
“We entice customers to choose the bowls because of taste and convenience—the primary motivators for our customers' purchases,” Sanders says. “And because they are customizable, they are a great option for those practicing a vegan or gluten-free diet.”
Coming in at under 550 calories and under five dollars, the bowls hit the mark wellness-wise and wallet-wise, as well.
Students can choose to add chicken, but the bowls were developed as vegetarian or vegan, and with so much fresh appeal, most customers never miss the
“It’s a great option for those looking for a healthier, calorically dense food,” says Dale Lawson, Oregon State’s chef de cuisine. “It’s a complete protein-vegetable-starch off ering, and it’s a great way to enjoy big fl avors without eating a huge plate of pasta.”
Since BeneVita Bowls were introduced last year, they’ve steadily climbed in popularity. They’re available in the McNary Dining Center at the Zephros Pasta station. Formerly known as Casa Della Pasta, the new Zephros name refl ects a more Mediterranean direction, apparent in the bowl ingredients.
Bowl construction begins with a choice of grain: Jasmine rice, brown rice or bulgur wheat. Then, the customer chooses cannellini, kidney or garbanzo beans, followed by a choice of toppings, such as hummus, Parmesan cheese, feta cheese, marinated artichokes, Kalamata olives, fresh avocado, bell peppers, cucumbers or cherry tomatoes.
Adding to the bold freshness is the next choice: fresh mint or basil, cut in a chiff onade to release the essence.
“The fresh herbs add big flavor without adding a lot of calories,” Lawson says.
The bowl is then drizzled with Green Goddess dressing, basil pesto or tzatziki (Greek yogurt, cucumber and fresh dill). All that for $4.50.
Two signature bowls are available as well: the Zephyros Bowl and the Sarasun Bowl.
Rice bowls work very well with the Mediterranean flavor profile and ingredients, but that’s just the beginning.
From Asian to Southwest
“Asian rice bowls are a great way to serve a simple stir fry,” says Dennis K. Littley, executive chef, Mount Saint Joseph Academy, Flourtown, PA. “We originally served this dish as a noodle bowl, but we’ve now started using rice and other grains.” Littley also creates Southwest style bowls, using whatever ingredients are on hand, such as red rice, pinto beans and pulled chicken.
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Good-for-you Grains 101
An introduction to different grains is another great aspect of the rice or grain bowl.
"The fun thing is that it gives us a vehicle to open a discussion about grains with the students," says John Reid, executive chef, Valparaiso University, Valparaiso, IN, where amaranth, farro, wheat berries, grano and especially quinoa are featured regularly.
"Quinoa has a special appearance, like a sprouted seed, when it's cooked," Reid says. "We mix it with edamame, dried cranberries, a little diced jalapeno, red pepper and onion, and dress it with a house-made vinaigrette. We introduce grains as something different, as opposed to a pasta salad.