February 04, 2014

Citrus Protein Bowl

If you read a lot of food blogs, you're probably well aware of the latest trends in recipes, for example, kale chips, grains for breakfast (like quinoa or amaranth with warm fruit), the one-pot pasta idea, black bean brownies, zucchini noodles, etc. (And of course, just because an ingredient or meal idea becomes trendy, that doesn't mean it has to go out of style - I plan on eating zucchini noodles a lot more once the weather warms up again!)

One trend I've noticed lately is the "bowl" concept, which is usually a base of grains like quinoa or rice, topped with a selection of veggies, a protein like chicken, tofu, or beans, and a sauce to bring everything together.

I've been wanting to try making my own bowl for awhile, and when I saw a whole chapter of bowl recipes in Isa Chandra Moskowitz's new cookbook Isa Does It, I had to try one out!

The one that I chose to try first was her citrus tahini bowl - quinoa topped with oranges, bok choy, grilled tofu, and a citrus-soy-tahini sauce. Since the recipe seemed pretty adaptable, I changed things up a bit by using spinach instead of bok choy, baked tofu instead of grilled, and adding some edamame for extra protein and colour, and toasted almonds for a bit of a crunch.

While this wasn't the easiest or quickest recipe to make (I wouldn't recommend starting this from scratch on a weeknight after work), the extra effort was definitely worth it! Plus you can make things easier on yourself by preparing some or all of the components ahead of time and just assembling a fresh bowl for dinner on the night you want to eat it. I made this one night when I had some extra time and then just enjoyed the leftovers for the next few days!

The combination of ingredients in this bowl was just what I was going for - bright colours and flavours and a mix of textures. I loved the chewy baked tofu, which was marinated in the dressing first to soak up extra flavour, combined with the buttery edamame and the juicy oranges. My favourite part was the creamy tahini dressing with its sweet and savory notes.

I also loved how nutritious this meal was! I called this a protein bowl because it has three main sources of protein: quinoa, tofu, and edamame, so it will keep you full without feeling weighed down. Plus the spinach and oranges provide some extra vitamins, which we can all use at this time of year!

Citrus Protein Bowl
Adapted from Isa Does It

1/3 cup freshly squeezed orange juice*
1 tsp orange zest
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp tamari or low-sodium soy sauce
1 tbsp rice vinegar
2 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp pure maple syrup
1 tbsp minced fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
Dash of salt
1/4 tsp chili flakes
1/4 cup tahini (to be added later)

1 12-14 oz package firm tofu
1 bunch spinach
1 cup quinoa
1 cup frozen shelled edamame
1/4 cup sliced almonds
1 large seedless orange (next time I might use two small oranges to get more orange pieces)

*I peeled one large seedless orange, blended the pieces and strained out the pulp. Zest the orange before peeling.

First, drain the tofu from the water in its packaging and slice in half. Press tofu between layers of paper towel with a heavy object on top for 15-30 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the marinade by whisking all ingredients except the tahini together in a bowl. Slice the pressed tofu into squares and place in a shallow dish (I used a square glass baking pan). Pour the marinade over top of the tofu and let sit for 30-60 minutes, flipping the pieces once halfway through.

Preheat oven to 400°F. When the tofu is done marinating, drain out the liquid (but keep it aside in a bowl) and transfer the tofu to an oven-proof baking dish (if it wasn’t already in one). Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes, flipping the pieces halfway through.

While tofu is cooking, wash spinach and remove stems. Tear or slice the larger leaves into smaller pieces. Prepare quinoa according to package directions. Once quinoa is done cooking, let it sit covered for 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork. Immediately transfer warm quinoa to a large bowl or pot and add the spinach. Toss well so that the spinach gets mixed into the quinoa, then cover with a lid and let sit for at least 5 minutes – the heat from the quinoa should help to wilt the spinach a bit.

Cook the edamame however you prefer, or according to package directions – either boiling, steaming, or microwaving. Set aside.

Heat a small skillet over medium heat. Add the almonds to the pan and toast for a few minutes, shaking the pan often, until lightly browned. Remove from pan and set aside in a small bowl.

Peel the orange (I like to use a knife to remove the skin). Slice each orange segment into two or three pieces.

Transfer the remaining marinade liquid to a blender and add the tahini. Blend until smooth, then transfer to a small bowl. (Note: feel free to add a bit more orange juice or lemon juice if you prefer a thinner sauce).

To assemble bowls, scoop your desired portion of the quinoa-spinach mixture into a bowl. Top with desired amount of each of the following: baked tofu, cooked edamame, orange pieces, and toasted almonds. Drizzle some of the sauce over top and stir to mix.

Makes 4-6 servings.


  1. Nice! I thought I recognized the concept from IDI. I haven't made it yet because sometimes it just seems a tad onerous for so many different components. I shall change that. Yours looks great!

    1. Thanks Janet! Yeah, I'm usually the same way with recipes that look like too much work, but I'm so glad I gave this one a try (with some changes as you mentioned)!

  2. if she had a restaraunt i would be there for lunch every day (if it didnt cost more than $10)

    1. Now I'm imagining a restaurant where all of the menu items were vegan meals from that cookbook and I wish such a place existed!

  3. I am always in the mood for a good protein bowl to add to my day!

    1. This is just what I like to eat for lunch - something that will give you the energy to get through the rest of the day without weighing you down! Plus it tastes delicious too :)

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