Two Simple Lunch Or Dinner Ideas + My 'Pantry Must Have' List

I’m bringing you two very simple lunch or dinner ideas today. I make these or some variation of them each week. Once you get used to putting together foods that taste good into large bowls, things start getting creative! I had my first ‘grain bowl’ at a restaurant here in Los Angeles years ago and ever since I began recreating it at home. You basically use any kind of grain; rice, brown rice, quinoa, then combine it with a protein, veggies, and pretty much anything else you fancy. Sometimes I skip the grain and use baby spinach. Then it just becomes a glorified salad fit for an entire meal.

My family request taco bowls once a week. It might even be my favorite dinner night of the week! To prepare them takes less than 30 minutes and everyone can customize their own bowl. Which is great when dealing with a three year old who randomly declares she doesn’t like certain foods, even though she used to love eating them a week ago. Our daughter Mila can mix and match what she puts in her bowl. Then she eats it, since she made it. You see how that works. Three years are so fun! ;) The best I will say are the left overs. I package everything into air tight containers and have lunch for the next two days!

The thing I’ve noticed about these bowls is that most of the ingredients come from my Pantry Must Have list. These items are things I always have in my pantry that I consider ingredients I an whip up into anything last minute. The idea is that no matter what, if my Pantry Must Haves are stocked, I can make a meal. My mom (and grandma) taught me that anything can be made with rice or pasta, a protein, and a few spices. My mom was a single mom with three kids and her pantry was always stocked with the Pantry Must Haves. I knew this well because while quick grab snacks like fruit snacks, chips or cookies weren’t something we always had at home, my mom always said “No we don’t have that, but we can make it!”

Below I am sharing two bowl ideas that you can take and run with. Plus my list of Pantry Must Haves. Enjoy!


Sesame Ginger Chicken + Crispy Kale Bowl

This is something I typically make myself for lunch. A lot of times we’ll have rice and or cooked chicken left over from the night before that I can just re-warm. The best part of this bowl is the crispy kale and sesame ginger dressing! You can of course use whatever kind of dressing you like.

First, bake a batch of kale chips. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or nonstick foil. Spread out an even layer of washed and chopped kale. I usually buy kale already chopped into bite sized pieces in the produce section to make things easier. Then drizzle 2 tablespoons of olive oil over the kale. Sprinkle with a 1/2 teaspoon sea salt, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, and 1 teaspoon granulated garlic. Use your hands to gently massage the kale until it is fully coated with the oil and seasonings. Bake the kale for about 15 minutes or until crisp. Use a hearty handful for your bowl, then store the rest in an air tight container to snack on later.

Then in a bowl combine your rice (or whatever grain you prefer), cooked chicken, and the crispy kale. Drizzle with the sesame ginger dressing and sprinkle with chopped green onions! This bowl is so yummy and filling! The added crunch from the kale and kick of ginger from the dressing bring it all together.


Turkey Taco Bowl With Homemade Corn Salsa

Like I mentioned above, taco bowls are something we make as a family at least once a week. We typically always do ground turkey and a few different kinds of beans. Lately I’ve been mixing together this simple corn salsa to add to our taco bowls and it really makes a delicious difference!

First, drain one can of corn and then add it to a mixing bowl. To the corn you will add, 1/2 a fresh jalapeño finely diced, 1/4 of a red onion finely diced, 1/2 tablespoon finely chopped fresh cilantro, 1 or 2 tablespoons of queso fresco or feta cheese, pinch of salt, 1/2 teaspoon of cumin. Then mix everything together. On the side, mix together 2 tablespoons of sour cream and a few splashes of your favorite hot sauce. Then drizzle the spiced sour cream onto your corn salsa! This takes a few minutes and tastes so yummy! We also eat this with chips too.

Then in a bowl we like to add baby spinach (or you can do rice), black beans, kidney beans (or pinto beans), cooked ground turkey spiced with taco seasoning, the corn salsa, and sliced avocado. Sprinkle a little more queso fresco and cilantro on top too! We typically always serve these with tortilla chips on the side for an added crunch!


My Pantry Must Have List

This list can be curated to fit your dietary needs. These are things I keep on hand at all times so I can always make a meal or cookie if I want to. Swap out things for items you prefer, but you get the idea! It is smart to always have a fully stocked pantry.

White + Brown Rice

Brown Rice Pasta + Gluten Free Pasta + Regular Spaghetti Pasta

Black, Kidney, Pinto, Garbanzo Beans

Canned Corn

Canned Tomatoes



Almond Flour


Brown Sugar

Baking Powder + Baking Soda

Bread Crumbs

Butter (Not in the pantry but still a must have)

Olive Oil, Sesame Oil, Canola Oil

Chicken + Vegetable Stock

Spices; Granulated Garlic, Granulated Onion, Ginger, Cinnamon, Fresh Black Pepper, Cumin, Italian Seasoning, Cajon Seasoning, Sea Salt.

Frozen Meats (Also not in the pantry but still a must have) I keep ground turkey and chicken breast frozen in my freezer at times)

If you think I’m a missing a pantry must have, please leave it for my in the comments! Let me know why you think that item is a pantry must have :)