April 24, 2015

Tofu vegetable barley bowl

Maslow's hierarchy of needs is a theory that humans have five categories of needs. At the bottom of the triangle is physiological needs, and then it progresses up to the top with safety, love, esteem and then ends with self actualization. Basically, we need our physiological needs met before we can move on to those tricky psychological ones. I have my own hierarchy of needs that include coffee, meals, sleep, snacks and internet before I can properly function. When I don't have these needs fulfilled I suffer from devastating side effects including being "hangry"and "grumpy."

SoLo energy and nutrition bars

Have you heard of something called the "3 pm slump"? It is real. I have even experienced it working from home. Sometimes I get too much into work that I forget to rehydrate and refuel. When the hierarchy of needs isn't met, then work doesn't get done; it's as simple as that, whether you work in a busy office or at home. Cogan PR sent me a box of SoLo energy and nutrition bars to try to see if they could alleviate my symptoms of the "3pm slump." SoLo energy bars--at about 200 calories per bar--come in eight flavours including lemon lift, peanut power, dark chocolate almond and mocha fudge. The bars are low glycemic which means they release glucose slower and steadier. Low glycemic foods relate to a person's blood sugar and are supposed to help balance blood sugar, give you energy and make you feel less hungry.

home office

Generally, I don't eat a lot of protein or power bars. My Dad used to eat power bars a lot when he ran marathons and I remember trying them and thinking they were gross. The traditional power bars I remember were chalky, flavourless and not an enjoyable snack. I was surprised at how far protein and power bars have come now that something like SoLo is on the market. The flavours tasted like what they promised and were almost like chocolate bars. Because I love lemon desserts, my favourite bar was the lemon lift. The other chocolate flavours were also great and didn't have that traditional power bar chalkiness to them. SoLo energy and nutrition bars definitely helped get me through the afternoon slump. 

Tofu, bok choy, eggplant and cashew platter

Another way I try to stay fuelled throughout the day is by eating well. I try to eat a lot of vegetables, fruit, protein and have little snacks throughout the day. My Mom has been praising nutrition tips from Dr. Oz. We both know to take what he says with a grain of salt, but on one of his recent shows, my Mom said he suggested eating meals as "bowls" of food stacked with healthy grains, vegetables and protein. "Bowls" are the new hip food trend. It's not just eating food in a bowl, like soup; it's adding a bunch of healthy elements to make a "bowl." Sounds a bit strange I know, but check out a restaurant menu the next time you're out and you will most likely see things like "green goddess bowl." "stir fry bowl, "acai berry bowl," and "tofu bowl."

For my tofu vegetable bowl, I was inspired by this recipe and used barley as the base to my bowl. After that you add anything you like to the bowl. It can be a mix of sweet, salty, crunchy, savoury or fried. I made some sliced cucumbers into a quick pickle for mine. It's like a salad bar in a bowl, so have fun with it.

pearl barley

eggplant and cucumber

tofu vegetable bowl prep

1 cup pearl barley, cooked
1 Chinese eggplant, sliced
1/2 package firm tofu
1 cucumber sliced
1 package of baby bok choy, chopped
1/2 cup cashews 


In a small pot of water, cook the barley until done. Drain the tofu and squeeze dry. Slice into triangles. In a medium saucepan on medium heat, sauté the eggplant, tofu and bok choy. You may have to cook all of the components separately depending on how you plan to present everything. Add the cucumbers by themselves or use the "quick pickle" recipe above. Add the cashews to garnish. Build the bowls by scooping some barley into a bowl and then the remaining components on top followed by a drizzle of the sauce. 

Tofu vegetable bowl

Korean BBQ sauce (inspired by this recipe)

1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp grated ginger
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp cornstarch
1 tsp chili garlic paste and/or Siracha sauce 


Combine the soy sauce, brown sugar, vinegar, chili garlic paste, sesame oil, ginger and garlic in a saucepan. Heat on high until it boils. Reduce the heat and add the cornstarch. Whisk until it thickens. 

Tofu green bowl components

Serve on a platter to build or already in the bowls. I think the ends of the bok choys make lovely decorative touches to a green plate, so I usually keep them instead of throwing them out. The leftover components make a great lunch the next day. All you have to do is make some more grains and you have satisfying leftovers. The whole meal came together in about 30 minutes, so it's also a quick meal idea, as well as a chance to use up vegetables from the fridge. 

tofu vegetable barley bowl with Korean BBQ sauce

What do you think of the new "bowl" trend? Have you tried it? What do you like to put in your bowls of food? Comment below or visit Food.Love.Happiness on Facebook

More bowl inspiration:
Lunch bowl recipes
Stir fry zen crunch bowl
Chicken and quinoa bowl
Quinoa sushi bowl with baked tofu


  1. I am soooo excited about your tofu barley bowl recipe and that Korean BBQ sauce. I LOVE grain bowls! OK, I'm perhaps a little obsessed actually. It's my favourite way to eat because I live alone and it just makes my meal more fun.
    p.s. the 3pm slump is real! When I worked in a cubicle, I'd practically be in tears, feeling very sorry for myself because I just wanted to crawl into a bed and sleep, but I was stuck at a computer, struggling to get work done through the slump. It was probably pretty sad looking. Now that I am self-employed and work from home, it's no better, and it's a CONSTANT battle to get through the slump.
    Life is hard!

    1. I hear ya! People think working from home is relaxing, but that's not the case. And I totally agree that the bowls are perfect when you're cooking for one too.

  2. This looks and sounds delicious! I love making healthy meal bowls, I usually include lots of roasted ingredients because it's simple and makes for easy clean up. I've never thought to use barley as a base, I'll have to try that. I LOVE the tofu + Korean BBQ sauce in this recipe it sounds amazing!

    1. Thanks :) I found the pearl barley at Loblaws and love it. Quinoa and rice work well too

  3. Love the sounds of this! Bowls are so healthy and filling, and tofu is a great protein option. I don't cook with barley enough but it would be the perfect grain for this recipe!


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