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Fiesta Salad and Grain Bowl
Classic Mexican flavors reimagined in a trendy new culinary vessel
May Food 1

Recently when out with friends in Atlanta, I stumbled into the relatively new “rice bowl” food fad, which I’m told by hipper people is very much in vogue at the moment.

For the last several years, chains and standalone restaurants specializing in serving rice bowls have sprung up all over the country, selling rice and salad dishes that are highly creative and jam-packed with fresh vegetables, meat, creative toppings and topped with some kind of “flavor inspired” sauce like, chipotle ranch or spicy green curry.

I had seen relatively similar options for burrito bowls before at the regular burrito chains, but had never thought to try them. So I was intrigued but skeptical if a bowl of wild rice, leafy greens, meat, toppings and garnishes would be enough to fill me up when finally I was cajoled into trying one out. But after diving into a Mexican-themed rice bowl, experiencing the great mixture of fresh and savory flavors, and after feeling like I had eaten something truly nutritious rather than like I needed a “2-pound burrito nap,” I instantly became a fan.

I was struck by how easily what I ate could be customized for any cuisine taste, any dietary restriction; and can basically be made from whatever might be in your fridge and pantry.

"I really love the rice bowl or whole grain bowl trend, because it encourages you to incorporate a lot of color which means a lot of different vitamins and minerals, types of fiber, and it ends up making nutritious eating really fun," said Elyse Sartor, outpatient nutritionist for Northside Hospital, including the Forsyth location.

Sartor said that the “star” of rice bowl recipes is all the different vegetables that it brings into the mix, cleverly mixing greens, protein and carbs into a balanced meal that tastes as good as it feels.

"That's important because it's going to help you feel full and it’s going to help you get all the micronutrients you need," Sartor said. "So it's helping with weight management in the long term."

Sartor added that this recipe is rich in B vitamins, necessary minerals like zinc, selenium, potassium, magnesium, is a good source of fiber, and provides a balance of protein, healthy fat and carbohydrate. She said that it also contains no added sugar and meets the guidelines for a low sodium meal.

For this month’s Simple, Healthy, Delicious column, I chose to recreate the fiesta chicken rice bowl that I fell in love with, and give you some tips on how you can make and customize it at home. 

Ingredients – Fiesta Salad and Grain Bowl

Black beans – 2 cups

Wild rice – 2 cups

Mixed spring greens – 8 cups

Avocado – 1 whole, diced

Red bell pepper – 1 medium pepper, diced

Corn – 1/2 cup

Homemade Pico de Gallo – 1 ½ cup

Jalapeño – chopped

Fresh cilantro

Lime juice

Ingredients – Fiesta Chicken

Chicken breasts – 1 pound

Dry rub spice blend – Equal parts chili powder, turmeric, cumin, garlic powder, lime zest, paprika, coriander; bump up the chili powder and garlic if you want your chicken to have a bit more spice.

Homemade Pico de Gallo

Tomatoes – 1 pound, finely chopped

Onion –1 medium, finely chopped

Jalapeño – 1 whole, finely chopped

Cilantro – ½ cup, roughly chopped

Lime juice – 1 whole lime

May Food 2
- photo by Alexander Popp


1.       Chicken isn’t exactly the focal point of this recipe, but it is an important part, so the first thing you’ll want to do is prep your bird. Wash the chicken breasts, pat them dry and cut each in half once widthwise, so each breast is sliced thin. After you slice the chicken, rub each piece down with a generous amount of the spice blend. Make sure that they are fully coated in the rub. Cover and set aside in the fridge, while you prep your vegetables.

2.       Chop all vegetables as required and cook your rice according to its packaging directions.

3.       Take your chicken out of refrigerator and grill or bake it until its internal temperature reaches 165 degrees. For best results I would recommend heading out to the grill or using the trusty cast iron skillet to get your chicken crispy and delicious. 

4.       When the chicken is done, allow it to cool and then chop it into bite-size pieces.

5.       Once everything is ready, prepare your Pico de Gallo by roughly chopping all the ingredients and mixing them in a bowl. Make sure you don’t discard any of the liquid from your tomato, that juice will make your Pico extra saucy.

6.       Bowl all of your ingredients with a layer of rice, a layer of spring greens, a layer of ingredients, and topped with Pico de Gallo. Add extra jalapeño, lime juice, and or cilantro, if that sounds good to you.

7.    Enjoy and repeat! This can be done with a variety of different ingredients. Consider making a bowl with Asian, Thai, Indian or American influences, by subbing out toppings or protein, and adding different sauces.