The four toppings I keep on hand every week to instantly elevate any grain bowl, salad, stir-fry, or pasta.
Here’s a secret to making simple food look and taste more complicated than it is: toppings! There are four key ingredients that I make sure I have on hand every single week to instantly elevate grain bowls, salads, stir-fries, and/or pasta. Sometimes I use all four, sometimes just one or two. In no particular order, here they are:
Sauce! I’ve long praised the ability of a sauce to make any humble weeknight meal so.much.better. Every week I either buy a clean store-bought dressing or sauce or make a simple one to use throughout the week.
In terms of store-bought dressings and sauces, I love the Trader Joe’s Almond Butter Turmeric, Carrot Ginger Miso, and Green Goddess (all refrigerated near the produce), the dressings by Tessemae’s, and the dressings by Primal Kitchen. The kale and cashew pesto from Trader Joe’s is a great one too.
Fresh herbs can freshen up any meal (and also make leftovers look way more appealing ;)). My two favorites are cilantro and basil because they cover a lot of bases: cilantro and basil for Asian-inspired meals (stir-fries, curries), basil for Italian-inspired meals (pasta, pizza), and cilantro for Mexican-Inspired meals (burrito bowls, tacos). Parsley is great too, though I use it more for a pop of color rather than flavor.
Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds bring something very important to the humble weekday meal: crunch! For the most flavor, roasted nuts and seeds are best. I’m a little obsessed with the Trader Joe’s Thai lime and chili almonds (so good), but any roasted nuts or seeds work. You can either buy them roasted or roast/toast them yourself. While not technically or a nut or a seed, coconut bacon is an amazing bowl or salad topping too. And you can’t go wrong with crispy chickpeas.
Bring the heat! Hot sauce brings color and another layer of flavor that works with most meals. Sriracha is the classic (I love this one too), but experimenting with different brands and styles is part of the fun. For Asian-inspired meals and some tacos, Sriracha mayo can’t be beaten – Chosen Foods avocado oil mayo is my favorite. Just mix with hot sauce to taste.
How To Use the Toppings
Use all or just one or two of the toppings, depending on the meal! For very simple dishes – like a grain + vegetable + protein – I tend to use all four. For more meals that already have a lot of flavors – like burrito bowls – I tend to use just one or two (chipotle tahini crema and cilantro!). Simply keep them on hand each week and never feel sad at lunch or dinnertime again.
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