Bulgur Wheat with Cherries, Almonds & Green Beans - A Formula Meal

Are you familiar with formula meals yet? The basic concept is to work with a few whole ingredients - seasonal produce, proteins, healthy fats, herbs and spices that can be mixed and matched in any number of ways. I've found planning meals this way to be ingenious because it:

~ saves time

~ allows flexibility

~ requires no recipe

~ boosts kitchen confidence

~ fosters creativity

~ reduces food waste

~ packs in plenty of quality nutrients

This meal is both the result of this process, and my desire to experiment with combining sweet with savory. If that's not your jam, no worries! That's the beauty of the formula. You choose:

~ what you enjoy eating

~ what's in season

~ what's available

~ what fits your budget


Here's how it works. You choose a whole grain, some veggies (cooked, raw or a combination), additional protein, dressing, seasonings and/or herbs. The formula that works well is:

1 part cooked whole grain

2 parts veggies

1 part additional protein

1/8 - 1/4 part dressing

seasonings and/or herbs to taste

Here are some ideas:

Whole grains (cooked) or grain substitutes ~

~ barley, hulled - pearled barley has had the nutritious bran removed

~ buckwheat (kasha)

~ cracked wheat

~ farro (emmer wheat)

~ kamut

~ legume pastas: lentil, black bean, edamame

~ millet

~ quinoa

~ oat groats (whole kernel, only husk removed)

~ rice: black, brown, burgundy or wild

~ rye groats (whole kernel, only husk removed)

~ spelt berries

~ teff (tiny grain, cooks like a porridge)

~ whole wheat berries, soft white

~ whole wheat bulgur

~ whole wheat couscous

~ whole wheat orzo

~ whole wheat small shell pasta

This is wheat bulgur

Veggies ~ (raw, pickled, fermented, steamed, roasted, grilled, lightly sautéed or a combination of any of these)

~ artichoke hearts

~ beets

~ baby bok choy

~ broccoli (broccolini or broccoli raab)

~ cabbage

~ carrots

~ cauliflower

~ corn

~ cucumbers

~ eggplant

~ fennel

~ kale or chard

~ kohlrabi

~ onions

~ parsnips

~ peas (shelling, sugar snap or snow)

~ peppers (sweet, hot, or both!)

~ radishes

~ spinach

~ summer squash

~ sweet potatoes

~ tomatoes

~ winter squash

Additional protein (yes, plants DO have protein!) ~

~ Beans: cannellini, kidney, garbanzo, navy, black, adzuki, edamame, yellow-eyed, Jacob's cattle, green or black lentils

~ Tofu: extra-firm, cubed

~ Tempeh: smoked or regular

~ Nuts and Seeds: (these also add healthy fats) sliced almonds, walnuts, cashews, pecans, pistachios, filberts, Brazil nuts, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds (pepitas), sunflower seeds, peanuts (not a true nut, but a legume)

Dressing ~

I like to keep it simple and use a fresh vinaigrette. If you have some left-over vinaigrette, fantastic! Use it here, just keep in mind any herbs/spices already in the vinaigrette when adding additional fresh herbs. The basic vinaigrette ratio is 1 part vinegar to 3 parts extra virgin olive oil. Then season with a touch of salt and pepper. If you prefer LESS acid, use citrus juice instead of (or in addition to) vinegar. You can also add a touch of honey or maple syrup to balance the acidity.

Seasonings ~

Seasonings can either be added directly to the vinaigrette or added to the dish separately. Use fresh herbs whenever available, just keep in mind you will need more fresh herbs than dried. You can also use dried ground spices. Think about what you enjoy eating (and smelling!) and don't be afraid to experiment... just start with a small amount, taste and adjust.

Here are some fresh herbs to consider:

~ basil (so many varieties available now!)

~ chives (have you tried garlic chives yet?!)

~ cilantro (or Chinese parsley)

~ dill

~ fennel fronds

~ lovage or celery leaves

~ mint (also many varieties)

~ oregano, Greek or Mexican

~ rosemary

~ sage

~ savory, summer or winter

~ scallions or bunching onions

~ tarragon, French (Russian is much less flavorful)

~ thyme (have you tried lemon or orange thyme yet?!)

~ edible flowers: (nasturtium, pansy, borage, bachelor buttons, calendula, etc). For a great list of edible flowers and their flavor profiles, check out THIS POST (about 3/4 of the way down)!

Other ideas ~

~ artichokes, marinated

~ avocado, diced - keep in mind it may oxidize quickly

~ fermented veggies

~ fruit, dried: chopped dates, apricots, prunes, figs, pineapple, cranberries, raisins, cherries

~ fruit, fresh (or grilled): apples, pears, peaches, pineapple, nectarines, plums

~ olives, any kind

The idea is to experiment and see what you like. Once combined, three to four days is usually the maximum time a formula meal like this will stay fresh. If you're preparing a meal for those with discerning palates, you can easily keep each part separate and serve "build-your-own" style. Any leftovers make excellent lunches!

This one pictured contains the following:

  • wheat bulgur

  • small red kidney beans

  • fresh green beans, sautéed

  • fresh Bing cherries

  • caramelized onions, diced

  • sliced almonds, toasted

  • fresh herbs: chives, basil and French tarragon

  • Dijon mustard vinaigrette

So if I want to end up with 4 servings (2 cups each), let's take a quick look at that formula again:

1 part cooked whole grain

2 parts veggies

1 part additional protein

1/8 - 1/4 part dressing

seasonings and/or herbs to taste

These are the quantities I used to make this one: [2 cups = 1 part]

2 cups cooked bulgur wheat

2.5 cups green beans (sautéed)

1 cup fresh cherries

1/2 cup caramelized onions

4 cups total (the individual amounts can be anything you like)

1.5 cups small kidney beans

1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted

6 - 8 Tbsp dressing

2 Tbsp fresh French tarragon

Toss together and you're DONE! Easily scaled up or down.

Let me know what your favorite combinations are... I love trying new ideas!

Nutrition information is for a 2 cup serving using the above formula (1/8 part vinaigrette).

DISCLOSURES: None. This post was not created in affiliation with any product or brand. The opinions expressed are my own. I will only write about products I use and trust.

NOTE: All photos and content are copyright protected. Please do not use my photos without prior written permission.

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CatherineeBrown@hotmail.com  603-237-1012  PO Box 253 Errol, NH 03579