Simple Build-a-Spanish-Rice-Bowl

Sometimes I think I have picky eaters at my house. Then I realize that my kids eat a huge variety of foods and I should be grateful.

I mean, when I was a little girl, I liked exactly two varieties of fruits and vegetables: green beans (canned) and apples (with the peeling off). Somehow this kept me alive, I made it to college, and learned to eat salads (to avoid the Freshman 15, of course). Later, I got married and found out about a thing called broccoli. Little by little through the years, I’ve tried and liked dozens of fruits and veggies, expanding my repertoire many times over.

Though I still don’t like jicama.

It’s okay though because I often sit in my recliner snacking on raw spinach, which isn’t even weird, not even a little bit, am I right? I can’t figure out why my teenagers tease me about this.

Well anyway, my kids aren’t really picky, I’m realizing, because they like and eat a big variety of fruits and veggies. But still, we all have our preferences. Some of us really like cheese and some of us think it’s fun to snack on spinach.

Because of our wide variety of preferences, sometimes, instead of making a meal that everyone has to eat whether they like it or not, it’s fun to instead set out a big buffet of choices and everyone can build their own plate or bowl.

I love this idea so much that I include a category for this every single week in our Simple Meals plans. Build-Your-Own buffets are a huge time saver and make for a really fun meal too!

Today’s idea is Build a Spanish Rice Bowl.

I used to make Spanish Rice all in one pot, but some people like corn and some don’t. Some like black beans and some don’t. Some want sour cream and some don’t. I have found it easiest to simply set out all the fixin’s and let everyone build their bowl the way they like.

We each pile in our favorites:

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Then stir it up and dive in.

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The bowl above has a lot of greens (bet you can guess which mom that belongs to), no rice (can we even still call it spanish rice?), a whole lotta ground beef and black beans, and a dollop of sour cream.

But this one got piled up with rice, meat, beans, corn, and salsa without the greens and sour cream.

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So it got stirred up to look like this.

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At the end of the meal, everyone was satisfied and happy because their bowl was filled with everything they wanted and nothing they didn’t want. Of course, many participants in this meal filled their bowl more than once, which is also fun because they could either choose to fill it the same way as the first time or create something new the second (or third) time around.

Build a Spanish Rice Bowl

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Simple Build-a-Spanish-Rice-Bowl
Serves: 4-6
  • 1 pound ground beef, seasoned with chili powder, garlic powder, and salt
  • 2 cups cooked brown rice
  • 1 can black beans
  • 1 can sliced olives
  • Shredded cheese
  • Sour cream
  • Salsa
  • Fresh greens
  • Cooked corn
  1. Set out any or all of the ingredients listed above, along with anything else your family might like.
  2. Allow each person to fill their bowl the way they like.

Those are just some of the foods you might want to set out for your Build a Spanish Rice Bowl buffet. I’d love to hear of any add-in ideas your family might like.

Build a Spanish Rice Bowl

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Spanish Rice ~ Real Food Dollar Menu

I love how versitile this recipe is. Have a little bit of cooked chicken or beef to use up? Throw it into the pot! Want black beans instead of meat? Perfect. Don’t want any meat or beans at all? Leave them out.

Sometimes I like to stir in one cup of sour cream if I have it. That raises the cost of this meal, so adding the sour cream only happens if I have some that I need to use up. Also, the corn is optional. I love the sweetness that it adds, but two of my boys prefer it without the corn.

Confused yet? Don’t worry. Here’s the actual “recipe”  – but just know that this one lends itself to a lot of flexibility. Do with it what works best for cleaning out the leftovers in your fridge. Or make it depending on what you’re hungry for at the moment. No matter how you make it, you’ll be serving a healthy meal without spending much money!

Spanish Rice

3 cups water or broth
1 1/2 cups brown rice
2 cups salsa
1 cup cooked chicken, cooked ground beef, or black beans
1 cup frozen corn

Boil water. Add rice, stir, cover, and simmer for 45 minutes.

Add salsa, chicken, and corn.  Cook on medium heat until warmed through and through.

Serves 6



Dollar Menu Cost BreakDown:

Spanish Rice = $5.35* which divides to 89¢ per person. I typically serve this with fruit, so the additional cost will vary depending on what is served with the Spanish Rice. If I serve it with applesauce that I made from free apples – the cost is practically free. If I serve it with smoothies from frozen berries and yogurt or kefir, the prices is going to be a bit more.

*I calculated my cost based on the food sources and prices I have available to me. Most of the ingredients I use are organic. Your cost may be slightly more or less depending on where you find your ingredients.

What would be your favorite add-ins to this meal?  Chicken or beef are my favorites, but I’m a meat lovin’ girl, so that probably comes as no surprise. :)