Delicious VEG Staples #5: Brown rice bowl with kailan and marinated tofu

There are so many great reasons to eat more veg, more often. Reducing GHG emissions, improving health, saving money and preventing animal suffering are just some of the reasons for the growing interest in plant-based meals.

It can be a little daunting to get started - particularly if you usually cook with meat. To give you some inspiration, the VEG Action Group will be introducing some of our members and their favourite plant-based staples.

In the fifth post of our series, Claire Rowland from the VEG action group committee shares a little about herself and her staples.

Tell us a little about yourself…

I moved to Woodend with my family 2 years ago from busy Sydney. We were desperate for a less chaotic life, greater connections to community and to the natural world. My husband Jon and I love our life here. So does Jack (6) and Alice (4). I’m particularly thankful for the open hearted generosity we have encountered, the connections we have built and the passion people have for a simpler life and a more sustainable planet.

I’ve been a vegetarian for 20 years. My journey as a vegetarian has not followed a linear path. At times I’ve been a strict vegetarian (definitely no parmesan or marshmallows), at other times I have not been as strict and included fish in my diet. Now, armed with more information about health, the environment and animal welfare issues (particularly after watching the movie Dominion last year at a MR VEG event), I am leaning towards a dairy free plant based diet 4-5 days a week. It is doable, even with kids, you just need an understanding of nutrition (which we all should have, really) and some planning.

Most vegetarians, flexitarians and vegans have taken two steps forward and one step back at some point in their diet. This is a key reason why the VEG Action Group focuses on “more veg more often” and does not pass judgement on people’s dietary choices. Instead we use the skills we have gained to support others to reach their own dietary goals, whether it be to eat more veg (with their meat) or to start a raw vegan diet.

What are the main considerations you have when planning your meals?

When I cook, I do so fo the whole family, there are no dishes for the adults and others for the kids. I wish I had time for that! My husband is a flexitarian, so eats meat very occasionally, but not at home. He say’s he feels more healthy on a veg diet. I do miss spicy dishes but usually find I can add spice (particularly chilli or chilli sauces) to my bowl after cooking. Or I max out the spice when I go out. I’m also building the kids tolerance to spice slowly in our dishes.

I do cater for my children (aged 6 and 4) somewhat. They are excellent veggie eaters, but prefer a deconstructed dish (with everything separate rather than mixed in) and seem to dislike onion. My son has sensitive skin and needs additional nutritional support so a high protein, non-inflammatory diet is important for him. Cooking for the kids has certainly challenged me, I’ve had to become more creative and try many a new ingredients (particularly when my son first went dairy free).

I have a veggie patch but I wouldn’t say it is so prolific that it guides our food choices, it is more supplementary at the moment.

What are your favourite ingredients to work with and why?

I love Tofu for its versatility, miso for the salt, asian vegetables (Kailan in particular) for being light and fresh with a crunch, rice for the smell, taste and texture, lentils for dahl (yum) and chickpeas for the delicious flavour.

Can you tell us a little about one of your staple dishes?

I’ve been drinking a lot of green smoothies lately. I make a jug in the morning and drink it throughout the day - it is my answer to hating breakfast, for some reason a liquid one is more palatable. The kids aren’t quite convinced, yet! Here’s an example:

GREEN SMOOTHIE (use a high speed blender)

  • 2 bananas

  • 1 apple

  • 4 silverbeet leaves or other green leaves like spinach or kale)

  • 1/2 teaspoon flaxseeds (for omega 3)

  • handful of almonds (protein)

  • water (to desired consistency)

As to food, our staples tend to be bowl food - stir fries, buddha bowls, and curries.

CONGEE Recently I have been loving congee, with a mix of what ever green veggies are on hand, shitake mushrooms, and some tofu or egg to finish it off. Awesome food for a cold day. Just add 6-7 cups water/stock, and a knob of ginger, cut finely to 1 cup of brown rice. Once cooked to your desired consistency, throw some chia seeds in for omega 3 goodness and then top with your favourite veggies, a dash of soy sauce or other sauce and some dried onions on top.

BROWN RICE BOWL I often make basic brown rice bowl meal - similar to the one shown here with egg, tofu, Kailan (chinese broccoli) and sesame seeds. The kids love these bowls as they can pick and choose and mix as they like. We put extra of each topping in the middle of the table so each person can add to their dish as they go. What goes in changes all the time depending on the veg available and the amount of energy I have.

Brown rice bowl with Kailan, egg and marinated tofu

Brown rice bowl with Kailan, egg and marinated tofu

KAILAN with a delicious sauce (that my kids love)

kai lan.jpg

Steam the Kailan, don’t over cook. If you want to serve Kailan to your kids, just chop it up small (as shown in the image above) . The sauce is pretty fast to make up but I have taken to prepping this on the weekend and storing it in the fridge as a go-to sauce when needed to save time in cooking.


  • 1/2 teaspoon cornflour

  • 2 tbsp water

  • 2 tablespoon mushroom sauce (oyster sauce alternative found in Asian stores)

  • 2 tsp soy sauce

  • 1 tbsp chinese cooking wine

  • 1/2 tsp sesame oil

  • 1/2 tbsp vegetable oil

  • 1/2 tsp sugar

  • 1 clove minced garlic

  • 1 tsp fresh ginger

Combine water and corn flour in a small pot, mix to dissolve. Add the remaining ingredients, bring to the boil on the stove. Cook for 30 seconds to allow to thicken, then remove from the stove.

TOFU MARINADE I’ve started marinating tofu when I buy it, so I have it on hand when I need it in the week. It also reduces the work in producing dishes like this - all that is left to do is cook the tofu! Simply mix the following ingredients together (add chilli if you want a kick) and soak your hard tofu in it in the fridge before frying or baking it. My kids love it!

  • 4 tbsp soy sauce

  • 3 tbsp rice vinegar

  • 1 tbsp pure maple syrup

  • 1 tsp sesame oil

  • 2 garlic cloves, minced

  • 1 tbsp freshly grated ginger

  • 2-3 tbsp coconut oil

Is there anything you’d like to cook more of and why?

I’d love to do more spicy noodle soups. Winter is the perfect time, so I think I will have to start including them in my lunchtime schedule.

If you, our readers, have a favourite staple you’d like to share, get in contact with Claire at