What's on the menu this week?

Egg Roll Noodle Bowl (gluten-free, can be vegan)

The Glorious Ganesha (Indian Bowl)  (vegetarian, gluten-free)

Vietnamese Lentil Tacos (vegan, gluten-free)

BBQ Chickpeas and Green Beans (vegan, gluten-free)

Butternut Squash Enchiladas (vegan, gluten-free)

Instant Pot Cuban Black Bean Soup (vegetarian, gluten-free)

Sunday- Egg Roll Noodle Bowl
This one is simple and tasty.  If you’re going to use meat, I highly recommend getting it sourced as clean as possible (here’s why).  We used a vegetarian faux meat crumble.  Not really healthy, but cheaper, easier less problematic than most meat.

Advance Prep

Shred your cabbage and carrot in advance.  They go into the skillet at the same time, so you can store them together.

Monday- The Glorious Ganesha (Indian Bowl)
I plan on posting a proper recipe for this someday.  For now, I’ll summarize.

Cook up some brown or basmati rice.

Use the Chick Peas you made on your prep day, or open a can and rinse them.  Sautee half an onion you chopped on your prep day.  Stir in a small spoonful of Tikka Masala paste and about the same amount of tamarind paste, then add (already cooked) chick peas.  Sample and add more beans and onions (if too spicy or sour) or more spices (if too bland).  Continue sauteeing for a minute or two, then remove from heat.  Easy.  Increase or decrease your portions, depending on whether you want to pack up a couple more meals to take to work or store.

Chop a head of cauliflower.  Toss it with 1 tsp turmeric, Himalayan salt (to taste) and 1 TBSP oil.  Bake at 400 until lightly brown; around 30-40 minutes.

Steam some kale prepped on your prep day.

Blister some cherry tomatoes.

Make your sauce!  Blend ¼ cup cucumber, ½ tsp cumin, ¼ tsp salt,1 small clove garlic and ½ cup yogurt.  If you’d rather go vegan, blend 1/2 cup cashews, 1/4 cup water, 1/4 cup cucumber, 1/4 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp garlic,1/4 tsp cumin, and1 TBSP lemon juice.

Portion out the above ingredients into bowls for everybody eating.  If kids are involved, let them build their own bowls.  Pour your sauce over the top and enjoy!

Take any extra ingredients and build bowls into storage containers.  Now you’ve got some reheatable take-to-work lunches too!

Advance prep

I’d recommend making everything in these bowls in advance.  Fully assemble any that are going to work in to go containers.  On meal day, assemble each bowl (without sauce) and warm it up.  Add the sauce and serve.

Tuesday- Vietnamese Lentil Tacos
We’re into Taco Tuesday in my house.  There’s almost no end to the variety you can use, or you can just stick to the basics.

I’m afraid there’s no link to pass on to you for this recipe.  If you’d like the proper one, you’ll need to buy Forest Feast Gatherings.  It’s pretty simple though.  Cook up some green lentils.  Assemble tacos as you normally would, using the lentils as the protein source.  Consider also using shredded cabbage, thinly sliced radish and/or cucumber and diced mint leaves.  Sweet chili sauce will give it a SE Asian flavor.  You could also make up an easy peanut sauce like this one (but don’t use Jif, for god’s sake).

Advance Prep

There isn’t much to do in advance; this recipe is simple.  You can shred the cabbage in advance to save a bit of time.  You could also start the lentils in the morning if you have an instant pot.

Wednesday- BBQ Green Beans and Chickpeas
This simple vegan dish has become a staple.  It does well with the kids too, unless they’re expressing some unrelated point through what they’re choosing not to eat.

Advance Prep

Soak and Cook the chick peas on your prep day.  You can use canned, of course, but they’re harder to digest, which means more gas and less nutrients.  Prep the green beans too.  I haven’t tried it yet (too little fridge space in our house), but I’m guessing you could assemble everything advance and store the ready-to-go casserole dish until meal day.

Thursday- Vegan Butternut Squash Enchiladas
Here’s the link.

Advance prep

Roast your butternut squash.  Yeah, the link is for roasting pumpkins, but the technique is identical, and two are interchangeable in most recipes.  The tomato sauce can also be made in advance, and there’s no reason not to.  As with any time you see “can of black beans” in a recipe, you’re better off soaking them and cooking them on your prep day, unless you enjoy that bloated, gassy feeling.

Friday- Instant Pot Cuban Black Bean Soup
This is a classic Moosewood recipe, adapted for the instant pot.  You can make it on the stove top too, using this version.

The sweetness of the orange juice gives this an unexpected and wonderful flavor.

Advance prep

Soak and rinse your black beans on your prep day.  Chopping up your onion, carrot and bell pepper is a great time saver too.  If you’re using the stove top to cook the soup, you can cook the black beans on your prep day, if that’s more convenient.

Saturday- Lee's choice
There’s no recipe to share here, just a concept.  If you’re got kids, it’s a good idea to let them choose the meal here and there.  We give Lee one every week.  He mostly chooses sushi, but sometimes he mixes it up.

This week it was take out sushi, with Raleigh suffering from food poisoning and Rosalie visiting a friend in Seattle.  Good times.

btw- Lee is my six year old son.

Snack- Homemade hummus
Since I was using chick peas in two meals this week already, making hummus was an easy addition.  Store bought hummus is easy enough to find, but I’ve yet to find any that didn’t use unhealthy oils.  Since this one takes 5 minutes (assuming chick peas are cooked and ready), why not?

Here’s the link.

Using a Prep Day

You don’t need to use a prep day, but if you find yourself struggling to find time to cook, it’s worth trying.  To do it, set aside 60-90 minutes on an off day.  Put on some music, a Netflix comedy show or documentary, or whatever else calls out to you.

1) Soak your beans the night before.  Drain, rinse and cook.  If you don’t have an instant pot, this is a good reason to get one: soaked beans cook very quickly.

2) Cut and roast any ingredients that will need more than 20 minutes to cook on meal day (sweet potatoes, squash, pumpkin, etc.).  Bake at 400 for 30ish minutes, until fork soft.

3) While these are cooking, go through your recipes and chop all the veggies in advance.  Bag them up and put them in the fridge.  The exception here is white potatoes; they will not keep well, even for a few hours.

4) If you’re making your lunches in advance, cook any grains and whatever veggies are going to be a part of this.  When everything is ready, box them up so they’re ready to go.

5) Make your sauces and store them.

6)  Prep whatever non-meal items you’ll be eating this week.

7) Pat yourself on the back for making it easy to eat healthy all week.

Lee's verdict

Dinner is usually a hard sell for Lee.  He’ll try things, but with a table full of family members to entertain, he’s usually not interested in eating.

Egg Roll Noodle Bowl–  Lee closed this out at dinner time!  He even asked for seconds (which happens every 4 months or so). Thumbs up!

Indian Bowl.  I didn’t have high hopes for this dinner, but Lee ate all the vegetables, leaving only the rice.  Thumbs up.

Tacos–  The lentils were met with skepticism, but as cheese and sour cream were involved, he eventually ate it.  Mixed reaction

BBQ Chickpeas and Green beans-   More along his usual reaction scheme, this was ignored until before bedtime, when it was finished.  Thumbs up.

Butternut Enchiladas-  We thought we were throwing Lee a bone by adding some cotija on top of these.  He picked off the cheese with nose turned up and ate half of the rest, unenthusiastically. Thumbs down. 

Black Bean Soup– Had he taken a bite, he might have liked this, but we’ll never know.   Thumbs down.

Raleigh's verdict

The concept of moderation is unfamiliar to Raleigh.  He either stuffs fistfuls into his mouth until no more fits, or spends his time climbing the chairs and testing the acoustics of the dining room.  Dinner is also not his best time.  He averages around 2.3 breakfasts and usually annihilates lunch, but eating dinner is a rare event.

Egg Roll Noodle Bowl–  Raleigh was all kinds of excited about the noodles, until we were all at the dinner table.  Before he lost interest, half of his bowl was gone.  Grading on a curve, this is a Thumbs up.

Indian Bowl–  No surprises here, the roasted cauliflower and chickpeas are apparently less attractive than beads.  The cherry tomatoes were eaten though.  Thumbs down

Tacos–  Raleigh is officially over tacos.  Maybe the whole concept of dinner. On the plus side (I guess), he wants to eat everything while it’s in the kitchen being prepared. Thumbs down.

BBQ Chickpeas and Green Beans  He ate a few bites, when they were fed to him.  I don’t understand why he doesn’t like this one; I’m guessing it would do fine at lunch.  Thumbs down.

Butternut Enchiladas–  Hell hath no fury like a two-year old’s scorn. Thumbs down.

Black Bean Soup–  It seems that the 24-hour stomach flu hit Raleigh today.  Instead of soup, he got some broth and crackers.  Other details will remain unspoken.  No reaction