What's on the menu this week?

Instant Pot Mujadarra (vegan, gluten-free)

Spaghetti with sauteed carrots and zuchini (vegetarian)

Burritos (vegetarian)

Soycatash Soup (vegan, gluten-free)

Cajun Gumbo

Ramen Soup with Chicken

Sunday- Instant Pot Mujadarra (lentils and rice)

This Middle-Eastern dish is an old favorite of mine, which I had put on the shelf because it’s time-consuming.  Thanks to the instant pot, it’s now fairly quick and easy!

Here’s the recipe link, which I used without making adjustments.  The taste is easy to like, enough that Raleigh went after it with a vengeance.  Even so, the blend of cinnamon and cumin is unique and the carmelized onion topping is fantastic.

Advance Prep Chopping your onions in advance is always a good idea.  Be aware that the recipe has you soaking your lentils for an hour before cooking.  You can easily start them soaking in the morning and get to work when you’re home.

Monday- Spaghetti with Sauteed Carrots and Zuchini
This one isn’t in season and isn’t nutritionally terrific.  Still, it’s haft vegetables, and after last week, we needed a win with dinner and the kids.

The recipe itself is in Forest Feast (Kids).  Here is a link to something close.  The only real switch would be adding zuchini ribbons too.

Advance Prep–  Everything here is quick to prepare and cook.  If you really need it to be done quickly on meal day, you could make the ribbons in advance, though I wouldn’t recommend keeping them for more than a few days once they’re prepped.

Tuesday- Veggie Burritos

This one is easy.  Soak and cook up some beans (you can open a can, if you’re pressed for time and don’t mind gas).  Steam up a vegetable or two.  Combine them in a whole wheat tortilla with your favorite extras and voila!  We went with broccoli, salsa, cheddar and avocado.  You can get as creative as you’d like.

Advance prep–  Soak your beans the day before.  Chop whatever veggies you plan to use and store in the fridge.

Wednesday- Soycatash Chowder

This is an adjusted version of a classic Moosewood Cookbook recipe.  For whatever reason, I can’t seem to find lima beans anymore.  They’re probably available canned, but I avoid canned beans (and other foods) any time I can.  Edamame are fairly similar, so I subbed those into this recipe.  I also subbed homemade cashew-oat milk for the standard milk this recipe calls for.

The milk and potatoes make for a creamy delicious chowder that the kids love.

Advance Prep

There wasn’t anything that needed advance prepping for this menu.  It’s simple to make.

Thursday- Cajun Gumbo

Mom brought this one by, with sourdough rolls to make bread bowls out of (for the kids).  I hadn’t had gumbo in forever and loved it.  The kids loved the bread bowls, enough to mostly ignore the soup.  As is often the case when Lee has a picky-eater friend over, the friend loved the soup enough to carry the bread bowl home with him (he was picked up a few minutes after we served dinner).  My kids? Not so much.  To be fair, the veggie sausage she used was spicy.

Mom mostly winged the recipe, but here’s one that I would make.  A tip if you’re adding faux sausage; fry it until browned and add it to the soup right before serving.  Faux sausage that has gotten soggy is hard to love.

Advance prep  Chop your veggies in advance and this will go quickly.

Friday- Easy Chicken Ramen

My wife has claimed ownership of this dish.  She keeps it simpler by leaving the egg out, but that doesn’t mean you need to.  My wife hates eggs and they’re my one food sensitivity.  I’d say the kids would like the ramen better with the egg in there, but it’s hard to picture them liking this any more than they already do.

Advance Prep  You can make as much or as little of this in advance as you’d like.  As long as you keep the noodles separate from the soup until serving, the taste won’t suffer.  If you’re going to make it more than three days in advance, consider either freezing the soup or leaving the chicken out until meal day (cook it in the broth on meal day).

Saturday- Kid'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 was a bit of a cop-out.  It was Rosalie’s brother’s birthday, so the whole family ate his dish.  Still, Lee liked it and loved eating with his cousins.

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.  When it’s time to wind down and stop entertaining/playing (i.e. bedtime), he suddenly remembers his need for food.

Mujadarra–  He took a bite and gave it a quick thumbs up, but didn’t return to it.  It might have been the mujadarra, or just how many pickled beets were going down instead. Thumbs down.

Spaghetti with sauteed Zuchini and Carrots–   This one is always a hit with Lee.  The plate wasn’t cleaned at dinnertime, but by the time bedtime came it was empty. Thumbs up.

Burritos-  Sometimes there’s no logic and no way to win.  Lee asked for burritos and ate only a tiny nibble of tortilla.  Thumbs down.

Soycatash Soup-  This is one that I know he likes.  He put it off until bedtime, but ate it all.  Thumbs up.

Cajun Gumbo–  The bread bowl was a hit, but the soup?  Not so much.  Thumbs down.

Chicken RamenCould it be that Lee got the Asiaphile gene from his dad?  It seems that way.  Thumbs enthusiastically up

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.

Mujadarra–  Just when I’m ready to give up, Raleigh polishes off his plate in about :56 seconds.  Finishing off the second helping took longer, but wow!  Thumbs up.

Spaghetti With Sauteed Carrot and Zuchini RibbonsWith a look of intense concentration, Raleigh stuffed fistfuls into his mouth, unfazed by the morsels falling onto the floor.  When his plate was clear, he moved to the floor and commenced shoveling those morsels into his mouth too, until Rosalie and decorum stepped in.  Thumbs up (way up).

Burrito–  Somewhat interested, but tonight was a night of distractions and little eating.  Thumbs down.

Soycatash Chowder–  Raleigh plowed through this without a pause.  Success!  Thumbs up.

Vegetarian Gumbo–  Like Lee, Raleigh was pro-bread bowl, so much so that the soup was completely neglected.  Sigh.  Mixed Reaction.

Chicken Ramen  My boys love meat and noodles, so no surprise that this one was a hit.  Thumbs up.