What's on the menu this week?

Happy 2019!  Let’s get this started out right, with some great recipes to help you with those resolutions.


Turkish Lentil Soup with Mint (vegan)

Dill Pickle Soup with Fried Polenta (vegetarian)

Bi Bim Bap (gluten-free, can easily be made vegan)

Octoberfest (vegetarian)

Sweet Potato Kale Gratin (vegetarian, can easily be vegan and gluten-free)

Rainbow Pizza (vegetarian)

Sauteed Collards and Sweet Potato Fries

Sunday- Turkish Lentil Soup with Mint
I can’t say enough good things about this recipe.  It’s healthy, cheap, tasty and easy to make.  The kids aren’t as excited about it as they are pizza, but they are just as likely to eat it.

I’d recommend a tweak to the recipe.  Take a bunch of chard, separate the stems and discard.  Chop the leaves and set aside until the soup is done cooking.  Add them at the end, after turning off the heat, cover and let sit for five minutes.  The latent heat will cook the chard.  Skip the croutons, unless they help the kids get excited.

If you have an instant pot, do all of the sauteeing in the pot.  When adding the stock and all the other ingredients, turn off the heat until everything is in there.  Set on pressure cook for 7 minutes and allow natural pressure release when finished.  Add the bulgur, mint and chard after the cooking and venting is complete.  Put the lid back on for five minutes and allow the residual heat to cook them.  If you’re doing the instant pot, use 4 cups stock instead of 5.

Personally, I see no need to do step three of the recipe.  This soup is already creamy without running it through a blender.

Advance Prep

Chopping your onions in advance is always a good idea.  Beyond that, there isn’t anything here that needs prepping.

Monday- Dill Pickle Soup with Fried Polenta
My wife and I discovered this soup in Hamtramck, while on a Detroit odyssey.  It took some convincing, but once we tried it, we loved it.  We talked about it for years before making the obvious realization: “hey, we should make that!”  The recipe isn’t particularly healthy, but with a few tweaks, it can be made reasonable.  First, use either butter from pasture raised cows or coconut oil.  Second, replace the milk with nut milk.  We used the homemade cashew-oat milk that we always have in our fridge.  If you want to step it up, you can use salt-water fermented pickles instead of the standard dill pickles.  I haven’t tried it yet, but will do so in the future.  If you do this, add the pickles and brine after the soup cooks; the high heat will kill the probiotic bacteria in the pickles and brine.

The polenta is a simple add-on, to get the kids on board.  Grab a polenta log and slice it into thin (1/2-1″) rounds.  Fry it on one side until crisp and flip it.  Put a bit of cheese (or other topping) on it and cook for a minute or two.  Serve hot.

Advance prep

Nothing in this dish is time consuming, so no need to advance prep.  You could cook the whole thing in advance and store it, if you’d like.


Tuesday- Bi Bim Bap

This simple Korean dish is one of the first healthy recipes I loved, back as a college kid.  It’s nothing more than rice, prepared veggies, an (optional) egg, and spicy-sweet hot sauce.  Simple, but delicious.  To make it vegan, just omit the egg and add some extra mushrooms or sauteed tofu/tempeh.

If you’re making this for kids, you’ll probably have to make a mild sauce.  I whisked some Bragg’s Sauce, sesame oil, rice vinegar and coconut sugar together over low heat until it was well mixed.  The kids liked it.

Advance Prep–  You can save time by shredding the carrots and cucumbers in advance, but they won’t keep well.  I’d recommend starting the rice, then preparing everything on meal day while the rice cooks.  If you’re in a time pinch though, you can prep everything but the rice in advance and just assemble at mealtime.

Wednesday- Octoberfest Sampler
We tried this a couple months ago and it turned out great.  I’d never made potato pancakes before and used this recipe.  Everybody loved them.  If you have kids, try having them help you form the patties; messy but fun.

For the garnish, we used a quick homemade applesauce: 1 giant apple and some cinnamon send through the blender until smooth.  No need to cook or peel the apples, keeping it simpler keeps it healthier and it still works well with the pancakes.  We also used the leftover sour cream from the soup the previous day.

Sausage is easy; buy it and fry it.  We used Field Roast Apple Sage faux sausage, which all of us love.

Finally, sauerkraut and mustard to go with the sausage.  You can buy the typical vinegar fermented sauerkraut, which is high in salt but otherwise fine.  For a bit more money, you can pick up fermented sauerkraut, which is not only delicious, but very healthy too.

Thursday- Sweet Potato Gratin
This was a new recipe for us and it’s one that will enter the rotation.  We made a few adjustments to boost the health of the dish, but it’s healthy even if you don’t.  We swapped out the milk for our homemade cashew-oat milk.  We also added some parmesan to the top of the dish.  Why remove the milk and add cheese?  Our homemade milk is healthier and tastier.  You can make some adjustments or cook it as is. Parmesan added to the flavor of the dish, but if you’re doing this, I’d recommend cutting the lemon juice out, since the parmesan will add the punch that the lemon juice is there to provide.

Make it vegan-  The butter and milk are unnecessary for this dish.  Using a milk substitute will work fine, as will coconut or avocado oil.

Advance prep

Chopping the sweet potato and kale in advance will save you time on meal day.  If you really want  to save time on meal day, you can follow steps one and two on your prep day, let the dish cool and put it in the fridge or freezer.  From there, just bake it on your meal day.

Friday- Rainbow Pizza
This Rainbow Pizza is too time-consuming for a normal workday, but it’s a fantastic one for making with the kids.   Making the dough is fun, and you’ll get some beets into the family without anybody noticing.  The toppings are all veggies, and are eye-candy to boot.  Fun + visual appeal = an easy sell for the kids.  Beyond that, it was delicious.

Advance Prep

You could make the dough on your prep day, but it kind of defeats the point.  This one isn’t the healthiest option out there; it’s there more as a vegetable-delivery-system for the wee ones, or as a potluck dish.  Either way, make it on a weekend and allow a few hours for the dough to rise.

Saturday- Lee's choice (Sauteed Collards and Sweet Potato Oven Fries)
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.

Holy smokes, this week Lee chose homemade collard greens from our garden!  There are so many moments where I’m wringing my hands about what the kids are eating.  This was one of those moments when it all seemed worth it.

To make these, start by removing the stems from a bunch of collards.  Discard the stems and chop the leaves into bite-sized pieces.  Chop an onion.  Chop and Seed a red pepper.  Saute the onion and pepper while steaming the collards.  The collards should be soft at about the time the onions are translucent.  Combine the greens, onions and peppers in your saute pan.  Add garlic to taste, 1/4 cup broth, a tablespoon of apple cider and/or balsamic vinegar, and salt to taste.  Cook until the greens taste done.  Optionally, add some bulgur wheat or couscous to soak up the excess juice and cook for a couple minutes until soft.

Sweet Potato Oven Fries are also simple.  I improvise, but here’s a recipe to get you started, if you’d like one.  I can’t swear by this, since I haven’t tried it, but with hair like that I can only assume that the fries will turn out well.

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.

Lentil Soup–  Unenthusiastic, but he did clear out his bowl before bedtime, as is his way. Thumbs up.

Dill Pickle Soup–   He ate a few of the polenta discs, but wouldn’t try the soup. Thumbs down.

Bi Bim Bap-  He cleared out the veggies and egg, leaving behind the rice.  Thumbs up (slightly).

Octoberfest-  Dinner was a struggle this week.  I know Lee likes all of these things, but he still little more than nibble the edges. Thumbs down.

Sweet Potato Kale Gratin–  Not sure why, but Lee dislikes all of the gratin dishes, even though he likes every one of the components.  Thumbs down.

Rainbow PizzaThe hit of the week, no surprises there. 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.

Let’s keep this simple.  Raleigh is now able to express what he wants with words and he doesn’t understand why we aren’t doing it.  He doesn’t understand why we won’t give him blueberries alone for every meal.  He yells about it and generally ruins dinner for everybody else around him.  He likes the food when it comes out of mom’s bowl, but mostly won’t touch anything in his own bowl.  I don’t think it’s a food thing as much as a control thing.  This will take some patience.  In the meantime, expect uniform thumbs down reviews from this critic.  

The exceptions this week were the dill pickle soup and rainbow pizza, which he ate some of.