What's on the menu this week?

I’ll be reducing the number of dinners on the meal plan to five over the holidays.  We seem to have an event every week and I’m guessing you’re having more nights away from the kitchen too.  Even if not, most of these recipes will leave you a good amount of leftovers.

This week features three recipes from Plant-Powered Families by Dreena Burton.  You probably aren’t raising vegan kids, but more ideas on how to get vegetables into them is something all parents can use.  Vegan recipes are the best way I’ve found to do this.

Polenta Pizza

Smokey Vegetarian Chili

Veggie Burritos

Pumpkin Lentil Soup

Minestrone Soup


Sunday- Polenta Pizza
This one was more work intensive than most of the recipes I use, but it being “pizza” helped get the kids into the kitchen to help.  Besides, as a parent, you need a win every so often, and this recipe will give you one.  Here’s a link to the pizza crust recipe.  Note that you’ll need to cook the brown rice far enough in advance to cool before putting the  crust together.

For the sauce, I sauteed some onions and peppers until soft, then added a can of diced tomatoes and cooked until most of the liquid had been boiled out.  All of this can be done while the pizza crust is baking.

When the crust comes out of the oven, top it with the sauteed mixture, shredded cheese, and any other toppings (we also used black olives and field roast faux sausage).  Put it back into the oven at 450 until the cheese is slightly browned.

Advance Prep

You’ll need to cook the brown rice (for the crust) in advance.  Beyond that, chopping your veggies is a good idea.  If you’re doing a full prep day, go ahead and make the doughball in advance too.  I didn’t do this, but wish I would have.

Monday- Smoky Vegetarian Chili
This one is simple to make, tastes great and makes great leftover lunches.  It’s the perfect Monday meal!  Here’s the recipe link.

I cooked this in the instant pot and it worked great.  Do all your sauteeing there, then when you would normally move to the “lower heat and simmer” part, set it on pressure cook instead.  If you’re using canned beans, use the cooking time for lentils.  If you’re using dry, soaked beans (always a better option if you can swing it), use the highest cook time for your beans (probably the chick peas, but you can use any beans in this recipe).  Either way, use 3/4 or so of the water the recipe calls for, as the instant pot requires less water than a cooking pot.

I added corn, as I do to any chili that doesn’t have it.

Advance prep

Chop your onion on your prep day, along with your other veggies.  Soak your beans.  You can easily start this one at any time of the day, if you have an instant pot.

Tuesday- Vegetarian Burritos
There’s been a disturbing trend at our house lately; a disinterest in tacos.  Yeah, I don’t understand it either.  Even the blue corn novelty seems to have worn off.  On to burritos we go.  I’m not thrilled about the swap of flour tortillas for proper corn tortillas, but at the end of the day whatever helps get veggies into the kids is OK by me.

Beans- Saute onion and garlic until soft.  Use peppers and/or carrots too, if you’d like.  When everything is soft, add some cumin and salt.  Give it a stir, then add your beans and water (or broth).  I’d give proportions, but I winged it.  Besides, your proportions will vary, depending on whether you’re using the stovetop or instant pot.  Either way, having too much liquid isn’t a big deal.  Just use a slotted spoon when putting them into your tortillas.

Steam some broccoli.  Kids care not for your idea of what constitutes Mexican food.  Mine like broccoli on their burritos, and I’m not about to split hairs on that front.

Dress it up with whatever else you’d like on there: lettuce, avocado, cheese, salsa, black olives, cilantro, etc.  When you’re done, roll the burrito.

If you’re using flour tortillas, heat a pan and cook the rolled burrito briefly, seam down.  This will help seal your less-than-professional rolling job, and it will improve the taste.

Advance Prep

Soak your beans (if you’re using dry beans).  You can cook them on meal day, but you’ll want to start them early.  If you don’t have an instant pot, this will take a while, so you might want to do it on your prep day.

Wednesday- Pumpkin Lentil Soup
I’ve never really been one for pumpkin recipes, even pumpkin spice lattes.  This season, things have changed.  The difference?  Roasting my own pie pumpkins (or butternut squash, they’re pretty interchangeable).  The taste is so much better than canned.  We didn’t use this recipe, but it’s pretty close, and the one we used isn’t posted online.  You can pick up Dreena Burton’s book if you’d like her version; it’s a great resource for kid-friendly vegan recipes.  Even if you aren’t raising vegans, these are great ways to get more veggies in the tank.

Advance Prep

Chop your onion.  Roast your pumpkin.  The rest of this will go quickly.  The long part is the lentils, but red lentils cook faster than any other legume you’re likely to use.  If you’re using the instant pot, start it any time of the day.  After doing your sauteeing, set the pressure cook for 8 minutes and use the natural pressure release.

Thursday- Minestrone Soup
I can’t vouch for this specific recipe, though it looks good.  My mother is bringing us cooked meals on Thursdays and this was her choice for the week.  It went over swimmingly!  The kids saw the pasta noodles floating in there and were all in.

Advance prep

Soak your beans, if you can swing the dry instead of the canned.  If you’re going this route, you’ll want to cook them in advance too.  From there, treat them as you would canned beans in the recipe.  Chopping your veggies in advance is another great meal day time-saver.

Friday- Restaurant or holiday get-together
We were featured in a fundraiser for my son’s elementary school on Friday.  With hundreds of strangers wandering through our upstairs, we stayed in the basement and were only too glad to eat out.
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 he chose Sweet Tomatoes.  Nothing inspiring there, but I so rarely make salads that it’s a great change of pace.  Lee loves it because he gets to choose everything on his plate.  I love it because I’m not the one insisting on veggies; almost everything here falls into that category.

Snack- hummus
Hummus is an easy go to snack or emergency lunch for kids.  I’m so familiar that I just wing it.  If you aren’t (and why should you be?), here is a 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.

Polenta Pizza– Q- “Lee, did you like the pizza?” A- “I don’t know.”  He cleaned his plate.  He didn’t do the usual wait-until-bedtime.  I’ll take it! Thumbs up.

Chili–  He wasn’t in an eating mood tonight.  Monday is candy day, great for Lee’s sugar cravings but hard on Monday dinners.  He usually likes this chili, but had no appetite tonight. Thumbs down.

Burritos-  Ah, the power of novelty.  Tacos 0, Burritos 1.  Thumbs up.

Pumpkin Lentil Soup-  Once he started eating it, Lee realized that this orangeish-brownish mook was tasty.  Thumbs up.

Minestrone Soup–   Not only was his bowl cleaned, Lee said the happiest dinner words there are: “Can I have this for lunch tomorrow?” Thumbs 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.

Polenta Pizza–  We’ve entered the terrible twos.  Raleigh spent dinner time in his room, after continually hitting mom, so she and Lee could have dinner in peace.  No reaction.

Chili–  Raleigh had a few bites, but spent most of dinner demanding other foods.  This is probably less a comment on dinner and more of a control thing.  Thumbs down

Burritos–  He ate half of the burrito, an improvement from the norm. Mixed reaction.

Pumpkin Lentil Soup–  We tried something different today.  We gave him half a cookie before dinner.  He then sat down and polished off his soup while Rosalie and I stared in disbelief.  Thumbs up.

Minestrone–  Like Lee, Raleigh went after this soup like it owed him money. Thumbs up.