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.

 

Polenta Pizza (vegetarian)

Vegetarian Moussaka (vegetarian, gluten-free)

Veggie Burritos (vegetarian)

Soycatash Chowder (vegan, gluten-free)

Greek Bowl (gluten-free)

 

Sunday- Polenta Pizza
We liked this one so much last week, we doubled it up.

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- Moussaka

This one is time consuming.  I wouldn’t throw it out there on a work day, but it makes a great Christmas Eve treat.  Full disclosure: mom made this one and brought it to us.  I’m not sure I would have braved the two hour prep time, even on a holiday, but it was delicious and much appreciated!

Here’s a recipe link for you.

Advance prep

Whichever vegetables you choose to roast, you might as well roast them all at the same time.  While you’re at it, you might as well cook the lentils at that time too.  Doing so in advance shouldn’t change the dish.

 

Tuesday- Christmas

I’m not going to spend much time here, because I’m guessing you’ll want to do your own special dish for Christmas.  If so, go for it!  There is a time for indulgence, and if Christmas is important to you, this is a great time.

If you do want a suggestion, here’s one that I’m excited to try, but haven’t yet.  We’ll likely try it on Christmas Day, so I’ll be able to report how it went in a couple of weeks.

Wednesday- Soycatash Chowder

This is 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.

Advance Prep

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

Thursday- Greek Bowl
This is a home-spun recipe, geared for fall, with a Greek theme.  The components are green lentils, roasted delicata squash, meatballs, beets, and a yogurt-cucumber sauce.  Making everything is time-consuming, but you can easily prep enough for multiple meals at the same time.  Since everything but the yogurt sauce is best hot, you can pack them for work lunches and get a lot of meals for your work.

The preparation

Green lentils- cook them in your pot or instant pot as you normally would.  Undercook them slightly.  They work best in this recipe if they are still firm.

Roasted delicata squash– this is time-consuming, but requires no attention once it’s in the oven, so you can do while doing other prep-work.

Meatballs– This is a good starting point.  I prefer meatballs with breadcrumbs in them, but have found that popped amaranth is a good substitute.

Beets- Either roast them with your squash or steam them.  I prefer them moist, so I steam them.

Yogurt sauce- Blend yogurt, cucumber, cumin and salt in a blender.  Taste and adjust.

Advance prep

I’d recommend prepping all of this on a prep day, then boxing up a few lunches while you’re at.  Keep the yogurt sauce separate, pouring it over the bowl after reheating.  For meal day, just reheat and eat.

Friday- Veggie Burritos
Since Taco Tuesday fell on Christmas, and since tacos have been temporarily replaced by burritos in Casa del Gill, Friday is burrito day this week.

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.

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.

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– What is it about kids and pizza?  Thumbs up.

Moussake–   Rosalie and I loved this meal!  Lee, not so much. Thumbs down.

Burritos-  Lee at his burrito, eventually.  Sigh.  On the plus side, the neighbor boy ate his in around 22 seconds, then asked for another.  Thumbs up (slightly).

Soycatash Chowder-  The simple taste of this soup made it the surprise hit of the week.  Lee ate two bowls of it!  Thumbs up.

Greek Bowl–  Lee loves these meatballs.  He also went after the beets and loved the yogurt sauce.  The lentils and squash?  Not so much. Mixed reaction.

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–  I’ve come to view Raleigh eating dinner like seeing a deer in the woods.  I probably won’t see it, I can’t count on it, and it’s wondrous when I do.  No appearance

Greek Bowl–  Raleigh enjoyed bites of this dinner, provided they were out of my bowl.   Mixed reaction

Burritos–  He ate half of the burrito, about what I expected. Mixed reaction.

Soycatash Chowder–  I’m told he ate two bowls of this, though I wasn’t there to see it.  I trust that story slightly more than a sasquatch sighting.  Thumbs up (unverified)

Moussaka–  Ever mysterious, Raleigh quickly mashed a green colored grape leaf into his mouth, withstanding the inability to chew or possibly breath.  He ignored the moussaka entirely, though it looked less threatening, or so I thought. Thumbs down.