What's on the menu this week?

Brazilian Black Bean Soup (vegan, gluten free)

Health Pie! (vegan, gluten-free)

Tacos with Roasted Eggplant and Sweet Potato (vegetarian, gluten free)

Rice Pilaf and Roasted Vegetables (vegan, glutenfree)

Gnocci with Pumpkin Sauce (vegetarian, gluten free)

Baked Salmon with Mango Salsa (gluten-free)

Sunday- Brazilian Black Bean Soup
This is an old Moosewood Cookbook classic.  I adapted the recipe to work in the instant pot; here’s the link.

It’s mostly simple ingedients, but the orange juice gives a flavor that’s pretty unique and fantastic.

Advance Prep

Soak your black beans and chop your veggies.  If you’re cooking the soup on the stove top, you can cook the beans in advance, to speed up your meal day cook time.  Otherwise you’re looking at an hour between starting dinner and being ready to eat.

If you’re using the instant pot, this one is a great one for starting in the morning, with the time delay setting for the pressure cook part.

Monday- Health Pie!
With a title like Health Pie, how can you go wrong?  To be fair, this is one of several called “pizza” by the writer.  I found that when I called it pizza, people only got angry when they ate it.  So, “health pie” it is.  If I could, I’d add a rocketship and a few pirate flags to the end, to add some more excitement.  Here’s the recipe link.

I used to make these all the time when I was training for my black belt.  I dropped weight, had tons of energy and felt great.  I haven’t made them in years, but wanted to see how they treat me now.

Advance prep

The major things to prep in advance for this one are the sauce and the beans/grains for your crust.  Chopping the veggies will save time too.  If your meal time is limited, you could also blend the ingredients for your crust in advance.

Tuesday- Tacos with Roasted Eggplant and Sweet Potatoes
Taco Tuesday!

Along with the usual beans (pinto this week), I added some roasted veggies.  The great thing about tacos is how versatile they can be, if you feel like experimenting.

To roast the veggies, just cube a sweet potato and a small eggplant.  Toss with oil and salt, then bake at 400 until soft, maybe 25-30 minutes.

Advance Prep

Soak and cook your beans.  Cube your sweet potato and eggplant.  You can cook the veggies in advance to save time too.

Wednesday- Rice Pilaf and Roasted Vegetables
This one was new for us.  Here’s the rice pilaf recipe and here’s the roasted vegetable recipe.  I can’t really say how well this one worked.  Rosalie hated the rice pilaf and I tolerated it.  That isn’t a completely fair assessment though, since we were both recovering from a stomach bug and food in general sounded like a bad idea.  As for the roasted veggies, they were pretty good.  I tend to prefer balsamic vinegar in these situations, but it’s good to mix it up.

These ones will take longer on meal day than most of the ideas I post: maybe 45 minutes start to finish.

Advance Prep

Rice Pilaf-  Not really anything to do in advance.

Roasted Veggies- Chop them in advance.

Thursday- Baked Salmon with Mango Salsa
My mom recently moved to Portland and has taken to bringing us dinner on Thursdays (hurrah!).  This was her first offering and it went over splendidly.  Appetites had recuperated from the stomach bug and everybody at the table enjoyed the meal.

Here’s the recipe.

Advance prep- Making the salsa in advance will make meal time a breeze.

Friday- Gnocci with Roasted Pumpkin Sauce
We had some extra pumpkin in the fridge a few weeks back.  Out of desperation, Rosalie made some into sauce for Raleigh’s pasta.  In so doing, she stumbled onto something great!  Here’s her recipe:

1 pie pumpkin, roasted

1 TBSP tomato paste (to precisely duplicate our recipe, allow the tomato paste to sit in the fridge until slightly moldy… sigh)

2 TBSP olive oil

1/2 tsp each of dried basil and oregano

1/4 cup parmesan

1/4 tsp garlic granules (or 1 clove minced)

3/4 tsp Himalayan salt

Put the pumpkin into a sauce pot and heat on med/low.  Add the other ingredients, mixing them as you go.  Sample and adjust to taste.  Serve over any type of pasta.

Advance prep

Roast your pumpkin.  You could make the sauce in advance, but since you’ll be heating it anyway, you might as well wait until meal day and do the sauce while the pasta is cooking.

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.

Back to ye old faithful, Lee chose Sushi Ichiban.

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.  If there is one single thing to do in advance, chop a few onions.  Chopping them is time consuming and will drive your kids out of the kitchen.  You’ll have to wash the knife and cutting board thoroughly afterwards before you use it again.  You might as well do this one time only, with the kids out of the kitchen.  I just run a batch through the food processor every week.  You’ll want to put them in an airtight container inside of a freezer bag, or your whole fridge will smell like onions.

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.

Brazilian Black Bean Soup–  Lee traditionally likes this soup, but per usual put it off until bedtime. Mixed Reaction.

Health Pie–  I had hoped that his new fascination with hot sauce would help, but Lee was having nothing to do with this one.  Thumbs down.

Tacos–  Taco Tuesday is losing it’s luster.  Maybe we’ll try burritos next week.  Thumbs down

Rice Pilaf and Roasted Veggies-   I think Lee is picking up on the rest of our distaste for food (thank you stomach bug), he wouldn’t even try this.  Thumbs down.

Salmon and Mango Salsa-  After strip mining the mango out of the salsa, Lee declared that he didn’t like the salmon.  Once we got him to eat the salsa and salmon at the same time, he went to workThumbs up.

Gnocci with Pumpkin Sauce– Starch, stuffed with starch, coated in starch sauce?  Lee is in!  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.

This was a rough week for Raals, as he was recovering from a stomach bug.  He seemed to be fine, but was eating much less than usual, even with his favorite dishes.

Brazilian Black Bean Soup–  No interest in eating this, or anything else.  Thumbs down.

Health Pie–  Just as the night before.  Thumbs down.

Tacos–  We didn’t even try to feed Raleigh tonight.  Eventually, he demanded food, but tried none of it (thank you stomach bug)  Thumbs down

Rice Pilaf and Roasted Veggies-   OK, this wasn’t happening, even at the best of times.  Thumbs down.

Salmon and Mango Salsa-  Phew, Raleigh is back in action!  He attacked the salmon like this guy. Thumbs up.

Gnocci with Pumpkin Sauce– Starch, stuffed with starch, coated in starch sauce?  Raleigh is in!  Thumbs up.