What's on the menu this week?

Spiced Shrimp with Pearled Barley (gluten-free)

Instant Pot Brazilian Black Bean Soup (vegan or vegetarian, gluten-free)

Middle East Feast (easily made vegan and/or gluten-free)

Eggplant Nachos (vegetarian or vegan, gluten-free)

Black Bean Quinoa Wraps (vegan)

Roasted Vegetables and Marinated Tempeh (vegan)

Sunday- Spiced Shrimp with Pearled Barley
Recipe link

Full disclosure- we haven’t had this one recently.  We got a new stove to replace our antique one, which looked cool but varied wildly when baking.  We could have cooked something else, but chose to use it as an excuse to eat out.

Even though we didn’t make this one, it’s a staple in our house.  With a bit of advance prep, it cooks quickly on meal day, is almost completely whole foods, and is delicious.

Advance Prep Since the barley is sauteed into the shrimp, you’ll want to cook that in advance.  If you’re buying shrimp that need to be shelled and de-veined, that’s where most of your time will be spent.  Whether you want to do it in advance or on meal day is up to you, but I wouldn’t recommend leaving them shelled and in your fridge for more than a couple of days.

Monday- Instant Pot Brazilian Black Bean Soup
Recipe link.

Another meal listing that we didn’t actually cook this week.  It was Rosalie’s sister’s birthday, so we had a family night at her mom’s place.  I’d like to give a link to those recipes, but there was limited time for her to cook and some other things happening, so dinner was heat-and-eat.

The Brazilian Soup is pretty fantastic.  The ingredient list looks normal enough, but the orange juice gives this a wonderfully unique flavor.  You can cook it without the instant pot too, just simmer until the black beans are cooked through.

Advance Prep–  Soaking your beans before cooking is always a good idea (it helps with digestion and absorption of nutrients).  Chopping the veggies in advance helps too, especially the onions.

Tuesday- Middle East Feast
Tuesday wasn’t a normal family dinner.  Instead, I took Lee to a friend’s house, where we all had dinner and watched the Trail Blazers lose to Oklahoma City.

I brought over some homemade hummus (with some liquid smoke added) and homemade sauerkraut.  Yeah, I know sauerkraut isn’t exactly middle eastern, but the flavor goes well with hummus and any chance to get probiotics into Lee is a good idea.  Our hosts added in pita bread, meatballs, baba ghanouj and stuffed grape leaves.  Good stuff!

Advance prep–  Most middle eastern side dishes are served cold, which makes them great for making on a prep day.  If you’re going to try making your own sauerkraut, give that 2-3 weeks to ferment.  It’s 100% unnecessary for a middle eastern meal though.

Wednesday- Eggplant Nachos
Recipe Link

Let’s start with the important thing: these tasted great.  Now for the rest.  Like so many vegan recipes, titling a dish something that people are very familiar with leads to expectations.  “Nachos” makes me think “crunchy”.  These weren’t.  The eggplant never got crunchy in the oven, and got less so when baked with wet ingredients on top of them.  When I thought of nachos, I was disappointed.  When I thought of them as their own thing, they were tasty.  They were especially good when reheated two days later.

Advance Prep

Baking the eggplant in advance is a must, unless you have 90 minutes to make dinner on meal day.  There isn’t a lot of work involved, but you’ll need to wait an hour once they’re in the oven, which is a lot easier on an off-day than a work-day.

Thursday- Black Bean Quinoa Wraps
Recipe Link

These may just become a staple.  They’re tasty, healthy and full of options for the kids to build their plates, which I’m a huge fan of.  I thought they’d need a sauce to make the flavor interesting, so I made some vegan cheese sauce.  The sauce worked well, but I don’t think it was necessary.  The pineapple gave the dish an interesting twist, which I think would have been enough without the cheese.   We used lettuce wraps, which were great, but challenging for the kids to hold, especially Raleigh.

Advance prep  No need to do anything in advance, this is quick to prep and cook.  If you’re using dry black beans (highly recommended!) you’ll want to soak and cook those in advance though.

Friday- Roasted Vegetables with Marinated Tempeh
We make roasted vegetables a few times a year, and every time we do it we ask ourselves why we don’t do it more often.  It’s so good!

I don’t have a recipe to pass on, because we winged it.  We used brussel sprouts, turnips, beets, potatoes, carrots, onions and sunchokes.  Everything was lightly steamed, tossed with oil and salt, then baked at 400 for 15 minutes.

The tempeh was marinated in a mix of water, Bragg’s Sauce, sesame oil, rice vinegar and garlic powder.  You’ll want to steam it lightly before marinating, to open its pores.  After letting it sit in the fridge for a couple days, we sauteed it in a bit of oil.

Advance Prep  You’ll want to marinate your tempeh on a prep day or the day before serving it.  Most vegetables can easily handle being stored chopped, but potatoes are an exception; chop those right before cooking.

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.

There was a Miyazaki festival at OMSI this week, so we went to Los Gorditos for Mexican food beforehand.  Too salty, but mostly whole foods and reasonably healthy.

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.

Middle East Feast- Finger foods?  Meatballs?  TV during dinner? No pressure to eat?  This one had all the boxes checked.   Thumbs up

Eggplant Nachos-  It’s possible that Lee would have been into this if it wasn’t called nachos, but he only ate a couple of bites. Thumbs down.

Black Bean Quinoa Wraps–  Lee wasn’t crazy about the lettuce wrapper, but he loves being able to add his own toppings.  He ended up eating a solid amount. Thumbs up.

Roasted Vegetables and Tempeh–  I missed dinner, so I don’t have the full story, but plates with veggies and tempeh were on the counter when I got in.  Thumbs down.

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.

Not too many opportunities to review this week for Raleigh, forcing him to disperse his full disdain on a smaller sample size.  He didn’t disappoint.

Middle East Feast  Raleigh didn’t make the trip for the Blazers game, so he didn’t partake.  Thumbs down.

Eggplant Nachos–  Nope.  Not having it.  Thumbs down.

Wraps–  He tried to eat this in a normal way, but quickly dumped everything out of his lettuce wrap.  He tried the lettuce, didn’t like it, and wrote off dinner on the spot.  This dish may have worked with a tortilla. Thumbs down.

Roasted Veggies and Tempeh  I missed dinner, so I don’t have the full story, but plates with veggies and tempeh were on the counter when I got in. Thumbs down.