Credit to The Full Helping for the beautiful picture and potato leek soup recipe (recipe link below)

What's on the menu this week?

Masoor Daal (vegan, gluten-free)

Rosalie’s Finger Food tray (vegan, gluten-free)

Fish Tacos (gluten-free)

Green Beans in Black Bean Sauce (gluten-free)

Potato Leek Soup (vegan, gluten-free)

Salmon Cakes (gluten-free)

Day one- Masoor Dal
Recipe link for masoor dal

This one is easy, whole food and healthy.  The sweet potato and Indian spices give the lentils a nice flavor profile.

The recipe calls for a bird’s eye chili and cilantro.  I omitted both, out of general laziness and to make it more likely that the kids would eat it.  I used the instant pot, which worked well.  To do so, use the saute function of your instant pot until the recipe has you add the lentils and water.  At that point, set your instant pot on high for 6 minutes, with the warming function turned off.  Allow natural pressure release.  Voila!

Advance Prep-  There’s no need to advance prep, but chopping onions on a prep day is always a great time saver.

Day two- Rosalie's Finger Food Plate
This is a concept more than a recipe.  My wife and kids are way more likely to be on board when they can choose freely and eat with their fingers.  So, out comes the hummus, baba ganouj, baby carrots, crackers, sliced cucumbers, smoked fish, cheese slices, kim chi, vegan ranch sauce and pickled veggies.  With good presentation skills and limited crackers, our kids were eating veggies.

Advance Prep–  If you’re making your own dips, you’ll want to do so on your prep day.

Day three- Taco Salad
This one is about throwing the kids a bone, while getting some veggies into them.  Making it is simple.

1) Make a bed of blue tortilla chips.

2) Top with thinly chopped purple cabbage and mixed salad greens

3) Drizzle with vegan ranch sauce

4) Make another layer of chips

5) Top with black beans, vegan cheese sauce (add some tabasco, chipotle, sriracha or chalula for kick), salsa and black olives

6) Enjoy!

Advance prep–  You’ll want to make your sauces in advance, especially the cheese sauce (which is time-consuming)

Day four- Green Beans in Black Bean Sauce
Recipe Link

This recipe was one of our favorites at a now defunct Chinese restaurant in Portland.  When the restaurant went under, I had to learn to make it myself.  The black bean sauce may not be available in your grocery store.  If not, you can find it at an Asian supermarket or on Amazon.  If you have access to an Asian supermarket, the long beans will cook faster and taste more authentic.  You can substitute rice vinegar or white wine vinegar for mirin if need be.  Otherwise, the recipe is pretty straightforward.

You’ll want to serve this one with rice; either brown or white will work.  Brown has more nutrients, but white is easier to digest (thus better for young kids and people with digestion issues).  If you’re making it for more than two people, you’ll want to double the portions on here.

Advance Prep-  None needed, but preparing your green beans in advance makes this one a breeze on meal day.

Day five- Potato Leek Soup
Recipe Link

This one has become a staple.  It’s simple, healthy and tasty.  Raleigh had fourths!  Fourths!

Don’t let the literature on potatoes scare you away.  They’re high on the glycemic index, which means they should lead to weight gain, based on what we know.  Here’s the thing though; there’s so much that we don’t know.  If potatoes led to weight gain, we’d see that in population data, which we don’t.  Throughout history, populations that eat potatoes thrive.  Populations that didn’t eat potatoes thrive when they add potatoes.  They may lead to weight gain here in the US, but it isn’t the potato’s fault that we mostly insist on deep-frying it in vegetable oil.  If we did the same with kale, that would seem unhealthy too.

Advance prep  No need, this is quick and easy.

Day Six- Salmon Cakes
Recipe link

This one was our weekly meal provided by my mom.  I don’t know the recipe she used (or even if she used a recipe), but this one looks close.  These were tasty!  Whatever the recipe, I need to work out how to cook these myself.

Advance Prep  You’ll want to do steps 1-10 on a prep day.  My guess is that these would freeze well, so you may as well make extra and get an extra meal or two for the same amount of time/work.

Day seven- Wildcard
It’s your thing!  Do what you want to do!

If you have kids, you might do what we do: give them a chance to choose a meal.

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

Massor Daal- He ate 2/3 of his bowl with as much enthusiasm as I have for the color beige.  Still, I’ll take what I can get. Thumbs horizontal

Fish Tacos-  2 tacos quickly scarfed down, with salsa and a bit of cabbage no less!  Thumbs up.

Ro’s Finger Food Tray–  After building a face on his plate with cucumbers and a couple carrots, he proceeded to eat everything but the cucumbers.  Lee, if you’re going to seek immortality through art, cucumbers aren’t the best medium.  Thumbs up.

Green Beans in Black Bean Sauce–  Lee loves green beans; this was easy.   Thumbs up.

Potato Leek Soup– One bowl served, one bowl eaten.  We didn’t even need to use crackers for bribery! Thumbs up. 

Salmon CakesI expected this one to be a hit with Lee.  Parenthood is endlessly surprising.  Thumbs down.

Raleigh's verdict

Let’s keep this simple.  Raleigh has declared a war on dinner, unless it’s served 7pm or later.  This war will be fought alongside his war on quiet, war on shoes, and war on screen-time limitation, but with no less enthusiasm.  He’ll eat the ingredients in the kitchen while prepping dinner, and woe to the person who tries to stop him.  But dinner itself?  That’s where he climbs, badgers and generally lowers my will to live.  At least we figured out that feeding him after 7:00 works.  We’ll put that to work next week.

Everything I stated above applies to all the dinners this week except the Potato Leek Soup.  With that dish he had fourths.  I’m still in disbelief.