I never had a great answer for that and I had a lot of explaining to do. “My oldest daughter eats many of the same things my husband and I eat, my middle child is a nightmare because she won’t try any of what I make that’s healthy, and my youngest, well, he doesn’t eat all that much.”
It was a problem, and it added a lot of stress into my daily life.
I was all set for the drama to go on like this until I saw the movie “Fed Up!” and made the decision (once again) to get rid of any and all food offenders in my kitchen. This time the bad guys pretty much centered around my middle child’s refusal to eat anything that wasn’t a processed carbohydrate. But the movie really inspired us, and I wanted to give going-all-the-way one more try. This time, though, I was much more prepared to withstand the screaming and the crying.
The first night at home after the movie and it was sheer chaos. Imagine The Exorsist, only ten times worse.
No, a hundred times worse.
For about fifteen minutes.
I assured her that I loved her and that I knew exactly how she felt.
Suddenly there was calm. She asked me if I could make her something like she eats at Chipotle (brown rice and black beans). I said sure! She wanted the little bits of green in the rice. I was like, “Cilantro? You like cilantro?”
Dinner was on the table less than ten minutes later, with a little chopped cilantro in the brown rice.
What happened next would have surprised me before this past weekend, but on Sunday I took my two oldest kids to see “Fed Up!” Although she claims to have slept through half of the movie (I was a witness, she was not asleep), something must have gotten through to her.
She asked me if we could write a schedule of dinners for the week, and she took notes on our entire conversation. We progressed to the computer and formalized the whole plan, recipes and all.
Below is what we came up with. It’s only been two days so far, but I think we are over the worst of it. It’s going to get rocky at times, but I have learned the hard way that giving in WILL NOT END WELL.
It’s taken us four years to get to this point with our daughter. A year ago I could never have imagined that she would put “salad bar” on a list of dinner ideas that were acceptable to her. So no matter what your situation is, there is hope. And to be totally honest, my fixation on making Nutritarian dinners probably got in the way of making one dinner that the whole family could enjoy. Try as I did, none of my kids enjoyed much Nutritarian food, even though my husband and I loved it. A more simple, starch based approach is much more palatable to children and far healthier than the processed garbage I was feeding them because I couldn’t stand to cook two separate dinners after a hard day at work.
If the following ideas help you, fantastic! These are not hard and fast recipes. Each time dinner comes around, it will look slightly different from last week’s version of that dinner depending on what we have on hand. I just don’t need the pressure of recipes right now. I’m feeling the power of suggestions.
Monday: Chifauxtle (pronounced cha-fauxt-lay)
Tuesday: Potato Bar
Wednesday: Salad Bar
Thursday: Pineapple Un-fried Rice
Friday: Rice Bowl
Saturday: Nacho Night (homemade corn tortilla chips or sweet potato rounds)
Desserts: fresh fruit, banana soft serve, smoothies, Chef AJ’s Almost Instant Pumpkin Pudding, Chef AJ’s Raw Banana Bread, Two Ingredient Oatmeal Cookies, homemade Popsicles, Energy Balls, Chef AJ’s Just Banana Muffins and Chef AJ’s Pear Crème Anglais with Raspberry Coulis and Fresh Berries.
You and your kids will feel like you were at a Chipotle, only without all that oil and salt!
Open up as many cans of no salt added black beans as you need for your family. DO NOT drain them. Pour beans and liquid into a pot and heat. Season with cumin and a few spoonfuls of your favorite salsa. Serve over cooked brown rice with a bit of chopped cilantro (bagged frozen brown rice makes this really easy, leave out the cilantro if you or your kids don’t like it).
Optional: Top with cooked corn, salsa fresca and/or guacamole (seriously watch that guac if you want to lose weight!)
Tuesday: Potato Bar
A potato bar is simply cooked potatoes of any variety and a number of toppings (think raw or cooked vegetables, beans, corn, salsas, and or sauces) laid out on your counter for all family members to make a custom plate.
Preheat your oven to anywhere between 400 and 475 degrees (I’ve seen lots of different instructions, go with your favorite). Wash and prick as many Yukon Gold or sweet potatoes as you need to feed your family. Bake the potatoes until they are soft/fluffy.
While potatoes are baking, make a bar of any or all of the following: washed and drained beans of your choice, corn, olives, steamed broccoli, diced tomatoes. Serve with a favorite dressing or sauce like oil-free pesto or salsa!
If you’ve got a chili or other soup left over from the weekend, you can top the potato with that as well. You can have an Italian potato night and do Pizza Potatoes with broccoli and olives (I’d even consider buying a bag of Daiya for that one). Bean, corn and tomato salsas are fantastic over potatoes as well.
HGK Oil-free Vegan Pesto
yields 1 cup +
I tried making this totally nut and salt free, but wasn’t happy with the results. Once I added a little bit of pine nuts and a dash of low sodium Tamari, I was more than pleased. If you know of a totally oil, nut and salt free pesto recipe that you love, by all means, use that recipe!
2 cups tightly packed fresh basil
1 to 2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped (to taste)
½ cup cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
2 Tbsp pine nuts
1/3 cup low sodium vegetable broth
1 Tbsp Benson’s Table Tasty or other salt substitute
freshly ground pepper, to taste
a dash of low sodium Tamari, or not
Turn the motor on and drizzle the vegetable broth in a thin stream. Add pepper to taste. Pulse a few more times to combine.
Wednesday: Salad Bar
Prep a variety of raw vegetables and place them in bowls on your counter. Let everyone make their own custom salad. Options include, but are not limited to, shredded romaine lettuce, shredded carrots, diced tomatoes, sliced cucumbers, steamed or raw zucchini, corn, olives, peppers and any variety of bean.
Make sure there is a cooked whole grain as one of the choices on the salad bar. If your kids like hummus, you can put that out as well for dipping the raw vegetables into.
Roasted vegetables make a nice addition to any salad and can be prepared over the weekend just waiting for the moment they make it into your delicious salad!
My kids don’t like salad dressing, but they do like salsa. I love salad dressing, and I always have one homemade oil-free, nut-free dressing in my refrigerator at all times.
Thursday: Veggie Loaded Un-fried Rice
This recipe came to me by way of Chef AJ’s YouTube Channel. You can substitute any vegetables that your family enjoys. It’s super fast and really easy to prepare.
Pineapple Unfried Rice
watch the video here!
1 large can unsweetened pineapple
1 cup green peas
1 bunch scallions
1 red bell pepper, diced fine
4 oz. pea pods, sliced
1 bunch cilantro leaves, chopped
4 cups cooked brown rice, chilled
1/2 cup raw coconut aminos (I suggest starting with less if you are watching your salt)
Heat 1/2 cup pineapple juice in a wok or non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add peppers and scallions and sauté 2-3 minutes. Add peas, pea pods and rice and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Add pineapple and raw coconut aminos and cook for another minute or so. If mixture becomes too dry, add more pineapple juice as you are sautéing. Remove from heat, stir in cilantro, and serve.
Friday: Rice (or Quinoa or Other Whole Grain) Bowl
HGK Roasted Red Pepper Balsamic Bowl
brown rice or other cooked whole grain
steamed shredded carrots
any other steamed veggies you like, as much as you’d like
Roasted Red Pepper Dressing/Sauce (see below) or any other sauce of your liking (suggestions follow)
Place everything into a bowl and top with sauce. OMG–TO DIE FOR!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Option: add roasted marinated tofu chunks or roasted marinated tempeh for a real rice bowl treat.
HGK Roasted Red Pepper Dressing/Sauce
Makes 3.5 cups
1 large roasted red pepper from a jar
1 can navy or cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
¾ cup water
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsp chopped shallot, or 1 tsp onion powder
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 large date
Fresh black pepper
Place all ingredients into a high powered blender and blend until very smooth.
HGK Curry Dressing/Sauce
Makes 5 large servings
2 tbsp Masaman or red curry paste (adjust based on your tolerance for spice) OR two teaspoons yellow curry powder and a pinch of cayenne pepper
1 15 ounce can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
2 tbsp lime juice
2 large dates, pitted
1 tbsp Bragg liquid aminos
¾ cup water
½ cup almond milk (unsweetened)
Blend all ingredients till smooth.
Add 1 tbsp minced ginger (or ginger powder to taste)
Add 1 clove minced garlic (or garlic powder to taste)
Add 1/4 cup minced basil
Add 1/2 cup minced red bell pepper
Chef AJ’s Yummy Sauce
juice and zest of 1 lemon (1/4 cup of lemon juice)
1 clove garlic
3 pitted dates (3/4 ounce)
1 box or can salt-free cannellini beans (1.5 cups), rinsed and drained
2 Tbsp stone ground, salt-free mustard
½ cup water (or more for salad dressing)
Chef AJ’s Sweet Potato Nachos
1 sweet potato per person (If you use organic sweet potatoes there is no need to peel.)
plus any or all of the following:
Non-fat refried beans
or anything you would normally enjoy on your nachos
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Cut sweet potato in uniform slices, approximately 1/4″ thick. Place slices on Silpat or nonstick baking sheet (I lined cookie sheets with parchment paper before I got my Silpats). Sprinkle with smoked paprika. Bake for 20 minutes, flip over and bake for another 10-15 minutes until done. These are the “chip” part of your nachos.
Place several sweet potato chips on a plate and fully load them with the remainder of the ingredients. Chef A.j. recommends creating a nacho bar and letting your family or your guests build their own nachos.
If either your or your kids prefer traditional nachos, just make your own oil and salt free chips!
Chef AJ’s Baked Tortilla Chips
Blue Corn or Organic Corn Tortillas (look for the ones with only corn, water and maybe lime as the ingredients)
Water in a spray bottle
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut tortillas to desired shape (quarters or strips).
Use one weekend day to make a special old or new recipe, casserole, soup or stew that you can enjoy throughout the week as lunch or an addition to any of these dinners.
I know that my kids love whole wheat pasta, so the easiest thing to do would be to make a pasta bar with lots of cooked vegetables and a salt free marinara sauce to make a primavera. I can certainly sub in a potato for the pasta and let my family enjoy their noodles!
Do you have any fast, easy and starch centered dinner ideas that your family enjoys? Please suggest them here so that anyone who struggles with this can put together their own easy-peasy, family friendly dinner plan!