One of my co-workers today was saying how difficult it is to come up with easy, healthy meals for picky kids. I’d add that it’s not always easy to come up with easy, healthy meal ideas night after night for anyone. It made me think about the various go-to meals that I make for the family each night and I figured I’d share some of my ideas here. We eat vegetarian or vegan all week (except for Shabbat), so if you’re hoping for some great meat and chicken recipes, you might want to go elsewhere.
I tend to only get hit over the head at 4 or 4:30 in the afternoon each day with the fact that we do, indeed, need to eat something for dinner at around 6. I’m not a forward planner; when I do our big grocery shopping once a week, I do buy the basics that I know I’ll use for the various go-to meals, but I don’t plan out meals for the week or put something up in the morning that we’ll eat later. That would be far too organized for me. So, here are some ideas. I’d love to hear back from you about your ideas as well – we are always stronger when we are sharing, in my opinion. Also, if you want any specific recipes that I mention, I’m happy to send them along.
1. Mexican fiesta: We love having Mexican food and typically eat tortillas about once a week. On a really short-for-time day, I simply put out tortillas, beans, cheese, corn, sour cream, salsa, cucumbers and olives and everyone makes his own. If I have chips around, someone can decide to use all of the toppings for nachos. I try to keep fake meat in the freezer (it comes in these nice meal-size packets) and I just defrost and we use that as well. When I plan ahead, I put a big casserole in the oven that includes potatoes, sweet potatoes, onions, corn and beans and have it cook for an hour and we eat this with the rest.
2. Pizza: I buy whole wheat pizza dough from Pat Bamelech. Yes, I could make my own, but I don’t. Then, we top these with pasta sauce, cheese, corn, olives, an onion and kale mixture, etc. and throw it in the oven. I make a side salad and voila – dinner.
3. Shakshuka : We love having shakshuka. We typically make a skillet with grilled onions, tomatoes, tomato sauce shakshuka and one with spinach and kale. Serve with whole wheat Pat Bamelech bread. Kids can’t get enough.
4. Omelets: I try not to have an egg-heavy meal more than once a week, so instead of shakshuka we might have omelets or an omelet casserole. Omelets means I’ll make eggs in a skillet with whatever the kids want inside and a casserole means I throw eggs, cheese, mushrooms, onions, corn and milk together and bake for 40 minutes.
5. Chili: This is a go-to in the winter. Chili alone, or chili with corn muffins or tortilla chips. Cheese and sour cream on the table for those who want.
6. Soup and sandwiches: Kids like either grilled cheese or tuna sandwiches. I make them in the toaster that Israelis love using. I have a huge array of soups I make including corn chowder, sweet potato peanut butter soup, onion soup and vegetable soup.
7. Falafel or fake shwarma: This ends up looking a lot like Mexican night, but that’s because my kids like tortillas more than the pitas that I buy to go with this meal. For this one, I just cut up pickles, cucumbers, tomatoes, etc and put chumus, tahina and other spreads on the table. I have frozen falafel or frozen fake shwarma that I bake and put on the table – and everyone makes his own sandwiches. I try to make a big Israeli salad to go with this.
8. Sushi: My kids love sushi (well, all but one) so when I’m in a labor intensive mood I’ll make vegetable sushi and put up a pot of miso soup with the miso packets you can get in the health food store.
9. Maon food: “What is maon food??” said my son’s friend the other night as he was eating it with us. The Maon is the Israeli daycare all of my little guys went to, and for lunch they always served this delicious Israeli meal of couscous with a thick vegetable soup poured over it. So we eat maon food often. Make a pot of soup with vegetable soup mix and any veggies you like. Make couscous. Dinner done.
10. Stir-fry vegetables with rice or couscous: I stir fry a lot with soy sauce, sweet teriyaki sauce or a peanut butter sauce. I’ll add tofu to it if I have in the house, make brown rice and dinner is served.
11. Stuffed baked potatoes: I put potatoes in the oven for an hour or a bit more and throw them onto the table with possible toppings. Toppings include pasta sauce, cheese, broccoli or cauliflower, beans and cottage cheese.
12. Zucchini “pasta”: I have one of those veggie spiralizers. After I noodle the zucchini, I put it in a skillet with onions and pasta sauce and it’s like we are having pasta – without the pasta. Yum.
13. Indian meal over rice: I have a great recipe for an Indian meal that includes eggplant, peas, peppers, onions and is spiced with turmeric, cumin and other great spices. Put over rice and serve.
14. Pasta: When all else fails, I will make a big pot of pasta (or sometimes Gnocchi or ravioli). I hate overloading the kids with carbs, so I don’t do this too often, but it’s always there as needed.
I hope this gives some people ideas. Love to hear about your vegetarian or vegan ideas as well! Happy dinner making!