When my husband and I were first married, I liked to think that I was a good cook; however, looking back, I don’t think that was the case. I knew how to throw together quick meals that lacked forethought. We ate a lot of mac and cheese, taco salads, and pasta. After years of eating college dorm food and fast meals between study breaks, I wasn’t used to spending effort or creative energy in the kitchen. Our diet pretty much stayed like this until Spring 2020 when COVID-19 started to fully settle in. The extra time on my hands combined with pregnancy and a newly lifted fear of food was the perfect storm to enjoy baking and cooking.
My husband and I both agree that we have recently eaten more good food than we ever have. I wasn’t sure how I was going to keep up with spending time in the kitchen after becoming a new mom, but I was dedicated to raising my son to value home-cooked meals and whole foods. In each phase of my son’s life thus far (newborn, infant, and now early toddler), cooking has looked a little different. The baby carrier was great during the newborn era to simply wear him while I made meals, but these days I prep food during naps or let him roam through tupperware drawers. If you make healthy, homemade food a priority, I promise there will be a way to fit it into a busy schedule.
I thought it would be fun to document what a normal week of dinners looks like in my household. Truthfully, I don’t plan meals or meal prep in advance, so I had no idea how the week would play out. Overall, I would say it turned out to be very representative of a typical week. So without further ado, here is what my family ate for dinner this past work week:
Monday: Kale Salad with Carrot Ginger Dressing
I don’t usually buy kale at the store, but I’m happy that I randomly picked it up. If you’ve ever been to a Japanese restaurant and ordered a salad that has a mysterious thick, gingery dressing, this tastes a lot like that (which I personally LOVE). To make sure that we got enough food, I sliced up a meatless chicken patty and served it on top of our individual bowls and made rice as a side. I swapped out cashews for pepitas and golden raisins for dried cranberries. I also left out the beet, watermelon radish, and sesame seeds.
Mom tip: Prep pieces of meals when you can. The dressing and chickpeas can be made separately in advance.
Tuesday: Maple Balsamic Tempeh Bowls with Pumpkin Rice
My mom sends me links to recipes that remind her of me, and this was one that she discovered. The tempeh and rice were delicious! Even my son shoveled in the tempeh, and he is hit or miss with solid foods. The only thing I would do differently in the future is switch out the broccoli for roasted cauliflower or maybe roasted carrots? Steamed broccoli didn’t seem like quite the right vegetable to me.
Mom tip: Prepare tempeh quickly in the morning at nap time and let it marinate all day.
Wednesday: Instant Pot Vegetarian Chili
I knew that my husband had to work late this day, so I wanted to make a meal that would keep well until he came home. After a quick Google search for “vegetarian Instant Pot recipes”, I stumbled upon this chili. I toned down the spice so that I could give some to my son, and I substituted butternut squash for the sweet potatoes (because I didn’t have any). The result was a fairly sweet chili, but it was easy and a hit for all of us! I served it with vegan sour cream, tortilla chips, and french fries on the side.
Mom tip: Choose your battles. I spent time chopping up the butternut squash, so I used pre-cut frozen onions and peppers.
Thursday: Family night!
We went to my parents’ house, and my mom made us dinner- cheeseburger casserole, salad, and vegan mac and cheese. The “burger’ part is Gardein meatless crumbles. I don’t think she followed a recipe, but I promise it was delicious. My parents are also vegetarians :).
Mom tip: Have at least one night in the week where you take a break!
Friday: Chow Mein
My son skipped his second nap today and my husband got off work early, so I made a fast meal to be able to spend as much time with them as possible. The outcome was a random batch of Asian-inspired noodles with soy curls. I’m pretty sure my son has a sensitivity to sesame, so I’ve been looking for recipes that have flavor without sesame oil. These noodles are very loosely based on the linked recipe. I made loads of adjustments, so it was more of an inspiration for this meal.
Mom tip: Soy curls whip up fast!
As you can see, I try to mix up our protein source and vegetables:
- Protein: meatless chicken patties and chickpeas
- Vegetables: Kale, carrots
- Protein: tempeh
- Vegetable: broccoli
- Protein: black and kidney beans
- Vegetables: red and green peppers, butternut squash
- Protein: meatless beef crumbles (it just so happened that my mom picked something we hadn’t had)
- Vegetables: salad greens
- Protein: soy curls
- Vegetables: mushrooms, water chestnuts, and green pepper
I think creativity is what keeps eating at home interesting, especially as a vegetarian. I aim to make food with a good balance between healthy and comforting. Because I don’t plan meals in advance, I tend to pick whatever vegetable or protein source is going to expire first and run with it. Luckily, my husband will eat just about anything, so I experiment a lot! Hopefully, this gives you some inspiration to experiment too.
Let me know if you try out any of these recipes or if you would like to see more “weekly menus”. Have a great week and enjoy some good food!