Weekday Dinner Menu Episode 2: Vegetarian Meals and Mom Tips

I don’t know about you, but I am seriously struggling to believe that Christmas is next week. At least in Indiana, the weather is throwing me off. It will be in the 60s one day and in the 30s the next. I keep taking my son to the park thinking it will be the last trip of the year, and then -poof!- the high is 64 degrees. Should I be planning out Christmas cookies and wrapping presents right now while my husband watches our son… probably; however, I just felt the urge to curl up with a cup of coffee and write on this dreary morning. I had so much fun documenting my weekly dinner menu a little while back, and I thought I would do it again!

Once again, I started off the week not having a clue what I would make. Unlike the last time when I had a fridge full of fresh groceries, this was my “bi-week” where I usually have to get a little creative to make meals with the food that I have left. I tend to do one large grocery order every 2 weeks or so and then do smaller buffer trips in between if there is something that I need right away; this usually plays out as a large Kroger Pickup order and then small Target trips or Target curbside orders. I’m a believer in choosing battles, and chasing an active toddler around a grocery store is not something I am usually hyped up to do. I’d rather spend more energy on preparing food, but that’s just me!

You may notice that for the one night that we went to my parent’s house for dinner, my mom made the same meal for us that she did the last time I documented meals. I told her that I was writing up this post, and she was kind enough to share her original recipe! I’ve included that in the “Thursday” menu below. Recipes that I found online are linked.

Monday: Slow Cooker Sweet and Sour Tempeh 

This is a banger. It’s delicious, and it’s even more tasty when you know how easy it is to make. I’ve made it before, but I made a few small tweaks this time that I think made it even better. If you have the time, I feel that allowing it to slow cook for 4-6 hours on low instead of 2-3 hours on high makes the flavors come together more. The recipe calls for either tomato sauce or paste depending on preference, and I definitely prefer the paste option. The pictured vegetable spring rolls are from Costco, and my picky eating son can’t get enough of them. I wish I could buy the sauce that comes with them in bottles!

Mom Tip: Build a base of slow cooker recipes for when you have a busy afternoon. 

  • This recipe has options for the Instant Pot and stove top, but I find that making meals during naptime and using the slow cooker takes a load of stress off of me. I can go to the park (which I did this day thanks to Indiana weather) in the afternoon and know that the bulk of dinner is already done. 

Tuesday: Buttered Noodles and Homemade Sourdough

Dinner doesn’t get much simpler than a box of red lentil pasta with melted butter and some fresh veggies. My husband plays Dungeons and Dragons with his buds on Tuesday evenings, so I wanted a quick meal that my son would enjoy. He loved this “mama and son” meal, and I was able to save leftover noodles for lunch the next day. I said before that my son is picky, but bread is an entire food group to him.

Mom Tip: Make protein packed pasta to kill two birds with one stone, carb and protein source. We like the one above.

Wednesday: Family Night! – Mom’s Cheeseburger Casserole

My husband and I love this meal that my mom makes, and she came up with it herself. I hadn’t had the recipe until now, so I’m excited to make it myself too.

  • Saute one onion until it’s very soft
  • Add in a full bag of Gardein crumbles
  • Add in a little salt and pepper to taste
  • Put the mixture into a baking dish (12 cup capacity)
  • Make a vegan cheese sauce and pour it over the top of the mixture. You’ll need about 2 cups.
    • She uses the “Swirly Pizza Cheese Sauce” from this cookbook, but you could use whatever recipe you like here as long as the consistency is that of a drizzle. This particular one is cashew-based.
  • Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes or until the top is browned

Mom Tip: No shame in taking a break.

Thursday: Red Lentil Dal and Curried Chickpea Fried Rice

This was my favorite meal of the week. I made the dal around two in the afternoon while my son was sleeping, and I put the finished product (minus fresh lemon juice that was added right before serving) into a slow cooker set to “warm”. Even though the slow cooker was just keeping it warm, I was worried that it may get dry; however, it worked perfectly! So if you want to prep dal in the afternoon but don’t have time to do a full slow cook, this is a good option. To prep the fried rice, I combined the seasoning, soaked the rice, and rinsed the chickpeas. Closer to dinner time, I just had to dump them and a few other ingredients into the Instant Pot. Super easy!

Mom Tip: Mixing vegetables in with rice is a good way to sneak in vegetables for picky kiddos. 

  • Since the peas and carrots in this rice were soft and seasoned like the rest of the rice, my son ate them and didn’t seem to notice they were much different than the rice. 
  • Making this recipe is a mom tip in and of itself (made in the Instant Pot)

Friday: Burritos

Quick, easy meals seem to be the theme of the week, and this one was just that. About 20 minutes before my husband was set to come home, all I had to do was start heating and gathering up the burrito components (sour cream, Gardein crumbles, refried beans, tomatoes, green pepper, romaine, and enchilada sauce). This enchilada sauce (store bought) makes the meal.

Mom Tip: Have the ingredients for at least one meal that takes virtually no preparation to make on days when you want to spend your time elsewhere.


Here’s the breakdown of the main ingredients that you would need for these vegetarian meals.

Monday

  • Protein: tempeh
  • Produce: green pepper, onion, and pineapple

Tuesday

  • Protein: red lentil pasta
  • Produce: tomato and sweet peppers

Wednesday

  • Protein: Gardein Meatless Crumbles
  • Produce: onion and salad (do tots count?)

Thursday

  • Protein: red lentils and chickpeas
  • Produce: carrots, peas, onion, tomato

Friday

  • Protein: Gardein Meatless Crumbles and refried beans
  • Vegetables: tomato, green pepper, and romaine

I hope that this gives you more inspiration or recipes to add to your rotation. Finding time to keep dinners interesting for your family can be challenging, but I think it’s super important. I spent too long going through the motions with my diet, and I missed out on an entire part of living. Plus, it’s healthier in the long run! 

My husband literally just walked in the door with our son, so I’m going to wrap this up here. Happy holidays!

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