Hello and welcome to a new weekly dinner menu, with a twist! For this post, I thought it would be interesting to document my thought process in choosing what to prepare each day. Some days I have more fresh food than others. Some days I have more time than others. Some days I know what exactly sounds good. In general, these are the types of questions I ask myself.
- What food is expiring soon?
- What do I have time for today?
- Will I be home in the afternoon?
- What sounds good to me?
- What sounds good to my husband?
- Do I want to spend time prepping food during my son’s nap?
- Do I want to try a new recipe or search my recipe collection?
- How many dishes do I feel like making?
- Has my son eaten well today, or do I need to make one of his favorite meals?
- Is anyone having a hard day and in need of one of their favorite meals to cheer them up?
As you’ll see, the answer to one of these questions is generally my starting point, and I build up a meal from there. For this particular week, I hadn’t done a full grocery haul in over a week, and I was working with the leftovers of a Costco haul and booster Target trips for some fresh produce to feed my son’s obsession with berries and grapes.
Monday: Easy TVP and Rice Salad
Monday’s main driver for dinner was a half can of leftover water chestnuts taking up space in the fridge. I used the first half a few days prior, so I figured I would end up throwing them out if I didn’t use them that day (or accidentally leave them for an unfortunate amount of time). From there, I asked myself, “What could use some extra crunch, and what Asian-inspired ingredients do I have to pair with them?
One of my daily goals was to get the house cleaned up by the end of the day to prepare for someone coming over the next morning, so I also wanted to make something simple that wouldn’t make a ton of dishes. With all of that in mind, I landed on “Easy TVP and Rice Salad”. My mom used to make a similar salad when I was younger, but I’ve strayed quite a bit from the original recipe since then. In hindsight, I wish I had served the salad to my son before the spring rolls that I paired it with, because he mostly wanted multiple spring rolls even though he’s loved this meal in the past- the more you know!
Here is the recipe:
Easy TVP and Rice Salad
- 1 cup dried rice
- 1 cup dried TVP
- ¾ cup hot water or veggie broth
- Veggies of choice (water chestnuts, celery, carrots, cucumber)
- Toppings of choice (cashews, almonds, crispy noodles)
- 2 tbs olive oil
- 3 tbs white wine vinegar
- 3 tbs liquid aminos or tamari
- 1 tbs maple syrup
- 3 cloves or ~ ½ tbs minced garlic
- ½ tsp ginger (dry)
- ½ tsp mustard seed (dry)
- Cook the rice in whatever way you prefer. I use a rice cooker.
- Rehydrate the TVP in either water or veggie broth. I prefer adding ½ tsp of Better than Bouillon to the hot water.
- Mix all dressing ingredients well.
- Chop and prepare your veggies and toppings of choice.
- Combine the cooked rice, rehydrated TVP, and veggies in a large bowl. Pour the dressing on top and mix well.
- Refrigerate the salad until ready to serve. It is best to let the flavors meld for at least an hour if you have the time.
- Add toppings directly before serving, and enjoy!
Tuesday: Vegan One-Pot Mexican Quinoa by Healthy Girl Kitchen
This was one of those days where nothing in particular sounded good. I even texted my husband what he wanted for dinner, and he responded with, “FOOD”. I decided to scroll through my “Saved” Instagram posts (that are mostly recipes), and I stumbled upon “One-Pot Mexican Quinoa”. When I saw the ingredients, I thought it would be the perfect match for my Costco-sized container of salsa that needed to be used. I also had some Field Roast sausages that I thought would be good on top.
The recipe was very simple, and my toddler son was able to pour most of the ingredients into the pot with me. While the sausages did pair well, in hindsight, the quinoa recipe made so much food that they weren’t really necessary. I left out the jalapenos for my son’s sake, subbed a white for a red onion, and used chickpeas instead of black beans (because it’s what I had). We all enjoyed it, and my husband said to put it in rotation.
Wednesday: Vegan Sheet Pan Potatoes And Tofu by Oh My Veggies
Wednesday’s starting point was a pack of mushrooms that I almost forgot I had and a bag of potatoes. Nothing was immediately coming to mind, so I literally searched “mushroom and potato recipe tofu”, and a sheet pan recipe quickly caught my eye (leaving off the word “tofu” only generated side dishes). Not only did it have 5 stars, but the idea of a sheet pan meal on one of the first gloomy days in a while sounded appealing. I was worried that my son wouldn’t like this meal, so some leftover noodles from his lunch were my back-up plan. Turns out, the meal was a big hit for everyone, and my house smelled amazing for hours. My son devoured the tofu, and he surprisingly ate the mushrooms as well.
When I first discovered the recipe around 2:00pm, I quickly got the tofu marinating in the fridge to cultivate as much flavor as possible. I chose to use a full pack of tofu rather than the half pack that it called for, so I counterbalanced that by doubling the marinade ingredients. Even though I didn’t double the veggies, I would still double the marinade again in the future, as I thought it had the perfect amount of punch. All I served it with was buttered sourdough, and it was enough to fill our bellies.
Thursday: Tofu Tikka Masala (Slow Cooker) – by Yup, It’s Vegan
Unlike most days of the week up until this point, the main factor in deciding what to make for dinner on Thursday was wanting to spend the time after my son’s nap at the park. I searched my recipe collection for “slow cooker” and saw that I hadn’t made “Slow Cooker Tikka Masala” in a while. It was the perfect fit for my food supply and the amount of time I had, plus it’s absolutely delicious. By the time we got back from the park, the Tikka Masala and rice that I put in the rice cooker were ready. I will say that this slow cooker recipe is more work on the front-end then many others I’ve made, but it’s worth it!
The only things I did different from the recipe were cut back on the spice for my son’s sake by eliminating the cayenne and chilis, swap full fat for lite canned coconut milk, and use a drained 14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes instead of fresh cherry tomatoes. In the past, I’ve both followed the author’s cashew cream alternative and used soy milk, and all variations have turned out fabulous.
Friday: Cinnamon Roll Pancake Bake by sweetsavoryandsteph and Tofu Scrambled Eggs
For Friday’s meal, I wanted something simple that my son would love. We spent the morning swimming, and that blessed me with a glorious headache and my son with a large appetite. My husband was also leaving for a weekend camping trip directly after dinner, so I didn’t want to make a ton of dishes. The first thing that popped in my mind was scrambled tofu “eggs”. I can’t get him to eat regular eggs, but he always devours the vegan tofu version.
To make tofu scrambled “eggs”, all I do is preheat a pan and add 2 tbs of water to keep it from sticking. Then, I crumble up a standard pack of extra-firm tofu with my hands and add 1 tsp of turmeric. It takes a bit of stirring, but eventually the tofu all turns yellow. Once the tofu is heated through and the liquid has evaporated off to the texture that you prefer, they’re done (besides a little salt and pepper to season as desired).
Truthfully, I don’t know why I immediately thought of it, but I decided to pair the tofu with a Cinnamon Roll Pancake Bake that my family loves. The recipe calls for Kodiak Cake pancake mix, so it whips up quickly, and it makes a delicious cinnamony pancake-like slice without having to mess with a griddle.
I’ve made the Cinnamon Roll Pancake Bake as written in the past, but this time I substituted Greek yogurt for the cream cheese out of necessity, and now I’ll continue to do so in the future as well. We all thought that it was the best one I’ve made yet. My son kept going “mmm” and asked for thirds!
Looking back at how the week unfolded, I realize that I served tofu for 3 days straight, but the meals were so entirely different that it didn’t feel repetitive. This was a fairly rare week where we didn’t go to my parents’ house for dinner; we often go at least once. That said, I think this week was very typical in how I chose what meals to make and what I made, especially for a week in which I hadn’t done a full grocery trip in a while. Let me know if you save any of these recipes to try or if you have any favorite weeknight meals that you’d like to share!
Until next time,