Sunday, October 18, 2015

a week of vegetarian toddler dinners (from a mama who can't cook).

:: This post contains affiliate links.

I can't cook. Or, maybe I should say, I don't cook. I possibly could if I tried, but ehhh. I do lots of wonderful things, but cooking? Not my jam. J.J. knows how to throw together some decent recipes, and I'm proficient at a variety of pastas, salads, and sandwiches, but that's about it. 

I had no idea how this - my non-cooking - would play out once we had a kid. In the beginning, it was easy. (Actually, in the very beginning, feeding her was terrible...but I digress.) Once Rowan was about six months old and started eating table food, we were good to go. Easy purées, bits of fruits and veggies and whatever we were eating, my beloved pouches...and I didn't have to "cook" any of it! Great.

It's evolved pretty naturally since then, and I've found a good variety of healthy meals for her that require little to no cooking - and that are vegetarian. J.J. and I don't eat meat, and although I wouldn't be opposed to Rowan having some, I (a) never have it in on hand, and (b) don't know how to prepare it. Thankfully, Rowan is a good eater (...for now), and she gets good protein and vitamins from other sources, primarily beans, eggs, quinoa, dairy, greens, and fortified pastas.

Because I'm lazy, I don't know what she's eating for dinner most days until fifteen minutes before she eats, and then I whip something up for her. Oh, and although we usually eat breakfast and lunch together, we don't often eat dinner together as a family. Rowan's ready to eat by about 5:15, which is just too early for me - and J.J.'s not even home from work yet. So even though I sit and chat with her while she eats, she's dining solo, which means sometimes J.J. and I don't even eat the same meal as Rowan does for our dinners. I guess an upside of not cooking is that it's totally not a big deal if different family members want different meals!

Since I know I'm always curious about what other toddlers are eating (and always looking for new, easy, vegetarian, toddler-friendly ideas), I thought I'd record what Rowan eats every night for a week and share it here. These are pretty much our go-to meals, meaning there's not a lot of variety beyond what you see here, other than the occasional take-out. Since it's all healthy and well-received by my girl, it works for us! Enjoy. (And judge away at my utter laziness!)

Saturday: Broccoli Nuggets + Mexican Quinoa

J.J. had to work this past Saturday, and my mother-in-law (slash, frequent baby-sitter) had been out of town for two weeks, so Rowan and I were a little sick of each other - and out of activity ideas - by the time Saturday afternoon rolled around. I decided to have her help me make our new favorite recipe, broccoli nuggets, mostly to take up some time between nap and dinner. 

Busy mixing water and broccoli bits...to later dump on the floor.
You can find the super-easy recipe for broccoli nuggets here, but they're basically a ton of broccoli tossed in the food processor with eggs, bread crumbs, cheese, and seasonings, and then baked in the oven for twenty minutes. J.J. and I dip them in salad dressing; Rowan eats them plain or dipped in ketchup and mustard. Oh, and by the way, this is 100% as fancy as I get when it comes to cooking. As in, when I made these nuggets for the first time a few weeks ago, I had to learn how to use my food processor for them. Yeah.

Mine might qualify more as patties than nuggets.

I also gave her a small side of what I call Mexican Quinoa (more about that later, since it's Thursday's dinner). She loves this dish (so do I!), and we have it a couple times a week as a main course. 

Shoving food in her mouth, not expressing surprise that I "cooked."

Sunday: Gardenburger + Fresh Fruits & Veggies

This is about as easy as it gets: a frozen Gardenburger topped with cheese and dipped in ketchup and mustard. I'm telling you, Rowan was fine with plain burger patties for the longest time, and then a couple months ago, she became obsessed with dips. Now everything has to be dipped in something, preferably ketchup and mustard. Whatever. Pick your battles, right? She'll eat the entire thing if she has condiments on the side. This night, Rowie also had some green pepper from J.J.'s garden and a clementine.

A very delicate eater, as you can see.

Monday: Amy's Organic Soup with Pasta & Peas

This is one of our favorite go-to dinners. I'll boil some protein-fortified pasta along with frozen peas or carrots, and then I mix it with some Amy's Organic Soup straight out of the can. Rowan's favorite soup is the Spanish Rice & Red Bean, but we didn't have any on hand, so she had the Lentil. I love giving her veggies the way I did with the peas from this meal - mixed right in with her food. She won't normally eat carrots or peas (or a host of other veggies) plain, but she either doesn't notice them or their flavor is disguised enough when they're mixed in with other things. Can't blame her; I won't eat plain peas, so I don't really expect that she would, either. Oh, and I also gave her some "cheese stars" (Horizon Organics' cheddar cheese shapes), as she calls them, on the side, and she ended up requesting "Daddy peppers" (the green peppers from J.J.'s garden).

Tuesday: Two-Ingredient Pancakes + Smoothie

These pancakes are one of our all-time favorite choices for breakfast OR dinner. You can find the recipe here, but it's literally two ingredients: two eggs and one banana, mushed and mixed together and cooked like pancakes. On Tuesday we added pumpkin pie spice and cinnamon, since we were in a pumpkin-y mood. I also made a smoothie for Rowan. I add some unique ingredients to our smoothies to boost the nutritional value, especially for my vegetarian girl. This one contained vanilla yogurt, calcium-fortified orange juice, and frozen strawberries - plus chickpeas and spinach. Trust me, you can't taste the beans or greens, but they add some great vitamins.

Apparently Curious George needed to partake in pancake & smoothie night, too.

Wednesday: Pasta with Peas, Beans, & Marinara

I had a bunch of leftover pasta and peas from Monday night's dinner, so on Wednesday, I added some black beans and marinara sauce to them and warmed them back up. Rowan also had a cup of yogurt and some green peppers and cherry tomatoes (can you tell what's going nuts in our garden this week?).

Apparently it was all good enough to warrant double-fisting the spoons.


Thursday: Mexican Quinoa

Quinoa is an awesome "power food" that a lot of people are intimidated by, simply because they've never experienced it. I love it. It's like a super-nutritious version of rice: easy to cook, easy to use as a side or as a base for a main dish, and easy to tweak so that the flavor is exactly what you want.

For Thursday's dinner, I tossed together cooked quinoa, black beans, avocado, tomatoes, cheddar cheese, and lime juice. Bam. Dinner. (With a banana on the side.)

Friday: Meatless "Chik'n" Cutlet + Veggie Pouch

Friday's dinner was a total mistake. I meant to buy the frozen chickpea nuggets that J.J. likes, but I didn't realize until I opened the box to cook the nuggets that they were actually...not chickpea nuggets at all. 

Wonk-wonk. I was a teeny bit sketched out by the main ingredient (some kind of mushroom concoction?), but not enough to find a different dinner for Rowan. I served it to her with a carrot & broccoli pouch (Friday + birthday = lazy), plus some frozen blueberries that were a last-minute request from Rowie (she calls them "Let It Go blueberries," since I said they were "frozen" blueberries. Get it?).

Thankfully, Rowan CHOWED her cutlet (ew, I don't even like that word) and was thrilled about a pouch with dinner...

...AND she got to join us in eating my birthday cake (ice cream cake from Carvel, HELL YEAH).

I swear it looks like she has WAY more cake than she actually does.
(I literally ate half the cake myself that night, though. #NoShame)


So there you go! A week of (relatively healthy) vegetarian toddler dinners from a mama who can't cook. Let me know if you have other quick and easy ideas - I'm always looking for more!

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