What’s on the menu? Nothing with a face

veggie dogMany of you already know that my 11-year-old son, Jake, went vegetarian about 10 months ago. His decision was precipitated by the compassion he felt for a beheaded pig we happened upon during an outdoor cooking demonstration on our Colonial Williamsburg vacation last Christmas. Looking back, I can't blame him.

Feeding a vegetarian kid isn’t difficult, in theory. Feeding a vegetarian kid who doesn’t love vegetables, that’s the hard part. Making sure that every meal isn’t some jumbled reworking of black bean vegetarian enchiladas, that’s next to impossible.

That aside, the real challenge for me is working in the meat that the rest of us enjoy without relegating Jake to PB&J five times a week. What every parent really wants is to make one dinner, not one dinner for every member of the family, right? And Jake doesn’t mind if the rest of us eat meat—he just doesn’t want to gag any down himself.

Then Monday, a breakthrough. My sleepless night (see my 10/19 post) gave me some menu planning time, during which I realized that I can use vegetarian main dishes as side dishes on the nights that I’m making a roast or serving burgers. This strategy may have been obvious to everybody else out there, but I guess I’m a little slow on the uptake. And, considering that Monday was the first time I’d done any intentional grocery shopping since…well, I can’t remember when…it was a great opportunity to turn over a new leaf.

Here’s what I’m planning on cooking this week (recipes can be found in the cookbook, Vegetarian Classics by Jeanne Lemlin):

Stuffed Baked Potatoes with Spinach and Feta Cheese (Sounds good with pork roast!)

Baked Orzo, Broccoli, & cheese (Chicken breast as well!)

Bow Ties with Green Beans in Tomato-wine sauce (1/4 tsp red pepper flakes goes in this sauce—tangy!)

Caramelized onion, walnut, and goat cheese pizza w/beer crust (Only for grown-ups tastes? We’ll see. )

Havarti & Sprout sandwiches (Had this on Monday night with pickles and cheetos—HOME RUN!!!!)

Classic Vegetarian Split Pea Soup & Shepherd’s Pie too (Classics—how can we go wrong?)

I’m two days in to my new cooking plan, and so far, so good. I think today will be baked orzo day, with chicken for the carniv’s among us. It’s just crazy enough to work, so keep your fingers crossed!

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17 Comments

  1. Monica said,

    October 21, 2009 at 12:50 pm

    I’m impressed by this weeks menu. 🙂 It isn’t fun making two different dinners, but I do that quite frequently for my picky eaters. Dominic is actually trying more new things, but Douglas isn’t as adventurous yet. I think I should just turn him into a vegetarian since he doesn’t eat much in the way of meat anyway, then I can try some of your yummy sounding recipes. 🙂

    • scheirmad said,

      October 21, 2009 at 12:52 pm

      How’s this for a picky eater? A grown-up friend of mine doesn’t like potatoes. Ack!

      By the way, the Vegetarian Classics cookbook seems to be pretty good. I found it at Atlantic Book Warehouse!

  2. wolfshowl said,

    October 21, 2009 at 2:50 pm

    Hi! I think it’s wonderful that you’re being supportive of your son’s dietary choices. However, as a veg (almost 3 yrs) who also cooks meals that swing both ways, might I offer some advice?

    I first ran into this “two meals” issue when I started dating my omnivorous boyfriend. I love cooking for people and try not to judge other dietary choices. Anyway, one thing I’ve learned that has exponentially eased the process for me is to keep the meat separate. For instance, if I’m making spaghetti, I’ll make bean balls for myself and meatballs for him, but make them separate from the sauce, then we can just both put whichever we want into our sauce. This works especially well in something like stir-fries.

    To take it to the next level, if you’re willing to dirty a few extra dishes you can make almost the same food for everyone. An example of this I use is lasagna. The prep is almost identical, but at the end when you’re doing the layers, have a smaller casserole dish for your son and replace the meat mixture layer with a bean mixture layer.

    I will say, in closing, that as a veg, I am a bit concerned looking at the meals that possibly your son isn’t getting enough healthy protein. Yes, cheese has protein, but it is very fatty and (unless it’s organic) full of hormones. For your first meal of the week you could easily supplement his potato with Quorn Chic’en patties (http://www.quorn.us/) or even marinate some soft tofu, puree it up, then top the potato with that in lieu of cheese.

    I know it seems daunting at first to cook one meal for two dietary preferences, but it really does get easier with time. Peace!

    • scheirmad said,

      October 21, 2009 at 7:28 pm

      Hey! Thanks for checking out my post–and for all of the suggestions! I’ll take all the help I can get!

      I especially love the lasagna strategy; it should be very easy to just construct the same meal, sans meat, for him. And, yes, protein is the bugaboo, but I’ll be sure to look into the patties that you mentioned. I’m completely at sea when it comes to cooking tofu (never done it!), but I’ll work on giving it a try.

      I’m so glad you chimed in!

      -Cheryl

      • wolfshowl said,

        October 22, 2009 at 8:42 am

        You’re welcome! I’m glad to help. One of my friends who teaches kids pointed me to this website http://www.vrg.org/nutshell/kids.htm I thought you might find it helpful.

        The key with tofu is to marinate it in *something* otherwise it will taste like nothing. Remember tofu sucks up the flavors of the things around it. It doesn’t have flavor of its own. That’s the key to good-tasting tofu. Until you get totally comfortable cooking tofu, the fake meat substitutes are easy to make and perfectly legit choice 😉

        I’m so glad you like the lasagna idea! It’s been a hit with me and my omni. Glad to spread the love.

  3. scheirmad said,

    October 21, 2009 at 7:31 pm

    Oh, and the baked orzo/broccoli was YUMMMM!

    -C

  4. Andie said,

    October 21, 2009 at 11:18 pm

    As a former vegetarian who is not a huge veggie fan, I totally sympathize with Jake!

    • Cheryl said,

      October 22, 2009 at 8:52 am

      I remember you saying that once. I think that as long as there’s pizza, salad, and PB&J Jake will stay on track. He told me last night that we’d all eat a lot more broccoli if I kept serving that orzo/broccoli dish!

  5. Cheryl said,

    October 22, 2009 at 8:56 am

    @ wolfshowl:

    Thanks for the scoop on tofu and for the vegan kids website–there’s a lot of great information there!

    Here’s to tofu!
    -C

  6. Lorraine said,

    October 23, 2009 at 6:27 am

    What is orzo?
    When we have a family gathering I make three lasagnas. A meat based for the masses, a vege one for me (use the same white sauce for these two) and a soy milk sauce one for the dairy intolerant (use the same meat mix as the ordinary one)! Works for us and they all get eaten!
    Flat Alonzo had lots of fun at the “Teddy Bears Picnic” in class today. One of the girls put it on the agenda at a class meeting and much to my surprise, (I am teaching Year 5s who are almost Year 6s – we only have 7 more weeks until the end of year!), it was voted for. So today we had an amazing turnout of “teddies” -even had a few precious ones children have had since they were born! My favourite was the teddy that laughed when you squeezed his foot – we were all in hysterics with it!

    • Cheryl said,

      October 23, 2009 at 8:39 am

      Orzo is a pasta side but has much the same shape and size as rice. I usually find it with the other Italian pastas. I love to use it for risotto. Oh, and by the way, congratulations for being the most flexible lasagna maker so far!

      On the teddy bear front, you’d be surprised (or maybe not, now) at how many stuffed animal buddies Jake still has. His classic is Sharky, a 3 foot long dolphin that stops up the gap between his bed and the wall. Will Sharky go to college with him? Time will tell.

      -C

  7. Lorraine said,

    October 24, 2009 at 1:55 am

    I think we call orzo risoni!
    Some years back our three grown-up kids who still have their teddies (Chom-Chom, Bruno and Jack) got together in the Botanic Gardens with bears and a friend who took the photos and redid all the things they did in the gardens with their bears when the were younger. Things like rolling down the grassy slopes and having races through the wisteria maze. They put the photos into an album along with photos of themselves when little and gave it to us for Christmas! Oh yes – the bears rule!

  8. Cheryl said,

    October 24, 2009 at 3:06 pm

    What cool kids you have!!! I love it!

  9. jake said,

    October 27, 2009 at 2:49 pm

    I like this alot!!! (:
    -jake
    p.s. I like pie

  10. Cr@ig said,

    November 5, 2009 at 2:11 pm

    Wow. Just had leftovers of Veggie encheladas from 2 nights ago. They were great. Got some oooh’s and ahhh’s from the lunch time crowd as well. Good stuff.

    I like pie, too. Like father, like son!

    • Cheryl said,

      November 5, 2009 at 3:14 pm

      Glad you liked ’em. Can we eat Mexican every night?

      • Cr@ig said,

        November 5, 2009 at 5:08 pm

        ole!


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