5 Unique, Unexpected Dinners That Will Make You Excited to Eat Vegetables

Welcome to Next Week’s Meal Plan! Meal planning isn’t always easy — especially if you’re just getting started. But I’m a firm believer that it’s the secret to stress-free weeknight dinners. I want to help you find inspiration and ease some of the pain points that come with getting dinner on the table night after night, whether you’re cooking for one or a family of eight. Every week, I’ll be sharing a new meal plan solution specifically customized for you from reader requests or from a guest contributor.

While Hetty McKinnon has been a vegetarian for over 20 years, she’s quick to point out that her food is not just for vegetarians. Simply put, she creates plant-based, veggie-heavy recipes for people who love delicious food. And having cooked a number of her recipes, I whole-heartedly agree!

As you’ll quickly learn from scanning her website, Arthur Street Kitchen, or flipping through any one of her three cookbooks — Family, Neighborhood, and Community — Hetty is a master at creating ultra-satisfying meals that will get you more excited about vegetables than you ever thought possible. This week, she’s doing just that with five nights of vegetable-packed dinners from her newest cookbook, Family.

A Week of Vegetable-Heavy Summer Dinners from Hetty McKinnon

As a longtime vegetarian, I know that feeding a family of omnivores can be challenging. Recently, however, I discovered that I no longer need to pander to the meat-loving habits of my three children. I started dreaming up comforting, palate-friendly dishes that would satisfy my family, without the need for meat. The recipes from my meal plan are vegetable-heavy — yes, you heard right, vegetable-heavy — presenting fresh produce in ways that children and fussy eaters will understand and enjoy! I’m excited to share the vegetarian dinners that we all happily devour around our family table.

Monday: Haloumi, Kale and Mint Gozleme

This recipe has been a family favorite since my kids were little. The dough is oh-so-simple — two ingredients of self-rising flour and Greek yogurt — and it comes together in no time. It’s completely possible to come home from work, mix the dough, and let it sit while you prepare the filling. When the filling is ready, the dough is ready to roll. You can also make the dough ahead of time and keep it in the fridge overnight — just bring it down to room temperature before you roll it out.

When my kids were younger, I would stick to a safer filling of spinach and feta. But now that they are a little more adventurous, I opt for the winning combination of halloumi, kale, and mint. If your kids like mushrooms, you could add a few in here too.

Tuesday: Gnocchi with Asparagus, Edamame and Parmesan

This is a staple in our house because it is so quick to make, and a guaranteed crowd-pleaser. When pan-fried, the little balls of gnocchi taste almost like tiny gems of roast potato — crispy on the outside, but pillowy in the middle. Char the asparagus quickly so they are still crisp and top with the goodness of Parmesan to bring that nice hit of saltiness that kids love so much. Finish with lots of lemon.

Wednesday: Deconstructed Falafel Salad

This salad brings all the delicious flavor of falafel, without the fuss. The crispy chickpeas are irresistible, and your kids will most likely fight over them, so my advice is to make a double batch! Combined with the earthy kale, fresh cucumber, crunchy pita chips, and creamy lemony-tahini dressing, this dish has a lot of texture and spice, and is a great way to keep flavors interesting and exciting for everyone around the table. 

Thursday: Sushi Salad 

Brown rice bowls are the perfect mid-week dish for the whole family. This is my “sushi” version, featuring blanched edamame, fresh cucumber, creamy avocado, nori strips, and a perfectly sweet-savory sesame miso dressing. The wonderful thing about bowls is that they are endlessly adaptable — you can tailor the veggies according to what you have on hand and switch things up by replacing the rice with soba noodles or a grain like farro. Remember this recipe for times when you are lacking inspiration for dinner.

Friday: Creamy Corn and Chives Pasta

Let’s be honest — my kids, like most others, would eat pasta every night of the week if they could. For balance, we eat pasta about once a week and when we do, I like to use it as an opportunity to bring in lots of vegetables in the sauce. This sauce is basically a homemade creamed corn — it is naturally sweet and irresistibly creamy. Paired with chives, a little butter, and a hit of lemon, humble corn on the cob transforms into an indulgent jus for pasta. Use whichever pasta shape you like or have on hand — I particularly like this with fettuccine.

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New to meal planning? Start here.

  • The Beginner’s Guide to Meal Planning: What to Know, How to Succeed, and What to Skip
  • The Best Way to Use a Weekend for Meal Planning Success
  • Ask Yourself These 5 Questions Before You Start Meal Planning
  • 5 Strategies for Picking Recipes for a Week of Meal Planning

Thanks so much, Hetty! Follow her around the Internet on Instagram and Twitter and find more of her delicious recipes in her cookbooks, Family, Neighborhood, and Community.

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