We had G.O.R.B. for dinner.  Nope, not the famous G.O.R.P. (Good ol’ raisins and peanuts), but Good Ol’ Rice and Beans.

I make this easy meal once every other week or so,  but really I need to do it every week.  There are so many variations you can try:  Toppings, spices, cooking methods, and what to serve it upon.

Red Beans and Rice

You can use canned beans or you can soak a bag of beans overnight, then add them to a slow cooker with water to cover & cook all day with spices and even a ham hock or bacon.  While cooking, spice the beans up with garlic, oregano, cumin, pepper, and hot sauce.  Also try adding sauteed veggies like onions, peppers, and carrots.  The sky’s the limit!  When they’re done, blend them to a puree, or blend half of them, or even leave them whole.  I usually blend half of the beans for a nice texture over rice.

We like red or black beans and we prefer serving them over brown rice to white.  Toppings for the beans are also endless:  Queso fresco, or another type of cheese, scrambled eggs, cilantro, red onions, crunchy veggies.

Rice and beans can be Mexican in style, or Cuban or Creole.  If you want to go real crazy you can make curried lentils over basmati rice, but I’ll post that recipe another time!

Sides?  How about corn bread, a big green salad with crunchy vegetables, or homemade tortillas.

However you enjoy them, serve this nutritious meal often.  It’s easy on the budget and usually requires minimum prep time.  This is a perfect training meal, too, for budding young chefs.

Mexican Pot Roast

I make tacos from this simple and quick pork dish. Prep time is about 10 minutes.

Slow Cooked Pork, Mexican Style

Slice 2 medium onions, cut 2 medium carrots into 1/2″ rounds, chop 2 hot peppers (I used poblano, which aren’t that spicy), and mince 4 cloves of garlic. Put vegetables in bottom of slow cooker.

Cover a 4-5 lb piece of pork (I used picnic) with a rub made of oregano, cumin, coriander, and black pepper. Place pork on top of veggies.

Pour 1 cup of water down sides of slow cooker. Cook 6-8 hours on low.

Remove pork & shred. Meanwhile, puree vegetables & broth. Replace meat in slow cooker. Add a big handful of chopped cilantro.

Serve in tortillas (thicker homemade ones would be perfect!) with gravy, sour cream, guacamole, and refried beans. Cheese and salsa are also an option.

Weekly Menu Planning

Planning out a menu for an entire week at a time will not only save you time and money, it will minimize the worry over what you’re preparing for any given day.  Menu planning takes me about 20 minutes.  Here’s how I do it:

Get your favorite grocery store’s circular ad (almost always available online if  the print copy isn’t delivered to you).

Sit down with your circular, a pencil, and a piece of paper.  If having a warm cup of tea, a plate of cookies, and putting your feet up will help this task feel relaxing to you then by all means indulge!

Scan the circular for sales on which you’d like to stock up and what meats are specially priced. Using a small piece of paper, which will be hung on your fridge,  note what meals & sides you’d like to make for 6 or 7 days worth of food based on the sale items offered in the circular.  (We usually do a leftover day)  Take heed of  special nights on your family’s calendar where a quick or portable meal is needed & plan accordingly.

Check your pantry!

Be sure to quickly check your pantry and fridge for items that need to be used up before they spoil.   Avoid a second trip to the grocery store by making sure that you have items stocked in your cabinets.

Start your list.

On a separate piece of paper, make a list of every item you’ll need for the week, including cleaning, hygiene, and household supplies.  I like to set up my list by aisle in the store.  For example, I’ll list all the produce items first because that is what’s in aisle 1 of my grocery store.  Ordering in this manner will save you valuable time in the store by making your trip more efficient.

Shop once (and don’t go in hungry!).

Once your list is set up, make your way to the store.  Never shop on an empty stomach to avoid impulse purchases.  Oh, and be quite sure that your excellent husband, should he be joining you, is also well fed.  Husbands can be budget busters!

Get through the store in an efficient manner by using your ordered grocery list.  STICK TO THE LIST!  Try not to add this or that unless you find a bargain you’d like to take advantage of.  Get everything you need so you don’t have to make a trip back to the store until next week.

Reuse your list.

If you’ve had a successful week of meals that your family enjoyed, file that list and save yourself the planning next time around!

Keeping a “Thumbs Up” List on Your Fridge

On the refrigerator in our kitchen we have a scrap piece of paper with “Meals That Receive 5 Petey Thumbs Up” scribbled on it.  Over the years I’ve recorded the meals that all 5 members of our family really enjoy.  Mostly I do this because I have no memory left these days, but it also serves as a quick Go-To list for pantry meals and quick weekly menu ideas.

Start keeping track of meals that are quick, healthy, and easy to prepare but most importantly ones that every member of your family enjoys.  This easy little action will save you time when you plan your menu for the week.

How NOT to Raise Picky Eaters

People often ask me how I get my children to eat just about anything. The main reason for our success, perhaps, is that *we* like to eat everything! My husband and I have a positive attitude about the variety of foods we try whether ethnic, vegetarian, healthy, or deep fat fried. This favorable approach filters to our children who will eat or try anything from tofu and sushi to tahini and salmon. Here are a few tips to get your children to have a widely varied palette:

1) Start young

Offer a variety of foods at a young age. We started our children eating everything we did as soon as they were old enough to have no definite allergies and were able to chew and digest most foods. A decent portable food grinder comes in handy here. For example, when we had wonton soup for dinner we’d smash it up and feed it to our children. If you’re starting as young as we did, be sure your child isn’t allergic to the foods you’re trying and be sure there are no choking hazards.

2) Avoid the Nugget Syndrome

When the children were young we quietly avoided serving chicken nuggets, hot dogs, boxed mac-n-cheese and a variety of other “children’s staples.” After all, they’re loaded with sodium and other unhealthy ingredients that, well, make things taste delicious! What child at that age would choose grilled chicken and asparagus for dinner over nuggets and fries? And don’t worry, they’ll get enough of these when you go out.

3) Order from the adult menu

Many restaurants offer chicken nuggets, mac-n-cheese, hot dogs, and spaghetti on their children’s menu. Instead, try splitting a portion of your meal with your child, or have your children share a healthy adult meal among themselves.

4) Don’t give up on a food

Sometimes our children would spit out a food they didn’t care for. We didn’t cross it off our list, though! Following our pediatrician’s recommendations we tried that food up to four more times on separate occasions before we’d take a break. Even then, re-introducing a food a year or so later often was successful.

5) Have a positive attitude

Try to avoid sayings like, “You won’t like that”. Why not try instead, “Mmmmm, you’ve got to try this!”

6) Make it fun and get your child’s help

Try making food into fun shapes or providing healthy dips for veggies. Have your child help pick out your weekly menu, find recipes, go food shopping with you, and help prepare and serve dinner. Let her set the table and have her make it look fancy or fun so she enjoys every aspect of meal time.

7) Don’t cook separate meals

When a child doesn’t care for what you’re serving for dinner, don’t offer to cook something else for her. Instead, offer extra of an already prepared side dish or veggie. If you have any concerns about your child’s nutrition, discuss the problems with your pediatrician who will likely offer valuable advice.