You know what the worst part of the day is – it starts around 3:00 on and lasts for the next few hours – all that time you are thinking, “what in the heck are we going to have for dinner?”
Professionally, I have written menus for assisted living centers, for group homes, for a hospital, for a behavioral health center, and for a large day care center. I know how to plan menus to match budgets, comply with nutritional guidelines, meet government regulations, and that taste good enough to keep everybody happy. So why is planning dinner at home such a challenge?
Well…I’ll tell you why. We have this unrealistic expectation that we should come up with a fresh new idea every night of the year.
I remember a period of time when I was going to school full time (Dietitian school where they teach you lots of good things including how to plan menus) working two part time jobs, and being a full -time wife and mother of four. I decided to apply some of that book learning to the real world. I planned a 5-day cycle menu. That’s right; we ate the same thing every Monday, every Tuesday…every day. It worked; it got me through a very busy time while still feeding my people.
It dawned on me recently (another season of busy-ness) that it was time to bring back the 5-day cycle menu and…here it is:
Monday – Soup and bread day
Tuesday – Taco Tuesday
Wednesday – Spud Day
Thursday – Left-overs (this is our late night)
Friday – Pizza or Pasta night
Weekends – Clean out the fridge, try new recipes, Whatever!
There is still room for creativity and flexibility. One Monday night might be Smoky Lentil and Potato soup with sour dough bread. The next Monday night be Taco Soup with Crispy Tortilla Strips. Taco Tuesday includes Enchiladas, Burritos, Tostado, Quesadillas… Turns out I can do lots of productive things between 3:00 and 6:00 pm now that I am free again!
I posted a pic from Taco Tuesday and you asked for the recipe for the quinoa taco “meat” so here it is. You will like it. A lot.
Quinoa Taco Meat
1 cup tri-color, white, or red quinoa
1 cup vegetable broth
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup salsa (slightly chunky is best)
1 Tbsp nutritional yeast
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground chili powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp each salt and black pepper
Heat a medium saucepan over medium heat. Once hot, add rinsed quinoa and toast for 4-5 minutes, stirring frequently.
Add vegetable broth and water and bring back to a boil over medium-high heat. Then reduce heat to low, cover with a secure lid, and cook for 15-25 minutes, or until liquid is completely absorbed. Fluff with a fork, then crack lid and let rest for 10 minutes off heat.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Add cooked quinoa to a large mixing bowl and add remaining ingredients (salsa, nutritional yeast, cumin, chili powder, garlic powder, salt, pepper, and oil). Toss to combine. Then spread on a lightly greased (or parchment-lined) baking sheet.
Bake for 25-35 minutes (range depends of water content of salsa). stirring/tossing once at the halfway point to ensure even baking. The quinoa is done when it’s fragrant and golden brown and a little crispy in spots. If it gets too dry, just sprinkle with a bit of water before storing.
Adapted from Minimalist Baker.
Quick tip – substitute 5 teaspoons of your favorite taco seasoning for the cumin, chili powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper.
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