It was a wise woman who once said, "Oh no, little child! YOU WILL EAT WHAT I MAKE OR YOU WILL NOT EAT AT ALL!"
This wise woman held her ground. She taught her children to eat everything on their plates, and they never complained, and they never cried, and they never, ever, ever had even a little twinkle of complaint about anything. It was said, throughout the land, that the wise woman's children were THE BEST children of all. OF. ALL.
Or wait . . .
Maybe it wasn't quite like that.
This is the story of how I found myself cooking two separate dinners.
Let's go back to July of this year. My darling 9 year old girl, who loves animals and wants to be a veterinarian, was reading her favorite book. (HIGHLY RECOMMEND!) When, almost as if she'd had a sudden epiphany, said to me, "Mom, I was just thinking. If I want to be a veterinarian, I probably shouldn't eat animals. Vets don't hurt animals, they help them."
Well . . . um . . . but, you see . . .
I had to think for a second. I reminded her that I buy almost all of our meat organic and talked to her about how organic animals are raised in a more humane way. I told her that God tells us in the bible that animals were given to us for food. I told her that I am always careful to choose foods that are farmed in a way that causes the least amount of environmental burden, as well as a better life for the animals. And then I blabbed some more . . .
Then she stopped me, "Mom, it's not that I think eating meat is wrong, it's that I think that I just don't want to do it."
Faced with a sudden dilemma of choosing between explaining myself unnecessarily further (with the overtly obvious intention to push my child toward my way of thinking) and embracing my daughter's uniqueness I just said, "That's fine if you don't want to eat meat, but you still have to eat healthy."
So over the next couple of days, as she dabbled in vegetarianism, we talked about protein and what foods contain it and how much of it she needs. And I set down a few ground rules.
1. If you're going to be a vegetarian, you cannot also be a picky eater. This means you must eat beans, brown rice, Greek yogurt, quinoa and lots of veggies. You won't subsist on a diet of nothing but cheese pizza and veggie burgers. (as fun as that sounds!)
2. If you're going to be a vegetarian you cannot pout and complain when you go out and there's nothing vegetarian for you to eat. You have to be flexible. You might attend a party that provides very few vegetarian options. When this happens, you can not stomp around and behave as if you are entitled to special food. Carrot sticks are your friend. If you're not sure what will be available, you can always pack a sandwich. (If you have to resort to your packed sandwich, eat it discreetly. Don't stand in front of everyone and bark about how you don't eat meat.)
3. If I am going to be buying specialty foods for you, you're going to eat them. Greek yogurts cost nearly $1 a piece. I don't want to be throwing these things away because you took two bites and decided you didn't like it.
4. The specialty foods I buy are not for your exclusive use. They are for our family. You don't decide who eats them or when they are eaten. I remember a church camp out once with a young boy who was diabetic and would have an incredibly awful tantrum any time any person drank a diet soda. It's not cute when someone acts like a diva, no matter the reason.
After a few days of dabbling, she made the call. She wanted to be a vegetarian for sure.
And here I am 5 months later, still cooking a vegetarian dinner - or a dinner and it's vegetarian cousin - every single night. All in all, it has been a surprisingly simple adventure. It's saved us some money (meat is pricy!) and it's probably pushed us toward a few healthier choices. The lovely lady is very confirmed in her decision. She hasn't wavered, in the slightest. She didn't even cheat for salami and cream cheese, or bacon, or bbq'd steaks.
Here's a meal that became a favorite of our family over the past few months.
If you want to make it you'll need:
A package of chicken drumsticks (organic)
Salt, Pepper, Garlic, Cumin, Chili Powder, Paprika, White Pepper and Chipotle Chili Powder
Naan (I got mine at Trader Joes)
Falafel (ours came frozen, also from Trader Joes, you can make it from a box mix or from scratch, if you're ambitious)
Your favorite lettuce
Shelled sunflower seeds
and a BBQ grill
I started with a package of chicken drumsticks. About two per meat-eater is perfect for our family.
I sprinkle one side of the meat with salt, pepper, garlic and each of these spices. You can adjust the proportions of spicy spices, to not-spicy spices to make it how you like it.
I like to do one side only, so that it doesn't get too spicy.
Now, throw the chicken on a hot grill. I do spice side up, first. My theory was that the spices would soak into the meat while the other side cooks.
Turn it over when a little bit of blood starts to run out. They will take longer than you think they should, if you're not used to cooking chicken on the bone, on the grill. These probably took about a half hour, total. (allrecipes.com says 10-15 minutes per side, too) (prep the other food while it cooks!)
When the chicken was nearly done, I moved it off the grill
and put the naan on the hot grill. Naan is from heaven.
You'll know it is finished when it has amazingly delicious grill marks:
Keep it warm by placing it in the oven while you finish everything else up. If you time it correctly, it should come off right when you are ready to sit and eat.
The brown rice I am serving here is from Trader Joe's and is the easiest thing ever. It comes frozen, and just needs to be microwaved for 3 minutes. Of course, you can make your own.
The falafel is similar. Trader Joes, Microwave. You know the drill.
The salad is the best trick of all. No one will believe how simple it was!
Wash, dry and tear your lettuce into bite sized pieces. Put the lettuce in a large salad bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and toss. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and toss again. Now sprinkle some granulated garlic, a little pepper and a healthy handful of the sunflower seeds. And toss again.
It's good. The sunflower seed crunch is magic.
This salad is extra good with cucumber, tomato and avocado, too.
So there it is.
Two different, but the same plates.