Vegetarian night in: falafel with quinoa tangerine salad, sweet potato mash and tomato salad
In a pre-kids era Bart and I were aspiring vegetarians but since the kids’ toddler years we have found it hard to serve veggie dishes. So we’ve become so-called flexitarians: we eat vegetarian about three nights a week. This is our current favorite!
It was easy to raise vegetarian babies
I have much respect for families eating vegetarian but honestly we failed miserably at it. The first years I was convinced good eating habits all came down to good parenting. Elliot ate just about everything: his favorite snacks were chickpeas and he liked more complicated flavors like ginger and curry.
It was impossible to raise vegetarian toddlers
Then, out of nowhere, at around 2,5 he started being really particular about what he liked. Right at the time he started school and needed the energy, he was barely eating hot dinners and all we could get him to eat was bread with chocolate spread!
I felt like I was failing
I felt like I was failing as a parent but after reading a bit more on the subject I soon realized we weren’t alone in this. The most important factor in dealing with this, experts say, is to look at the dinner situation in the long run: you want to teach your kids that dinner time is a relaxed time during which you can share your day with the rest of the family. And there I was going crazy because Elliot wouldn’t eat lentils. So we took our parents’ advice and started preparing more classic dishes with chicken, potato, etc. Soon eating was no issue anymore, our kids’ bellies were filled and they were sleeping better (they had often been hungry before!). I wrote more about this here.
Toddler logic and toddler bellies
Another problem with vegetarian meals for our kids was that they didn’t want their food to touch (I know!) and we were used to preparing a lot of stir fries and oven dishes… with food “touching”. Because of this we started to check out meat substitutes, which we had never really cooked with before. Another reason for embracing veggie burgers and such was that the products we were eating to keep up our protein etc like lentils and beans often proved to be too difficult to digest for the kids.
So here we are: we have two great eaters now who enjoy telling us about their day over…Chicken:) About three dinners out of the week we do skip meat. Typically we’ll have some sort of egg dish, some sort of pasta and one meal with a meat substitute.
Our favorite meal
Our all-time favorite is falafel. The kids enjoy putting together their own pita bread and topping it with spreads and condiments. This week as side dishes I made a tomato salad with cilantro, cumin, avocado, garlic, olive oil and red onion; a quinoa salad with Lucerne sprouts, tangerine and walnut; sweet potato mash and two store bought spreads we like: sweet potato dip and and hummus with sesame spread. And not only was this dinner vegetarian, it was also vegan!
You could make these yourself I guess but we always have some (from Boni, colruyt) in the freezer. I pop them in the oven with some sunflower oil.
Sweet potato mash
Major cooking hack coming up: microwave sweet potatoes! Depending on how big they are they need about four minutes on each side. Don’t peel them, just rinse and pierce the skin with a fork. When they’ve gone nice and mushy you can scoop out the potato and mash it with some milk. (I used coconut milk this time, it made it sweet which the kids preferred but we didn’t like as much as oatmilk). Season with garlic, salt and pepper.
Prepare the quinoa as instructed on the packaging and let it cool down. Then add the other ingredients: tangerine from a can (add part of the juice for flavor), Lucerne sprouts, chopped walnuts, a scoop of mayonnaise, some olive oil, fresh parsley if you like. Season with salt and pepper.
Mix cherry tomatoes with avocado, cilantro, red onion, fresh garlic and olive oil. Season with cumin, salt and pepper.
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