I’m a real mom, with a real day of kids resisting math problems, interrupting during the latin lesson and me running to change the washer, again. I’ve got kids that complain about setting the table and not getting into the van fast enough for piano lessons. Yup, real mom.
I must like to cook though, or I would have thrown in the kitchen towel and purchased pre-packaged foods years ago, especially after we began home educating. I hardly feel like another domestic activity after a day of child-engaging, picking up their stuff, and managing interpersonal spats.
I believe energy-fueling, palate-friendly food happens because of solid ingredients: prepared simply, yet tastefully.
I do indeed enjoy cooking, but make it complicated? Not anymore.
Some people prefer the alliterative effect of Meatless Mondays. I heard about that notion after Meatless Monday became so popular. Since fish is such a quick meal to prepare, I like to include it at the busy beginning of the week. Can’t go wrong pulling out a fresh or frozen fillet and have that grilled or oven toasted in a jiffy, aka 10 minutes. That’s fast food.
Though I still feed Omega 3s to my kiddos in gel form every morning, with a shot of green juice, or flax seeds and walnuts on their hot cereal, there is no better way to gain those brain-benefiting oils but through their most natural source: fish.
I include fish, not because my kiddos like it, but rather because I know that some of that fish is high in Omega 3s. Good oil for the brain. And my philosophy: serve anything often enough, and the kiddos will acclimate.
Before you get started, prepare enough rice for today and another day (doubling food preparation tonight means less work another night). Pour chicken stock into a pot with half as much rice along with your favourite spices. If there are any cooked veggies from last night’s meal, dice them and throw that in too. Naturally, my kids just prefer butter.
While simmering, find the fish. Basa fillets are pretty economical fish purchases…not pricy salmon, or fall-apart tilapia, though wild salmon this close to the Pacific is yummy, and tilapia is perfect for fish tacos.
If you pull that fillet from the freezer at lunchtime, it’ll sit happily on the counter awaiting quick prep at five. Slather a tablespoon of mayo on each fillet, both sides…vegenaise is a tastier alternative.
Sprinkle those fillets with bread crumbs, or tasty Panko, and your choice of spices, chili, cayenne, onion or garlic salt, parsley or basil.
For an even healthier alternative, just drizzle olive oil and lemon juice and add your favourite spices.
Much like wine choices, the best way to learn your spice preferences is to play with them all. At first, they seem confusing. Smell, taste, and practice using them often. Dill and lemon, basil and parmesan, like salt and pepper, are classic combinations for fish.
Bake at 400 degrees in a roasting pan with a rack and no soppy, mushy mess will be found on the underside. Crunchy on the outside, flaky on the inside.
Where my grade 9 home ec teacher might cringe at my lack of intentional meal combinations, I select veggies based on what’s freshly available and inexpensive. Grill just about any vegetable, with garlic and olive oil, and its natural flavor is enhanced.
How to choose a veggie side? My approach: whatever is left in the fridge. I choose seasonal purchases, because they’re less expensive and taste better.
A half of that plate should be filled with veggies for adults, a minimal fistful for the kiddos. Yes, I’m serious. So I prepare two, for variety.
Veggies enhance the palm full of protein that we all need on our plates. And all of that adds flavor to that cupful of quick energy-filled, happy carbs on the plate (Can I call carbs happy? They’re full of gregarious energy, always eager to please my brain…maybe we’ll want to eat them again, guilt-free?)
This particular night I found a rainbow selection of peppers. I sliced them into bite-sized pieces , scooped out the seeds, rinsed and sautéd them in garlic and olive oil.
I had leftover roasted cabbage; yes, cabbage. Slice into 1 inch slabs, drizzle with olive oil, and bake at 425 for fifteen minutes.
Rinse romaine, chop coarsely and throw on dressing…easy alternative for the kiddos who don’t think vegetables have more value than eating Styrofoam. A healthy alternative to bottle dressings would be a great Italian olive oil and drizzle of Balsamic, a few pine nuts, pumpkin seeds, or craisins. Voila! Finito!
Do this every Monday for a few weeks, and the meal is firmly implanted in your cooking repertoire.
Exciting? I won’t lie, my kids wouldn’t say so. I love it! Maybe this will be the meal they grow up to associate with childhood and LOVE…gotta dream. No matter what, this is a very quick and simple meal for typically manic Mondays.