When my kids were little, we fell into the pasta trap. Macaroni and cheese, spaghetti with tomato sauce and any pasta shape covered with pesto were our default meals. It was easy, it was quick, it was cheap and, not least of all, it shut them up. No whining about dinner, just a carb overload. Then I started to realize that my vegetarian children were never actually eating vegetables.
The first thing I did – and believe me, it was really hard – was to stop making pasta. We went cold turkey (tofurkey?) and I had to scramble to find meals that fit my quick, easy, shut them up criteria. Listening to your kids whine about what you are forcing them to eat is not an enjoyable way to spend the evening.
A staple in our home is tortillas. Technically, we use flour tortillas to make burritos, but my kids loved the alliterative sound of tortilla Tuesdays, so tortillas it is. I spread a flour (whole wheat, if I can find) with canned refried vegetarian beans. We top this with brown rice, salsa, a little frozen corn, and grated cheddar cheese. My husband and I add kale, but the kids have never taken to this. Then, just microwave for a minute, and serve with guacamole. It is a complete protein, hits the major food groups; even without the kale, it has the avocado.
You can also bake these in the oven or sauté in a non-stick pan with almost no oil; the tortilla gets crispy, almost like a taco shell. You can also add sautéed mushrooms, chopped spinach, Swiss chard. Sometimes we ditch the brown rice and use sliced, roasted sweet potato as the starch. This goes nicely with goat cheese. It may not be Mexican food, but it makes the kids – and adults – happy.