They expect to eat dinner. Every. Single. Night. It’s not so much that I mind making dinner, as much as I mind those three little words: “What’s for dinner?” The texts start pinging mid-day. Never have three words had the power to instill anxiety and tension like those. Especially at 4:00, when you realize you haven’t actually thought about dinner yet. Yikes! Is dinner really such a pressing issue that during the day you start to wonder what you will eat when you get home? “It’s a surprise,” I text back. Why do you have to ask me what’s for dinner? Am I the dinner lady?
In my mind, I start the calculations. Are there any leftovers? Are there any leftovers the kids will actually be willing to eat? Is there still time to go shopping, or to defrost something, or is there anything that can be thrown together that will look like dinner? I’ll admit, some nights are better than others. Some nights, I actually plan in advance what I will make, and I actually make it. Some nights, they actually all eat it. And then I feel like a million bucks. But not tonight. Tonight, I am stuck driving carpool. Tonight, I didn’t plan well. Please, don’t ask me what’s for dinner. I’m not the dinner lady! I don’t want to be the dinner lady!
My need to put a healthy dinner on the table prevents me from ordering Chinese or pizza. I arrive home, my heart pounding, nervous, trying to beat the clock. I know if it’s not on the table by 6:00 p.m. I am done. They will start (gulp) snacking! Then nothing I make will get eaten. Okay, I can do this. I quickly glance through the pantry, through the freezer, and the refrigerator. I got it! Quick, healthy, easy. Vegetarian Chili! Yes, they will all eat it! I quickly chop an onion, a carrot, throw in some cubed frozen garlic, some cans of diced tomatoes, beans, frozen corn, bulgur, and even a can of pumpkin puree. Recipe calls for a zucchini; don’t have one, so leave it out. Put out some toppings, shredded cheddar, sour cream, avocado, chopped cucumber, and even some multi grain chips (that’s healthy, right?). And everything is great when chips are involved.
Wow. I stand back and admire my handiwork. Looks good. Nothing gives me greater satisfaction than putting a delicious, healthy dinner on the table for my family. Everyone is happy. Everyone eats! Couldn’t have planned it any better. Well, maybe next time I could actually plan… I guess I am the dinner lady after all. This recipe is also perfect for the 9 days or when hosting a vegan / vegetarian guest. Can also be made gluten-free.
- 5 ½ C. water
- ¾ C. cracked bulgur wheat
- 3 tsp. olive oil
- 1 C. diced yellow onion
- 1 C. diced red or orange bell pepper
- 2 Tbs. chili powder
- 2 frozen garlic cubes
- 2 tsp. ground cumin
- 1 can diced tomatoes 14 oz.
- 1 can pumpkin puree 15 oz.
- 1 medium zucchini diced
- 1-2 C. frozen corn
- 2 cans black beans rinsed (15.5 oz. each)
- ½ C. chopped cilantro
- Accompaniment: shredded cheddar sour cream, diced avocado, multi grain chips. Stuff into a burrito with rice, or fill a taco!
Place 3 cups water and bulgur in a microwave-safe bowl.
Cover loosely and microwave until bulgur is tender, about 15 minutes. (Be careful and watch because this can boil over.)
Meanwhile, heat oil in a large pot (5-6 quarts).
Sautee onion and pepper about 5 minutes, then add chili powder, garlic and cumin.
Sautee another 2 minutes.
Add remaining 2 ½ cups water, tomatoes, pumpkin, zucchini and corn; bring to a boil over medium high heat.
Reduce to a summer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add beans and bulgur, and heat through.
Stir in cilantro.
Ladle into individual bowls, and let everyone garnish as desired.
Quinoa can be substituted for bulgur for gluten free. Just add cooked quinoa at the end.