With a three-year-old who “DOESN’T LIKE THAT!” every time a plate of food is placed in front of him, sometimes you just have to go with what’s easy, with something you know will go in without too much of a fight. The picky eating stage wears you down, but it also makes you re-evaluate your culinary priorities. “Will he eat it?” can be more important than almost any other consideration, and so you find yourself in your kitchen on a Tuesday at 6:00 p.m., wearing last year’s faded Christmas pajama pants (in March), stirring hot dog slices into a pot of lukewarm canned beans and wondering what happened to your life. So it goes.
Other considerations? It can’t take too long to put together, should have some reasonably healthy stuff in it, should be satisfying on its own or with simple accompaniments, and it should reheat well for Sad Desk Lunch the next day. It cannot contain hot dogs. You need a dish that does it all? This is just that dish.
(Related: Well Fed, Flat Broke: One Pan Roast Chicken Dinner)
This riff on a vegetable-based Indian rice dish is good on its own or with a good chewy flatbread, but if you like a bit of meat with dinner it’s also excellent with a simple pork or chicken sausage. It works as a side with roast chicken or pork chops, or even salmon or trout. Toddler likes his with a few slices of cucumber, a sigh of resignation, and that one specific Cookie Monster cup filled with mango juice, not apple. We don’t have mango? Apple is fine. Another sigh.
Recipe perks: Gluten & soy free (if not using homemade stock, check ingredients on package), easily made vegetarian or vegan. Kid-friendly. Note: If you are using homemade or low-sodium stock, you may want to add an additional half teaspoon of salt.
(Makes six servings.)
3.5 oz. (about ¾ cup) raw, unsalted cashews
2 tbsp. butter
1 onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
12 dried apricots, roughly chopped
1 ½ tsp. cumin seeds
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. ground turmeric
½ tsp. garam masala
½ tsp. ground coriander
½ tsp. ground black pepper
2 cups basmati rice, rinsed
2 cups grated carrot (from 2 to 3 carrots)
1 small navel orange, zest and juice
4 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1 cup frozen peas
3 scallions, finely chopped
Preheat your oven to 350°F. Place cashews in a single layer in a pie plate or other oven-safe dish. Roast for five minutes, then check, shaking the dish to move them around a bit. If they’re ready, set them aside. If not, give them another three minutes (and then set them aside). When they’re cool, give them a rough chop.
In a Dutch oven or other heavy pot with a tight lid, melt butter over medium-high heat. Add onion, garlic, dried apricots, cumin seeds, salt, turmeric, garam masala, coriander, and black pepper. Cook until onions have softened, then add rice, stirring to coat the grains with the fat and spices.
Add the carrots, then the orange zest and juice, and then the stock. Bring the mixture just to a boil.
When the pot has just reached the boiling point, clamp the lid on and reduce the heat to low. Cook for 20 to 25 minutes.
When the rice is cooked, remove the pot from the heat and gently stir in the cashews, frozen peas, and scallions. Put the lid back on, and let stand five to 10 minutes before serving. This will be enough time to shout at everyone that dinner is ready, and then remind them one or two more times that dinner’s on the table you guys, come on.
Emily Wight is a working mom, author, and the blogger behind Well Fed, Flat Broke (wellfedflatbroke.com). Her cookbook, “Well fed, flat broke: Recipes for modest budgets & messy kitchens,” from Arsenal Pulp Press will be available in stores in April 2015. She is tired.
(photos: Emily Wight)