Despite my best attempts to expose my kids to the widest possible variety of foods and flavours, I have been blessed with a “particular” eater. There was a time when the Bean (now 4 years old) would eat just about anything I put onto her plate. And yes I gloated (if only silently), figuring I had done something pretty right-on in the kid-feeding department.
But I gloated too soon, apparently, because these days I’m lucky if she eats a plate of pasta and tomato sauce without asking me to “wash off” the sauce.
I recently asked her to name her 10 favourite dinners, hoping that the answer would help guide my weekly meal planning and reduce my mounting frustration. Her response went something like this: “Um. Pasta with butter and cheese. Toast with butter. Salmon sushi. Rice. And I don’t know.”
As if it weren’t difficult enough to accommodate a lactose intolerant carbophobe (Kiwi) and a toddler with allergies to wheat, eggs and peanuts, now I’ve got a 4 year old who intends to subsist on pasta, bread, butter, rice and raw fish.
Experienced parents out there: this is temporary, right? In six months, she will be eating grilled octopus and braised fennel like a champion—right?
While I wait for her to come around (any day now, kid), I’m trying to make sure that each meal I make has at least one thing she will eat. I’m not willing to cater to her whims, but I don’t want her to go to bed on an empty stomach either.
Because I know she will always eat rice, a “build-your-own” rice bowl type thing works really well. She gets her rice, as well as the toppings that appeal to her on that particular day (which is anyone’s guess), and we get the semblance of a delicious, normal, adult meal.
You can “rice bowl” just about anything. Some of the favourites around here: curried chick peas, yogurt, cilantro and diced cucumber; pulled pork, avocado, sour cream, diced tomatoes and shredded cabbage; steamed veggies, tofu and “peanut” sauce; and these Banh Mi Rice Bowls.
I use the term “Banh Mi” rather loosely and unauthentically here. “Banh Mi” actually means bread, though it has become synonymous with the flavourful Banh Mi sandwich—a Vietnamese-style sub sandwich, stuffed with some kind of chicken or meat, fresh vegetables and herbs and pickled carrots.
These bowls are banh mi inspired, I guess you could say: a bed of rice topped with a quick ground beef and mushroom stir fry, cilantro, mint, cucumber, pickled carrots, lime juice and green onions.
The recipe looks more complicated than it is. While there are a few steps involved, the whole thing takes no more than about 35 minutes. Definitely quick enough for a weeknight.
If I have a bit of extra time, I like to double the meat mixture and stash half in the deep freeze for a rainy day, or save it for quick weekday lunches. If you aren’t crazy about eating a big bowl of rice at mid-day, you can wrap everything up in a crisp lettuce leaf instead.
- ¼ cup tamari or soy sauce
- 1 thumb size piece of fresh ginger, finely grated
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- 1 pound lean ground beef
- ½ pound (227 grams) white mushrooms, finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- Sesame seeds and green onions to garnish (optional)
- 1 cup apple cider vinegar
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 5 medium carrots, peeled and julienned
- Cooked rice
- Pickled carrots
- Sliced jalapeno peppers
- Fresh mint
- Fresh cilantro
- Green onions
- Lime wedges
- Combine the tamari/soy sauce, ginger, honey and sesame oil in a small bowl.
- Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the ground beef and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes or until the ground beef is mostly browned. Stir in the mushrooms and garlic and continue to cook until the mushrooms are very soft.
- Stir in the tamari mixture and bring it to a boil. Turn down the heat and cook, stirring occasionally, about 3 minutes, or until the sauce is syrupy and the meat is fully cooked. Transfer the beef to a bowl and garnish with sesame seeds (optional) and green onions.
- Combine the vinegar, sugar and salt in a small saucepan and bring to a boil.
- Put the carrots in a medium-sized bowl and pour the hot vinegar mixture overtop.
- Let the carrots stand until they are cooled to room temperature, then transfer to the refrigerator for at least 15 minutes before serving.
- Arrange the rice, beef and toppings in small bowls on a large serving platter or cutting board and let everyone assemble their own bowls.