May 16, 2011

7-layer mexican salad

Lunch time can be quite a fiasco at our home, especially if we don't plan the menu out properly. The kids want food they like and I want to make something that is unusual but still healthy. Clearly with all of the tumult we needed to come to a compromise. Lunch should be easy, quick and a no-brainer. Discussion should not even have to take place, and arguments should be as far removed as the moon.

To make everyone happy, including the cook, be that person child or adult, the kids and I wrote down 30 dishes they liked enough to agree to and I agreed were healthy and fast. We have put those meals on rotation during the week for lunch and it has worked beautifully. This can be an effective way to by-pass all the hastle of picking and choosing what to make for lunch for anyone, families or singles, homeschoolers or out of the home workers. It just makes sense. Since the breakfast repertoire of most folks tend to be varied between 5 to 10 kinds of dishes at the most, choosing between 30 lunch items is different enough to satisfy most people and consistent enough to make deciding lunch much simpler.

7-Layer Mexican Salad with Creamy Salsa Dressing. This one became a favorite after the girls had it at a sleepover on the U.S.S. Barry  (Girl Scout adventure). The key to this salad is to have the proper proportion of topping ingredients to lettuce. Too much lettuce ruins the entire experience. My salad has avocado, tomato, black beans, carrot, onion, vegan cheese, peppers. The dressing is about 2/3 vegenaise and 1/3 homemade salsa. You can use whatever topping you prefer, just make sure to keep the lettuce at bay: about one (toppings) to one (lettuce) ratio.

Cost Breakdown

avocado: $2
tomato: $2
beans: $2
carrot: $.50
lettuce: $2
cheese: $1
pepper: $1
salsa, vegenaise: $2
Total to make 6 servings:


  1. I need to do this as I end up being a short-order chef at lunch because everyone wants something different. Do you ever have that problem -- someone doesn't want what's on the rotation for that day? I know your kids are a bit older than mine (11, 9, 6, 4) so they can fix their own. Thots?

  2. Mine used to be at the age yours are :)

    Yes, they do have their different likes - Mikel loves pesto, Cat hates it. Cat loves minestrone soup, Mikel and Kate don't, Kate likes burritos, not Cat.

    What we have always done (and now it works even better because of the rotation), is tell them their favorites will be on the menu tomorrow or the next day, etc. If one really doesn't like something then first, that person has to make whatever the alternative is that they want and that you agree to. I make one dish per meal. Period. Second, they can always have fruits, vegetables or a nut butter sandwich (which is very healthy).

    This has become an acceptable compromise and one they don't always go to because they don't hate something so badly that they are willing to make something else. And if they do, then fruits, veggies and nut butters are healthy enough. If yours doesn't like nut butter, you can do a hummus or refried bean burrito. Again, it is something they would have to make. The only one that might need help is your four year old, who after guidance at the beginning will take to it very easily. It is amazing what kids can do if you believe they can. Just make it simple and easy to make, but not so varied that they would want to make it all the time and not eat what you cook. Preferences we understand but not finickiness.

    The rotation meals were their choices. If there was something that didn't seem balanced, I asked them to make it more complete by adding a salad or raw veggies. But things like pizza with some veggie toppings is very complete. Use a pita bread for the dough or English muffins. Soldiers are a great idea that all my kids have always loved: crackers, maybe cheese, Tofurkey slices or other cold cuts, vegenaise, tomato slices, slivers of onion, whatever they like. They assemble all of the ingredients on a cracker and line them up like soldiers. Lots of fun, quick, easy, delicious and healthy.

    If your children have not made their own meals before, make sure to teach them first. Spending some time with them at the start of something new will ensure success for both you and them.

    Let me know if you would like more info.

  3. Rotating 30 dishes makes sense and seeing as there could be no repeats for a month it definitely creates a lot of variety.

  4. I agree, and so do the kids, Tender Branson. If you have more than 30 dishes, go for it! The more variety the better, but the rotation is a lunch-savior!

  5. OH, and make sure to organize the chosen dishes. Don't put two pastas back to back or have two sandwiches one after the other.


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