Here’s a “family-friendly” eat clean recipe featuring a savory white bean butternut sqaush ragout over polenta squares. I created the recipe a few years ago for the soccer moms on my son’s soccer team (the dish got such rave reviews from the moms and kids that it ended up in my cookbook.)
Soccer practice was always right at dinnertime. I’d sit around with all the moms and we’d all complain about the timing of the practice (what great sports we were, ha!) But seriously, it seemed no matter how much any of us tried, we could never seem to find time to organize ourselves enough to prepare dinner before practice…so of course we’d all leave practice starving, with even hungrier little boys in tow.
Most moms admitted to driving through some sort of take out place after practice. We’d then chat about how ironic it was that we were giving our kids this great opportunity to get exercise but then throw cold water on the whole thing by falling into the take-out or drive through trap.
Some moms would try to justify drive through by saying that the exercise their kids did offset the fast food. I specifically remember one mom saying that since her son was so thin he could afford the extra calories in the fast food. I didn’t say anything at the time but this sort of thinking is a real problem.
Here’s the deal. Nobody can get away with a diet rich in junk food. Sure, one fast food meal isn’t going to be the end of the world. But one fast food meal eaten two and three times a week adds up. It does not matter whether you get fat or not from eating fast food; fast food lacks nutrition and no matter who you are you can’t afford to be nutrient deficient. Everybody needs to get good nutrition. And kids need good nutrition more than just about anyone! So that thin little boy on my son’s soccer team absolutely could not get away with eating fast food. He needed to eat a nutrient-rich “clean food” diet just like everyone else.
You Can Still “Eat Clean” Even If You Only Have 2 Minutes
But I know it is hard to “eat clean” and eat healthy all of the time. Trying to do all the healthy things you should do can be a bit much and a bit tiresome. I do “get” it. The 20-minute meal below might even be too stressful to put together. And if it is, that’s fine. Don’t make it. You really don’t need to knock yourself out to feed your kids healthy. You can serve your kids a healthy meal just as fast as you can go through drive-through. As an example, the other night my husband came home early from work (which is very rare) and he wanted us all to go to the beach for a bit. It was close to dinner time and I didn’t have anything prepared, but there was no way I was going to sit home making dinner and not go to the beach. When we came back we of course were all starving and it reminded me of those soccer nights. But we still ate healthy. Andy and I had some leftovers and Blake had a 2-minute dinner; I basically just grabbed a bunch of stuff and piled it on a plate. He was hungry and he ate it right up. In case you’re wondering, Blake’s dinner consisted of edamame beans, carrot sticks with hummus, sliced banana, a pastured scrambled egg and toasted sprouted whole grain bread with raw almond butter on top. There was nothing fancy about it, but it was good “real” food.
But, if you feel like planning ahead, here’s a family-friendly, nutritious dinner that kids love, especially the polenta squares. It takes no more than about 20 minutes to prepare. If you don’t want to serve it over polenta you can serve it over steamed brown or black rice (by the way, if I need brown rice in a pinch I just go to any Chinese restaurant and ask for a pint of steamed brown rice to go.)
White Bean – Butternut Squash Ragout & Polenta Squares
For the butternut squash ragout:
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 large onion, diced
- Coarse unrefined sea salt, to taste
- 3–4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1-inch piece gingerroot, peeled and minced
- 1 (12-ounce) package frozen butternut squash, thawed and drained of excess water
- 2 tablespoons all-natural creamy peanut butter
- 1 (14.5-ounce) can BPA-free diced tomatoes (such as Eden Organic brand), drained
- 2 (14.5-ounce) cans BPA-free Great Northern beans (such as Eden Organic brand), rinsed and drained
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh sage
- Pinch of cayenne pepper
- Optional: Smidgen of shredded organic mozzarella cheese
- Heat oil in a heavy 3-quart saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and a pinch of salt; sauté for 5 minutes, or until onion is softened. Add the garlic and gingerroot, and sauté an additional 2 minutes.
- Add the butternut squash and peanut butter; stir to combine until peanut butter is well blended. Stir in the tomatoes, beans, sage, and cayenne pepper; cover and simmer over low heat for 10-15 minutes.
- Spoon the ragout over the individual square-shaped polenta servings (below).
- Optional: Top the ragout with a smidgen of shredded cheese before serving.
For the polenta squares:
- 3 cups water
- 1/2 teaspoon coarse unrefined sea salt
- 1 cup corn grits (polenta)
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, plus more as needed
- Pour the water and salt into a medium-size pot; bring water to a boil. Add the polenta and reduce heat to low; cover and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes. Stir in the oil.
- Oil the bottom and sides of an 8 x 8-inch casserole; spoon the polenta into the casserole and let sit for 10 minutes, or until firm. When firm, cut polenta into four squares and place on individual plates.