Mutiny at the Taco Bell Drive Thru – Zucchini & Tomato Rice Gratin

I’ve made my own bed and now I must lie in it!  Well, isn’t that a timely phrase given that I just finished a grammar lesson with Big Little One on the difference between the transitive verb – lay and the intransitive verb – lie.  Such thrilling stuff that it just makes you want to sprint back to elementary school doesn’t it?  But I digress.  Back to this bed that I have made.

So it’s really great -on most days- that I have educated my offspring about food and what we eat and how we eat.  I love that my four year old will tell me she doesn’t think we’ve had enough protein, or that my eight year old will pipe up and announce that she’s bummed that figs are no longer in season, but can’t wait for pomegranates.  But remember, I said this stuff is awesome on “most” days.  Then there are the days that I really need them to play along like your average American kids.

This hit home one day last week when the mother was really in a pinch.  I had only a thirty minute window between one activity pick-up and our next engagement and yes, the 30 minute window fell right at lunch time.  I didn’t have enough time to drive the troops home and I hadn’t packed anything. (Not sure whether I have confessed this one before or not, but I despise packing lunches, picnics, etc.  Don’t know what it is, but I would rather clean the toilets than pack a lunch).  So there I was, needing to nourish 4 small bodies in under 30 minutes.  In my best sing-song cheery voice, I inquired, “Oooooooh, who wants a quesadilla from Taco Bell?”  CRICKETS from the back of the car.  Now on any other day, crickets would have been music to my ears.  It’s not often I get lavished with silence in the car.  But, not on this day.  I held my breath and just waited.  Then it started, like an avalanche just building up its own momentum. “That’s not even real cheese, Mom, it’s a processed cheese product.”  “Do you even know what chemicals they put in the sauce, Mom?” “Taco Bell is gross, Mama.”  You can match the comment to the kid without much effort I would guess.

Pretty simple.  It was a mutiny.  I was being bitten by my own well-intended food educating.  As I saw it, I had two choices: let the pompous little foodies go hungry or flex my parental muscle and say “suck it up – it’s quesadillas from Taco Bell or nada”.  Well, hunger would have led to crankiness, and crankiness would have led to fighting, and fighting would have led to mayhem, so . . .  under the piercing glare of the two older ones, I went with the “suck it up” line.

They moaned. They protested.  They complained.  But they ate their quesadillas. So yes, REAL food is wonderful, and it’s my ideal way to feed my family.  But from time to time I find myself in a REAL pinch, and a mama’s got to do what a mama’s got to do.  Not to worry though, I recovered quickly from my relapse and served up a yummy little dinner of Zucchini Rice Gratin . . .  greeted by small approving nods and angelic smiles.

To start with, I roasted some sliced zucchini and sliced tomatoes both brushed with a little olive oil and sprinkled with salt and pepper.  The zucchini took about 20 minutes and about 10 minutes for the tomatoes.

Zucchini rice gratin - 1

While my veggies were roasting, I sauteed some onion and garlic until the onion was tender.  To that I added some cooked rice, a couple of lightly beaten eggs, some fresh  thyme, a little more olive oil,  a touch more salt and pepper, and some freshly grated parmesan.

Zucchini rice gratin - 3

Then I spread half of my rice mixture into a glass baking dish and topped it with half of the zucchini.  I spread the remaining half of the rice over that and then topped with the remaining half of the zucchini and all of the tomatoes.  I drizzled the whole thing with a little more olive oil and sprinkled it all with more parmesan.

Zucchini rice gratin - 7

I baked the whole deal in a 450 degree oven for about 20 minutes, just until is was nice and golden brown.

Zucchini rice gratin - 9

Along side a nice green salad, this was a simple and satisfying dinner.

Here’s the complete recipe for Zucchini & Tomato Rice Gratin, adapted from Epicurious.

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