L. has recently begun asking — no, begging — me to make borscht.  No kidding.  His favorite television show, since as long as I can remember, has been “The Backyardigans;” for those unfamiliar with it, it’s actually a pretty watchable kids’ show about preschoolers who get together in the backyards of their homes and play make-believe.  At the end of each show, they finish by inviting one another to somebody’s house for a snack, which is usually related to the theme or imaginary location of the episode.  And it just so happens that there’s an episode set in Russia…and the characters talk about borscht and Chicken Kiev.

“Mommy, what’s Chicken Kiev?” L. first wanted to know.  Though I have never actually had Chicken Kiev myself, or at least not that I can recall, I did know enough to be able to tell him that it’s crunchy chicken with garlic butter and dill — this knowledge is based upon a recipe I once pondered in Saveur magazine.  Also, we eat enough things with dill in them that L. understands what dill is and knows that he likes it.

Armed with that information, he sagely nodded and said “That’s yummy, huh, Mom?  Now…what’s vorsch?”

It took a bit more decoding for me to understand the question, but once I realized he was asking about BORSCHT, I could easily explain about a soup made from beets (his new favorite vegetable).  That’s all it took.  For two weeks or more now, he’s been absolutely begging me to make a Russian Backyardigans dinner of Chicken Kiev and borscht so he can try these delicacies for himself.

Far be it from me to deny my kids any type of palate-expanding experience, no matter how weird I think it seems; so as I got thinking about where in this month’s meal plan the borscht was going to go, it occurred to me that the Backyardigans’ constant references to different foods and cultures could make for a pretty fun theme week.  L. and I decided that we’d have “Backyardigans Try-It Week” this month, with each dinner planned directly around foods mentioned in different episodes of the show.  He’s happy because he gets to eat like his television heroes; I’m happy because it gives me an excuse to freshen up our meal plan and make some different things.  We’ll see how it all goes down, but it should be a fun diversion from the usual.

Sunday, May 1: Sunday roast chicken dinner
Monday, May 2: DIY salad night (using leftover chicken)
Tuesday, May 3: Slow cooker — barbecued pork sandwiches, carrot salad, potato-green bean salad
Wednesday, May 4: Whole wheat pasta with sweet potatoes and red peppers, salad
Thursday, May 5: Cinco de Mayo celebration!  Grilled fish tacos with avocado cream, smoky black beans, and fruit salad
Friday, May 6: Fend night
Saturday, May 7: Grilled chicken sausages on buns, veggie chips
Sunday, May 8: J. has told me to abdicate responsibility for cooking on Mother’s Day, so I’m following instructions!
Monday, May 9: Backyardigans Week begins with Chicken Kiev and borscht! (Episode: “Catch that Train”)
Tuesday, May 10: Backyardigans samosas and lassis, served alongside a slow-cooker version of an Anatolian lentil stew I’m dying to try (Episodes: “Into the Deep” and “Elephant on the Run.”)
Wednesday, May 11: Assorted tea sandwiches and crumpets (Episodes: “High Tea” and “Break Out”)
Thursday, May 12: Balsamic sloppy joes and corn fritters (Episodes: “Garbage Trek” and “News Flash”)
Friday, May 13: Fend night
Saturday, May 14: Grilled chicken, salad, cous cous
Sunday, May 15: Eggplant parmigiana, greens, pasta
Monday, May 16: Turkey burgers, sweet potato fries, fruit
Tuesday, May 17: Slow cooker — Asian chicken lettuce wraps
Wednesday, May 18: Breakfast for dinner
Thursday, May 19: Lamb mini-meatballs, pita, greek salad and grilled vegetables
Friday, May 20: Fend night
Saturday, May 21: No-fuss chicken, yellow rice, assorted veggies
Sunday, May 22: Roast turkey breast, garlic mashed potatoes, vegetables
Monday, May 23: Farfalle with creamy wild mushroom sauce, salad, fruit
Tuesday, May 24: Slow cooker — California chuck roast, cornbread
Wednesday, May 25: Grilled sandwich bar (we’ll use leftover meats and ingredients from the fridge to construct different sandwich combos)
Thursday, May 26: Homemade pizzas, salad
Friday, May 27: Fend Night
Saturday, May 28-Tuesday, May 31: We’ll be off for Memorial Day weekend, so I’m not planning dinners.  Some warm-weather holiday favorites that will probably show up on the table are cappellini salad with tomatoes, basil and capers; grilled pork tenderloin; flank steak; and my mom’s potato salad.

Spring is finally here!