Many of you have been asking for help with dinner ideas. It seems “What’s for dinner?” is the dreaded question we all share. Because I love you all, here’s a two-week rotating meal plan.
My family doesn’t mind eating the same dinner twice a month; I don’t think yours will either. Also, preparing five full meals each week is a bit ambitious, I know. Typically I plan and shop for four, which gives us two nights of leftovers and one for eating out/take-out. Click on the title for a link to recipe.
Please don’t let my added notes overwhelm you: just think of them as a boost if you need it. The best thing about meal plans is that you can list and shop for them at the beginning of the week, but then you’re free to switch dinners around night-by-night depending on how much time you’ve got or what you’re in the mood for. Virtually all these meals take under an hour to prepare. A glass of wine or an ice-cold La Croix turns dinner-prep into an event, even if you have little people running around.
One final thought: the most important lesson I’ve learned as a cook is to be free to make substitutions. I am a serious rule-follower, but living overseas forced me to learn a different way of relating to recipes. Ingredients my recipes called were regularly unavailable. This was so good for me, and has given me freedom not to panic when I’m missing a spice or herb. I nearly always reduce the amount of meat called for in a recipe and increase the veggies (the exception is burgers and steak!). It may taste a little different, but that’s the fun of cooking as opposed to baking: freedom. Please let me know if you have any questions! You know I love talking food. Happy cooking!
Day 1. Basil chicken curry and rice (I rotate with Cauliflower Chickpea Curry for a vegetarian version)
Chicken thighs are less expensive. Find Garam Masala in Whole Foods or an Indian supermarket and replace all of the spices listed with a good-sized tablespoon of it. I add 1 tsp. turmeric too. Or you can just use curry powder! I often cook, scramble eggs, and saute with ghee but you can use butter or oil. Throw in your family’s favorite veggies, we switch up them up often. I always make basmati rice and add a spoonful of ghee to make it silky.
Day 2. “Taco Tuesday”: Ground beef and black bean tacos, or black bean and corn burritos (I just wing it with a burrito recipe but I included a link for you if you want)
Have you seen The Lego Movie? If so, you understand the need for Taco Tuesday in our household. I use 1/2 lb. of ground beef and fill it out with black beans and mix in homemade taco seasoning. Add sauteed onions and bell peppers, chopped tomatoes, cheese and sour cream if you want. Sometimes we’re craving a can of El Paso Traditional Refried beans topped with cheese (don’t read the ingredients). Yum.
Day 3. Quinoa veggie “fried rice” or Quinoa Bowl topped with an egg fried over-medium
The quinoa fried rice is awesome; I follow the recipe to the letter. Quinoa bowls are a great way to use up leftover veggies in the fridge, or our personal favorite toppings are carmelized onions, roasted broccoli (sometimes my garlic burns, so I sub garlic powder), and sauteed spinach, topped with freshly grated parmesan, salt, pepper, a squeeze of lemon and drizzled with olive oil.
Note: if you’re intimidated by quinoa (pronounced “keen-wah”), don’t be! It’s as easy as rice to cook and I love it so much more. I miss couscous from my gluten days, but this is a great substitute. I learned from Gwyneth Paltrow (as if we’re buddies, right?) to reduce the amount of water the recipe on the bag calls for, and after cooking, top saucepan with a paper towel and then the lid for 5 minutes to absorb steam and make the quinoa nice and fluffy.
Day 4. Chicken tenders on a lettuce salad
I serve it deconstructed for the kids with the honey mustard dipping sauce and veggies on the side. You may remember from this post that in leiu of salad dressing, David and I now exclusively top our salads with a generous drizzle of extra virgin olive oil (we love the Tunisian olive oil from Trader Joe’s), lemon juice, salt and pepper.
Day 2. Middle Eastern turkey burgers
This is a whole-family favorite and one of the reasons I love Gwyneth Paltrow’s latest cookbook, It’s All Good. I choose either ground turkey, lamb, or beef, depending on what’s on sale, and we make them indoors on our grill pan. Serve with side salad and her yogurt cucumber dipping sauce. We like these burgers bun-less — however, adding buns and topping with cucumber slices and yogurt sauce would be dreamy.
Day 3. Breakfast for dinner:
Option 1: Egg casserole and chocolate chip muffins
Option 2: Pancakes and bacon
Option 3: banana bread and scrambled eggs
Option 4: Bacon, egg, and cheese sandwiches on English muffins
The point is: there are tons of options! Sub GF versions if needed.
Day 5. Bruschetta
A favorite, simple summer time meal. We pick up a crusty baguette or loaf of ciabatta from the supermarket, slice and put it under the broiler with olive oil and rubbed with garlic. Add a thick slab of mozzarella (the kind that you buy in a ball), and topped with chopped tomatoes mixed with salt and pepper, olive oil, and sliced fresh basil. This is one of the meals I most miss being gluten-free. GF bread just doesn’t have quite the same effect.