What kind of menu planning do you do?
Are you the super efficient type who carefully plans the week’s menu over the weekend, creating itemized shopping lists before heading to the market? Do you whip up some condiments like bread crumbs or an aioli sauce, bake some bread, or maybe chop out some of the prep on Sunday afternoon so you can have quick healthy meals during an over-scheduled week?
Or are you like me?
Standing in front of the refrigerator at 6:30pm, shocked to find it’s actually dinner time, and wondering what the hell you’ll make for dinner?
As someone with a strong food focus all day, I’m miserably inept at planning dinner. But those rare times I do plan? I’m relaxed (aka much nicer to be around, just ask my husband), and end up with a healthier, better-tasting meal. So why don’t I do it all the time? I try, really I do, but somehow life gets in the way. Or, I don’t know what I’ll be in the mood to eat four days from now, so I procrastinate until 5:59 (or later) on any given night and then have self-imposed dinner emergency.
As a result, sometimes I’m still hungry after my so-called dinner, and head for the ice cream and hot fudge. Or when we lived in the Bay Area, we called for take-out or walked 3 blocks to a favorite restaurant several times a week. Clearly, there wasn’t enough downside to doing dinner on the fly to get my butt in gear.
But now I’m living in a small town, with more limited dinner places, and far fewer take-out options. Necessity is the mother of invention, and all that yada yada yada, and I’m suddenly seeing the appeal of having a plan.
So one of the things I’ve done is to join up with some of my favorite blogger friends to collaborate on a week’s worth of dinner ideas. Every Friday morning, you’ll now wake to a menu of options for the week ahead, including 5 dinners and 2 extra dishes that can be sides, desserts, or drinks. Full disclosure: The other bloggers post recipes on all kinds of food, not just mostly vegetarian, so you’ll see all kinds of menu ideas. For example, this week, there are three vegetarian options out of seven. So I’m going a step further with you guys.
Here’s how it’ll work. The menus will feature (mostly) healthy, seasonal foods that don’t take all day to prepare. And I’ll add my twist by offering up suggestions for making most dishes vegetarian, without losing the essence of the dish. Getting this handy meal plan delivered to your inbox on Friday morning gives you the chance to make your shopping list and get organized for the week ahead. With all the springtime and summer activities right around the corner, we hope this weekly meal plan will provide inspiration and make life a little easier for us all (including me!!) … one meal at a time.
Weekly Menu Plan Week 1
Make it Vegetarian: Omit the chicken for a perfect weeknight pasta dinner with spinach and a creamy sun-dried tomato sauce. Cheryl at Pook’s Pantry is a professional chef with a strong restaurant and personal cheffing background, and her sauce is fantastic.
Make it Vegetarian: Cook up some cheesy polenta as a bed for Sarah’s amazing Marsala Sauce with Mushrooms and Asparagus to replace the pork.
Make it Vegetarian: Swap slices of cauliflower in place of the chicken. Cauliflower Banh Mi is fantastic.
Make it Vegetarian: Switch out the chicken for black beans or pinto beans, and I guarantee a perfect vegetarian lunch.
Make it into Main Dish:
- Cook up some farro grain, toss it warm with the Goat Cheese Dressing, and top it with the Smashed Beets and a handful of pine nuts. For a twist, add some raisins to the pan with a dollop of maple syrup when you smash and sauté the beets until they caramelize (about 5 – 10 additional minutes per side). And don’t forget the greens.
- Cook up some spinach and cheese tortellini, toss with the Goat Cheese Dressing, and top with the Smashed Beets, pine nuts, and a handful of scallions or chives. Or swap out the pine nuts for pumpkin seeds.
- 6 small beets with greens attached
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- salt and pepper
- 4 tablespoons goat cheese
- 3 tablespoons crème fraîche
- 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
- 1 tablespoon lime juice
- 2 teaspoon honey
- ¼ cup + 1 tablespoon extra olive oil
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- Remove the greens from the beets. Trim the tail from the beets and slice off the tops. Cook the beets until tender. I cooked mine in my Instant Pot, but feel free to roast or microwave.
- Cool slightly, and peel. Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Smash the beets using a sturdy cup with a flat bottom, and add to the pan. Lightly salt and pepper, and sauté for 7 - 10 minutes until flipping. Sauté for another few minutes.
- Bring a pot of well-salted water to a boil. Coarsely chop the greens. Cook in the hot water until tender - about 5 minutes. Drain.
- Lay the greens on a plate, top with the smashed beets, and drizzle with the Goat Cheese Dressing.
- Mash the goat cheese and crème fraîche together in a bowl, and whisk in the remaining ingredients. The dressing will be lumpy.
If you try any of these dishes, or the vegetarian twists I recommend above, I’d love to hear how they go for you!! I hope they provide some inspiration to you in the coming week.