Confession: I didn't do very well last week with sticking to my weekly vegetarian meal planning. In fact, it was a huge fail. Why? Because I didn't have a real meal plan. I'd done a roundup on Parade's online magazine for Best Roasted Veggies Ever For Easy Dinners , and saw in it all kinds of great ideas for the week ahead. So I figured my job was done.
So this week, I'm sharing 4 common mistakes people make in meal planning. Of course there are many more than 4, but these are the top challenges I faced this week.
4 Common Mistakes Made in Meal Planning
- The meal plan isn't documented. Having it in my article I did for Parade magazine wasn't enough. I needed to outline exactly which meals I wanted to make for each night. Instead, it remained a vague "I saw some great ideas", but they never got onto a shopping list, and never got made.
- The meal plan is too ambitious. Unless you're Martha, or have a staff to assist you on life, be realistic when you create your meal plan. At the end of a long day, as you slump from your car to your house, wanting only to collapse on the sofa, what will you seriously have the energy, time, and interest to make for dinner? Organizing yourself around a meal plan doesn't mean you magically have a new life. It means you're respecting your existing messy life, and developing a meal plan that fits in well with it. So be sure to include a couple of nights (at least!) of simple, quick meals.
- Ignoring leftovers. We live in a country of abundance where we have a wide array of foods available in our markets. It's easy to swoon over gorgeous, leggy greens reclining on shelves, being softly misted, and then completely forget all about them once we bring them home and store them away. Therefore, when drafting your meal plan, check first to see what you have on hand that you need to use up.
- Not having a Plan B. Life goes sideways on us all. the. time. If you don't have a Plan B for those nights, you are more likely to end up with some unhealthy, although convenient, dinners. Have a list of easy dinners that cook up in less than 30 minutes at your disposal that everyone likes.
M O N D A Y
by The Wimpy Vegetarian
Shakshuka is a popular breakfast in the Middle East and Northern Africa. Typically, eggs are poached in a sauce of tomatoes, chili peppers and onions, and served in a cast iron pan. In Morocco, shakshuka is often served in a tajine with bread to sop up the sauce. Not familiar with a tajine? Here's a picture (affiliate link) you can click on for more information:
This recipe has a Mexican twist with black beans, chili powder, oregano, and finished with a flurry of basil. Avocado is optional, but I heartily recommend it. It's in my cookbook, The Simply Vegetarian Cookbook, and is still one of my favorites. And it's the recipe I most often receive photos of from people who've purchased my cookbook.
Prep Ahead: This recipe only requires 10 minutes of prepping, and 30 minutes of cooking, but to speed things up you can either perform the prepping in advance, and store the prepped veggies in the refrigerator, OR make the entire sauce ahead. If you choose the latter, simply re-heat the sauce on the stove. When the sauce begins to simmer, pick up the recipe on step 3 when you add the eggs.
Omnivore Tip: Add chorizo to the sauce.
T U E S D A Y
by Love & Lemons
This bright salad is the perfect panacea to dreary winter days. If you only associate salads with summertime fare, this salad will change your mind. It has texture from the pine nuts, bright brined pickles and olives, and comforting lentils and cauliflower. If you like a little sweet in your salads, this one features a choice of dried apricots or dates.
Prep Ahead: Make the dressing ahead of time, and if you want, make the lentils - although lentils don't take that long to make. I plan to serve this as a warm salad, since we have about 5 feet of snow on the ground now with 2 - 3 more feet expected today, so I don't plan to roast the cauliflower ahead of time. But you certainly could, and store in the refrigerator for up to a week.
Ingredient Note: Be judicious with the type of lentil bean you choose for the salad. Love & Lemons recommends French Green lentils, which is an excellent choice. They take a little longer to make, but they hold their shape very well. Black lentils is another good choice for the same reason. Steer clear of lentils that get mushy like the brown, yellow, red and orange varieties.
Omnivore Tip: I plan to cook up some lamb chops to accompany this for Carnivorous Maximus. Sliced flank or skirt steak are other good options.
W E D N E S D A Y
by Oh My Veggies
This was a top post this week from Oh My Veggies, shared on Facebook. It looks perfectly comforting, delicious and EASY. It only has 4 ingredients besides salt, pepper, butter, and oil. This means each ingredient needs to shine. I highly recommend Idaho potatoes - they have the best texture and flavor - and I invite you to have some fun with the mushrooms. If your choice is baby bellas, go for it. I plan to mix in some shiitake and oyster mushrooms too, for some variety in texture and a greater depth of flavor. If you want to add additional herbs, thyme and rosemary are two good choices, and rosemary goes particularly well with potatoes.
Prep Ahead: I don't recommend prepping this dish ahead, but if you wanted to cook the entire dish ahead, it would likely reheat well.
Omnivore Tip: Mushrooms call for steaks, so that's what Carnivorous Maximus will have with this casserole.
T H U R S D A Y (V A L E N T I N E ' S D A Y)
by A Couple Cooks
You might be wondering - "Mushrooms two days in a row???" But I assure you, black truffles are completely different with their own unique flavor. I was extremely fortunate to tour a truffle farm in Umbria, Italy last October, and was even luckier to experience the truffle tasting the owner laid out for us. They had black and white truffle dishes, and I brought several jars of black truffles home with me on the plane. If you don't have black truffles on hand, and can't find them at your market, they're worth ordering. Here are some choices on Amazon (affiliate links).
Finding good whole truffles are a little harder to find, but Gourmet Foodstore is a pretty good source.
Prep Ahead: Risotto is not a dish to make ahead. Sorry!
Omnivore Tip: Mushrooms have such a natural meaty flavor, I'm planning on only serving a side salad with the risotto. But as I mention above in Wednesday's menu, mushrooms call for steak if someone at your table must have meat.
F R I D A Y
by Naturally Ella
I mentioned in Tuesday's dish (above) the importance of choosing the right lentil. This is a perfect example where a mushier lentil works very well, and I plan to use brown lentils. Legumes are a perfect substitution for ground meat in meatballs, and I often draw on both lentils and chickpeas with great success. I like that this one uses broccoli, as I have a bag of it on hand that I want to use this week.
Prep Ahead: The meatballs can be made ahead, and stored in the refrigerator for a couple of days before baking. I wouldn't keep them in the refrigerator much longer than that as they use raw egg as a binder. While they're baking, you can whip up the cream sauce.
Make it Vegan: An egg is called for in the Lentil Bites, which is a very common binder to use in any meatball. If you're interested in vegan options, check out this post on 7 Vegan Egg Substitutes for Baking. For the sauce, make this Roasted Tomato Sauce or this lemony pesto that uses Nutritional Yeast in place of cheese.
Omnivore Tip: Make some of the meatballs with a 50/50 combination of ground pork and ground beef.
If you make any of these dishes, I would love to see how it turns out for you!! Take a photo and put it up on Instagram - just don't forget to tag me @wimpyvegetarian.
Did you miss my other Weekly Menu Plans? Check them out here for more meal planning recipes for vegetarians with tips for the omnivores at the table + menu planning tips: