One year ago I started Dinner Plans. I didn’t have a lot of ideas as to what I would do with it and what I would write about each week and I still don’t, but somehow a year has already gone. Thanks to my amazingly flexible boss, I’ve taken weeks off here and there when we’ve gone on vacation to keep it fun rather than feeling like “work”. Some weeks I feel like I can crank out a super diverse menu that sounds and tastes delicious, has a variety of foods and flavors and is put together with great ease. Other weeks it feels like it takes forever to come up with a menu that is just fine, but nothing special. I’ve found new food blogs to get weekly inspiration from, Half Baked Harvest and Pinch of Yum being two of my new favorites, in addition to my go-to cooking magazines Eating Well and Cooking Light. In the last year Stella has gone from playing with and exploring food to eating or at least having the potential to eat everything we do. I’ve tried not to change the way we eat to cater to her in any way and to expose her to a variety of flavors and food. It’s a long game so we will see how that plays out. More and more though I am looking for quick meals, like 20-30 minutes, that I can prep during her nap and execute in 10-15 minutes when we get home from the park or an afternoon play date. I obviously am a fan of crockpot meals, but as summer approaches those are likely to get fewer and far between. Cooking and picking out what to cook is an always evolving process that changes with season, times in your life (i.e. life with a toddler), and as your skill-set and food preferences grow and change. I was talking to a friend the other day about the early days of cooking and learning to cook when we weren’t as adept at deciphering recipes and made some questionable meals. Thankfully I’ve learned a ton over the years and can pick recipes out better and change them as I go to make meals that are always eatable and can be rescued or given a pop of flavor if needed. Just because someone puts a recipe out there doesn’t mean anything anymore, so the ability to pick, choose and adapt is even more important. Two weeks ago was the closest I’ve come to not publishing a recipe. The Quinoa Chicken Curry Bowl wasn’t bad it just wasn’t anything like it was described and clearly my recipe reading (and following) skills failed me to have not been able to see this. It would be like if someone handed you a spring roll and called it a burrito. Both good, but very different. Who knows where this next year will lead me food-wise and what new challenges will come along. Having dinner ready at 5:30 was this year’s challenge for sure! So thank you all for hanging in there with me in this first year of Dinner Plans, trying my recipes, giving me feedback, and following along! It’s been fun. Meal Plan & Grocery List
Monday: Thai Coconut-Pumpkin Soup with Green Salad and Garlic Bread
- This soup was delicious and brace yourselves…Stella tried it and potentially enjoyed it. I almost died but tried to keep my poker face on.
- I used a large butternut squash but hadn’t planned on doubling it, so I just increased a few things to compensate and figured it out from there. I added more ground ginger (1 tsp), more curry paste (2 Tbsp and a whole can of coconut milk.
- I always worry that soups like this won’t be enough for dinner for us so I used a can of full-fat coconut milk along with a whole grain bread as a side. It was really thick so we both felt unexpectedly satisfied with it as our dinner.
Tuesday: Crockpot Spaghetti Squash Lasagna Bolognese with Green Salad
- This crockpot recipe breaks my rule of having to cook, but since there wasn’t much prep otherwise, it didn’t offend me too much.
- Unfortunately my spaghetti squash did not fit in my crockpot so I had to cook it separately. I cut it in half, scooped out the seeds, and put it in a 9×13” glass dish with a half-inch of water and microwaved it for around 20 minutes, turning it half-way through.
- I added an extra 15 oz can of diced tomatoes for a little extra sauce. In the future I would probably use all diced tomatoes since I don’t love big chunks of tomatoes and the whole tomatoes stayed pretty whole, but that is just a personal preference.
- And reading through the recipe now I realize I forgot to add the mozzarella cheese I was so looking forward to when I bought it. Bummer! We used parmesan cheese instead, but I fear it would have be seriously tasty with the mozzarella. Next time…
Wednesday: Yellowfin Tuna with Scallions and Ginger, Baby Bok Choy and Brown Rice
- I reversed their directions doing the scallions and ginger first. I added my baby bok choy to the pan as well and put the lid on for a few minutes to steam them. When they were done I added the rest of the ingredients and removed everything from the pan.
- Next I cooked the tuna, but not in 1½ cups of olive oil. I seared them on both sides in the pan then added the bok choy mixture with all the liquid to cook the tuna in and not dry it out. It worked pretty darn well I thought. I served it all over brown rice.
- Travis doesn’t love or really even like artichokes from a jar or cooked spinach, but I hoped enough brie could win him over and fortunately it seemed to work.
- This was really simple but very tasty. I of course used whole wheat pasta which I think adds to a dish like this.
- I also added a sliced onion to the garlic and artichoke mixture for more flavor.
Friday: Banh Mi Bowls with Lemongrass Meatballs and Forbidden Black Rice
- Delicious!! And so simple.
- This was an easy dish for me to prep in advance during Stella’s nap so all I had to do at dinnertime was cook the meatballs and plate everything up with some fun garnishes. The pickles are key so if you don’t have time to make them an hour before dinner just make them the night before and they will be more pickled.
- I used regular sugar instead of coconut palm and only added 2 Tbsp to the pickles which I thought was a good ratio.
- I served ours over black rice just to try something different but all of her suggestions would be equally quick and tasty and used cilantro, mint, avocado, and cucumber as garnishes. So fresh and flavorful. Seriously.