All right people, I’m back. Since last we spoke I have been cranking on work — that vacation I was so wistful for? Those handstands on the beach and dinners on the screened-in porch? They became distant memories as soon as the iphone photos were auto-flowed into their own Apple album. Closed the book on summer vacation! Gone! To quote one of Pixar’s more brilliant characters, “I never look back, darling, it distracts from The Now.” So what is The Now…now? It’s back-to-school. It’s back to eighty-five pairs of shoes by the front door. Back to forgetting to check backpacks. Back to alarm clocks, school lunch-packing, breathless breakfasts, and…structure. To start the year off right, naturally, I’ve put together a little gift for everyone — me included: A Sunday-to-Thursday weekly dinner plan (plus shopping list — click on link at the end.) But instead of just, you know, giving it to you, I thought I’d also share the reason why I chose each recipe for each particular night — why pulled chicken on Sunday? Why salad pizza on Wednesday? There is a method to the madness and in the spirit of back-t0-school, I figured you’d want a little lesson plan to go along with the recipes. Here you go and good luck!
Sunday (morning or afternoon)
- Go food shopping
- Make a jar of vinaigrette that you can use all week.
- Barbecue Pulled Chicken Sandwiches with Cole Slaw
- Chopped Tomato & Avocado Salad with Red Onion, Cilantro and that homemade vinaigrette you made earlier
Why? So you can make extra BBQ pulled chicken. It freezes well, and is a great thing to have on hand if you have to make a quick serves-one meal for an athlete who needs to eat before or after a game or practice. Or a picky eater who won’t touch whatever it is you are serving. Or a spouse who staggers in late, after everyone has eaten. Alternately: You can freeze the entire thing and have a full dinner for four ready for later in the week. The second half of the cabbage will be used for Tuesday’s dinner.
- Spaghetti with Corn, Country Ham, Basil, Parmesan
- Green Salad with tomatoes, red onion, and that homemade vinaigrette you made on Sunday
Why? Never start with something ambitious on Monday. Remember: You are in it for the long game. This is easy, fast, seasonal, and requires a minimal number of pots. In other words, total keeper. Also: Feel free to replace the country ham with bacon — or with olive oil if you want to make it a Meatless Monday. Make twice as much salad as you eat. Save the rest (undressed) in a bag for salad pizza on Wednesday.
Why? It works because it has a lot of overlapping ingredients with the Tofu you’ll have on Thursday, but feels like something else entirely. The only thing you have to worry about is spacing them out well so people don’t get soy-overload. Also, this is extremely light — another reason why it’s nicknamed “redemption salad” — so feel free to round out the meal with a baguette or some noodles.
- Salad Pizza (add some of the basil you have leftover from Monday night)
Why? It’s quick and healthy and a nice warm-weather pizza. If kids won’t touch a salad pizza, top one half of the pie with pizza sauce and mozzarella for them. (Note: sauce and mozzarella are not included on the attached shopping list.)
- Soy-Ginger Tofu
- Sauteed Spinach
- White or Brown Rice
Why? I love this meal because it’s totally pantry-driven, so if it works on Thursday, great. If you don’t get to it till next Thursday, that works, too. Obviously the tofu will expire at some point — but unlike meat or fish which comes with use-it-or-lose-it pressure, it gives you a little breathing room. Another reason to make this? It’s so freaking good! If someone protests on the grounds of tofu (as my children still do) heat up that extra bbq pulled chicken from the freezer and slap it on a sandwich.
Go out. Call it in. Eat in the car. Whatever you do, take the night off!