This is Part 2 of my collection of posts used to help write my book The Family Dinner Solution
So to get started on my challenge, I have selected 30 meals to make. But before I get into my list, let me briefly touch on the considerations that went into these meals.
Variety/Degree of Difficulty: I strive for a good variety of food, but too much overwhelms me. I’ve heard some food bloggers never repeat the same meal in a year. I also know people who can just work off what is in their kitchen and create great meals. If I did either of these things, it would be very stressful and food would go to waste. I don’t consider myself a natural in the kitchen but I’m finding my groove. I will occasionally make a complicated meal but aim for simple ingredient lines most of the time. This reflects how I often feel after reading a recipe:
Health/Nutrition: I aim for a Mediterranean-ish diet — think lots of olive oil and fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy (this excludes low-fat cheese), nuts, beans/legumes, fish and lean meats. I will make the occasional high-fat meat, like carnitas (pork shoulder), but that’s about it. I don’t make much red meat but I am open to it (see meatloaf below). I aim for fish 1-2 times per week. This isn’t just about nutrition, I really enjoy the taste of cooking this way.
Family Preferences: My husband really enjoys meat but when I ask if he wants more his patent answer is “whatever is healthy.” We occasionally go to In and Out Burger and all I have to do is say “In and Out” and he is dressed and out the door in minutes. Luckily, he loves beans and salads too. Big A, who is 8, has turned into a protein gal! It’s much easier to cook for her now because she likes chicken cooked most ways and fish is her favorite. She’s also my big fruit eater. Little D, 5 years old, is still pretty picky but he rarely complains about any meal. His favorite dinners are quesadillas, burrito/taco night, chicken pita (he only adds hummus, no chicken), mac and cheese (I serve as a side, not main meal), pizza and spaghetti with meatballs. He’ll eat a burger out but not at someone’s house!
And then there’s me. I love beans, oatmeal, salads, salmon, Mexican food and lots of vegetarian dishes but I’m not sure I could ever make the leap to being a vegetarian. As for dislikes, there’s really not a food I won’t eat but I have my preferences. I used to have an aversion to cilantro in my twenties and now I enjoy it. Oh, and it’s hard for me to eat overly spicy food. Nobody in our house has food intolerances or allergies. And I forgot to mention, we all love sweets: chocolate and ice cream are our favorites.
Looking at my meals, they fall into three categories: “tried and true,” “somewhere in between” and “want to make.” The “tried and true” are the meals I make easily (but I have it written down because my mind is not reliable) and they are enjoyable. The “somewhere in between” are either meals I used to make but stopped for some reason or they need some work to reach tried and true status. And there are the meals I want to get in the rotation for better variety. The list below reflects meals for winter so it includes soups and stews.
Tried and True
1. Turkey Tacos
2. Fish Tacos
3. Chicken and Black Bean Quesadillas
4. Spaghetti and Meatballs with Homemade Sauce (updated sauce to include veggies)
5. Shrimp Linguine
6. Lasagna — Vegetarian and Turkey
7. Slow Cooker Greek Chicken Pitas (want to alternate with baked falafel)
8. Chicken Enchiladas
9. Salmon/Trout made three ways
10. Chicken or Fish Tender/Nuggets (same breading)
11. Turkey Chili
12. Slow Cooker White Bean and Ham Soup (recent graduate)
13. Slow Cooker Chicken Teriyaki (almost there)
14. Homemade crispy, thin crust pizza (I will do it!!!)
15. Base stir fry (haven’t perfected sauce)
16. Lentil and Brown Rice Casserole (used to make and love)
17. Shrimp and Broccoli Bake (make differently each time — need to focus)
18. Black Bean and Sweet Potato Burger (developed for Fearless Feeding but rarely make)
19. Salmon Cakes (Love the idea, but results have been disappointing)
20. Lentil Soup (can’t settle on one recipe)
21. Slow Cooker Italian Chicken with White Beans (used to make and love)
22. Chicken/Shrimp Fajitas (current recipe too involved)
Want to make
23. Base Alfredo Sauce with Pasta alternate protein source
24. Slow cooker curry recipe (lentil or chicken)
25. Pork tenderloin
26. Tuna Casserole (modernized)
28. Flexible Veggie soup (from kids’ book Rainbow Stew)
29. Butternut squash soup
30. Veggie Frittata/Crust-less Quiche
This list isn’t perfect. I have some meals I make occasionally not included but it’s a good start. I’m ready to cook! How about you?
Go here to see my 30 meals starting with Meal #1: Slow Cooker Chicken with White Beans or continue below.
Posts Included in the Series:
1. 30 Meals in 30 Days Challenge
2. 30 Meals in 30 Days: The Plan
3. 7 Dinner Rules That Will Transform Your Family’s Mealtime [Next]
4. The Side Strategy that Saved My Family’s Mealtime
5. If I Had to Start From Scratch Feeding My Kids, This is What I’d do
6. 6 Kitchen Shortcuts That Really Work (And Why)
7. The Family Dinner Solution Party
Want to see the final product with all the recipes and strategies? Check out Maryann’s book The Family Dinner Solution: How to Create a Rotation of Dinner Meals Your Family Will Love
went through my recipe binder and container of recipes “to try someday.” I got rid of a TON!! ones I have printed 4 years ago and never made. I was realistic as I searched through. Surveyed the family this morning to see what they would like.
Monday: casserole or crock pot of some sort
Tuesday: Mexican night
Thursday: American classic
need to work more fruit and veggies into meals. some great, easy sides would be great!
thanks for posting this…..great encouragement!
Maryann Tomovich Jacobsen, MS, RD says
Great Cheryl! I will be posting about sides too. I just didn’t include on the list.
I think this is a very realistic plan. I think now we have choice overload when it comes to making meals. I am always looking for new recipes, and it makes it hard to plan out meals. Having 30 in your back pocket makes a lot of sense. I’m going to start a binder with 30 meals like this to make meal planning easier. I am guilty of printing or saving recipes for years that I never make. Your post makes a lot of sense.
Maryann Tomovich Jacobsen, MS, RD says
Thanks Kristin! I look forward to you following along with me. First meal coming soon!
me too Kristin! I found recipes that looked yummy and I printed and the dates were from 2010…never made them!! ya know the saying, “don’t grocery shop while hungry”….should include, “don’t print recipes when hungry!!!”
I was happy to see some aspirational recipes in your list, as I have about the same number of meals I still want to learn to make on mine. As for those I’ve made, this one is easy and delicious, and under 400 calories per serving: http://www.countryliving.com/recipefinder/beef-tenderloin-roasted-cauliflower-pomegranate-salad-recipe-clx1214 I suspect one could reduce the fat by cutting the olive oil from the drizzle at the end of the recipe. I might try that next time.