The Great Dinner Plan

I‘m pretty much ignoring the list of ingredients I already have in the house. Because if I had nothing, I’d start from scratch. So let’s not limit ourselves–despite the fact that restraint leads to faster decisions and fewer regrets. I’m going to set a timer for 20 minutes which will be my nod at restraint. This is how much time I have to chose the five dinners we’ll eat for the next five nights. Go.

Pick your proteins. Chicken, pulled lamb shoulder, tofu and ground pork, bird balls (aka pre-made chicken meatballs), shrimp and salmon, beans and eggs. Start there. Next, decide on the dishes that use the proteins listed.

  • Harissa Chicken with Leeks, Potatoes, and Yogurt from Dinner
  • Black Pepper Poke Salmon Bowl from Time to Eat
  • Green Eggs, No Ham (Baked Runny Eggs with Spinach, Leeks, and Feta) served over creamy polenta from Dinner
  • Sweet Potato and Goat’s Cheese Tart from Time to Eat
  • Whole wheat angel hair pasta and zoodles with Rao’s marinara, bird balls and garlic bread

Problem: Lucas is allergic to salmon. I can use shrimp for him. Problem: Lucas won’t eat anything if he hears spinach is in it. Problem: I’ll likely only eat the chicken without the potatoes, the salmon bowl without the rice, the eggs and spinach without the polenta, and none of the tart. Problem: Phil.

Seriously, he’ll say a poke bowl isn’t a meal, that there’s not enough food. And sweet potato goat cheese tart sounds like a ladies’ luncheon item. He’ll call the whole thing an appetizer. And, Phil doesn’t like “long pasta shapes.” He will only tolerate ziti, penne or rigatoni. Elbows if they’re smothered in cheese. So if I throw garlic bread in there, maybe I’ll be met with fewer protests. “I don’t need you to spend 45 minutes making eggs for dinner. I can make a spinach omelette for breakfast in a matter of minutes. No thank you.” Problem: I cannot make this list up in 20 minutes. My time is up. I have four things and to match, at least four problems with my choices. Let’s try again:

Burrata with fusilli, cherry tomatoes and mint OR Burrata with Peaches, Tomato, Basil and Pine nuts from Dinner. Who am I kidding? I could make this if I were eating with my mother and sister. And Abigail. But Phil and Lucas? Not happening. Instead of deciding on what we’ll eat for the next five nights, I’m going to throw up a list of meal ideas and see what can stick.

  • Tomato risotto with lemon prawns and petite peas
  • Eggplant and tomato panini with spicy escarole and white beans
  • Thai Green Chicken Curry over rice
  • Pulled Lamb with Feta Couscous Salad
  • Teriyaki Salmon (and Chicken) with Mango Salsa
  • Mushroom lemon soup
  • New England Clam Chowder
  • Fish or grilled shrimp tacos
  • Popover sandwiches with roasted red pepper, marinated artichoke, red onion, mozzarella, watercress or arugula, Russian dressing
  • Baked Gnocchi or Gnocchi Lasagna
  • Peanut chicken with Gnocchi and broccoli
  • Meyer Lemon soup with Rice Meatballs
  • Enchilada Stuffed Shells, avocado + sour cream

It’s 1:11am. I’ve coached a workshop, eaten a Hodge-podge of a dinner (potato wedges, escarole and white beans), reviewed and quizzed the kids on the functions of the heart, played two rounds of Monopoly Deal, removed my makeup and returned to this list. “You’re not still working on recipes, are you?” Absolutely. And I still have no idea what I’m doing. There needs to be a cookbook that makes freezer to table meals that lists easy modifications for anyone who wants to lose weight by eating fewer carbs. Not, for example, a cookbook that says, “Make yourself zucchini noodles in place of linguine and garlic bread for the table.” You know what? Because I’ll eat the zucchini noodles and bird balls and tomato sauce. Then I’ll stare at the garlic bread in misery.

I am determined to commit to a plan, so tomorrow I can shop and execute five meals. Wouldn’t it help if I just picked one cookbook and followed its suggested plan?

This week’s dinner plan:
Thurs: Harissa Chicken with Leeks, Potatoes, and Yogurt
Fri: Thai Green Chicken Curry over rice from The Batch Lady
Sat: Pulled Lamb with Feta Couscous from The Batch Lady
Sun: Asian Lettuce Wraps and Homemade Dumplings
Mon: Green Eggs, No Ham (Baked Runny Eggs with Spinach, Leeks, and Feta)

Pizza might get involved. But for now, this is my plan. And of course all I want to do is eat and make a poke bowl now. My plan now:

Print each recipe, line up ingredients near each recipe, get out sharpie marker and freezer bags. Drink espresso. Post the dinner menu on a chalkboard. Pray.

I texted Phil the menu. He responded:
Replace the lamb. It’s not pulled.
Me: what is it?
It’s like steak
And might be dry.
Just make skirt steak instead.

Just? Just?! Does he not know? No, he does not. Even if he ever reads this, he will never know. Just.



  1. My goodness you’re not a short order cook lady! :)

    Also, you’re not responsible if people do or do not eat things. It’s your job to put food on the table and their job to decide if they want to eat it. There’s so much pressure you place on yourself it makes me anxious!

    1. Author

      Me too! Last night I made the poke bowl. Know who ate it? Me. Only me. I’m over it. I’ll make it. If you don’t want it, don’t eat it. I can’t.

  2. I think your overthinking this. Make your own pizza night, make your own taco night, make your own pasta night, make your own salad night, make your own rice bowl night. One base, a bunch of toppings, and no complaints.

  3. I think that you live with people that like simple meals. Your meals are fancy (and sound delicious), but they do not like gourmet food. Maybe try keeping it very simple (like Mac & Cheese, pizza, burgers) and save the fancy (delicious) food for yourself. Worth a try :) With my son (fussy eater), I let him help make the food and let him light the meat on fire (BBQ) and he started eating more variety that way. Good luck! It ain’t easy being a Mom :))))

  4. Hi, curious how long you followed keto and what made you stopped? I remember stumbling upon your posts few years ago and getting very inspired. Trying to get back on the bandwagon again.

    1. Author

      I stopped because my cholesterol went THROUGH THE ROOF. I even had specialized cholesterol tests that measure particle size and number, etc. and even those tests said the small dense cholesterol particles were extremely high. So, I made the choice to stop ONLY because of my cholesterol numbers which were frighteningly high.

  5. At my house, the menu always has two choices:
    1. Take it, or
    2. Leave it
    There is always food, so if they don’t like what I make, they are free to make something else. Just clean up afterwards!

  6. or some nights when I was growing up and life was busy. My Mom called it “YoYo night” as in you’re on your own.

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