a year of weekly meal plans – week four

Week four is here. We’ve done a whole month of planning, prepping and eating well. I feel like if I can do a month then I can easily do a year. Are you with me? Let me know what has worked for you and what you need more help with and I’ll work that into future plans. I like to change things up each week but, if you’re happier with fewer options you can easily just repeat this first month through the year – switching in seasonal vegetables and other goodies as the seasons change.

Please keep the pictures and comments coming. Here are the previous 3 week’s plans.

How I’ll share my meal plans and recipes this year

I’ll be sharing my meal plan each week on here and on social media, so be sure to follow me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter  – where I’ll also share pictures most days of the dishes I make. Some of the recipes will be from my site, others will be going into my book which will be out later this year. Every two weeks I’ll share the menu plans and some recipes in my newsletter so sign up for it here if you haven’t already.

Scroll down for this week’s week menu plan and some of the recipe links.

What I was planning for this week

I managed to spread my birthday celebrations out a bit so we ate out a bit more than usual. I also had two new cooking classes so I knew I’d be crazy busy. And of course, the usual after school madness continues – as it will every week.

Week 4 meal plans and recipes

Here’s what we’ve had this week….

Monday

Puy lentil bolognese with pasta, broccoli and salad

Continuing our meat-free Monday theme and also tying in bit of batch cooking for the freezer. I made double the quantity of the recipe and froze half for another night.

This veg-packed puy lentil bolognese is meaty enough to satisfy everyone in the family. You can also use it as a base for a shepherds pie or lasagna if you fancy. Or you can water it down with some stock to make a hearty soup.

A meaty bolognese is a pretty standard dinner for most children in the UK, so this is hopefully a gentle step away from the familiar and should go down well. I’ve served it, without announcing it as being anything other than ‘spaghetti bolognese’, to loads of children and they’ve not batted an eyelid.

I served this for the boys with some steamed broccoli that I’d dressed in lemon, salt and olive oil. Seasoning greens is so important and really helps small people find them more interesting to eat. Because there are so many veggies in the pasta sauce I didn’t add any others. If you’re making this for squeamish children, you can mash the sauce before stirring it through the pasta. I always find that stirring plenty of grated Parmesan or Cheddar into the pasta and sauce before serving it helps avoid tricky situations.

Later on we had ours alongside lemon-dressed grated carrot, red cabbage and rocket (arugula).

Tuesday

Boys – swimming picnic – flasks of Julie’s lentil, carrot and tomato soup, cheese sandwiches and fruit (same as last week)

meal plans

Tuesdays are our craziest night of the week. We can’t be home for dinner for the boys so I take a picnic to their swimming class with us. These flasks are such a lifesaver for eating on the go. They are wide necked so I use them for soup, pasta or stews. They keep food hot (or cold) for hours so I usually make the boys picnic when I’m making my own lunch. You can buy them here in the UK or here in the US.

The boys had their and my favourite soup – Julie’s lentil, carrot and tomato soup. It is the easiest soup to make and is packed with veg and lentils so it keeps them full and packs in the protein. I’ve been sharing this recipe (my Mum’s recipe really) for years and love how many of you make this too. Make a big pan and freeze it in individual servings and you’ll always have an easy dinner or lunch to hand. Here’s the recipe.

Grown ups – Steak, creamed spinach, celariac and potato wedges with rosemary.

steak and spinach

Steak always feels like a bit of a celebration but its also such a speedy dinner. I buy a relatively small steak and cook it then slice it before serving. We go for quality over quantity when it comes to meat, so slicing it not only makes it easier to cut but it makes a bit of meat go a long way. The detailed recipe will be in my book but here are some pointers if you can’t wait that long.

How I cook my steak

I like to cook my steak by sprinkling it with salt first. Then I cut the fat off and put the fat in a medium-hot frying pan until the fat renders out. This gives you the most delicious fat to cook your steak in. Once there is about a teaspoon of liquid fat in the bottom of the pan, increase the heat until the fat is smoking and put your steak in. Leave it without touching it so that it develops a good golden crust. It will smoke and sizzle and that is good. After it has cooked for about 4 minutes, turn it over and continue to cook on the other side. Depending on the thickness of your steak and how you like your steak to be cooked, continue to cook on this side without fiddling with it. Once you’re happy with how it is done, transfer it to a plate to rest while you cook your spinach in the same pan.

My bits on the side

Creamed spinach is a steak house classic. To make it at home, all I do it fry a couple of sliced cloves of garlic in the pan I’ve cooked the steak in. Then after a minute I add some frozen leaf spinach. If I’ve remembered to get it out of the freezer earlier in the day that speeds things up. Otherwise I just put it into the pan, frozen and let it defrost over the heat. Break it up as it defrosts. Once it is piping hot, add a spoonful of creme fraiche (I’ll let you judge how big that spoon is but I use a very heaped dessert spoon). I grate in some nutmeg and add sea salt and back pepper. Then I add some lemon zest. Stir well and taste then adjust. You may want to add a squeeze of lemon juice too.

Healthy chips or fries

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A steak without chips is just wrong in my book. But chips aren’t the healthy option that I’m after so I add strips of celeriac (celery root) to the potatoes. It cooks up beautifully. Here’s the recipe for my oven-baked potato wedges with rosemary and garlic. Just peel your celeriac, slice it into 1 inch slices then cut each of those slices into thumb width strips. Add them to your potatoes when you cook them. Or leave the potatoes out and just use celeriac.

Plating up

I warm my plates then put a big pile of the spinach on one side, my chips on the other side then my sliced steak and any juices on top of the spinach. I always have an indecently large blob of Dijon mustard on the side too.

Wednesday

Out for dinner

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Our plans changed so we went out Wednesday rather than Saturday. We went out for a lovely dinner at a new restaurant near us – Hispi. It is always a treat to be cooked for and this place was perfect. As always I left with a phone full of pictures and my phone notes full of flavour combinations, inspired to do some recreating at home.

Thursday

Sweet potato and black bean stew from the freezer with avocado and slaw

menu plan

This is the easiest dinner of the week thanks to some batch cooking last week. Here’s the recipe again in case you missed it. I reheated the stew and added some cubes of avocado and slaw. Just the thing to offset last night’s indulgence.

Friday

Fish tacos

Fish tacos

I posted all the details of how to make these, and why our family loves them so much a couple of weeks ago. Feel free to make yours with steak (you could use some leftover steak from Tuesday) or chicken.

Saturday

Chorizo and chickpea stew, roast cauliflower and carrots

The finished dish

This stew is one of the most-made from my site. It only really has 3 ingredients and you can switch up the types of beans or the types of sausages. I usually make double so that I have another meal in the freezer. Once you’ve made it once you’ll barely have to look at the recipe again. Buy good sausages, add vinegar at the end and you’re laughing.

I roasted cauliflower and carrots to serve alongside it (basically this recipe without the chickpeas) – my favourite hands-off way of cooking veg. The roasting makes them taste so delicious. This stew is also delicious served with chunks of warm crusty bread, soft polenta or mashed potato.

Sunday

French braised chicken with baby baked potatoes

french chicken

I had leftovers from class so we had them for dinner after a busy day out. I’ll be adding the recipe for this to my book or you can come along and learn it in one of my classes. Just let me know if you’d need more class information.

I’ll share my next menu plan next week so watch out on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter and be sure to sign up for my newsletter.

Ask me for a personalized menu plan

If you need more help, I’m now offering a personal menu planning service wherever you are in the world. After an initial conversation to help me understand your lifestyle, I’ll create a weekly menu plan, detailed shopping list and recipes for your family to suit your dietary needs, likes and dislikes and what time you have available to cook. I’ll also be on hand to Facetime or Skype you and go through the plan each week, talking you through the recipes and answering any questions. Just drop me an email and I can run through how it works in more detail.

I’d love to see what menu plans and dinners you end up with, so remember to share on my Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. Tag your posts #ystcook so I can see!