Monday, July 30, 2012

Off We Go: The Weekly Menu

After years of dispensing tips, advice and ideas to friends and sometimes complete strangers at the grocery store, I've finally put pen to paper, so to speak, to talk about how to make life smoother for busy ladies like you and me. I am always on the lookout for solutions and ideas to make everyday life easier, simpler and better – with mealtime, kids and health and beauty and more. Easier Simpler Better is a little passion project to help us all stay in game… or get one step ahead of the game. Join on the journey, won't you?

One of the things I've been doing for a while now is menu planning each week for our family of five so we can (A.) have tasty and nutritious dinners together, (B.) preempt any picky eating habits by introducing new flavors and saying "yes, this is what we're all having," and (C.) avoid a nightly improvisational act in the kitchen or worse yet, in the grocery store at 5:30 pm.

The recipes come from all kinds of sources, and I choose carefully for simplicity and tweak as needed to meet our needs. Generally, I'll shop on Sunday so that I'll have ingredients for several days worth of easy family meals to kick off the week. Does it take some planning? Yes. Is it worth it? Oh yeah. Since so many friends have asked about these weekly menus, it's only fitting that a menu should be the subject of my inaugural blog post. Along with sharing other fun and useful tips and ideas along the way, I'll lay out several complete dinner menus each week, including shortcuts and make-ahead tips, plus an "extra credit" recipe for a snack, baked good or other tasty item to supplement day-to-day meals.

This week's menu, like all others you'll see, has a good variety of proteins, flavors and simple cooking techniques. Eat up and please tell me what you think. Thank you!

Spaghetti and Meatballs


Find the recipe on

Sides: Steamed broccoli or green beans tossed with a squeeze of fresh lemon, plus salt and pepper to taste

  • Bake meatballs on a foil baking tray. No mess and you can recycle when you’re done
Make ahead notes:
  • Fill pasta pot with water and set on stove for later.
  • Rinse and chop parsley. If you have a kid who’s handy with scissors, give them the parsley leaves and a bowl and let them have at it.
  • Combine meatball mixture, roll into balls and place on baking sheet. Lightly cover and put in fridge for later.

Ingredients for Shopping List:
  • 1 1/2 lbs lean ground beef
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese , shredded + more for serving at the table
  • 1/2 cup Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
  • 1/3 cup fresh parsley, chopped  
  • 1/4 cup unseasoned tomato sauce (comes in small cans, usually near tomato paste)
  • 1 teaspoon mustard powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Spaghetti
  • Your favorite jarred pasta sauce

Buttermilk Baked Chicken 

Adapted from recipe found on

The whole dinner is cooked at one temperature!

Sides: Frozen mashed potatoes or potato wedges – try Alexia or Trader Joe’s versions and roasted carrots

Make ahead notes:
  • Combine evaporated milk and vinegar in a large bowl and add chicken pieces. Turn chicken until coated. Cover and put in fridge for later.
  • Peel carrots and cut in smaller pieces if necessary. Wrap in a damp paper towel for later to prevent them drying out.
  • Combine seasonings with flour in a shallow bowl or pie plate
Ingredients for Shopping List:
  • 1 (12 fluid ounce) can evaporated milk
  • 1/4 cup white vinegar
  • 8 pieces of chicken with the bone (breasts, thighs, legs, wings)
  • 2 cups flour, seasoned with 1 tsp. paprika and ½ tsp each of the following: chili powder, paprika, garlic powder, Herbes de Provence (or substitute a pinch each of dried thyme and rosemary), salt, pepper. Increase these seasonings if you like bolder flavors.
  • Bag of frozen mashed potatoes or potato wedges
  • Fresh carrots
  • Kosher salt
  • Olive oil
  • Fresh dill or parsley
Cooking instructions:
  • Combine evaporated milk and vinegar in a large bowl. It will thicken up. Add chicken pieces and make sure the pieces are covered in the milk mixture. Cover well and marinate in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight.
  • Preheat oven to 400˚. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Otherwise, line sheet with foil and lightly coat with cooking spray.
  • Combine flour with seasonings in a shallow dish. Remove chicken from milk. Dip chicken pieces into flour, shaking off any excess. Place on prepared baking sheet. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Bake in preheated oven 50 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. Turn chicken over after 30 minutes and continue baking.

Meatball Sandwiches

Sides: Green Salad (throw in any leftover chopped fresh herbs leftover from other dishes)

Make ahead notes:
  • Assemble salad without dressing; lightly cover and put in fridge for later.
  • Cover a baking sheet with foil.
Ingredients for Shopping List:
  • Sub rolls or baguette
  • Fresh mozzarella cheese or slices of Provolone cheese
  • Leftover meatballs
  • Marinara sauce
  • Salad greens with any additional veggies and dressing of choice
Cooking instructions:
  • Preheat oven to 350˚
  • Warm meatballs and sauce slowly on stovetop or in microwave
  • Slice bread to open; optional: brush lightly with olive oil, sprinkle lightly with salt and garlic powder. Put bread on prepared sheet and place in oven for 5 minutes or until lightly toasted.
  • Remove bread from oven and spoon meatballs and sauce onto bread. Top with cheese and return to oven for a few minutes until cheese melts.

Maple Roasted Salmon 


Find the recipe on the Diamond Crystal site

The whole dinner is cooked at one temperature!

Sides:  Roasted baby beets, warmed baguette

  • Line baking sheet with foil for easier clean up.
Make ahead notes:
  • Combine salt, sugar and pepper in a small bowl. Set aside for later.
  • Rinse, dry and chop dill. If you have a kid who’s handy with scissors, give them the dill and a bowl and let them have at it.
  • Combine syrup, mustard and dill in another small bowl, put in fridge for later.
Ingredients for Shopping List:
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 (6-ounce) salmon fillets
  • 1/4 cup all-natural maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided 
  • Baby beets
  • Baguette

Perfectly Grilled Steaks 


Find the recipe on the Food Network

Sides: Baked potatoes (sweet or white), grilled or roasted asparagus

Make ahead notes:
  • Scrub potatoes and allow to air dry thoroughly.
  • Rinse asparagus. When dry, brush with olive oil, sprinkle with S&P

Ingredients for Shopping List:
  • Steaks in your cut of choice – boneless rib-eye, filet mignon or New York strips are good choices
  • Potatoes – white russet potatoes and sweet potatoes are options
  • Asparagus
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Canola oil

Extra Credit: Baked Oatmeal


Adapted from this Cooking Light recipe

Your house will smell like an oatmeal cookie and you'll have a warm, healthy breakfast in no time.

Ingredients for Shopping List:
  • 2 cups uncooked quick-cooking oats
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup raisins or dried cranberries
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 cups fat-free milk
  • 1/2 cup applesauce
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • Cooking spray

Cooking Instructions:
  • Preheat oven to 375°.
  • Combine the first 5 ingredients in a medium bowl. 
  • Combine the milk, applesauce, vanilla, butter, and egg. 
  • Add milk mixture to oat mixture; stir well. 
  • Pour oat mixture into an 8-inch square baking dish coated with cooking spray. 
  • Bake at 375° for 20 minutes. Serve warm.


  1. I love it! Everything looks delicious. Can't wait to try out some recipes. Welcome to the blogosphere!

    1. Thanks, Marisa! Glad to have you here and good to be here.

  2. Finally!! I am so happy that you put this together. I always love your fantastic recipes and tips to make them easier and fun. Thank you! xoxo

    1. Thanks! I aim to please - I hope I keep you coming back!

  3. Love it stef!!! Have sent it too friends - we will be watching and cooking with ya!

    1. Thanks for visiting! Feeding the fam is just one topic I'll cover on the blog, so stay tuned for more.

  4. Made the meatball sandwiches tonight. They were a hit. Used TJ's Italian meatballs, and added some Parmesan cheese and fresh chopped parsley to the toasted bread (so it was more like cheesy garlic bread) and they were soooo good. I'm doing the buttermilk chicken tomorrow. I'll let you know how that goes.

    Miss you.

    1. Nice work! I like the addition of parsley to the bread. Hoping the chicken went over well - we are big fans of the yummy, crispy skin around here.