Don’t you hate it when you get home from a long day and your dinner isn’t a good as it should be? Don’t you hate it when getting a weeknight meal on the table becomes another source of stress?
The good news is preparing dinner can actually be a chance to relax and unwind. A chance to nourish yourself and your loved ones with good food and good company.
Even on busy week nights.
The secret is to harness the power of meal planning without falling prey to the common mistakes…
3 Meal Planning Mistakes (and how to avoid them)
1. Complicated recipes
If you’re a food lover like me, you’ve probably made this mistake more than once (like I have!). Choosing overly ambitious recipes means when it comes time to cook you’re either going to struggle to find the energy OR you’re going to be eating really late.
Happily, building a repertoire of recipes that are both simple (hello 5 ingredients!) and satisfying is something I’ve been doing for years and years. I’m still surprised how allowing each ingredient to speak for itself can be so delicious.
2. Inflexible plans
If there’s one constant in our modern lives it’s that things are always changing. So you need to allow some flexibility otherwise you’re going to end up with lots of waste.
For my meal plans I take two approaches to add flexibility.
Firstly, I include a ‘waste avoidance strategy’ for every ingredient so if your plans change, you’ll know what to do with your ingredients so you don’t end up wasting them.
The second part is including a ‘wild card’ night rather than planning every single meal. This way you can adapt as needed.
3. Not planning!
At the other end of the spectrum is the problem of not having a plan at all. You know where this leads… no food in the house which means you’re far more likely to eat out or order takeaway. Which is fine occasionally but not when it’s happening most nights.
Want to enjoy all the benefits of meal planning?
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“I nearly cried when your planner came through today! My life is really hectic at the moment, lots of stress. To have the planner with recipes that are easy and scrummy, portion controlled and a shopping list it was such a relief. Thank you, thank you!”
Cecelia, Soupstones Member.
Firey Harissa Chicken
When I was first learning to cook I once made a ‘fiery’ harissa chicken from a recipe in a magazine. There was a huge ingredients list and it took forever but the thing I remember most was using 50 red chillies in the marinade. My fingers burned for days after preparing so many chillies with no gloves. This version is a much more simple (and just as tasty) homage to that dish. See the variations if you’re not sure about harissa.
enough for: 2
takes: 35 minutes
8 tablespoons Greek style yoghurt
1-2 tablespoons harissa
450g (1lb) chicken thigh fillets
1/2 small cauliflower, chopped
2-4 tablespoons butter
1 bunch mint, leaves picked
1. Preheat oven to 180C (350F). Combine yoghurt and harissa. Taste and season.
2. Chop each thigh fillet into 2 pieces. Toss chicken in half the yoghurt mixture. If you have time you could let it marinate for up to 24 hours in the fridge. Or just keep going!
2. Place chicken on a baking tray. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the chicken is just cooked through.
3. Meanwhile, whizz the cauliflower in the food processor until you have really fine ‘grains’ that look like couscous.
4. Melt butter in a large frying pan. Add cauli and cook until the cauli is hot. Season.
5. Serve chicken on a bed of the cauli ‘couscous’ with mint leaves on top and remaining spicy yoghurt spooned over.
no harissa? – harissa is a Tunisian spice paste. You can get it online or from good delis. My supermarket stocks it. It usually comes in a tube or a jar. Make your own with this simple recipe. You could substitute and chilli paste like sambal oleck or even your favourite hot sauce. Another option is to finely chop a heap of fresh red chillies. See here for other harissa substitutes.
dairy-free – make a marinade using 1-2 tablespoons harissa and 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil. Serve drizzled with tahini or mashed avocado instead of the yoghurt sauce.
vegan / vegetarian – replace chicken with firm tofu. The yoghurt and harissa really add loads of flavour to tofu. Or replace chicken with sliced eggplant. You may need to cook a little longer. Another option is to replace chicken with a trimmed bunch of baby carrots for fiery harissa carrots. Vegans will need to see the ‘dairy-free’ suggestions.
more substantial / carb-lovers – serve with cooked quinoa, cooked lentils or couscous cooked according to the packet. You may also like to serve flat bread.
pesetarian – lovely with any fish fillets. Reduce the cooking time to about 20 minutes or less, depending on the size of your fish.
different meat – also great with lamb chops or steak.
different herbs – coriander (cilantro), flat leaf parsley, chives or basil.
paleo (gluten, grain + dairy-free) – use coconut yoghurt or replace yoghurt with olive oil and a little extra harissa.
more veg – toss diced red onions, red peppers (capsicum) and carrot through the cauli couscous.
I’m not a fan of reheated chicken so best to make it fresh.
Have fun in the kitchen!