Two Busy Moms Create a Less Stressful Plan for Mealtime

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The Dinner Plan

The Dinner Plan: Simple Weeknight Recipes and Strategies for Every Schedule

Photo courtesy of Abrams Publishing

Photo courtesy of Abrams Publishing

In these excerpts from their latest cookbook, The Dinner Plan ($30), authors and moms Caroline Campion and Kathy Brennan share their five strategies to conquer the mad-dash mayhem of weeknight meals. Bonus: Many of the recipes fall into more than one category. 

One-Dish  Recipes that come together quickly, with minimal cleanup. 

Staggered  Dishes that can be served any way you want—warm, at room temp or reheated. 

Make-Ahead  Another awesome strategy for evenings when you’re not sure what time is dinnertime. 

Extra-Fast  Seriously easy meals. Our pick—Pork and Broccoli Curry—can be whipped up in under 25 minutes. Here’s a plus: It’s a one-dish too.

Pantry  All ingredients can be kept on hand in your cabinet, fridge or freezer.

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"Shrimp Summer ""Roll"" Salad

salad with shrimp summer roll

Photo by Ryan Liebe

Photo by Ryan Liebe

Make ahead 
One of Kathy’s kids’ favorite dishes is Vietnamese summer rolls—rice paper sheets wrapped around shrimp, raw vegetables, rice noodles and herbs. The wrapping can be hard, though, so sometimes they skip that part. Over time, the rolls evolved into this salad, which Kathy and I like just as much. If you prefer the convenience of ready-to-eat shrimp, use them; you can also substitute shredded rotisserie chicken or cubed tofu. The salad is dressed with a thinned version of the typical peanut sauce served with summer rolls.

That’s a wrap! 
Save 30 minutes
of prep by tossing the classic summer roll filling with rice noodles versus wrapping into rolls.

Makes 4
Prep 20 m
Cook 3 m

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Pork and Broccoli Curry

rice curry with pork and broccoli

Photo by Ryan Liebe

Photo by Ryan Liebe

There are two somewhat unconventional items that belong in every pantry: coconut milk and Thai curry paste. With these on hand, everyday ingredients such as pork and broccoli turn into a familiar but still slightly exotic dinner. Red curry paste is spicier than green; use whichever you prefer. We like Maesri and Mae Ploy brands.

Pantry Bonus
Opt for precooked rice. Heating it just before dinner saves you 15 minutes of cooking time. 

Makes 4
Prep 15 m
Cook 9 m

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One-Pan Chicken with Lemon and Potatoes

chicken with lemon and potatoes dish

Photo by Ryan Liebe

Photo by Ryan Liebe

Kathy grew up eating some version of this dish weekly. It was a snap for her mom to make, no one ever tired of it and there was only one pan to wash. Potatoes and lemon were constants, but sometimes her mom would throw in carrots, cherry tomatoes or even a green veg such as
sliced asparagus or frozen peas (closer to the end of the cooking time). Sweet potatoes, parsnips and mushrooms are also good options. Feel free to substitute rosemary or thyme for the oregano; fresh herbs are wonderful here too. Kathy and I prefer dark meat because it’s more flavorful, but Kathy’s mom always included a breast for her dad.

Clean up your act 
With only one pan to wash, you’ll shave around 15 minutes off that dreaded post-meal chore.  

Makes 5
Prep 15 m
Bake 35 m

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Rigatoni with Sausage, White Beans and Mushrooms

sausage rigatoni with beans and mushrooms

Photo by Ryan Liebe

Photo by Ryan Liebe

This is one of Caroline’s family’s favorite recipes, and her daughter, Belle, wanted to make sure it ended up in the cookbook. The light flavors of chicken sausage go particularly well with the mushrooms, white beans and brothy-lemony sauce, but you can also use turkey or pork sausage. And if you don’t like or have mushrooms—the only non-pantry ingredient in the dish—leave them out and cook the onion over medium heat instead.

Staggered Bonus 
Serve hot, warm or at room temperature. Keep, covered, on back of stove for up to 2 hours. Toss with a little more oil, if needed.

Makes 6
Prep 10 m
Cook 16 m

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Veggie Italian Heroes

vegetarian italian heroes

Photo by Ryan Liebe

Photo by Ryan Liebe

Although it’s hard to turn down a classic Italian hero, Kathy and I would sometimes feel a little regret after stuffing ourselves with approximately half a pound of fatty cured meats (no offense, capicola). So we came up with this veggie alternative that’s just as drippy and delectable, and left in the cheese because it’s the ideal foil, although you can skip it if you’d like. You can also drizzle the sandwich with just olive oil and vinegar (red wine or balsamic is nice) instead of making the vinaigrette.

Leave veggies, cheese, rolls and vinaigrette, covered, on the counter for up to 2 hours—everyone can assemble their own sandwich.

Make-Ahead Bonus 
Keep veggies, covered, in the fridge for up to 1 week.

Makes 6
Prep 15 m
Roast 30 m