Monday, July 30, 2012

Dinner: A Love Story (Dinner Planning & Organization)

I need all the help I can get with my goal of making healthy family dinners at home.  About two weeks ago, I found a HUGE help in the form of a new book (and new-to-me blog), Dinner, A Love Story.

I hadn't heard of either until I was browsing one of my favorite sections of the bookstore, the Cooking section.  The cover of the book got my attention, but what kept me reading further was the description on the back about the author and her husband:

Jenny Rosenstrach, and her husband, Andy, regularly, some might say pathologically, cook dinner for their family every night. Even when they work long days. Even when their kids' schedules pull them in eighteen different directions. 

They are not superhuman. They are not from another planet. With simple strategies and common sense, Jenny figured out how to break down dinner—the food, the timing, the anxiety, from prep to cleanup—so that her family could enjoy good food, time to unwind, and simply be together.

I devoured this book in two days.  

And this other tidbit about Jenny fascinated me: she's been keeping a "Dinner Diary" since 1998.  Wow. 

via Dinner A Love Story

How did her book help me the most?

She nailed the biggest problem that often prevents a home-cooked meal from being prepared at our house- the dilemma of "what to make."  I don't know why that's such a challenge for me, considering I have no less than 50 cookbooks on hand, the internet at my disposal, and a host of pinned dinner images.  Since I enjoy the actual cooking process, the before-the-cooking part is the hardest for me.

But, Jenny says, "MAKE A DECISION."  In her house it seems to be a little easier because, now, her husband and kids often request a certain meal.  Here, it's always been pretty much up to me.  So, I am making a decision about what we are going to eat for dinner on the weekend, writing it down and putting it on the fridge, doing the shopping, and then making those meals on their specified days.  The end.  Well, sometimes, what I planned for Wednesday, we'll eat on Tuesday, but you get the idea.

To help me make the decision about what to eat, I created a computer document with a list of dishes that we like so that I can easily review it when I'm in a rut- and I can easily add to it.  If the meal was from a cookbook, I added the cookbook initials and page number for easy reference.  It's still a work in progress with my 2 year-old because he is such a picky eater.  I just keep trying. I still need to start making him smoothies- we haven't yet invested in the Vitamix blender.






*Thai salad

*Whole roasted





*Hot chicken salad

*Oven baked

*Chicken w veg soup

*Mozz/goat cheese, basil


*Roasted carrots, onions, tomatoes







*Green beans




*Apples w peanut butter









Ground Beef/Steak/Ribs






*Stuffed mushrooms

*Thai steak tacos

*Beef bourguignon

*Steak au poive

*Steak sandwich 




*Roasted new

*Potato skins







*Linguine w pesto, tomato


*Fried Rice

*Fish tacos

*Grilled fish 

*Crab cakes

*Crab legs

*Shrimp/pineapple skewer

*Seared tuna 








Garlic bread


String cheese

Cheese cubes

Cheese w crackers

Graham crackers

Chips w hummus

Animal crackers

Fig newtons


*Thai chicken

*Chicken Ceasar

*Greek spiral pasta



*Cucumber, feta, tomato

*Fruit, nut, goat cheese

*Cobb Salad w/ honey mustard (F&E p.140)

*Vietnamese Herb&Noodle (F&E p.88)


*Baked ziti

*Ricotta stuffed shells


*Lasagna with summer veg&ricotta (F&E p.186)


*Pasta w/Tomato pesto (F&E p.106)




*Egg salad


*Grilled cheese

*Chicken salad

*Ham and cheese


*Chiabatta pizza (F&E p.100)



*French toast

*Eggs w bacon


*Egg McMuffin

*Hard boiled egg

*Breakfast tacos 

*Raisin bread

*Muffins (bb, banana, bran, coffee cake)


*Blueberry&cream cheese muffins (F&E p.36)

So, now you'll find me on the weekend, sitting down to determine, IN ADVANCE, what we will be eating for at least 4 days of the week.  Some days there will be leftovers and, of course, we'll eat out or order in sometimes too.

The OrganizHer grocery list with a weekly menu planner on the side is something that I now cannot live without.  I've always liked these pre-printed grocery lists, but the one below is super cool because I can write out our meals for the week, then check the items I need for each dish.  Then, I can cut off the weekly meal plan and stick it on the fridge so I don't forget what I had planned for each day. 

The nice folks at OrganizHer sent me a few other organizing products to try and the dry erase magnetic weekly planner is also a favorite of mine. 

I'd love to hear what works for you and your family regarding your dinnertime planning and routine. 

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Thank you to everyone who entered the Kirkland's $100 Giveaway.  

The winner is Kristal!  Congratulations!  Please email me at: