Meal Planning for the Week

During the fall session of Fit4Mom’s Body Back, the instructor often asked us to post our weekly meal plans to the group’s Facebook page on Sundays. This forced me to think about what I was going to cook, as well as find (or just remember) easy meals I could make. I even dusted off the slow cooker.

Meal planning | This week's recipes from Skinnytaste, Iowa Girl Eats, Cooking Light | Weight Watchers friendly

The session ended, and Fit4Mom offered a holiday mini-session of Body Back that started on Tuesday. The program is basically the same, but there are no assessments and no weighing in each week. As much as that last part makes me want to cheer, I completely ignored everything I had been doing the past two months and didn’t bother to meal plan or even grocery shop this past week, which of course resulted in eating out several times.

I can do better than this, so today I forced myself to sit down, do some meal planning, and go on a massive grocery trip. Here’s my plan for the week:

Breakfast Lunch Dinner
Saturday Whole Wheat English Muffin + Banana + Peanut Butter Brunch? Maple Dijon Drumsticks + Couscous
Sunday Whole Wheat English Muffin + Banana + Peanut Butter  ?? Cafe Sushi
Monday Green Smoothie Crock Pot Sweet Potato and Quinoa Turkey Chili Man-Pleasing Chicken + Brussels Sprouts
Tuesday Green Smoothie Crock Pot Sweet Potato and Quinoa Turkey Chili Leftovers
Wednesday Green Smoothie Crock Pot Sweet Potato and Quinoa Turkey Chili Neat Kitchen + Bar
Thursday Green Smoothie Crock Pot Sweet Potato and Quinoa Turkey Chili Cincinnati Turkey Chili + Whole Wheat Spaghetti
Friday Green Smoothie Leftovers Spinach Lasagna Rolls

Pasta with Kale, Fennel, and Chicken Sausage

What can I say? I have a thing for pasta.

First of all, let it be known that I love carbs. Second, pasta is so simple to make, even I can’t screw it up. And finally, it’s a quick meal. This easy dinner recipe adds in a lot of veggies and the sausage makes it more filling than your typical pasta + bottled sauce combination. Goat cheese is my favorite everything and adding it to pasta creates a creamy sauce.

Pasta with Kale, Fennel, and Chicken Sausage. Goat cheese makes this creamy, tangy pasta.

Pasta with Kale, Fennel, and Chicken Sausage

Adapted from a Door to Door Organics Recipe
Servings: 4
8 oz. whole wheat pasta
1 TBSP butter
Fennel bulb, sliced thin
Yellow onion, sliced thin
1 cup kale, chopped
1 TBSP orange zest
Juice of an orange
3 links Trader Joe’s chicken sausage (any variety), chopped
4 oz. goat cheese
8 TBSP Parmesan cheese

  1. Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain, reserving approximately 1/2 cup of pasta water.
  2. In a saute pan, melt butter over medium heat. Add onions and fennel and saute for 7-10 minutes until soft. Add kale after 2-3 minutes. Add chicken sausage after 3 minutes. Note: Trader Joe’s chicken sausage is already cooked and therefore needs only a few minutes to heat through. If you’re using uncooked sausage, you’ll want to remove it from the casing, saute it first, then remove it with a slotted spoon before adding the vegetables to the pan.
  3. Add orange zest and the juice of half of an orange. Saute for one additional minute.
  4. Add  4 TBSP of pasta water, goat cheese, Parmesan cheese, and pasta to the saute pan and mix with sausage and vegetables.

Creamy Chicken Pasta with Mushrooms & Roasted Red Pepper

Before I launch into this creamy chicken pasta recipe, let me tell you a little secret: In an attempt to find balance, I basically gave up cooking dinner for the entire year after my daughter was born. It’s seemed like a reasonable thing to do at the time: The toddler’s bedtime was super early, so when I would get home at 5 p.m., it was 90-minute race through dinner, bath, books, and bedtime. Taking time to cook a meal for the family seemed kind of impossible and unnecessary.

But now Emme goes to bed at the late hour of 7 p.m. or so, freeing up a solid hour between 5 and 6 p.m. when I can (in theory) cook. It’s been super hard to get back into a habit of actually making meals, but I figure there’s no time like the present to start incorporating family dinner into our routine — you know, once or twice a week… at best.

My point is, I’m trying, and I need easy weeknight dinner recipes to make it happen, and this creamy chicken pasta dish fit the bill.

I came up with the recipe after having leftover ingredients from this Cooking Light recipe, a bag of mushrooms from the farmer’s market, and no polenta. I added chicken for a little protein and roasted red peppers for extra flavor. The creamy chicken pasta was a hit with both the toddler and husband. (And just so we’re clear, by “hit with the toddler,” I mean that her entire dinner did not end up on the floor.)

Creamy chicken pasta with mushrooms and roasted red peppers is an easy weeknight dinner recipe that the whole family (including any picky toddlers) will love!

Creamy Chicken Pasta with Mushrooms & Roasted Red Pepper

Servings: 3-4

6 ounces whole wheat spaghetti
1 TBSP olive oil
½ lb chicken breasts or thighs, cut into 1 inch pieces
8 ounces cremini mushrooms (or other variety), sliced
2 TBSP Trader Joe’s Roasted Red Peppers, chopped
1 TBSP minced garlic
1 TSP salt
½ cup bottled Alfredo sauce (I used Classico)
¼ cup basil, chopped
3-4 TBSP Fontina cheese, shredded (optional)

  1. Cook spaghetti according to package directions.
  2. Heat a large, non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. When oil is hot, add chicken. Cook for approximately 5 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. Remove chicken with a slotted spoon and set aside.
  3. Add mushrooms to skillet. Cook for 2 minutes stirring frequently. Stir in garlic and roasted red peppers and salt. Cover, reduce heat and cook for 2 more minutes. Uncover, stir in Alfredo sauce, basil, and cooked chicken.
  4. Add cooked and drained spaghetti to skillet to coat with sauce, veggies and chicken. Top each serving with 1 TBSP of fontina cheese.

A few tips to make this recipe even easier: You could make this a vegetarian meal and skip the chicken or use leftover, already cooked chicken from earlier in the week. And if you want less chopping, go for the pre-sliced mushrooms.

Add my favorite (super easy, no-chopping required) salad for a legit meal.