Meal Plan: The New Normal

chicken with spinach pestoFor the longest time, I approached meals as if our crazy schedule would somehow settle back to normal and I’d have time to really plan and prepare new and interesting meals every night. Instead,¬†my meal plan has relied on me making the same half-dozen things in the slow cooker, and I’m sick of every single one of them. This is why I’ve had nothing to report here for quite some time.

But over break, we went to Portland, Oregon, and I was inspired by good food. One night, while not sleeping after migraine-related overcaffeination, I spent some quality time with Pinterest and Google to find new recipes that could either be prepped ahead and quickly assembled, or made in the slow cooker/pressure cooker/rice cooker. I made a detailed meal plan and shopping list, and got ready for the week.

This week was our first week back to the normal routine. The new recipe exploration has begun.


On Monday, I made the one-pan balsamic chicken veggie bake from The Real Food Dietitians. This was decent. I prepped everything at lunchtime, and put it into the oven on delayed start when we left for the gym. When The Husband returned home, he kept an eye on everything.

When I do it again, I’ll make sure that the chicken is in smaller pieces for faster cooking, and I’ll add the tomatoes only for the last 5 minutes or so, because they were too mushy after 10-12 minutes.

4 of 5 stars.


Tuesday¬†would have been slow cooker Mexican chicken soup from The Magical Slow Cooker. I say “would have been” because after 8 hours on low, my pinto beans were still rock hard. Yes, I soaked them overnight. Yes, they were fresh (purchased last weekend). I’ve never had such a problem with beans before.

Since it clearly wouldn’t be ready after jiu-jitsu, and I didn’t have time to come up with anything else, we opted to go out for dinner. I kept the slow cooker cooking, in the hopes of punting that meal to Wednesday night. But even after 12 hours, the beans weren’t right. By that point, the chicken was overcooked and tough because I hadn’t thought to extract it during the longer cooking time.

I decided to trash the meal altogether, along with the remaining dried beans in the bag, and try it again another week.

0 of 5 stars.


I redeemed myself on Wednesday with chicken with spinach pesto from The Food Network (seen in the image above), accompanied by Maple-Roasted Delicata Squash with Red Onion from Epicurious and The Husband’s homemade sourdough bread.

Wednesday is our one unscheduled night, so this was my Big Fancy Meal of the week. I took great care with it, particularly since Tuesday’s meal was such a colossal failure.

This was a hit. The pesto is light and lemony, and is great when mopped up by the bread. There’s more than enough for one meal. If I do it again, I’ll freeze half before adding the parmesan.

I expected the squash to have more of a caramelized sweetness from the maple syrup, but you couldn’t taste it at all. It was still good, though. I’d definitely make it again.

5 of 5 stars for chicken and spinach pesto.

4.5 of 5 stars for delicata squash.

More to come!

I have a lot of recipes in the queue, so I hope to have lots of meal plan ideas to report in the coming weeks, in between my business trips.

Happy new year to all! And especially to Lori and her beautiful new baby girl. I hope I can find some recipes that she can put to use as well.

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2 Responses

  1. Lori says:

    I’m excited you’re back with recipes! Home cooked dinner really only happens here if I can get it almost entirely done during nap time, so anything slow cooker is my friend. But yes, I am also tired of my go-to slow cooker recipes.

  2. Alisa says:

    I’m away next week, but hopefully I’ll have something for you later in the month!

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