The Foolproof Weeknight Meal Planning feature is a weekly series on Smells Like Home which maps out five fantastic family-friendly meal ideas for busy weeknights. You’ll usually find at least one meatless option and you’ll always find a delicious dessert…because we all need a little sweetness in our lives! [If you have requests for these menus or suggestions for how to improve this feature, post them in the comments!]
I almost considered making this week’s menu chocked full of my Tex-Mex favorites but at the last second, I pulled together enough restraint to limit the madness to just two of my favorites. Never fear though, I’ve got lots more tacos, taquitos, and fajitas coming over the next couple of weeks especially as we head towards Cinco de Mayo. Included this week are layered buffalo chicken nachos and crock pot shredded pork tacos – you can see why choosing is so hard. Filled in around those two nights are a warm kale and quinoa salad with grilled chicken drenched in the only dressing I’ve considered bathing in, a back-pocket pasta dish that you’ll never need to order from a restaurant again after making at home, and a springtime mac and cheese that will just knock your socks off. Dessert this week is part of the code by which every New Yorker lives: crumb cake. Classic, big crumbs, and the tenderest of cakes. Basically, pure heaven. Have a great week ahead!!
shrimp, feta, and fresh herb mac and cheese: I feel like spring is the perfect time of year for all things shrimp and this mac and cheese fits exactly in-line with this theory. Add to it briny feta cheese, one of my most beloved cheese varieties ever (Gruyere), and a good hit of fresh parsley and dill, and you’re left with the perfect springtime mac and cheese. Serve it as a weeknight dinner or add it to your Mother’s Day menu and let it knock your socks off.
Tips: Look for peeled and deveined uncooked shrimp to speed up your prep time at night since peeling and deveining a pound of shrimp will take at least 10 minutes of your precious weeknight time. If really nice fresh shrimp isn’t an option for you, go for frozen. To thaw quickly, add frozen shrimp to a large bowl of cold water or transfer to the fridge the night before you need it. Get a head start on the meal the day before by shredding your Gruyere and chopping your herbs!
smoky pork tinga tacos with avocado and fresh cheese: Bust out your crock pot for these tacos and let it do all of the hard work today! You’ll slow cook pork with potatoes and chipotles all day long, shred the pork, add chorizo to the tacos and top with avocado and fresh Mexican cheese. These may seem like unconventional tacos but they’re actually fairly traditional and above all, they’re downright delicious. It’s one recipe we keep coming back to and it never ceases to let us down.
Tip: If you’re up to it, consider making your own flour tortillas on Sunday and keep them tightly wrapped in the fridge until you need them on Tuesday. Warm them wrapped in foil in a 250° F oven until warmed through.
kale and quinoa salad with maple dijon grilled chicken: This salad continues to rock my world and I know it will blow you away too! It’s meant to be served warm, with warm quinoa that gently wilts and softens the kale and super tender and juicy grilled chicken that marinates all day long in quite possibly the best dressing ever (maple dijon vinaigrette). The whole meal comes together in 20 minutes and I always double this recipe in order to guarantee leftovers for lunches during the week.
Tip: Allow the chicken to marinate all day long in the maple dijon vinaigrette and then quickly grill it while the quiona cooks at night. Alternatively, this is the perfect meal to fully prep on the weekend and then just warm up on the night you plan to eat it.
penne alla vodka: When it comes to having certain recipes tucked away in your back pocket for easy meals or nights when you flat out don’t feel like cooking, this penne alla vodka is it. You’ve probably got all of the ingredients on hand already and it’s an excellent sauce for lots of pasta shapes. Add some shrimp or grilled chicken to boost the protein and stretch the meal or serve it as-is with lots of Parmesan cheese on top.
Tip: This is the same sauce I use on one of our favorite pizzas (pizza alla vodka) so consider making a double batch and freeze it for future pizzas or even quicker weeknight meals.
layered buffalo chicken nachos with creamy gorgonzola sauce: I truly believe that Friday night dinner should be a splurge AND ridiculously easy to make, especially if it’s even easier to pick up the phone and call for a pizza. These nachos hit both criteria. Pick up a rotisserie chicken or grill a couple extra chicken breasts if you’re adding chicken to the penne alla vodka (or another meal during the week), shred it, then toss it with some buffalo sauce (like Frank’s). The cheese sauce comes together faster than the time it takes to preheat the oven. Layer everything with your favorite tortilla chips, bake, and devour.
Tip: If gorgozola or blue cheese in general isn’t your thing, use shredded cheddar or Monterey jack in place of it in the sauce or skip the sauce altogether and add shredded cheese directly to the nachos before baking. This is an adaptable recipe so go with what you like!
don’t forget about dessert!
new york-style crumb cake: Say hello to your new best friend! This crumb cake is the real deal and it’s one that I’ve remade more times than I can count for all sorts of occasions (and for no real reason at all!). It’s the perfect cake to bake at night to have ready for breakfast with a hot cup of coffee the next morning. A thick layer of big crumbs cover up a soft and tender cake and it’s a fantastic copycat of the Entemann’s ultimate crumb cake (or other bakery crumb cake) that you’ll never need to buy again.
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