I'll be the first to admit it: meal planning can be a drag! You know the fridge is low on supplies and you have to go to the store, but sitting down to figure out menus, peruse recipes, and make that grocery list can feel overwhelming. My solution has been to create a batch of meals and sides from several categories each season and then rotate through the list over the coming months. There's not too much repetition (unless the meal's a favorite!), and the recipe searching and meal planning is just that much easier.
So, for the months ahead I'll be working from the following categories to build my weekly meals. I avoid baking anything during the summer months at all costs (except for birthday cakes, of course) and I try to use my stove top for quick sautes and speedy soups only. I like the pressure cooker for summer meals because I think you can get a meal created in there without heating up the kitchen. Add that to the grill, microwave, and the broiler (for quickly toasting or wet weather grill backup), and my summer meal list comes together pretty easily.
Meal Salads: These are the salads that have enough goodies added in that they make a meal. Generally the recipes are flexible to make room for whatever fabulous produce I can find at the farmer's market.
- Barbecue Chicken Chopped Salad
- Stone fruit, Mozzarella, Herb, and Prosciutto Salad
- Italian Chopped Salad
- Vietnamese Cabbage and Herb Salad
- Mexican Caesar Salad
- Asian Chopped Salad
- Avocado, Lentil, and Pomegranate Salad (I've made some changes to the dressing for this one)
- Caprese Salad
- Shrimp Mojo Salad with Black Beans and Mango
Breads and Spreads: Take a bread (pita, naan, baguette, sourdough loaf, etc.) and add a few spreads and you have dinner. Sometimes I add a few cheeses or deli meats/charcuterie to fill the meal out.
Grill: Take the heat outside! We like flank steak and chicken thighs on the grill for speedy cooking, and if the grill is fired up I usually have a vegetable on the side that would benefit from a little char.
- Flank Steak
- Five Spice Chicken
- Smoked Pork Shoulder
- Smoked Brisket
- Picnic Chicken (I use it just as written on chicken thighs and it's terrific)
- Shishito Peppers
- Zucchini Spears
- Bell Peppers
Sandwiches, Wraps, and Rolls: Summer is made for sandwiches. Sometimes it's basic stuff like turkey or PB&J, sometimes it's more fun.
- Banh Mi
- Shrimp Rolls (I have fussed with the recipe a bit over the years, so mine aren't exactly like these.)
- Tuna Melt
- Egg Salad
- Chicken Salad
- Summer Rolls (sometimes vegetarian, sometimes with chicken or shrimp)
- Lettuce Wraps
- Chicken and Avocado Burritos
Stove Top or Pressure Cooker: Not everything can be cooked on the grill, unfortunately. Quick summer soups, sautes, and the occasional pasta fall into this category.
- Sun Dried Tomato Pesto Pasta
- Pasta Pomodoro
- Sausage, Pepper, and Mushroom Saute
- Stir Fry
- Tortilla Soup
- Egg Roll Bowls
- Pad Kaprow
- Mac and Cheese
- Sweet Potato and Red Lentil Soup
- Cheater Paella
Sides and Sauces: Sometimes I make a meal entirely out of sides, and you have to know how much I believe a sauce can "make" a meal.
- Baked Beans
- Corn on the Cob
- Rice or Rice Noodles
- Quick Grains (farro, quinoa, or cous cous)
- Red Pepper and Pomegranate Sauce
- Peanut Sauce
- Kale and Almond Pesto
- Tofu Ranch
I've added links to the recipes I use for a lot of these ideas, but I'd love to know which of the ideas you'd like to see on the blog. I'm excited about moving out of the casserole and soup season and into the speedy and colorful meals of spring and summer. I'll change my tune come October, but for now bring on the grill!