There was a time when I reveled in my improvisational approach to shopping and cooking. I'd stop at the farmers market, the cheese shop, the wine store, making a menu on the fly, fancying myself the very picture of urban—perhaps even European—life. I'd feel inspired by whatever produce caught my attention.
But then things changed. I had a baby, and several hours of each day evaporated. I started to admire friends who had a system in place—they'd cook big on Sunday so there'd be plenty of leftovers throughout the week. I learned that when you're busy and hungry, improvisation just doesn't cut it. You need to have a plan. Lots of you tuned in recently for our guide to a week of vegan eating. Today, we've got another week's worth of tasty meat-free meals, though this plan is for a vegetarian, not vegan diet. (I'm not quite ready to give up cheese and eggs, and maybe you're with me.)
As always, it helps to start with a well-stocked pantry: Invest in some good olive oil, some nice vinegar, any nuts and/or nut butters you like to snack on. Take a peek at the week's recipes in advance so you can be prepared with ingredients before the last minute.
And one more note! If you want to make Kenji's extra-creamy hummus on Sunday, you'll need to soak your dried chickpeas on Saturday night. If you plan to make kefir smoothies for breakfast, freeze some kefir in an ice cube tray over the weekend, too.
Sure, you could spend your weekend making an elaborate dish or two, but the reward might be greater if you concentrate your efforts on a few delicious things to eat now and enjoy as leftovers. Case in point: Steel-cut oatmeal takes 20 minutes to simmer on the stove—perhaps too much for a weekday. But even microwaved leftovers offer a compelling chewy texture that makes quick oats seem like paste by comparison. Once you've tackled breakfast, take a crack at Kenji's silky-smooth homemade hummus; having it around for weekday snacks is plenty of payoff. For dinner, a quick tomato soup means you'll have Monday's lunch taken care of. (And, if you get to them, you'll be happy to have luscious lemon bars to savor all week.)
Brunch: Bananas Foster Oatmeal With Walnuts and Peanut Butter
Snack: Homemade hummus (or store-bought). Great to have on hand for next week's lunches and snacks! Wanna get really fancy? Make your own pita, too.
Dinner: Tuscan Pappa al Pomodoro or, if you have a high-speed blender, No-Cook Blender Tomato Soup with a grilled cheese sandwich
Dessert: Tart, tangy, creamy lemon bars
You're in good shape if you cooked up a storm over the weekend: Leftover bananas Foster oatmeal is a breakfast fit for kings (though Daniel's soft-scrambled eggs might change your thoughts on scrambled eggs forever). Lunch is leftover soup or an easy make-ahead bean salad, and dinner comes together faster than you could order takeout.
Breakfast: Leftover oatmeal, if you've got it, or fresh fluffy or soft-scrambled eggs
Lunch: Leftover soup or Bean Salad With Radicchio, Radish, Pickled Onions, and Marcona Almonds
Snack: Hummus and carrots or bell pepper slices
Dinner: Crispy Stir-Fried Tofu With Broccoli
Like your breakfast sweet or savory? Either way, you've got options here. For lunch, there's leftover crispy tofu and broccoli, or a filling whole-grain salad with meaty marinated mushrooms. Dinner is basically a deconstructed baba ganoush paired with quick-cooking lentils, rosemary, parsley, and toasted pine nuts. Up for a little baking? Our sweet oatmeal cookies with tart dried cherries require only about 10 minutes of active time.
Breakfast: Toast With Refried Beans and Avocado or Raspberry, Mint, and Kefir Smoothie
Lunch: Leftover stir-fry or Whole-Grain Spelt Salad With Leeks and Marinated Mushrooms
Snack: Good fresh mozzarella (you can even make your own!) with good olive oil and salt
Dinner: Roasted Eggplant With Tahini, Pine Nuts, and Lentils
Dessert: Easy One-Bowl Oatmeal Cookies
Today you'll start out nice and easy with a tangy, rich smoothie (or almond butter on toast). Last night's eggplant is just as delicious and satisfying the second time around, but if you ate it all at dinner, no worries. You're just 15 minutes from a hearty chickpea and carrot salad that gets even better as it rests in the fridge. And after dinner, you might plot to open your own Thai restaurant, focused on one simple but incredible-tasting dry-style curry.
Breakfast: Blueberry, Ginger, and Kefir Smoothie or almond butter on toast
Lunch: Leftover roasted eggplant with tahini and lentils or Make-Ahead Carrot and Chickpea Salad
Snack: Microwave Nachos made with vegetarian refried beans
Dinner: Phat Phrik Khing With Tofu and Long Beans
Today's power breakfast is an Egyptian comfort food, made with canned fava beans that are quickly stewed until fall-apart soft. It's great with pita (and cucumbers and tomatoes, if you've got 'em). If you don't have a little curry left over from last night, try Kenji's quick and flavorful Sichuan shirataki noodle salad. At dinnertime, perfect your fried rice skills with a quick lesson on technique and ingredients.
Breakfast: Ful Mudammas with pita (or fruit and yogurt, if you're not feeling it)
Lunch: Leftover phat phrik khing or Shirataki Sesame Noodle Salad With Cucumber, Sichuan Peppercorn, Chili Oil, and Peanuts
Snack: Cheese, Marcona almonds, and olives or pickles
Dinner: Easy Vegetable Fried Rice
Bored with your standard scramble? Today you'll be doing eggs a little differently: gently cooked with lots of olive oil and flavored with citrusy sumac and toasted pine nuts. Cruise through lunch with yesterday's fried rice (or make yourself a fancy avocado toast). Dinner is Kenji's not-traditional-but-totally-delicious channa masala—chickpeas cooked in a spicy and tangy tomato-based sauce.
Happy weekend! Start it off right with Daniel's fancy French toast (or an egg- and zucchini-stuffed breakfast taco or three). Then invite your friends over for a little grilling, featuring the meat-free burgers that'll really change your mind about meat-free burgers. Dessert is the easiest strawberry shortcake ever.
Brunch: Orange-Rum Challah French Toast With Whipped Cream or Breakfast Tacos With Charred Zucchini
Snack: Leftover channa masala and naan
Dinner: Cookout! Really Awesome Black Bean Burgers and Super-Simple Tangy Buttermilk Coleslaw
Dessert: 5-Ingredient Strawberry Shortcakes
Easy and elegant is the name of the game with today's brunch: eggs cooked in ramekins in a little nest of buttery sautéed minced mushrooms. After a spring-inspired snack—welcome back, asparagus—you'll be ready to get cranking on crunchy-crisp tofu, pine nut, and jicama lettuce cups...and maybe start thinking about meals for the week to come.