Meal Plans Made Easy

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Dinner is not what you do in the evening before something else. Dinner is the evening.

Art Buchwald

I’m fine with dinner being the evening ~ I just don’t want making it to take ALL EVENING! 😉
I want easy evenings. And that means easy meals. I’m so done with complicated. But, that doesn’t mean I’m done with delicious, healthy, comforting and dependable recipes for dinner. I’ve just reached a place where I’m comfortable not being Julia Child or Martha Stewart. In fact my Culinary role model is the fabulous Ina Garten, The Barefoot Contessa, whose tagline is ‘How EASY is that?’ My kind of gal.

Recipes: Less is More

I’m sure at one time I had more than 25 cookbooks, 75 cooking magazines and 200 magazine pages with recipes that I’d snagged before tossing the magazine. Then there are the 100+ hand written recipe cards in my old fashioned Recipe Box purchased at a Hallmark Store years and years ago. It was all too much.

During COVID I started to purge it all. I realized many of them reflected foods we just didn’t eat anymore or at least prepared in a way that didn’t any longer fit our taste preferences. Once I started I couldn’t stop. 🙃I kept going back through and adding more to the donate or toss stacks.

Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa cookbooks made the cut and I have The Art of French Cooking and The Joy of Cooking as well as one of The Best Recipes Cookbooks. And that’s more recipes than I’ll ever make in the rest of my cooking days. So I’m done collecting, unless something truly delicious, simple and otherwise irresistible comes along.

My New Strategy for Meal Plans

The more I thought about it I realized I’d like to master just 25 favorite recipes.
If I made 25 dinners in a month that would mean having Spaghetti or Mexican Chef’s Salad once a month. Totally okay with me and my hubby. The same would go with Chicken Divan or a yummy Pot Roast or Roast Chicken. Now I had a plan and could go through my newly edited recipes and zero in on our 25 all time favorites.

Once I had those 25 recipes I’d actually have my Meal Plans for a year!
I’d repeat the rotation over each of the coming 12 months. As Ina would say, “How easy is that?’.🙂 Why keep reinventing the wheel every week or every month. If someone gave me a delicious new recipe I could always try it out and skip one of my regulars. I have a plan and the freedom to change it up anytime I want to. The plan gave me freedom from the stress of not knowing what I was gonna make for dinner, but it didn’t chain me to what was on the menu for any given day. Win ~ Win! 👍

The First Two Recipes

In this post I’ll share my recipe for Spaghetti Sauce and Mexican Chef’s Salad. I’ll keep adding two recipes per post until all 25 are available on this blog.🙂🔖📝🗃️

Spaghetti Sauce


2 lbs. grass fed ground beef
2 T. good olive oil
1 onion chopped
2-3 cloves garlic peeled and finely diced
1 28oz. can Muir Organic Organic Crushed Tomatoes
1 14.5 oz. can Muir Organic Diced Tomatoes
1 32 oz. jar of your favorite Marinara Sauce ( I like Mario Batali Tomato Basil but currently can’t find it anywhere so I use Primal Kitchen or Sonoma Gourmet Tomato Basil Pasta Sauce)
1-2 T. Better Than Bouillon (paste)
4 T. (or more😋) dried parsley flakes
1 large handful dried porcini mushrooms reconstituted in hot water for 30 minutes then drained. Use whole or diced if you prefer. (I use Mycological Wild Gourmet Mushrooms brand)
1/2-1 cup of a good Zinfandel like the affordable Girard Old Vine Zin or the more pricey Rombauer Zinfandel.
And here’s the secret ingredient ~ 1 cube butter 😋 because as Julia Child says,”The flavor is in the fat!”


In a Dutch oven lightly brown ground beef. I don’t drain it, but you may want to if you use regular ground beef.
Scrape meat to the sides and add 2T olive oil then stir in chopped onion and garlic and sauté on low until onions are slightly translucent.
Add the Better Than Bouillon and stir in well
Add the tomatoes and pasta sauce
Add the parsley flakes and reconstituted mushrooms
Add the wine and the butter
I add salt and fresh ground pepper to taste and check it again if I’ve refrigerated it overnight for serving the next day.

Simmer on low for at least 2-3 hours. It’s best the next day so make this ahead if you’ve got the time and refrigerator space for the Dutch Oven.

You can add chopped fresh oregano if you like, but I’m a purist and feel it competes with the basil and parsley.

It freezes well too!

I use Rummo Brand Pasta Spaghetti No. 3 and it’s available in both regular or Gluten Free.
The sauce will easily serve 6-8.

I wrote about this recipe years ago in a post about The Proverbs 31 Woman. Here’s a link if you’d like to read it:

Mexican Chef’s Salad


2 large heads Iceberg lettuce, chopped or torn, dried and well crisped
2 lb. grass fed ground beef
2 tsp. Better Than Beef Bouillon
1 tsp. Cumin
1/2-1 tsp. Smoked Paprika
1/2 tsp. Garlic Salt
1/2 tsp. ground oregano if you like its flavor
Salt & fresh ground pepper
*Chili powder or Red Pepper Flakes if desired
1/2-1 red onion chopped
2 large avocados diced
2 large ripe tomatoes diced
1/2 bunch chopped cilantro
Diced Jalapeno peppers if you like heat 😅
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese (I use Medium or Sharp)
1 large can of black olives chopped
Tortilla Chips
Sour Cream
Salsa ~ choose your preferred heat level 🔥🔥🔥
Thousand Island Dressing (I use Wish Bone or make my own)


Wash the lettuce and run through a salad spinner or pat dry in flour sack towels and crisp for 10 minutes in the freezer
Brown the meat and add the spices and bouillon. Adjust spices to suit your taste preference. We like a smokey Mexican flavor.
Prep all the toppings and place in small bowls
We serve this salad buffet style so that everyone can add the things they like in the amounts they prefer.
You can serve guacamole instead of the diced avocado.

Easily feeds 4 hungry people and stretches to 6 if nobody gets greedy🙃

Suggested Dessert
If you want to pair a dessert I’d suggest something citrus. Here’s something from my Foodie Fav, Ina Garten:

I’d love to know what you think if you try one of these favorites. Do you have a recipe you love to make over and over? What is it? You can share in the comments!

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My passion is to help you discover how God’s word can reach down into your heart and produce amazing transformations in you, your relationships, and your influence in the world around you. 
 Sound good?

Hi, I'm Kelly

Blogger, Jesus Girl, Grace-believing optimist


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