I thought it would be a great idea to kick off March with one of my favorite dishes from the barefoot contessa at home cookbook. It’s this simple recipe for chicken piccata and it’s one that is popular with my family.
In other words, nobody is complaining after they ask, “What’s for dinner?”
But before we get to the recipe, let’s talk for a minute about menu planning. I brought it up in this post at the end of December.
Do you have a strategy for how you plan weekly menus?
Do you wing it or poll the family on their way out the door? Maybe you rely on a well-stocked pantry or freezer. That’s always a safe bet.
I should start off by saying that I work a week at a time. I’ve always been impressed with those that can plan for an entire month, but I just can’t get there.
Seven days is about my max.
I’m always up to date on our monthly calendar. I’ll add and subtract things and everyone in the family is assigned a color. My boys generally have about the same number of things going on each week, though the oldest may have one or two additional things that he is participating in.
For 2015, I’m using the Sugar Paper for Target calendar. I can’t find the exact one I picked up, but you can still buy this one online. I use the calendar (it’s in the upper right hand corner of the photograph) to list out sports practices, games, after school activities, as well as, church and volunteer commitments. Again, everyone has their own color.
In addition, I’m using the Day Designer Mini to track my to do lists, daily schedule and there’s even a spot to write in your dinner plans. You can see that last Thursday evening, we had panini sandwiches. Isn’t that perfect for helping with menu and meal planning?
While I rarely finish my to-do’s for that day, I love having a running list that I can transfer the one or two (or five) things that don’t get completed to the next day’s sheet.
It makes things simple and it’s the perfect size planner. Not too heavy either.
I want to use this post to talk mainly about schedules and how they effect my weekly dinner menu. Because I subscribe to the idea of a well-stocked pantry, I know that we are most likely going to have one pasta dish each week and during the fall and winter, one homemade soup or chili. I keep pasta and a variety of stock (either homemade or cartons) on hand in my freezer or pantry.
Typically, I have two dinners planned that are more hands-on, meaning we will be home that evening and I’ll spend about 2 hours prepping and cooking these meals. They are more labor intensive, like lasagna and there will probably be 1-2 servings leftover for lunches the next day. Cue the happy husband.
As a family, we generally eat out once a week so the remaining four meals have to be pulled together much quicker. Those meals will need to have fewer ingredients, minimal chopping/prepping and the recipes themselves will need to stand up to substitutions, if I’ve run out of something.
If my boys are coming home to have dinner after a sports practice, I like to choose meals that reheat well, such as soup, or that can keep warm in a warming drawer.
To give you an idea of what a typical week looks like, see below:
Monday: Turkey and Poblano Chili
Tuesday: Pasta with Spinach and Basil Pesto
Wednesday: Oven-Roasted BBQ Chicken
Thursday: Carrot and Cilantro Soup
Friday: Quick and Easy French Toast with bacon and fresh fruit
Saturday: dine out
Sunday: Spaghetti and Meatballs
As you can tell from looking at what I’ve planned for Friday, we are huge fans of breakfast for dinner, so I’ll make French toast, pancakes, a quiche or even scrambled eggs.
One final note on recipes. Obviously, I’ve got a large offering of recipes right here on Main St. Cuisine. I’ve been blogging since 2008 so that helps. But, like you I search for inspiration all over. I visit other blogs, cooking websites like food52, I’ll pull out a cookbook or something will catch my eye in the latest Williams-Sonoma catalog. Great recipes and inspiration are everywhere.
Speaking of great recipes, please consider adding this easy, weeknight chicken piccata into one of your upcoming menus.
To view the original recipe, click here.
4-5 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (I purchase thin-cut chicken breasts)
½ cup all-purpose flour
Freshly ground black pepper
1 large egg
¾ cup seasoned dry breadcrumbs
3 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons), lemon halves reserved
½ cup dry white wine
Sliced lemon and chopped fresh parsley, for serving
Preheat the oven to 375°. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
Sprinkle both sides of each chicken breast with salt and pepper.
Mix the flour, ½ tsp salt, and ¼ tsp of pepper in a shallow plate. In a second plate, beat the egg and ½ tbsp of water together. Place the breadcrumbs onto a third plate. Dip each chicken breast in the flour, shaking off the excess, and then dip into the egg mixture and finally, the breadcrumbs.
Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in a 12-inch sauté pan over medium-low heat. Add the chicken breasts and cook for 2 minutes on each side, until lightly browned. Place them onto the parchment-lined sheet pan and allow them to bake for 5 to 10 minutes in your preheated oven.
For the sauce, wipe out the sauté pan with a dry paper towel away from your heat source. Over medium heat, melt 1 tbsp of the butter. Next, add the lemon juice, wine, the reserved lemon halves, ½ tsp salt, and ¼ tsp pepper. Raise heat and bring to a boil, until liquid is reduced in half, about 2 minutes. Off the heat, add the remaining 2 tbsp of butter and stir to combine. Discard the lemon halves. Spoon the sauce over the chicken breasts and serve with lemon slices and a sprinkling of fresh, chopped parsley.
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