The Dinner Plan: Simple Weeknight Recipes and Strategies For Every Schedule

Cover of The Dinner Plan Cookbook by Kathy Brennan and Caroline Campion

The Dinner Plan: Simple Weeknight Recipes and Strategies For Every Schedule
Kathy Brennan and Caroline Campion
Abrams, 2017

Alright, this won’t solve all of your dinner time woes, but I’m pretty sure it will come darn close.

Modern families seldom all sit down to dinner together; eating is staggered as people arrive and leave for other activities; sometimes you need to whip something together fast, sometimes the fridge and cupboard are bare. And some nights, you just don’t feel like dealing with the dishes. Brennan and Campion have come up with an innovative system of tagging their collection of recipes so the reader can easily find dishes in one of 5 categories:

  • make-ahead: something that can be prepped or fully cooked ahead of time and easily reheated or assembled
  • staggered: a dish that will maintain flavour as well as structural integrity for a few hours, to accommodate a family unable to all sit down together
  • one-dish: a meal all cooked in one dish, such as a casserole
  • pantry: a dish made up of canned goods or basic veg (such as potatoes) that would be found in a reasonably-stocked pantry
  • fast: ready in under 30 minutes for those nights you don’t have time for a long, ambitious cook

Obviously, some of the categories overlap, but whatever your needs, they’ve got it covered, all in a comprehensive array of tasty and healthy dishes. From simple sauteed cod with the choice of three simple sauces to a slow roast pork shoulder, or a selection of ways to assemble sandwiches, there’s something here to suit every family.

Recipes are clear and easy to follow. The “make-ahead” dishes are flagged with a spoon icon to show the reader where to stop/start between prep and cooking. There are also specific tips at the bottom of many recipes related to the categories – for instance how a “staggered” dish could be served hot or cold, or tips for reheating. Fonts are a good size for reading while in a busy kitchen, and all recipes include metric equivalents.

While there are plenty of vegetarian dishes, because this is a cookbook focused on dinner, the majority of recipes feature a protein as the main element. And while any of these could also be lunch dishes if you were so inclined, the collection really focuses on main courses and sides for dinner; there are no desserts.

What Brennan and Campion can’t do for you is to plan a menu or shopping list, and this book, for all of its great tips and tricks and ways of organizing recipes, really does require some pre-planning, as a fully-stocked pantry and defrosted meats are essential to making this system work.

For home cooks who can sit down ahead of time and keep track of their family members’ schedules and plan a week of menus and shopping lists, this book will be used frequently and with great success.

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