5-Day Meal Plan: Italian and Middle Eastern twists on chicken and veggies

May 20, 2016 at 10:45 a.m. ET
Image: Robinmac/Getty Images

My name is Allison Robicelli, and I am a chef, cookbook author, food writer, entrepreneur and mother of two crazy boys. Even though I'm a pro in the kitchen, when you're a modern woman juggling career and kids, dinnertime can be hard, because I would rather repeatedly slam each of my fingers in a car door than have to cook. Seriously — smash them up good and busted so I can never make dinner again.

Fortunately my professional skills have given me an edge in creating meals that are not only healthy and affordable but also specifically designed for me to spend as little time in the kitchen during the workweek. With some advance planning and clever kitchen hacks, you too can make dinners that look so good that everyone on Instagram will believe you have your life completely under control.

More: 5-Day Meal Plan: Kale, quinoa and avocado to fuel your spring

This week's menu

  • Roast chicken and lemon zucchini with garlic white bean mash
  • Chicken and goat cheese za'atar flatbreads
  • Zucchini sausage frittata
  • Chicken cacciatore
  • Mini pizzas

Shopping list

This menu was written to take advantage of the fact that chicken leg quarters were $0.59 a pound. Legs and thighs are hands down the best part of the chicken (seriously, you'll never see a chef buy boneless, skinless breasts if they can avoid it), so when they're this cheap, I'll buy a few bags and shove them in the freezer. And look at these beauties!

raw chicken
Image: Allison Robicelli

OK, perhaps it's hard to make raw chicken look sexy, but I paid less than five bucks for all that hotness and am getting a week's worth of dinners from it, so it's sexy in my wallet. You'll also need to pick up a dozen eggs, which are on the menu in my house at least once a week since they're cheap, easy and delicious. The Italian sausage is optional for this plan, but it was also on sale, so I figured I'd squeeze it in.

Image: Allison Robicelli

I never purchase exact numbers of vegetables for recipes. I mean, who are you, telling me I can have only three zucchini at dinner? What if I want 86? You can't stop me!

I similarly despise recipes that call for "half an onion" or, worse, "1 cup of sliced mushrooms." These measurements are meaningless. Use the whole damn onion! Use a package of mushrooms. Roast 86 zucchini. So you have leftover vegetables to eat for lunch tomorrow — big deal.

This week we've got:

  • 2 packages mushrooms (Whichever kind you buy is your choice.) 
  • 1 clamshell grape tomatoes
  • About 5 pounds zucchini (I always fill my plate up with roasted vegetables, which is cheaper than meat. Plus, you're really supposed to be eating more vegetables anyway, so buy a bunch, roast them up, and keep them in the fridge to pick on during the week.)
  • 3 large, juicy lemons
  • Garlic (I always splurge on the peeled cloves, which makes my life easier.)
  • 1 bag onions
  • 1 bunch flat-leaf parsley
Here's what else you need to buy or pull from your pantry:
  • 1 package soft goat cheese (Can substitute ricotta, mozzarella or another of your liking.)
  • 2 cans cannellini beans
  • Za'atar: Find this online or at Middle Eastern markets, and always keep a bunch in your cabinet. It's one of the easiest ways to make a really spectacular no-brainer dish.
  • Grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 bags (8-count) pita breads (I like the thin, pocketless ones the best, but again, your choice. Throw one of the bags in the freezer to keep it fresh for day 5.)
  • 1 jar pitted Kalamata olives
  • 2 cans crushed tomatoes
  • 1 small jar capers
  • 1 small jar pepperoncini peppers
  • 1 box dry pasta of your choice

Total cost for a week of dinners for two adults and two kids: about $65. Not too shabby, right?

Now, on to the recipes.

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