dinner: the playbook

Make sure to read down to the end for a giveaway where you can win your own copy of Dinner: The Playbook!

I cook quite a bit. Especially during the week. I'd say I cook about four nights a week and we have one "leftover" night thrown in the mix. It's our way of sticking to our budget - by only dining out Friday and Saturday (especially with NYC restaurant prices - sheesh!). And while we've been eating at home five nights a week since we first moved NYC over six years ago, lately I've tried harder to make our meals from scratch. Less pre-packaged mixes filled with chemicals and preservatives, and more fresh foods prepared simply and smartly to allow us to eat fresh, healthy meals each week night.

Which is why I was elated when I saw on one of my favorite blogs, Dinner: A Love Story, that she had a new cookbook out (I already had her first book and use it weekly) that focused on preparing family meals that are fresh, fast, and easy. Jenny, the author, wrote on her blog that she and her publisher were seeking readers to test out her new book and do a "challenge" to cook at home more. I commented on the post and was chosen and shortly thereafter a "trade paperback original" copy of the Dinner: The Playbook was at my door. 

I devoured the book. It was like Jenny was up in my head writing out my thoughts on the family meal. Jenny writes, "Sitting down to a meal together had always played a disproportionately large role in my relationship with my husband, Andy". Yes! That's me and Al! Jenny goes through how she and her husband maintained their dinners through having two babies and eventually two slightly picky kids. There's more of there family story in her first book, but this book is set out as a real game plan. It's not just about the ritual and calming effect of family dinner, but about how some days (most days it seems), "dinner, more than anything, just has to be...done." 

...Make sure to read down to the end for a giveaway where you can win your own copy of Dinner: The Playbook!...

Some of my favorite tips and tricks from Dinner: The Playbook are: 

Plan, plan, plan! On the same calendar as your week's activities (especially critical for those with children in various activities), plan your meals. If you know you have a late meeting or a soccer game until 8:30, plan an easier meal that day. But no matter what, plan for the week and then shop for the week. It will make your grocery shopping much easier when you know what you'll be making. I used my planner and little tabs to mark the recipes for each day of the week. 

Prep, prep, prep! As soon as you get home from the grocery store, start prepping. This is where an extra 30 minutes to an hour can really pay off for the week. Wash your greens. Chop your veggies. Marinate chicken. Cook a side of barley or rice for the week. Got more time? Make your marinara sauce and dressings for the week. The more front-end prep you put in to it, the easier it will be that week.
^^ Weekend prep: washed and dried greens, homemade barbecue sauce, homemade marinara

Re-purpose, reuse, reinvent! When planning for the week, have your dinners and ingredients make sense and be reused from one meal to the next. So if you're making a batch of marinara for chicken parm meatballs, save some and use it for whole wheat pizzas. Jenny does a great job giving a few examples of this on pages 28-39 where she gives 10 weeks of meal plans. 

Get the whole family involved! Jenny uses this as a way to help picking eaters and get the family behind the idea of eating home-cooked meals each night. In my case, Al was my "kid". I'd have him come to the store with me and help decide the menus. We had plans for him to cook one of the easier meals (Shrimp Rolls page 74), but somehow that never occurred ☺. By getting the entire family - kids and spouses - involved it takes the pressure off of one person and helps create that ritual that makes family dinner so nice.

Recipe layouts! This is less of a tip or trick, but something I LOVED about this book. The recipes are arranged in an easy to read manner. Ingredients on one side, steps on the other. All on one page. And my most favorite part was little tips underneath each recipe for how you can get ahead for dinner that night. What you can do the morning of (as simple as setting out the pots, pans, and canned ingredients you'll need) to what you can do the weekend before (make your dressing or sauce). She also lists what sides (pages 154 - 162) go well with each meal.

And here are some of the meals we made from Dinner: The Playbook. Happy to report we added every single one to our "make again" list. 

...Make sure to read down to the end for a giveaway where you can win your own copy of Dinner: The Playbook!)...

 Grilled Thai Steak Salad (page 182)

 Cornmeal-Crusted Fish with Homemade Tartar Sauce (page 108)

Black Bean and Goat Cheese Quesadillas (page 70)

Pasta with Roasted Tomatoes and Spinach (page 80)

Chicken BLTs (page 110)

 Basic Barbecue Roasted Chicken (page 72)

Roasted Salmon and Asparagus with Spicy Mayo and Chives (page 66)

Sloppy Joes (page 98)

Chicken Parm Meatballs (page 134)

Dinner: The Playbook hits shelves TODAY! You must go get it. For all of you with kids that are just going back to school, what a perfect time to start your own challenge to cook meals at home that don't come from a box. And for those of us without children, the fall always gives me that sort of back-to-the-grind and set-up-new-routines feeling. A perfect time for The Playbook

And thanks to the lovely people at Random House, one lucky reader can win their own copy of Dinner: The Playbook. All you have to do is leave a comment on this blog post by clicking the comment link down there ↓. Tell me how you plan to use the Dinner: The Playbook, or a good tip for weeknight meals, or what family dinner means to you. Anything! Just leave a comment on The Rose Record between now and Monday, September 1st and you'll be entered into the drawing. The winner will be contacted on Tuesday, September 2nd.

Thanks to Jenny and the team at Random House for letting me be a part of such a fun experience. I truly stand behind the messages in Dinner: The Playbook - that family dinner matters and can be stress free and I'm happy to support it.
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