I’m about to go bake a cake. Tomorrow is my mom’s birthday party, the first time we’re celebrating it at the nursing home where she now lives on the dementia unit. Since she’s new there, I want to make sure the cake is big enough to share with the staff, spread some love around. But we still don’t have a working oven, so I’m baking a quadruple recipe on two quarter-sheet pans in my toaster oven. (For the curious, it’s the world’s easiest—and coincidentally, vegan—chocolate Amazon cake.)
This oughta be fun.
Anyway, here’s how next week comes together.
Cook the Barley, Brown the Meat
Preparing these two building blocks sets you up for several easy dinners. First get your barley cooking—Bob’s Red Mill has options for stovetop, slow cooker, and Instant Pot. Divide into two containers and refrigerate. Once that’s going, follow the instructions here to brown your ground beef or turkey. Refrigerate in two containers: one cup to use on Monday, and the rest. (Note: You’ll have plenty of ground meat for the nachos here. Feel free to transfer some to the freezer, to use another time.)
Barley-Stuffed Peppers with a Green Salad
A couple notes about this recipe: First, I find that 20 minutes in the oven isn’t quite enough to fully cook the peppers, so you may want to either microwave the halves briefly or pop them in the oven while you’re preparing the filling. Second, carnivores should replace one cup of barley with the ground meat. And third, if you like a little more oomph on your plate, add two minced cloves of garlic to the skillet towards the end of the second batch of mushrooms, and a generous splash of Worcestershire (a tablespoon or two) to the bowl when you stir everything together. Oh, and fourth, for the folks living with picky eaters: If you’re confident this won’t fly with the littles, set aside a bit of plain barley and mozzarella for them.
While the stuffed peppers are baking, throw together a salad with romaine, a mini-cuke, a carrot or two, some chopped scallions, and a handful of halved grape tomatoes. Toss with extra-virgin olive oil, your favorite vinegar, salt, and pepper.
Baked Falafel with All the Fixings and Creamy Tahini Dressing
If you’re tight on time, take the advice of one of my recipe testers and use the food processor to chop the scallions, garlic, and parsley before adding the rest of the ingredients. Once the falafel’s in the oven, chop some romaine, cucumber, and grape tomatoes, crumble half the feta, and make a double-batch of the super-easy tahini dressing. Stow the leftovers of that in the fridge for Thursday. Pop the pitas in the turned-off oven for a minute or two after you take out the falafel, just to warm them. If you’ve got picky eaters, serve this salad-bar style.
Admit it, this is the dinner you’re looking forward to. Remember, the recipe serves 8 so you’ll be prepping a half-batch. Season the ground meat with a little chili powder, if you like or leave it plain, but do warm it a bit in a skillet before adding it to the chips—it won’t be in the oven long enough to do the job.
Tonight is all about assembling, not cooking:
warm the remaining barley
chop whatever raw vegetables you like
rinse a can of your favorite beans
crumble the rest of the feta
pull out your sliced almonds, sunflower seeds, or whatever crunch you chose
shake up the leftover tahini dressing
and if there’s any ground meat left, heat that up too
Weeknight Ravioli Lasagna with Crusty Bread
Once you see how easy it is to make lasagna with prepared ravioli, this recipe is going into regular rotation. Swap in different types of ravioli, use sautéed sliced mushrooms instead of the spinach, maybe try prepared alfredo sauce instead of marinara…
And that’s it! Have a great week.