One of the goals we have in our home these days is figuring out how to efficiently prepare meals for our family of five. We’re in a transition phase of life with Stacy changing jobs and the boys and all their neighborhood friends eating a metric truck load daily; we need everything to be easier, more affordable, and realistic portions for these growing teen & tween boys. We’ve been using different methods to meal plan for the past year, with a lot of success, but the new book Cook Once Eat All Week by Cassy Joy Garcia of Fed & Fit is a game changer.
all food photos in this post are from the cookbook with permission
The second we received this book, we could tell it wasn’t like other books, even other meal planning books. The book is divided by themed “weeks” with featured ingredients. The best part is that each week has a shopping list in the beginning plus preparation instructions for these ingredients. It gives us back all the time we’d normally take to do those things! And, after doing these prep steps (which took us about 30 minutes of active work time for both weeks we made so far), you’ll be able to complete the recipes on the night of in less than 20 minutes!
My favorite things?
- The portions are LEGIT. With servings for four to six adults in each meal there’s plenty of leftovers to stretch your budget even further.
- The recipes don’t include a bunch of fancy unneeded ingredients, everything will be familiar to almost everyone – yet the recipes are inventive and fun.
- Meals are as affordable as they are delicious and full of flavor.
- Basic detailed, helpful instructions at every step has enabled our boys to be able to be the ones to put dinner on the table. Yes, they helped us prep and made one of the meals this week (Beef Stroganoff) entirely themselves on the night of!
Could it be too good to be true? Can you see my jazz hands and cheering from where you are? How about a preview to show you what I mean?
The Plans We Used
So far, we’ve made 2 weeks. We prepped and ate all the meals from Week 2 last week and this week we’re on Week 19, with all the prep and the first meal eaten yesterday. Amazingly, the whole family had a homecooked healthy meal last night – despite sportsball practice being right smack when dinner time would have been. We were able to throw the Smashed Sweet Potatoes and Pork Bowls together in less than 15 minutes, and it ate perfectly on-the-go for Finn.
Swapping what doesn’t work for you
Note each week highlights an abundance of icons which give a quick visual clue if the meals that week will fit for you. They include low-carb, paleo, grain-free, dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, and kid-friendly. Cassy has also provided 2 pages of instructions for adapting many recipes too – for example swapping cauli-rice or dairy replacements. But since there’s not an indicator for nightshades or how to make that swap, I’m going to include that.
Our family avoids nightshades in the main meal because myself and Finn (our middle boy, 11yo) avoid them to manage autoimmune and skin conditions. But it’s SO EASY to swap them in nearly all of Cassy’s recipes!
- Tomato sauce, canned stewed tomatoes, or marinara – sub with our Fauxmato Sauce and Marinara
- Fresh raw tomatoes or sweet bell peppers – use cucumber, olives, or carrots
- Cooked bell peppers – for sliced sub onions and mushrooms, for stuffed use acorn squash
- For the rare eggplant mention, cauliflower or butternut squash is a good sub
- For potatoes, use either cauliflower, rutabagas, turnip, or one of the many varieties of sweet potatoes (for example, white)
- Spices is a more nuanced swap, so think about the flavors you’d find in the cuisine that don’t come from the pepper family
Obviously for Cook Once Eat All Week it will be easier to sub out when the week doesn’t include a nightshade as one of the featured vegetables, but I’ve got several on my list – including Week 11 with Chicken, Green Beans and Potatoes that Cassy demonstrated on social media – so easy to sub out those potatoes! Other weeks we plan to make that are easy to adapt, Week 16 with Shredded Pork, Kale, and Plantains, Week 24 with Roasted Chicken, Mushrooms, and Spaghetti Squash, and Week 25 with Brisket, Brussels Sprouts, and Rice.
we can’t stop, won’t stop with this genius method of meal prep!
Week 2: Ground Beef, Zucchini and Mushrooms
The first time, Cole and Matt went through the preparation steps for Week 2, featuring ground beef, mushrooms and zucchini. It was super easy to prep all these ingredients for later use, and we finished in about half an hour for three meals, then another few minutes to fully cook our first meal too. I’ve seen most people also doing this, and it’s so smart because it’ll save you even more time in the kitchen. That is, plan to “prep” your week at the same time you would normally “make” the dinner and then get both your prep and first meal choice done at once!
The first meal we made, Spinach Artichoke Meatza, took 20 minutes and featured our favorite little-used ingredients, mushrooms and artichokes! We forgot how delicious and easy canned artichokes are; we all loved this flavor combo! The use of cream cheese in place of sauce was an inspired choice and was perfect for our family since there was no tomato sauce involved. We simply left off the optional red pepper flakes.
Next was the Enchilada-Stuffed Zucchini Boats with Cilantro-Lime Cauliflower Rice, which call for tomato sauce and tomato paste. We easily adapted it to nightshade-free by using our Fauxmato sauce! The result was perfect and a hit with the whole family. (see our adaptations to the recipe below)
Finally, the boys, Finn and Cole by themselves made the Beef Stroganoff together (click to see on Instagram). Successfully, too, I might add! The taste was very authentic to what I remember Stroganoff to be, even though we were using zucchini noodles. And when things are prepared ahead of time, the meal came together so simply that the boys could do it with minimal supervision. This one didn’t require any adaptations, either!
Week 19: Pork Shoulder, Brussels Sprouts and Sweet Potatoes
We’re continuing to use the book this week as well! Yesterday we started Week 19 with Pork Shoulder, Brussels Sprouts and Sweet Potatoes.
This was Stacy’s choice, as she has an affinity for fall in general plus we already had pork in the freezer from our pig share earlier this year. Next week we plan to make a chicken week; there are so many that look good!
The prep was so easy because Cassy included Instant Pot instructions when possible. We’ve already cooked our pork shoulder in it quite quickly. Yesterday’s Smashed Sweet Potatoes and Pork Bowls was so good and easy as I mentioned. Later this week we’ll have Harvest Sheet Pan Dinner and Southwestern Stuffed Sweet Potatoes. That will require adaptations similar to the Boats recipe below. We will leave out the chili powder and paprika and add oregano instead. Instead of corn and bell pepper, Finn and I will top ours with sauteed onions, maybe cooked mushrooms or raw cucumber if we have it.
Overall, Cook Once, Eat All Week is sure to be a perennial favorite in our meal planning for years to come. Highest recommendation!
Recipe for Enchilada-Stuffed Zucchini Boats (Nightshade-Free)!
Lots of you who have seen us use Fauxmato sauce when subbing recipes have asked how exactly that works. Well, we got permission to share our adaptation for Cassy’s amazing Enchilada-Stuffed Zucchini Boat recipe!
- 2 C Fauxmato Sauce base (Cassy uses one can of tomato sauce and one tablespoon of tomato paste)
- 1/2 C chicken broth
- 12/ tsp sea salt
- 1 Tbsp ground cumin (Cassy uses one tablespoon of chili powder and one teaspoon of cumin)
- 1 tsp dried oregano leaves
- 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
- 3 1/4 C cooked ground beef
- 6 hollowed-out zucchini halves
- 1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 tsp coarse sea salt
- 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
- 1/2 C shredded Mexican cheese (omit for dairy-free)
- 2 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro for garnish
- 1 head of cauliflower, riced and cooked
- 1/2 C fresh cilantro
- 2 Tbsp fresh lime juice
- In a saucepan over medium hear, whisk together the fauxmato sauce, broth, salt and spices
- Simmer for 4 to 5 minutes, until the sauce is bubbling and warmed through.
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees
- Stir the ground beef into the enchilada sauce
- Place the zucchini halves in a 3-quart casserole dish or on a rimmed baking sheet. Brush the boats on all sides with the oil, then season with the salt and pepper.
- Fill each zucchini half with an equal amount of the meat sauce, then top with cheese.
- Bake for 25 minutes or until the cheese is browned and bubbling and the zucchini is cooked through.
- Garnish the baked zucchini boats with 2 tablespoons of cilantro. To serve, place one zucchini boat on each plate, then cut the remaining two boats in half and add an addition half boat to each plate (for a total of 1 1/2 boats per serving). Serve with Cilantro-Lime Cauliflower Rice
- About 10 minutes before the zucchini boats are done, reheat the cauliflower rice in a saucepan over medium heat, covered, for 3 to 4 minutes, or microwave for 1 1/2 minutes, until warmed through.
- Stir in the 1/2 C of cilantro and lime juice.