May 16, 2024

Welcome to ThePrep, your one-stop shop for effortless meal planning and prep! We understand that everyone’s needs are different, so use these dinner ideas as inspiration and adjust them to your preferences. Sign up for our newsletter and get a fresh meal plan delivered straight to your inbox every Saturday!


Hi everyone, here for you this week! My family and I enjoyed a fun Florida vacation filled with bike rides, swims, delicious meals out, and of course, some sweet treats. Now that we’re back, it’s time to get back into a healthy routine, especially with a busy week of volleyball and soccer practice ahead. This week’s meal plan features easy 3-step dinners, all clocking in around 500 calories per serving. Let’s dive in!

Your Weekly Dinner Plan:

  • Sunday: Copycat Olive Garden Pasta e Fagioli (Soup!)
  • Monday: 20-Minute Creamy Tomato Salmon Skillet
  • Tuesday: The Best Veggie Enchiladas
  • Wednesday: Creamy Skillet Chicken with Spinach & Mushrooms
  • Thursday: The Best Shrimp & Grits
  • Friday: Sesame Kohlrabi & Chicken Salad


Sunday: Copycat Olive Garden Pasta e Fagioli

Soup Sundays are a winter staple at our house, and this week is no different! This hearty copycat recipe is perfect for leftovers, making it a great choice for busy schedules.

This dish captures the essence of the Olive Garden’s classic Pasta e Fagioli with lean ground beef, ditalini pasta, and plenty of wholesome beans. Plus, tomato sauce adds a rich depth of flavor to the broth. Like many soups, the flavors intensify overnight, but the added beans may require a touch of extra broth or water when reheating. Enjoy this comforting soup with crusty breadsticks for dipping.


  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 small white onion, chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil, plus 1/4 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves, divided
  • 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 3 cups lower-sodium beef broth
  • 1 (15-ounce) can no-salt-added kidney beans, rinsed
  • 1 (15-ounce) can no-salt-added cannellini beans, rinsed
  • 1 (15-ounce) can no-salt-added diced tomatoes
  • 1 (8-ounce) can no-salt-added tomato sauce
  • 4 ounces whole-wheat ditalini pasta (about 1 cup)
  • 1/3 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese


  1. Heat oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add ground beef and cook, breaking it up with a spoon, until browned (about 5 minutes).
  2. Stir in carrots, celery, and onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened (about 3 minutes).
  3. Add garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant (about 1 minute).
  4. Stir in ½ cup chopped basil, Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper.
  5. Pour in broth, kidney beans, cannellini beans, diced tomatoes, and tomato sauce. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat.
  6. Add pasta, cover the pot, and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook for 12-14 minutes, or until the pasta is tender.
  7. Divide soup among bowls and top with Pecorino Romano cheese and remaining basil leaves.


  • Make ahead and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Nutritional Information (per 1 1/3 cup serving):

  • Calories: 308
  • Fat: 11g
  • Saturated Fat: 4g
  • Cholesterol: 40mg
  • Carbohydrates: 30g
  • Total Sugars: 5g
  • Added Sugars: 0g
  • Protein: 22g
  • Fiber: 6g
  • Sodium: 485mg
  • Potassium: 669mg

Monday: 20-Minute Creamy Tomato Salmon Skillet: A Weeknight Winner

Looking to shake up your salmon routine? This creamy tomato skillet is a delicious and nutritious weeknight meal ready in just 20 minutes!

Salmon Powerhouse:

We love incorporating salmon into our weekly meals for its abundance of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids. This recipe takes salmon to a new level with a vibrant sauce featuring tomatoes, zucchini, and Italian seasoning.

Nutritional Highlights:

  • Salmon: Packed with heart-healthy omega-3s, protein, vitamin B12, selenium, and potassium.
    • Benefits: Reduced inflammation, lower blood pressure, reduced cancer risk, improved skin health, and stronger immunity (linked to omega-3s, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals).
  • Zucchini: Low-carb vegetable rich in vitamin C, potassium, folate, and magnesium.
    • Benefits: Protects skin, heart, bones, and eyes with its antioxidants.

Gluten-Free Friendly:

This recipe caters to gluten-free dietary needs.

Tips for Perfect Salmon:

  • Freshness is Key: Look for firm salmon fillets that bounce back when pressed. It should have a mild, neutral scent.
  • Wine Substitute: Replace white wine with low-sodium vegetable broth or seafood stock (with a touch of white wine vinegar or lemon juice) for a flavor twist.
  • Cooking Perfection: Use an instant-read thermometer (145°F internal temperature) or visual cues (opaque flesh and easy flaking) to determine salmon doneness.

Frequently Asked Questions:

  • Sides for Creamy Tomato Salmon Skillet: This dish pairs well with various options: whole-wheat pasta, mashed potatoes, brown rice, cauliflower rice, leafy green salads, or crusty bread.

Ready to Cook? Here’s What You’ll Need:

  • Ingredients List (same as original recipe)
  • Equipment List (same as original recipe)


  1. Prep the Salmon: Pat salmon dry and season with a sprinkle of salt and pepper.
  2. Cook the Salmon: Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add salmon and cook until browned and easily releases from the pan (3-4 minutes per side). Transfer to a plate.
  3. Sauté the Vegetables: Add remaining oil, zucchini, and onion to the pan. Sauté until softened (about 3 minutes).
  4. Deglaze with Wine: Increase heat and add wine. Cook, stirring, until most of the liquid evaporates (about 2 minutes).
  5. Build the Creamy Sauce: Add tomatoes, cream cheese, Italian seasoning, garlic powder, and remaining salt and pepper. Simmer for 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the cream cheese melts.
  6. Finish the Dish: Return salmon to the pan and coat it with the sauce. Garnish with fresh basil and serve!

Tuesday: Veggie Enchilada Fiesta – A Fun & Flavorful Vegetarian Option

Calling all veggie lovers and junior chefs! Tonight’s dinner features “The Best Veggie Enchiladas,” a colorful and delicious dish perfect for getting kids involved in the kitchen (thanks, Lila!).

Packed with Goodness:

These enchiladas are bursting with a rainbow of veggies, including zucchini, corn, and orange bell pepper. Each ingredient offers a powerful anti-inflammatory punch!

Nutritional Highlights:

  • Beans: A nutritional powerhouse loaded with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber. Benefits include improved gut health, boosted immunity, reduced inflammation, and potentially lower chronic disease risk.
    • Fiber helps reduce cholesterol, and potassium supports healthy blood pressure.
    • Black beans can also stabilize blood sugar and reduce type 2 diabetes risk.
  • Corn: Contrary to popular belief, corn offers a mix of healthy fats, fiber, and resistant starch for prolonged satiety. It’s also rich in antioxidants, particularly lutein and zeaxanthin, important for eye health.
  • Tomatoes (in Enchilada Sauce): Excellent source of vitamin C, good source of vitamin K and potassium. Packed with antioxidants that support heart health and lower blood pressure/stroke risk.
  • Cheese: Provides protein, calcium, and probiotics for gut health. The type of saturated fat in cheese might even be beneficial for heart health.

Tips for Success:

  • Veggie Substitutions: Swap yellow squash for zucchini and poblano pepper for a spicier kick. Consider no-salt-added pinto beans for their creamy texture.
  • Tortillas: Use your favorite store-bought corn tortillas or opt for homemade versions. Flour tortillas can be used as a substitute, but the nutritional profile will differ.

Frequently Asked Questions:

  • Preventing Enchilada Mishaps: Place filled tortillas seam-side down in the baking dish to prevent them from falling apart.

Ready to Cook? Here’s What You’ll Need:

  • Ingredients List (same as original recipe)
  • Equipment List (same as original recipe)


  1. Preheat the oven to 425°F. Lightly grease a 7×11-inch baking dish.
  2. Sauté the Veggies: Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add bell pepper and onion, cook until softened (about 5 minutes). Stir in zucchini, corn, chili powder, and salt. Cook for another 5 minutes, or until zucchini and corn are tender-crisp. Remove from heat and mix in beans and cilantro. Let cool slightly.
  3. Assemble and Bake: Place about ½ cup of the filling in the center of a warmed tortilla, roll it up. Place seam-side down in the baking dish. Repeat with remaining mixture and tortillas. Top with enchilada sauce and bake (covered with foil) for 15-20 minutes, until the sauce bubbles. Uncover, sprinkle with cheese, and bake for another 5 minutes, or until melted. Garnish with fresh cilantro, if desired.

Tip: Look for store-bought enchilada sauce with less than 300mg sodium per serving to control sodium intake.

Enjoy this delicious and nutritious vegetarian meal that’s perfect for the whole family!

Wednesday’s Comfort Food: Creamy Skillet Chicken with Spinach & Mushrooms

Calling for a cozy dinner on a rainy Wednesday? Look no further than this creamy skillet chicken dish! The combination of spinach and mushrooms is a guaranteed crowd-pleaser in our house, and it all comes together in a single pan for easy cleanup.

Why We Love This Dish:

  • Fast & Easy: This one-pan wonder takes just 20 minutes from start to finish – perfect for busy weeknights!
  • Flavorful & Healthy: Chicken cutlets smothered in a creamy mushroom and spinach sauce create a delicious and satisfying meal.

Tips for Success:

  • The Chicken:
    • Use pre-cut chicken cutlets (thin-sliced chicken breasts) for ultimate speed. Alternatively, slice boneless, skinless chicken breasts horizontally to create your own.
    • Ensure the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165°F (approximately 8 minutes for cutlets).
    • Chicken tenderloins or thighs can be substituted, but adjust cooking time for thicker pieces.
  • The Sauce:
    • We build flavor by utilizing the pan drippings from the chicken, creating savory depth.
    • Sliced mushrooms and spinach are cooked first for optimal texture. Pre-sliced mushrooms save time!
    • For speed, use baby spinach – the tender stems require no removal.
    • Craving a flavor twist? Opt for a mixed mushroom blend (shiitake, oyster, maitake) for complexity.
    • Adult spinach, Swiss chard, or kale are acceptable substitutes (remove tough stems and allow extra wilting time for kale).
  • Serving Suggestions:
    • Orzo pasta perfectly captures the creamy sauce with its small size.
    • Wild rice blend or pilaf adds an earthy touch.
    • Mashed potatoes (sweet or regular) provide a comforting base.
    • Keep it low-carb with spaghetti squash or zucchini noodles.

Ready to Cook? Here’s What You’ll Need:

  • Ingredients List (same as original recipe)
  • Equipment List (Large skillet)


  1. Season the chicken with half of the salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken and cook until done (turning once), about 6-8 minutes total. Transfer to a plate.
  2. Reduce heat to medium. Add mushrooms and cook with stirring for 1 minute. Add spinach, cover the pan, and cook with one stir (2 minutes), until mushrooms are tender.
  3. In a measuring cup, whisk together heavy cream, sour cream, white wine vinegar, garlic powder, onion powder, and remaining salt and pepper.
  4. Pour the mixture into the pan with any chicken juices. Simmer and stir for 1-2 minutes, allowing the sauce to thicken slightly.
  5. Return the chicken to the pan and coat it with the sauce. Serve topped with the creamy goodness!

Thursday: Sensational Shrimp & Grits – A Taste of the South

Reminiscing about Florida’s culinary delights? This recipe captures the essence of delicious shrimp with a spicy blackening kick, served over rich and smoky cheesy grits.

Shrimp Powerhouse:

Shrimp are not just tasty, they’re also a good source of selenium, a mineral supporting heart, immune system, and thyroid health.

Shortcut Tips for Busy Weeknights:

  • Utilize peeled and deveined shrimp for speedier prep.
  • Choose 31-40 count shrimp for the perfect size.
  • Opt for shrimp free of additives and preservatives to avoid a rubbery texture and extra sodium.

Ready to Cook? Here’s What You’ll Need:

  • Ingredients List (same as original recipe)
  • Equipment List (Medium saucepan, large nonstick skillet)


  1. Marinate the Shrimp: Toss the shrimp with blackening seasoning in a bowl and set aside.
  2. Cook the Grits: Combine water and milk in a saucepan, bring to a boil, then whisk in the grits. Reduce heat and cook, stirring frequently, until thickened and tender (5-7 minutes). Remove from heat and gradually stir in Gouda cheese until melted and smooth.
  3. Seared Shrimp Perfection: Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the seasoned shrimp in a single layer and cook, stirring occasionally, until opaque throughout (about 4 minutes).
  4. Flavorful Finish: Stir in lemon juice and butter, allowing the butter to melt.
  5. Plate and Enjoy! Serve the delicious shrimp over the creamy grits. Garnish with sliced scallions for an optional touch.

Friday Feast: Crunchy Sesame Kohlrabi & Chicken Salad

Looking for a refreshing and light dinner option for this unseasonably warm weather? This sesame kohlrabi & chicken salad is bursting with flavor and texture!

Introducing Kohlrabi:

If you’re unfamiliar with kohlrabi, don’t be intimidated! This unique vegetable is related to broccoli and Brussels sprouts, but with a milder and slightly sweet flavor. Its crunchy texture, similar to a broccoli stem, adds a delightful bite to this salad.

Customizable Cravings:

This crowd-pleasing salad is easily adaptable. Craving a vegetarian option? Substitute baked tofu or shrimp for the chicken.

Ready to Get Crunchy? Here’s What You’ll Need:

  • Ingredients List (same as original recipe)
  • Equipment List (Large bowl)


  1. Whip Up the Dressing: In a large bowl, whisk together rice vinegar, tamari, chile-garlic sauce, orange zest, and half of the chopped cilantro. Slowly whisk in grapeseed or canola oil and sesame oil to create a smooth and flavorful dressing.
  2. Combine the Salad Elements: Toss the kohlrabi, napa cabbage, shredded chicken, carrots, and snow peas into the bowl with the dressing.
  3. Finishing Touches: Plate the salad and garnish with toasted almonds, sesame seeds, and the remaining chopped cilantro for a vibrant presentation.

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