Everyone can use some great meal prep ideas for quick and easy summer meals! Let our meal plan menu of the week do all the planning for you, so you can spend more time in the sun.
For those in the U.S., July 4th is national Independence Day. Now we both know that whenever there is a big holiday, especially in the middle of the week, schedules can get a bit hectic. Whether you are having people over, going picnicking before a firework show, or simply having a relaxed night at home, a menu that is already planned for you is always a plus.
This week’s menu captures summer with warm weather entrees and cool, fresh side dishes. From pesto chicken skewers, to classic burgers, to fruit parfaits, to plum and citrus salads, every recipe is healthy and satisfying. For your convenience, we give four recipe versions for alternative diets, smart meal prep ideas, and cooking instructions for both the grill and stovetop / oven!
Why not streamline your week and make dinnertime smooth, easy, and (quite importantly) delicious?
“I have always tried a new recipe every holiday or gathering. Cooks Smarts really speaks to this part of me by giving me new things to try every week.“
— Gayla S. (Member since June 2015)
All meals come with gluten-free, paleo, and vegetarian options, as well as a grocery list and optional weekend prep steps.
Meal Planning Smarts
- This week, you can save time (and dishes) by making a double batch of fresh basil pesto to use in meals on Monday and Thursday.
- Since “fresh herb season” is in full swing, buy a big bunch of basil to use in multiple meals throughout the week. For more tips on cooking with fresh herbs, check out our infographic Guide to Herbs.
- Let our pesto’s vibrant flavors of basil, parmesan, and pine nuts liven up grilled vegetables and provide a great sauce for dipping fresh bread.
- Chop up Thursday’s leftover grilled chicken and pesto asparagus to add a savory flare to salads or omelets over the weekend.
- There’s nothing better than cooking once and eating twice (or thrice!). So, make / buy double batches of ingredients that freeze well for quick dinners a few weeks or months later. Make sure to download our All-in-One Freezer Guide for the best freezing smarts around!
- This week, the following ingredients will do great in the freezer: pesto, sliced peppers and onions, sausage, burger patties, hamburger buns, berries, pizza dough, and chicken.
On the Menu
A fun way to make these foil packet dinners is by letting everyone customize and fill their packet themselves. Our naturally gluten-free recipe calls for sausage, peppers, zucchini, potatoes, onions, and a host of seasonings, but just about any vegetables can be used. Whatever adjustments you make, definitely still try our pine nut and basil pesto drizzled on top for a fantastic finish.
To make this recipe vegetarian, all you need to do is substitute a veggie / vegan sausage. It’s also easy to make your packet dinner Paleo-friendly by swapping out potatoes for sweet potatoes and by omitting parmesan cheese from the pesto.
Pizza margherita is a classic summer food, but we’re giving it an extra summery twist by adding instructions for the grill. If you’ve never made pizza on the grill, it may take a bit of practice (we got you covered here with this how-to video!), but the smoky flavor of the crust makes it a skill that’s worth mastering. Whether grilling or using an oven, make sure you enjoy some fresh mozzarella and basil over a seasoned sauce and crisp crust with a side of tossed Italian salad.
Vegetarians know they’re already home with a margherita pizza while gluten-free eaters only need to make the simple substitute of a GF pizza dough. Those on the Paleo diet can feast on basil chicken and zucchini with a special spicy marinara and side Italian tossed salad.
Whether you celebrate American Independence Day or not, there’s always room for a good cheeseburger in the heat of summer. Is there anything more classic than a cheeseburger, baked fries, and ketchup on the side? And if you really want to run with a patriotic theme (or simply have a deliciously cooling dessert any day!), make a berry parfait with red and blue berries layered with plain white yogurt.
Instead of going with an obvious veggie patty burger, vegetarians can have a more original meal of avocado toast with lemon balsamic arugula and sweet potato fries. Those on a gluten-free diet can easily swap in GF hamburger buns. Paleo eaters can have their beef patty on portobello mushroom “buns” with sides of fruit salad and lemon balsamic arugula.
Our stovetop or grilled chicken skewers get a ton of flavor by brushing on pesto right before serving. But why limit the great taste of basil pesto to the chicken? Coat your grilled asparagus with it, too! And to cool you down from summer cooking, enjoy a fresh plum and citrus salad over a bed of spinach.
Our gluten-free members don’t need to change anything from the original recipe while our Paleo members only need to omit parmesan cheese from their pesto. Our vegetarian recipe features a flavorful asparagus, zucchini, and bean puréed soup with the same pesto topping and side salad.