Next Week's Meal Plan

A Week of Easy, Nourishing Meals for New Parents from MacKenzie Smith of Grilled Cheese Social

updated Jan 12, 2023
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Credit: Credit: MacKenzie Smith; Design: The Kitchn

Getting dinner on the table while navigating new parenthood (and parenthood in general!) is tricky business. MacKenzie Smith absolutely agrees. In addition to being a cookbook author, creator of the site Grilled Cheese Social, and an executive chef (who’s won not one, but two Food Network cooking competitions), she’s mom to 9-month-old Poppy. And despite MacKenzie’s years of experience in the kitchen, she feels the dinner struggle just as much as the rest of us.

Credit: MacKenzie Smith

MacKenzie relies on meals that are equal parts easy and nourishing, and is all about grocery store shortcuts, one-dish meals, and speeding up dinner with her Instant Pot. Here she shares a meal plan that’s great for new parents (and anyone who doesn’t have a lot of time on their hands!).

Credit: MacKenzie Smith

Monday: Baked Feta Pasta

By now, there’s a good chance that you’ve either made baked feta pasta or have seen this viral sensation all over your social media channels. After hearing about it from a Finnish friend at the beginning of my pregnancy in 2019, I shared a translated recipe on my website, Grilled Cheese Social. Then last year during my pregnancy, it started going viral on Instagram, and then post-pregnancy I uploaded it to TikTok and it went even more viral to the point that blocks of feta cheese are on back order in most parts of the country! 

With that being said, this recipe isn’t just perfect for new parents — it’s simple, delicious, and nourishing for everyone!

Pro tip: Make sure that the tomatoes are crowded and swimming in oil so they confit. This will help bring out the sweetness of dull winter tomatoes while balancing out the saltiness of the feta! And also, if you can’t find a chunk of feta, crumbled is just fine. 

Get the recipe: Baked Feta Pasta

Credit: MacKenzie Smith

Tuesday: Steak Picado Tacos

Taco Tuesdays are about to get so much better with this easy one-pot steak recipe. If you’re unfamiliar with this dish, steak picado is a spicy Mexican braised beef recipe that’s packed full of flavor. It uses minimal pantry ingredients and is super easy to make. It’s so flavorful and can be transformed from tacos to rice bowls and beyond.

And if you’re really short on time, sear the meat in the Instant Pot and then add the other ingredients (minus the water!) right on top. Cook on high pressure for 25 minutes, and you’ll have delicious tacos in no time.

Get the recipe: Steak Picado Tacos

Credit: MacKenzie Smith

Wednesday: Sheet Pan-Style Chicken Shawarma

Back when I lived in NYC, chicken shawarma was one of my go-to takeout options. Now that we live a tiny beach town in Florida, I’ve worked long and hard on adapting a shawarma recipe to make at home in my tiny kitchen. 

My adaptation uses a sheet pan and a couple of warming spices to make it super-quick and flavorful. I like pairing it with feta, rice, fresh veggies, and a few store-bought spreads like hummus, labneh, and toum.

Pro tip: Trader Joe’s frozen brown rice makes this dish even quicker and easier; it’s one of my favorite store-bought time-savers.

Get the recipe: Sheet Pan-Style Chicken Shawarma

Credit: MacKenzie Smith

Thursday: Rustic Tortellini Soup

If you’re like me, you’ve probably got a reusable bag full of Parmesan rinds that you’ve been saving in your fridge or freezer — and this soup is the perfect medium for using them up. You just need a few fresh veggies, some cheese tortellini, broth, some Parmesan (and its rind), and a few spices and you’ve got yourself a hearty and satisfying soup that is completely irresistible. I love serving this soup with fresh toasted buttery sourdough bread, or even an air fryer grilled cheese!

Get the recipe: Rustic Tortellini Soup

Credit: MacKenzie Smith

Friday: Walking Taco Casserole

In our family, Walking Tacos are considered the perfect food. But now that our baby, Poppy, is here, transforming it into a casserole has been a game-changer.

On the bottom, you’ll find a beefy queso frito layer that’s loaded with flavor and texture. In the middle there are hearty black beans, followed by sharp cheddar baked on top to lock in moisture and flavor. Then the whole thing is topped with a cool and zesty iceberg lettuce salad that uses store-bought ranch dressing, hot sauce, and lime juice to bring it all together. Serve with extra Fritos and you’ve got yourself a perfectly satisfying meal.

Get the recipe: Walking Taco Casserole

Thanks so much, MacKenzie! Be sure to check out her cookbook, Grilled Cheese Social, and follow her on the web for more delicious recipes.

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Meal planning isn’t always easy — especially if you’re just getting started. But we’re firm believers that it’s the secret to stress-free weeknight dinners. We want to help you find inspiration and ease some of the pain points that come with getting dinner on the table night after night, whether you’re cooking one or a family of four or five. Every week we share a new meal plan solution specifically customized for you from reader requests or from a guest contributor, for Next Week’s Meal Plan!