The B4FD Project features blog posts from guest writers that explore the far-reaching benefits of family dinner.

Family Dinner Month 2012: Sept 17 -- Oct 29, 2012


Sound Like Your Morning? Saved by the Menu Plan

by Aviva Goldfarb

It was a pretty typical morning.  By 7 a.m. I had cleaned up the kitchen and cleaned up dog vomit, made 2 breakfasts and 2 lunches, changed the laundry and changed a light bulb.  I had been up several times during the night with a sick child.  Andrew had left at 5 a.m. for a business trip, and my head was groggy, but fortunately coffee was brewing (yes, also made by me).  You know, the usual.

As I looked ahead to my chaotic day full of meetings and to-do lists, I realized the only thing that didn’t stress me out was dinner.  I knew what I was making—Tortellini Soup with Spinach and Tomatoes–and I knew that it would only take me about 20 minutes to have a delicious and healthy meal on the table for my family, so I could finally sit down with them and relax for a while–at least before getting up to do the dishes!

I’m telling you this story because a) you can probably relate to my morning, and b) if your dinnertime routine feels as chaotic as the rest of your day, and you wish you had the comfort of already knowing what you were making for dinner and that you had all the ingredients you needed without having to add a grocery store drive-by shopping to your day, then I hope you’ll consider the joy of weekly menu planning, either on your own or with a dinner planning service such as The Six O’Clock Scramble. I’ll even plan your weekly meals and give you a grocery list to take with you to the store each week.  Then it will be on my to do list — not yours.

Tortellini Soup with Spinach and Tomatoes


Prep + Cook = 20 minutes

5 servings, about 2 cups

This kid-pleasing recipe is great for a time-pressed weeknight, and can easily be doubled for bigger families.  Serve it with warm Italian bread which is also great for soaking up the broth.

1 Tbsp. olive oil

1 tsp. minced garlic (about 2 cloves)

32 oz. reduced-sodium chicken or vegetable broth

9 oz. whole wheat or regular cheese tortellini (sold refrigerated)

15 oz. no-salt added diced tomatoes, with their liquid

1/4 tsp. black pepper

1/2 tsp. dried basil

1/2 tsp. dried oregano

3 cups baby spinach (or use Swiss Chard)

1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese, or to taste

In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat.  Sauté the garlic for one minute, then stir in the broth.  Bring it to a boil, and then add the tortellini, tomatoes, pepper, basil and oregano.

Reduce the heat to keep it at a low boil for 7 minutes.  Add the spinach.  Simmer it for 2 more minutes, then remove it from the heat and serve it immediately, topped with Parmesan cheese.

Scramble Flavor Booster:  Add an extra clove of garlic and double the black pepper.  Use freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

Tip:  Buitoni sells a whole wheat three cheese tortellini that is tender and delicious and much higher in dietary fiber than their traditional tortellini.

Side Dish suggestion:  Serve it with warm Italian bread, dipped in olive oil, if desired.  For an extra treat, stir grated Parmesan cheese and red pepper flakes into the oil. 

Nutritional Information per serving (% based upon daily values):

Calories 254, Total Fat 10g, 16%, Saturated Fat 3g, 16%, Cholesterol 36mg, 12%, Sodium 431mg, 18%, Total Carbohydrate 27g, 9% Dietary Fiber 7g, 27% Sugar 4.5g, Protein 13g

Aviva Goldfarb helps busy parents let go of all the stress at 6:00 and bring joy back to the dinner table. She is a mother of two and the author and founder of The Six O’Clock Scramble®,www.thescramble.com, an online weekly menu planning system and cookbook (St. Martin’s Press, 2006), and is author of the new cookbook, “SOS! The Six O’Clock Scramble to the Rescue: Earth Friendly, Kid-Pleasing Meals for Busy Families” (St. Martin’s Press, 2010).  She is also a weekly contributor to the Kitchen Explorers blog on PBSparents.org.

8 comments to Sound Like Your Morning? Saved by the Menu Plan

  • Thanks for sharing my recipe and post on your fabulous site this month. So excited that we’re all working together on the Family Dinner Movement!

  • I swear by my menu board where I post the nights dinner every morning This way I don’t need to answer the question of “What’s For Dinner?” all day. And gives me one less thing to think about.

  • Honestly, I have never been much of a planner, but I’m a quick-meals specialist! This fall has been so crazy, though, I really think I’m going to give it a try. Even saving that 5-10 minutes “deciding” on what to cook is going to help de-stress the kitchen. Thank you Aviva for great inspiration!

  • Thank you Aviva for joining with us! I love your recipes at The Scramble and in your cookbook. And @organizingwithe I agree – it’s great for the rest of the family to see what we’ve got planned as well.

    • Funny, when I mentioned meal planning to my son, 16 yrs old, he said “Oh great, then I can plan to not be home for dinner if I don’t like it.” Not the response I wanted to hear!

  • Cooking from Aviva’s cookbooks has saved my dinner more than once! Soup looks delicious!

  • Thank you Aviva for planning my meal for tonight!! I’ve been very busy planning and prepping food for the upcoming holiday, but hadn’t figured out a quick meal for this evening, after the Tuesday rounds of soccer and tennis carpools. This meal is it! (And that sounds remarkably similar to most of my mornings too!)

  • Thank you so much for sharing your words of wisdom about meal planning. One of my biggest frustrations with family dinner is my picky eater coming in the kitchen asking “what’s for dinner?” I know he’s going to be disappointed with whatever answer I give! Sounds like your service would really help me out with that one! And with another child recently diagnosed with lactose intolerance, it’s even harder to come up with a good menu plan every night. I will have to check out your service, it sounds amazing (love the component for lactose intolerance)!