As a back to school special, I’m giving you all a sneak peek at the helping hand you could be getting each week from the menu plan that comes along with many other valuable membership benefits when you upgrade to the Premium Membership here at To sweeten the deal for existing members, I’m

Tatjana goes back to school

including ways to employ the Personal Chef Approach™ (PCA™) to streamline your grab and pack lunches while saving you heaps of time (and money) preparing your dinners for the week ahead. Your run of the mill packed lunches will go from ho hum, to OH YUM with minimal added effort!

A Personal Chef Approach™ (PCA™) filled fridge

For those of you that are new to the PCA™, I always recommend starting off slow. Begin cooking two or three meals at once, then graduate to cooking more simultaneously when you feel ready. Set aside a few hours on the specific date you plan to cook. Scheduling this time is important, and will help keep you on track.

Grocery shopping with a plan saves both time and money

Print the grocery list, and check your fridge, freezer and pantry for any items you already have, then cross them off your grocery list. Add any other grocery or household products you may need to the list (and don’t forget to make sure you have all the packaging you will need to store your food properly). Then shop with your plan in hand, making only one trip for the entire week!

Be sure to thoroughly read each recipe through before you begin. Have your ingredients, and the tools to cook, package, and cool your food ready. Cook just the extra portions of your dinner menu you will need to cleverly morph into easily transportable, delicious lunches. For instance we will be making extra grilled vegetables to add to our mini-quiches, and roasting two chickens instead of one, so we already have our cooked chicken to make our chicken pesto salad with.

Jewels putting the menu plan into action

Soups are easy, you just double your recipe each time, cool and freeze what you don’t need right away. Then have it for supper one evening, and take it in individually packaged screw-top containers with you to school or the office along with a spoon. Even if there is no microwave or stove to heat it – many soups are equally good cold or at room temperature.

Now obviously what works for 30 something taste buds might not be as appealing, or practical, for grade schoolers, so turn that chicken pesto salad into a sandwich that is easier for them to manage, or use more kid friendly ingredients for some of your mini quiche. Think ham and cheddar, or how about a quiche pizza with tomato, basil, and mozzarella, maybe a little Italian sausage thrown in too?  You can easily make your grown up version, and theirs at the same time.

I’ve kept the menu at five meals as usual, but only three are dinner entrees this week, while the other two will give you the practice you need to learn how to incorporate lunches into your chef day routine without overwhelming yourself. Below you will find the recipes, grocery list and “heat to eat” instructions. Just print, shop and cook. Once you experience the value, I do hope you will join, and I welcome any questions or feedback you may have (click on comments)?

Bon Appétit

Jewels xo



Since grilling season could soon be over in your corner of the world, I thought I’d make use of it while the weather still holds up. I crave that smoky flavor you get from grilling and love having fewer pans to clean afterwards. If you don’t like veal, or want to economize, chicken or pork work equally well.

Servings: 4


2 lemons, zest and juice
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon brown sugar, packed
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon Italian parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon rosemary, chopped
1 tablespoon thyme, chopped
4 veal chops


1). In a large bowl, mix the lemon juice, zest, vinegar, sugar, garlic, Italian parsley, rosemary, and thyme. Add the veal chops, turning a couple times to coat, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2-4 hours.

2). Prepare a hot grill. Remove the veal chops from the marinade, discarding marinade, pat chops dry.

3). Grill chops on preheated grill 4-6 minutes per side (depending on thickness), or until cooked as desired. Try to keep on one side of the grill so that you have room for the vegetables on the other.

Serving Suggestions:

‘Grilled Zucchini & Red Peppers


Servings: 4


Olive oil spray
3 medium zucchini, sliced lengthwise into 1/4 inch thick slices
3 red peppers, seeded and sliced lengthwise into slices
Salt and pepper to taste (or any seasoning of your choice)


1). Spray the sliced vegetables with olive oil spray, and season with salt and pepper to taste, or using whatever seasoning you choose to use.

2). While the grill is already hot and in use for your veal chops, set the vegetables on the grill. Cook for 2-3 minutes per side or until nicely marked by the grill. Remove to a plate and serve hot or cold.

Serving Suggestions:

Serve with Grilled Veal Chops.


Be sure to make an extra grilled red pepper to cool and use later for the quiche.


If you are not keen on zucchini, substitute any vegetable of your choice.



Remember it is really easy to have a few kid friendlier ingredients on hand too – just fill half the quiche shells with those, and half with the grown-up version. Then fill with the egg mixture and bake all at once, so you’re not making separate meals for everyone.

Servings: 4


1 9-inch pie crust (store bought or homemade)
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/4 red onion, chopped and sautéed until softened set aside to cool
1 box frozen spinach, thawed and well drained
2 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
3/4 cup whole milk
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 pinch nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste
1/2 teaspoon pepper or to taste
8 ounces Feta cheese with garlic and herbs, divided
1 red pepper, grilled and chopped


1). Preheat oven to 375° F. Prick holes in he base and sides of the pie crust using the tines of a fork at regular intervals. Bake pie crust 10 minutes, or until partially baked and beginning to brown.

2). While crust is partially baking, sauté the onions in 2 teaspoons olive oil until softened. Mix well with thawed and drained spinach.

3). Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, extra yolks, milk, cream, nutmeg, salt and pepper; set aside.

4). Spread 1/2 of the cheese on the bottom of the warm pie crust, then spinach, and then roasted red pepper slices. Top with remaining cheese.

5). Pour the egg mixture into the pie until it reaches 1/2 inch from the top. Bake until the egg mixture is set around edges or until a knife inserted 1 inch from edge comes out clean, about 30 – 35 minutes. Top should be golden brown, but it may still be slightly gelatinous in the center when you wiggle the quiche.

6). Cool thoroughly on wire rack. When totally cool, wrap in foil, then in freezer bag.

Serving Suggestions:

This is easily lunch on it’s own, but of you prefer more – serve with a mixed green salad tossed in vinaigrette.


Use whatever variations of combinations of vegetables and cooked meats that you like.



There is nothing more comforting than a juicy roast lemon herb chicken with crispy skin, and caramelized vegetables. Why not kill two birds with one stone (couldn’t resist the pun), and double the chicken part of the recipe for the chicken needed in your chicken pesto salad for lunches? You make the effort to cook it once and only have one pan to clean! If you don’t require quite that much extra chicken, throw in a couple breasts or thighs rather than a whole chicken.

Servings: 4


1-2 (3 1/2 to 4-pound) whole chicken
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon chopped thyme leaves
1/2 cup olive oil
2 lemons, zested, and one quartered
1 1/2 tablespoons salt plus more to taste on vegetables
2 teaspoons black pepper plus more to taste on vegetables
2 bay leaves

Roasted Vegetables:
1 pound fingerling potatoes, sliced in half
1/2 pound baby carrots
1/4 pound baby turnips, peeled and stem ends trimmed
4 celery stalks, cut into 3 inch pieces
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste


1). Preheat oven to 375° F.  Wash the chicken and pat dry.

2). In a small bowl, combine the garlic, thyme, lemon zest, olive oil, salt and pepper. Rub the herb mixture all over the inside cavity and outside, covering evenly.

3). Place the bay leaves and quartered lemon inside the cavity, and place the chicken, breast side up, in a roasting pan.

4). In a large bowl, mix the baby carrots, turnips, potatoes and celery with the remaining olive oil. Pour the vegetables around the edges of the chicken (if there is not enough room use a separate sheet pan to roast the vegetables on). Season to taste with salt and pepper.

5). Roast chicken and vegetables 1-1 1/2 hours or when a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh (without touching the bone) registers 165° F. Let the chicken rest at least 10 minutes before carving.

Serving Suggestions:

Serve with roasted fingerling potatoes, baby carrots, turnips and celery.


There are shortcuts you can exercise here if you want. I’ll often use a freshly roasted store bought chicken to save to save time and effort – you really won’t taste the difference. You can also use store bought pesto sauce, but if you have time it is worth making your own since it is so much better without the preservatives.

Servings: 6


For the pesto
2 cup fresh basil, packed and stems
1/2 cup Parmesan, grated divided
3 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted 
2 large cloves of garlic, minced
1 teaspoon of lemon juice
1/2 cup tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

For the salad
1 whole chicken, roasted and meat shredded
1/4 pine nuts, toasted
1/4 golden raisins
4 oil packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained and finely chopped


For the pesto

1). Pulse all of the pesto ingredients in a food processor fitted with a steel blade, until the mixture comes together.

2). Place the shredded chicken in a large mixing bowl. Add pine nuts, raisins, sun-dried tomatoes and pesto sauce. Stir well to distribute ingredients throughout.

Serving Suggestions:

This great as a sandwich on ciabatta with sliced tomato and arugula or a main course salad atop greens tossed in balsamic dressing.


The pesto sauce can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator with a little extra olive oil drizzled on top to help prevent discoloration, up to one week or in the freezer up to three months. Once the chicken salad is combined, you should eat it within three days or freeze, ready-made, for up to three months.


Sometimes I like to make this salad with a different pesto such as and artichoke or arugula pesto.


This thick, exotic soup can be served hot, cold, or at room temperature. Don’t let looks deceive you – kids and adults alike will find this one super satisfying dish anytime of day.

Servings: 4


1 teaspoon peanut oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 rib celery, chopped
1 lb. carrots cut into 1 inch pieces
2 teaspoons garlic, minced
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
1/8 teaspoon dried chili flakes (more if you like heat)
3 1/2 cups vegetable broth
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 cup coconut milk
1/4 cilantro, finely chopped


1. Heat peanut oil in a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion and celery, and cook until softened, about 7-8 minutes. Add the carrots, garlic, ginger, and red pepper flakes and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.

2). Add the chicken broth and cook until tender, about 40-45 minutes. Stir in soy sauce, peanut butter, sugar, sesame oil, and coconut milk. Continue cooking, stirring continually, until peanut butter has melted and all ingredients are well incorporated, about 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat.

3). In a blender, puree soup in small batches (use caution blending hot liquids – fill blender only 1/2 full, working in batches, and place a towel over the top to avoid being burned). Return soup to pan and stir in the cilantro.

Serving Suggestions:

This soup can be served hot or cold with a yummy sesame seed roll if desired.


Grocery List

These are all the ingredients you will need to make all of the recipes. Go through your pantry and fridge to see if you already have some of the ingredients and cross those off the list. If you are altering the recipes servings (fewer or double portions) you will need to make adjustments accordingly to this list. If you wish to make more meals, add those ingredients to the list, and anything else you need to stock your fridge and home, so you make one organized trip to the store.

Olive oil spray
Olive oil
Peanut oil
Red wine vinegar
Balsamic dressing (or use homemade)
Brown sugar
Pine nuts (10 ounces)
Golden raisins
Oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes
Dried chili flakes
1 32-ounce box vegetable broth
Soy sauce
Creamy peanut butter
Toasted sesame oil
Coconut milk
Foil mini quiche pans
Ziploc salad containers or baggies for sandwiches
Ziploc screw top containers for soups

1 white onion (x2)
1 red onion
Fresh ginger
5 lemons
Fresh Italian parsley
Fresh thyme
Fresh Rosemary
Fresh basil
Fresh cilantro
3 medium zucchini
3 red peppers (+1)
1 pound fingerling potatoes
1/2 pound baby carrots
1 pound whole carrots (x2)
1/4 pound baby turnips

4 veal chops
1 whole 3 1/2 pound chicken (x2)

4 eggs
Pint of whole milk
Pint of heavy cream
8 ounces Feta cheese with garlic and herbs
Grated Parmesan

Refrigerated section
1 box prepared pie dough (or make homemade)

Frozen section
10 ounce box frozen spinach


Heat to Eat Instructions:

Remove food from freezer and place in refrigerator for 24 hours prior to serving unless you plan to eat the food immediately after defrosting, in which case you may defrost in the microwave on the defrost setting, before heating. If food is not completely thawed prior to heating or finalizing the cooking process, or if you choose to heat food directly from the freezer, you will need to increase the cooking time given here. Under no circumstances allow food to defrost at room temperature. All instructions are given for thawed food unless otherwise noted.

Marinated Grilled Veal Chops: Vent lid of container and heat in microwave on 50% power for 3-5 minutes, turning the chops midway; or marinate and grill-off when ready to eat them. Serve with Grilled Zucchini & Red Peppers: Vent lid of container and heat in microwave 1-2 minutes; or remove from fridge 30 minutes before serving to allow the vegetables to come to room temperature.

(Spinach, Red Pepper, & Feta Mini Quiche):  To serve, slice and heat appropriate number of slices on a cookie sheet, covered loosely with foil, in a 375° preheated oven, about 10 minutes. May also be heated in microwave, but curst will not be as crisp.

Roasted Lemon Chicken: Vent lid of container and heat in the microwave on 50% power for 3-5 minutes, turning pieces midway to distribute heat evenly; alternatively, preheat oven to 350° F. Place chicken on a pan and heat for 10-15 minutes, or until internal temp reaches 16° F. Serve with Roasted Yukon Gold Potatoes, Carrots, and Celery: Vent lid of container and heat in the microwave for 2-3 minutes, stirring midway to distribute heat evenly; alternatively, preheat oven to 350° F. Place vegetables on a sheet pan and heat for 5-10 minutes.

(Chicken Artichoke -Pesto Salad on Arugula): Toss arugula with dressing, then spoon chicken salad on top (served cold).

Southeast Asian Coconut- Carrot Soup: Heat over medium low heat in a sauce pan on the stovetop, or individual portions in microwave proof bowls for 3-5 minutes, stirring midway, in the microwave until just heated through.

(Double recipe for lunches): Heat over medium low heat in a sauce pan on the stovetop, or individual portions in microwave proof bowls for 3-5 minutes, stirring midway, in the microwave until just heated through.

PS. Premium members will still be able to download the menu plan on Wednesday in the members section.

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  • August 27, 2012
    12:10 pm

    I LOVE how you incorporate your photos into your blog! They are always wonderful, and you always have just the right photo for the story! That Artichoke Pesto pasta sounds delish, I need to make that one night for my lunches throughout the week. Hope you are doing well, keep up your fantastic work!

    • August 31, 2012
      9:31 am

      It is delicious, and I usually make extra to freeze, plus I love it on a baked potato instead of butter or sour cream too.

  • August 28, 2012
    10:01 am

    I became a premium member a few months into the school year last year.

    All three of my younger kids coincidentally decided they didn’t want the school-provided lunches anymore.

    At first I was a little annoyed because it was far easier in my mind to write a check and voila they have lunch provided to them by school.

    But as I began using the menu plans to send in home made lunches, I realized they were eating well-balanced meals and it didn’t take me extra time to make since I was already making the food for dinner using the PCA method.

    By the way – I also noted far less trips to the pediatrician – a direct result of ealthier eating.

    • August 31, 2012
      9:33 am

      It makes me so happy and proud of what I do when I hear comments like “By the way – I also noted far less trips to the pediatrician – a direct result of healthier eating.’ I feel like I have made a difference in my own little way. Thank you Jodi.

  • August 30, 2012
    9:01 am

    I second the less trips to the doctor! Last winter, I was just waiting for the yearly pneumonia to come to my two and it never did. Eating right, tasty meals and left overs for school lunches are a win!

  • August 31, 2012
    9:37 am

    I truly believe food, and eating right, is not only our best preventative medicine, it can also be a powerful weapon in fighting disease and illness without the side effects of toxic drugs.