An article recently appeared in the New York Times entitled What If You Just Hate Making Dinner? by Virginia Heffernan. You may be surprised to hear me say this, but sometimes I hate making dinner too – that’s why the Personal Chef Approach (PCA) is so important to me. I don’t have to cook dinner nightly to eat healthy homemade meals whenever I want!


Here are a few of the points Ms. Hefferman makes as to why she hates making dinner (which I’m sure most of us can relate to), and why the PCA is the answer to turning your dinner impossible into dinner accomplished.

“Where I ought to have a lively intellectual curiosity about food preparation, I generally have a despairing blank.”

This week's menu plan

This week’s menu plan

Menu Planning Blank: Having to come up with ideas, shop, prep, and cook nightly, then clean up a messy kitchen after a long day at work is overwhelming. It is also most likely take you an average of 2 hours from conception to completion daily. Who has that kind of time today, even if we do find cooking fun?

With the Personal Chef Approach I’ve already done the planning for you with my Weekly Menu Plans, or you can streamline building your own menu plan with our Custom Menu Planning tool – choose from over 325 recipes in our recipe library to add to My Own Menu Plan, and both grocery list and heat to eat instructions will automatically generate. Then enter the number of servings you need, and the recipe scaler will automatically update your recipes and grocery list for you.

 “A vague neural itch sets in around 5 p.m. when I recognize that something must happen, and soon, involving plates and macronutrients.”

Hate cooking? I hate cleaning toilets, but it has to be done

You may find you ENJOY cooking when you don’t have to do it nightly

Time: Once  you have your menu plan, all you have to do is set aside a few hours to shop, prep, cook once a week. Okay, so you still hate cooking? I hate cleaning my toilets, but it has to be done! So, suck it up and focus on the many benefits which do outweigh the few hours of effort. You may even find you actually enjoy cooking when you no longer need to do it nightly!

“…I figure out who’s had enough protein or carbs for the day, who can bear eating the other’s favorite food, or whether I must figure out two meals”

Finicky eaters have an array of meals to choose from

Finicky eaters have an array of meals to choose from

Variety: When you cook multiple meals for the week ahead, you already have multiple meals to choose from! No more fretting over something for everyone, or playing short-order cook to keep your finicky eaters happy.

“In 1982, Jessica Lange as Julie, the glamorous single working mother in “Tootsie,” became my ego-ideal when she sexily told Dustin Hoffman’s character that she was a “born defroster.”


Welcome to the best of both worlds – healthy choices are kept readily available

Convenience: Welcome to the best of both worlds, Virginia! You can defrost to serve your family real food (and faster than dialing for delivery) when you pull your PCA meals out of the fridge or freezer. Tip: I often double recipes to stock my freezer, so I get all my cooking done once or twice a month – perfect for those “born defrosters” who hate cooking. My favorite part? The pots and pans are already done, so clean-up is as quick as dinner is on the table.

“I hear you, but I like to cook,” said one feminist the last time I tried my bold association of foodism with rank misogyny.”

I guess we can train the men in our lives to take over some of the cooking responsibilities!

Perhaps the PCA will convince the men in our lives to take over some of the cooking responsibilities

Sexist: I admit, I am guilty of sexism too. I do write mostly with women in mind because we tend to be more instinctually nurturing. Although, we did recently have a husband chip in when his wife fell ill. The PCA community is exceptionally supportive, so even though James had never cooked before, we coached him through the process in the Forum (evidence that even a novice cook can master the PCA). Here is what he had to say about it:

” Her training guides are FOOLproof, her cuisine is modern, inspired and innovative, for any occasion you can think of and all the days in between. Plus, she’s hot. Come on foodie men! It’s a week by week system that’s quite genius, actually. Even for the culinarily challenged.” – James Burkeen

So, it is possible to train our husbands and boyfriends to take over some of the cooking responsibilities! James took such pride in conquering the kitchen and providing for his family, that I have been trying to curb my sexism ever since.

“Not only are these women (or their trusty co-authors) ace home cooks, they have also figured out dinner once and for all and are extraordinarily self-assured about their axioms.”

We can train the men in our lives to take over some of the cooking responsibilities!

We can train the men in our lives to take over some of the cooking responsibilities!

True, I have been cooking dinner for families professionally for well over ten years, so I do know what works and what doesn’t, but that just means you have a shortcut to successful dinner making with the Personal Chef Approach. It really isn’t brain-surgery! If you can read, you can cook – recipes do list ingredients and instructions. I’ll even throw in my Salisbury Steak recipe below for free to prove my point. How often do you cook in your household?

Salisbury Steak

Salisbury Steak

The rich Madeira wine and mushroom sauce over tender ground sirloin, topped with crunchy bacon crumbles reminds me of my childhood. I suddenly woke up craving it one day, so I played around with what I remembered of the flavors.

Servings: 4
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes


Salisbury Steak

  • 1/2 cup panko
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 1/2 pounds ground sirloin
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg freshly grated
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • 8 ounces mushrooms sliced
  • 1 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup Madeira wine
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • 4 cups no-yolk noodles cooked according to package instructions
  • 4 slices bacon cooked crisp, crumbled
  • 1 tablespoon fresh Italian parsley chopped


Salisbury Steak

  1. In a large bowl, soak the panko in the milk. Add the beef, 2 teaspoons of Worcestershire and nutmeg and mix until the ingredients are all well dispersed throughout the meat. Make into 4 oval patties, about 1 inch thick each, and season to taste.
  2. Heat a large nonstick sauté pan over medium heat. Add the patties and brown, about 3-4 minutes per side, remove to a plate tented with foil to keep warm.
  3. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in the same pan, add garlic and cook one minute. Add remaining Worcestershire sauce, stirring constantly as it will sizzle, and then the mushrooms. Cook until the mushrooms have browned nicely.
  4. Add the flour and cook, stirring frequently for 2 minutes. Stir in the wine and simmer 2-3 minutes. Slowly add the beef broth, a little at a time, stirring constantly and smooshing out any lumps that may form with the back of the spoon, until all broth has been added and cook until thickened, about 8-10 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, melt the remaining butter in the cooked noodles, season generously, and sprinkle with 1/2 of the parsley.

Serving Suggestions

To serve, place noodles in the center of each plate, top with one of the meat patties, pour the mushroom sauce over each one equally and sprinkle the bacon crumbles and remaining parsley over the top, and serve with roast cabbage.

Heat To Eat

Vent lid of container and heat in microwave on 50% power for 3-5 minutes, turning midway; or heat in a large skillet over medium-high heat until heated through, about 12-15 minutes.


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  • October 19, 2014
    10:50 am

    I haven’t been doing my cooking ahead like I like to do normally. Health issues have me being extremely cautious in the kitchen just in case I take a fall which I did last week. I had to push my panic button and in no time, I had two paramedics there to help me. One heard the alarm go for the oven and offered to pull my pan of chicken breasts out. He commented that the chicken smelled awesome. By this time I was sitting in a chair and having my vitals checked. Both young men were amazing! The one even filled Molly’s dish with fresh water at my request, a task I like to do a couple of times a day. So, when I get my falls under control, I plan to get my PCA cooking days set up again and start living a healthier life. Even now, I try to cook soups, roast up chicken breasts so they can be used in other dishes and so on. Hopefully, I’ll stabilize with the falls soon and be back to cooking twice a month which will set me up just fine. Meanwhile, I guess I can count on the paramedics to pulls casseroles and such out of the oven since they stay with me until they feel I’m okay to leave. But, all jokes aside, I really encourage people with health issues to join PCA and learn to cook ahead so they can have meals ready in a pinch. It’s not easy to cook every night, so planning to cook one or two times per month is much more doable. I can vouch for that! Many thanks to Jewels, our chef extraordinare for developing this way of cooking once and eating several times. You rock!

  • October 19, 2014
    10:54 am

    That is scary, Ruthee – hope you get well quickly! I’d wait until I felt better, then make 4 -8 servings of everything, freezing 3-7 servings of each recipe for a later date, so you only have to cook once or twice a month. That way, next time you have a health issue like this you will be able to defrost, heat and eat without taxing yourself in the kitchen.

    • October 20, 2014
      5:01 pm

      Not to worry Jewels! I’m being careful and really watching how I move and not taking any chances. I’m averaging four falls a month for the past two months and now have an occupational therapist working with me. Part of the problem is that my scoliosis has gotten much worse and throws me off balance. Add my knees to the equation and that’s why the falls are so frequent. I’m openly admitting now that I’m getting a wheelchair later this week. At least it’s a power chair since my shoulders are also a problem. My poor old body just needs a make over, but since that can’t happen, I’ll take the power chair and be able to cook like I did before. I can do the prep at my kitchen table and my housekeeper is reorganizing the pantry cupboards so I can reach things from my chair. Thank goodness I moved into a two bedroom flat so I have more room to move around! Once I get back in the groove of cooking, I’m so going to get that little chest freezer and stock it up!