I can’t even tell you how many times I have looked down at my small brood and though to myself, “Huh. I should probably feed you guys something…”
We have to eat. It’s just the way it is. And whether you love to cook or only enter your kitchen to stave off hunger between Chick-fil-A runs, at some point in time, dinner needs to be on the table. And I don’t care if you are so efficient that Martha Stewart secretly calls you for advice, EVERYONE needs easy meal ideas.
Last week we posted a great list of 7 school and lunch recipes that were perfect for these first few weeks of back to school. We are following that up with a collection of dishes you can make midweek, quickly and easily, using a minimum amount of effort.
Here in the Midlands, most of us are starting our third week of school already. Sports and classes are in full swing and lazy summer dinners are becoming a distant memory. Whether you have limited time during the day to prep or a small window at night before and after events, these reliable meals will become part of your culinary arsenal. Many of them are freezer-friendly, so don’t forget to pin this post to save time down the road.
Now, when you look at your offspring and bite your lip trying to think of something quick for dinner, you will have these in your back pocket! And trust me, you’ll be glad you did!
1 lb ground beef, 85 or 90% lean
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 sweet bell pepper, diced
3/4 c cooked brown rice or quinoa (barley would be nice too)
1 T mustard
1-2 T molasses (I use 2 but I like it a bit sweeter)
1 T Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp chili powder
salt and pepper
1 (14 oz) can crushed tomatoes
whole wheat buns
In a large frying pan or cast iron skillet, brown the beef in a tiny bit of olive oil over medium heat. Break it up into small pieces as you go. When it is about halfway done, add the onion, garlic, and diced pepper. Once all the meat is cooked through and no longer pink, and the veggies are getting soft, add the rest of the ingredients, through salt and pepper. Let cook gently over medium low heat, stirring often, until the flavors have all come together, about 5 minutes. Add the crushed tomatoes, and bring up to temp stirring often, letting it all cook together for another 5 minutes. Taste for seasoning. Serve on whole wheat buns.
Pasta With Zesty Bolognese
Traditional Bolognese takes hours and hours to make. This version can be done in the time it takes you to boil the water and cook the noodles, making it perfect for a weeknight dinner.
1 small onion, chopped
1 pound of ground beef
1 (15 oz) can tomato sauce
1 (15 oz) can diced tomatoes, undrained
1/4 c Zesty Italian dressing or Italian dressing
2 T cream cheese
3/4 pound (12 oz) spaghetti, cooked according to package directions
While boiling the water and cooking the noodles, brown beef and onions in a bit of olive oil in a large sauce pan. Once cooked, drain any fat and add tomato sauce, diced tomatoes and Italian dressing. Heat until bubbling slightly and let cook for a few minutes to let all the flavors merry. Just before serving, turn off the heat, add the cream cheese and stir until it melts into the sauce. Serve over pasta and top with Parmesan cheese.
Speedy BBQ Chicken Sandwiches
This dish has such robust flavor, it goes really well with whole wheat pasta, so feel free to switch it up. Ground turkey is good in here too. This sauce freezes great, but sometimes (and I don’t know when it isn’t ALL the time — weird) the cream cheese curdles slightly when you reheat it. This doesn’t affect the taste at all and I still freeze leftover sauce all the time. It is also fantastic with roasted peppers in it. Just use the kind jarred in water, dice them up and throw them in. Super good.
This recipe uses a purchased rotisserie chicken for speed and convenience, but feel free to use an equal amount of any kind of chicken or turkey you have on hand. Remember to purchase the ‘plain’ roasted chicken as it usually has less salt and flavoring. Also, keep in mind that the addition of slices of bell pepper would be awesome in here.
1 large onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced fine
1 can (14 oz) crushed tomatoes, low sodium if possible
1/2 c water
1/3 c apple cider vinegar
1/3 c molasses
1/4 c tomato paste
black pepper to taste
1/2 tsp liquid smoke or smoked paprika, recommended but optional
1 whole rotisserie chicken, skin and bones discarded and meat torn into bite sized pieces or, 3-4 c cooked chicken or turkey
hamburger buns or dollar buns, preferably whole wheat
In a bit of olive or canola oil, sauté the onion and garlic over medium heat just until soft. Add the next 7 ingredients and reduce heat to low, letting the sauce simmer and thicken, about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. If you haven’t already, now is the time to remove the chicken from the bones! Add in the meat, stirring gently, and let heat over low heat, stirring now and then, until all the flavors are developed and it is hot all the way through. Serve on buns. This is excellent topped with coleslaw.
Quick Korean Beef
1-1.5 pounds of lean ground beef (I err on the side of more…)
1 small onion, or half of a large onion, diced small
1/4 c brown sugar
1/4 c low sodium soy sauce
1 T sesame oil
1 heaping tsp of gated fresh ginger
3 cloves garlic, minced
large pinch of dried red pepper flakes
cooked brown rice for serving
green onions or parsley for garnish, if desired
In a small liquid measuring cup, combine the sugar, soy sauce, oil, ginger, garlic and red pepper flakes. Set aside. In a large skillet, brown the beef and the onion together until cooked through. Drain off excess fat if necessary. Over medium low heat, add the sauce mixture and stir well, heating until it coats the beef and evaporates a bit. Serve over brown rice and garnish with green onions or parsley.
Asian Turkey Lettuce Wraps
2 T soy sauce
2 tsp fish sauce (an Asian sauce found right next to the soy sauce on the shelf in the super market)
2 tsp sugar
Combine ingredients in a small bowl set aside, stirring occasionally until sugar dissolves. In a large sauté pan, drizzle a bit of canola or olive oil over medium heat.
1/4 onion, minced
1 T fresh, peeled ginger, minced fine
2 cloves of garlic, minced
pinch of red pepper flakes, to taste
Sauté for several minutes until onions are soft, being careful not to let the garlic burn. Add 1 package of ground turkey (93% lean) and brown.
When meat is fully cooked and broken up into small pieces, add the reserved sauce and stir. Let the whole thing heat together and serve!
To build your lettuce wraps:
a small leaf of green leaf lettuce
spoonful of turkey
grated or julienned carrot
squeeze of lime
The squeeze of lime can be optional, but it makes a HUGE difference! I highly recommend it! Enjoy!
Sweet & Spicy Salmon
3-4 salmon fillets, about 5 oz each
1 T brown sugar
1/2 tsp cumin
1 1/2 tsp chili powder
salt and pepper, about 1/4 tsp each
In a small bowl, mix the brown sugar and spices together until combined. Sprinkle evenly over the flesh of the fish (not the skin), pressing with your fingers a bit to make it adhere and ‘coat’ the fish well. Film a few tablespoons of olive oil in a small saute pan and place over medium, medium high heat. Place flesh side down in the oil-it should sizzle loudly-and let cook, not touching it, for 3-4 minutes. Flip gently and continue cooking until just barely pink in the thickest part and the flesh flakes easily.
The BEST Marinated Pork Chops
There is a secret to these. And this secret makes all the difference in the world. You absolutely MUST let them marinate overnight and you will be rewarded with juicy, flavorful pork chops. If you don’t, they are just OK. I have made these with thin, bone-in rib chops (like in the above picture) and also with thick cut, boneless loin chops. Both are equally fantastic.
equal parts soy sauce and brown sugar
I know, right! Ridiculously simple! No fancy spices or additions. Just sweet, salty, and garlic. I usually use about a half cup of each and then a big spoonful of chopped garlic in the jar. Fresh garlic is infinitely better but I am usually throwing this together before I go to bed so … garlic from the jar it is! A couple of pounds of pork chops, a gallon zip top bag and you are done! Turn the bag a few times so that the flavor is evenly distributed. If you are only making a few chops, start with a few tablespoons of soy sauce and sugar and go from there. Just enough to coat the meat. Scrumptious. Grill over medium high heat until just barely pink in the center, between 165 and 170 degrees.