OMG – What can I make for dinner?

One of my on-going struggles is around how to prepare healthy meals that my family will eat, when I get home at 6:00 or later.  I have the best intentions, but there are so many days when I walk in the door and I just don’t feel like spending the next 45 minutes preparing dinner.  (Not to mention the fact that if it takes me 45 minutes to get something on the table, David (age 5) and Margaret (age 2) will have already filled themselves up on baby carrots, pretzels and apples chips and string cheese.  There are days when Tim or Emma is home to put something in the oven if I’ve prepared it in the morning, but now with Emma running Cross-Country and Tim taking night classes, there’s often no one at home until 6.

One solution is to make sure I always have spaghetti, a few jars of spaghetti sauce and frozen packaged meatballs on hand, in case I need to punt.  I also make scrambled eggs and toast at least twice a month.  And I’m not above Kraft macaroni and cheese with cut-up hot dogs either.  (Although I won’t eat it myself.)

But I do have a list of easy, fast go-to recipes that I rely on regularly. I try to have the ingredients on-hand for at least a few of them at any given time.  (Note: I define “fast, easy” as things that either can be prepared start to finish in 30 minutes or less, or that I can do some of the preparation for (chopping, preparing a casserole) in the morning. ) Many of these recipes are from, which I highly recommend.  They have a daily newsletter, which I get a lot of ideas from.

I also have crosk pot recipes, but I’ll post those another time. (The weather isn’t cold enough yet for the crock pot. Emma would say the weather is NEVER cold enough for the crock pot, but then she’s not a big crock pot fan.)

Deb’s Easy Recipes

1. Chicken with peanut sauce – Cut 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts into small pieces and brown in olive oil until done. Boil 1 lb. spaghetti.  Combine 3/4 cup smooth peanut butter, a dash of peanut oil, 3 Tbsp. low-sodium soy sauce, 3 Tbsp. rice vinegar, and 1 tsp. sugar.  (Don’t mix the sauce too far ahead of time, because it gets thick if it stands for a while. I found this out the hard way.)  Mix sauce with spaghetti and cooked chicken. Add 1 cup peas or some steamed broccoli.  You can add some sliced acallions on top too. 

2. Fettucine with shrimp and broccoli – Boil 1 lb. of shrimp and steam some broccoli and toss with 1 lb. cooked fettucine, lots of garlic, olive oil to taste and freshly grated parmesan cheese.  A great one-dish meal. Serve with some nice fresh bread.

3. Gorgonzola and apple pork chops:

4. Pasta with tomatoes and basil (vegetarian) – Dice 6 plum tomatoes (cut them in half and use a spoon to get all the seeds out before you dice them – don’t use the seeds, or this dish will be icky.)  Dice 3 cloves of garlic (or use a garlic press, like I usually do). Dice 10 leaves of basil (I chiffonade the basil – take 4 leaves stacked on top of each other, roll them up very tightly and slice.) Mix the basil, tomatoes and garlic with 3 Tbsp. of olive oil and 2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar. Add some salt and pepper.  Boil 1 lb. of penne pasta and toss with the mixture.  Add 8 oz. crumbled feta cheese.  Serve with french bread.

5. Baked salmon with cilantro sauce (This recipe is for the grill. If you don’t want to do it in the grill, rub the salmon with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and put it in a 450 degree oven for 20 minutes, then top with the sauce in the recipe). We’re having this tonight.

6. Best baked ziti ever (can be made without meat) 

7. Cumin coriander skirt steak with sweet potato fries – Steak – combine 1 Tbsp. brown sugar, 1/2 tsp. salt, 1/2 tsp. ground cumin, 1/2 tsp. ground coriander seeds, and 1/4 tsp. ground red pepper and rub over both sides of a 1 lb. boneless sirloin steak. Bake in a cast iron skillet in a 450 degree oven for 7 minutes on each side.  Let stand 5 minutes. Cut steak diagonally across grain into thin slices.  Sweet potatoes – Peel 1 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes and cut lengthwise into 1/2-inch wedges.  Combine potato wedges, 1 Tbsp. olive oil, 1/2 tsp. salt, 1/4 tsp. dried thyme, 1/4 tsp. black pepper, and 1/8 tsp. nutmeg.  Arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Bake on bottom rack of oven for 25 minutes at 450 degrees.

8. Penne pasta bake – brown 1 lb. ground beef or turkey with 1/2 diced onion and some sliced mushrooms.  Drain any fat.  Boil 1 lb. penne pasta. Combine beef/onion/mushrooms with 2 jars of spaghetti sauce, 1 cup mozzarella cheese, and 2 tsp. of sugar.  Combine in a rectangular glass casserole and sprinkle 1 cup mozzarella cheese on top.  Bake in 350 degree oven of 30 minutes or until hot.  (I prepare this in the morning and then throw it in the oven when I get home.)

9. Stuffed shells florentine (vegetarian) – Cook 24 jumbo pasta shells.  Combine 1 cup mozzarella cheese, 1/2 cup fresh grated parmesan, 1/2 cup egg substitute, 1/4 cup chopped parsley, 2 tsp. dried basil, 2 tsp. dried oregano, 1/4 tsp. salt, 2 minced garlic cloves (use the press), 2 10 oz. packages of frozen, chopped spinach (thawed, drained, and squeezed dry) , and 1 15 oz. package reduced-fat ricotta cheese.  Spoon cheese mixture into cooked shells. Arrange the shells in a 13X9 baking dish coated with cooking spray. Pour 1 jar marinara sauce over the shells and sprinkle with 1 cup mozzarella cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. (Another one I prepare in the morning and then throw in the oven when I get home.)

So…what are your fast and easy dishes? Please share! My family is tiring of mine…


1 Comment

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One response to “OMG – What can I make for dinner?

  1. Thanks for posting these recipes, Deb. I am going to try some, because I am in a major cooking rut. My easy go-to dinners are cereal and mac and cheese. For shame…..

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