Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Five Easy Weeknight Dinners

We've all been doing a lot of cooking lately due to Covid-19. For me, it's no real change, but for those who don't cook regularly, this has been one of the hardest parts of living through quarantine. These are some simple fam favorites that I land on when I don't have a plan or motivation to complete a plan.


 Chili 

I have tried so many variations of chili that I've almost lost track: tomato-based chicken chili, white chicken chili, creamy chicken chili, turkey chili, veggie chili, Texas steak chili, and more. On a weeknight, though, there's nothing that beats basic ground beef chili. If I were making this just for me, I'd spice it up and add some roasted red peppers, but to keep it family friendly, the only pizzazz I add to this recipe is using fire-roasted crushed tomatoes. Sometimes, I substitute black beans for the kidney beans. Ree calls for simmering this for an hour before adding the masa harina (corn meal), and I'm sure it's even better that way, but mine usually only simmers for about 20 minutes or so, and it still tastes great. In my family's style, we add cheese, Fritos, and lettuce. Sometimes, I make cornbread. Without the cornbread, Fritos, and cheese, it's a pretty healthy meal. If you get the cornbread in the oven first, dinner is ready in 30.

 Nachos and/or Tacos

Here's another simple meal with plenty of variations. I like to make my own taco seasoning and keep it on hand. This way, you can use as much or as little spice as you like. If you like chicken tacos/nachos, and you know there are several ways you'll use it during the week, it's worth roasting some bone-in chicken breasts and keeping the chicken ready. Then, you can throw some blue tortilla chips on a sheet pan, cover with shredded roasted chicken, freshly grated cheddar, and your choice of toppings, and broil for five minutes. Add salsa. Dinner in five with a little prep.

 Minestrone 

This just recently jumped onto my rotation list when I was looking for more vegetarian options to add to the menu. If you make enough and don't mind leftovers, you can make a batch of this and have dinner prepped for three days. There are so many variations of minestrone, so if you have a little garden, you can throw in whatever veggies you need to use up. It's so satisfying and relatively healthy. This one takes a little longer to throw together, but it does become more flavorful over a few days, so I would put it together the night ahead and store it in the refrigerator. Tip: Cook the pasta, rinse with cool water, and store in a plastic bag. Add pasta to bowls of hot soup as you warm it up. This will keep your pasta from absorbing too much of your soup broth.

 Breakfast 

Whole grain toast and an omelet. Simple, delicious, nutritious. Done in 10.

 Special Cereal Night

A friend of mine in college instituted a special cereal night in her house. Though her kids usually ate healthier cereals, on special cereal night, she busted out a few boxes of sugar cereals, and everyone ate choice cereals. Most of the time, her boys chose the healthier cereals anyway! :) Because cereals are fortified, this can be a fun tradition and a relatively healthy option. 

So, if you're burned out on coming up with menus, here's yours for next week:

M--Breakfast
T-- Chili
W--Minestrone
R-- Nachos
F--  Special Cereal Night

Weekend--Leftover Minestrone

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