No, I haven’t gone all healthy on you…”when fast-food won’t do” doesn’t mean I’ve given up eating at all my favorite drive-thrus. Rather my eating out budget has been drastically reduced as we have shifted priorities in our family budget. Now I want to save that money for just the right night. But what is a girl to do when she gets home from work and is exhausted and hasn’t a clue what to do for dinner?
Here are some quick and easy fall-backs. Plan your grocery list each month to include these items and you won’t find yourself in need of running through the drive-thru as often as before.
- Tortellini. Open a bag and boil it–it takes about 10 minutes. Slice up an apple, throw some little carrots and maybe cut up some other veggies and D-O-N-E. We server our tortellini with cheese and some Italian seasonings.
- Quesadillas (The Mexican version of Grilled Cheese). Always have flour tortillas on hand and a big bag of mexican blend cheese. I often have some frozen grilled chicken strips that we can heat and add to quesadillas too. My girls like just cheese and maybe a bit of chicken. I also like to put onions on mine. Simply heat a nonstick skillet and place one tortilla down in the skillet. Sprinkle the tortilla with cheese and other desired items then top with another tortilla. Flip the tortilla when it is browned and before it chars! Open a can of refried beans or some Ranch Style Beans (K-Mart sells then in PA) serve with some little carrots.
- Burritos. This is a favorite at our house. Open up cans of refried beans (it takes two cans for my family) and heat on the stove. I sprinkle some fajita seasoning into the beans and stir it in while they heat up. Then pull out those flour tortillas again. Zap the tortillas for a few seconds in the microwave to warm them up. I put mine between two damp paper towels and warm for a few seconds. Then load them up with beans, cheese, and onions…even lettuce if you want. I like to serve with Taco Bell Hot Sauce and Sour Cream and then of course some chopped apples or other easy fruit to cut and serve. (Sometimes I just set the clementine bowl on the table and that serves as our fruit selection for the evening)
- Fish Sticks/Portions. Keep in the freezer you favorite battered fish. Prepare this along with some frozen broccoli and some fresh fruit (or my throw-down fruit of canned mandarin oranges when the fruit basket is empty)
Tiny Bit of Thinking
- Pancakes. I keep a box of Aunt Jemima’s Original in my pantry at all times (along with syrup of course too!). I mix in an individual serving pack of applesauce and sprinkle in some cinnamon into the batter before firing up the griddle for dinner on the table in less than 20 minutes. Sometimes we have sausage and/or eggs too but often it is pancakes and fruit. (Then a bag of popcorn later when we are a teeny bit hungry before bedtime.)
- Tacos. Brown some ground meat and empty the taco seasoning and water (per package instructions) into the browned meat. Serve on warmed hard shells, tortillas, or tortilla chips. You can load the tacos with as much or as little as you can stand to prepare (shredded cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, sour cream, salsa) Refried beans, black beans, or corn on the side are a nice addition too.
- Spaghetti. I have a child that does not care for spaghetti (I guess she takes after her Grandaddy). However, it is a perfect “tiny bit of thinking” meal. One pot of water to boil the noodles and one skillet to brown the ground meat (maybe some onions and peppers too) and then add a jar of your favorite sauce. Pull green beans out of the freezer and pop open a can of crescent rolls or french bread and you are on your way to dinner on the table in no time.
- Salad bags are good to have for throw down meals…that is if your family eats salad. Most of mine doesn’t.
- Fresh Veggies…call it Crudite and it sounds more fancy …like you spent some time on it!
- Slice up Fruit- apples and pears are quick favorites for our mindless and tiny bit of thinking meals
- Frozen vegetables are quick and easy to prepare. I like to have broccoli and green beans all the time in my freezer.
So the next time you are on your way home from a long day of work and feel your car pulling towards Chick-fil-a or Burger King, resist! You can still have an easy meal at home with your family for a lot less cost and a lot less salt!
Mindless meals give you more time to snuggle with the ones you love.
That is the name my girls gave to the dish I created tonight…..yes….I actually made something without any recipe—miracles DO still happen.
I am not one that likes to go-it-alone in the kitchen without a recipe because I HATE to mess up and I HATE to waste food (and messed up food is a waste!). But tonight I was stuck. Thursday nights are often quesadillas or burritos for us (Dad isn’t home for dinner). Both of those options require tortillas and I was low on tortillas. The other Thursday night option is often pancakes and I just wasn’t in the mood. So I hit the freezer. There I found some of my favorite grilled chicken strips from Tyson’s.
But what could I do with them?
Ahhh…..some noodles….but what else?
Good ole “Cream of” to the rescue….I could mix that in with some milk to thin it out.
Chicken Noodle Yum!
Boil water to prepare 3 cups of medium egg noodles.
2 cups of Tyson’s Grilled and Ready chicken
- warm the chicken in a non-stick skillet for 3 minutes
Add to chicken
- one can of cream of chicken soup
- milk…probably 1/4 cup???? The purpose was to thin out the soup- I didn’t measure as I dumped the soup in a 2 cup measuring cup and then poured milk over it until the milk was even with the dumped out soup.
- stir and pour over the chicken warming in the skillet
By this time your noodles should be done.
Drain the noodles and add to the chicken and soup mixture.
Then I seasoned with salt and pepper.
I also had some spices from Christmas from my MIL. I sprinkled the Pasta Sprinkle from Penzeys Spices over everything. Basically this is just basil, oregano, garlic and tyme in a jar!
Both of my girls ate it right up and I loved that we had a warm meal quickly after a busy afternoon.
I tried really hard to mess this recipe up and it still turned out tasty! I don’t know where my brain was while I was preparing it but it wasn’t functioning for sure. I found this recipe on another blogger’s site after she liked one of my recent posts. (I thought it only right to go and see who this person was and check out what she might have on her blog! You should check her out too. I’ve linked her below)
Since I’m trying to prepare fewer red meat meals for my family, I thought this one might be a good one to try. Chicken, especially chicken breasts, often have very little flavor and I can’t stand to eat leftover chicken….BUT with this recipe, I’m looking forward to the leftovers.
So on the greengourmetbooks.com you will find:
- 3 large chicken breasts and cut them in 1″ wide strips but then cut those down to where they were nice, finger food size. This made enough for my family of four.
Then I doubled the “rub” because remember, I LOVE flavor.
So mine was:
- 2 Tbsp Smoked Paprika (Yes, they make this. If your spice jar just says “paprika” then you don’t have smoked, you have sweet. Purchase the one that says “smoked paprika” evidently there is also a “hot paprika” too)
- 4 teaspoons Brown Sugar
- 2 teaspoons Mustard Powder
- 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil (Of course this would be “brain blink” #1—-I forgot to put the olive oil in until I had rubbed the spice mix on half of my chicken. So then I sprayed the already rubbed chicken with cooking spray and since 1/2 of the rub was gone I then only added 1 T of Olive Oil….see what I mean by trying hard)
- Salt and Pepper to taste (This would be “brain blink” #2—I forgot this altogether. My handsome fella loves salt so I remembered about 12 minutes into the baking and pulled them out and sprinkled everything with salt and pepper.)
Lori at greengourmetbooks.com says that these are great served cold for a picnic or bagged lunch OR serve hot on a bed of rice for a family dinner. Well, that would be “brain blink” #3…I forgot to make the rice and had every intention of preparing it.
So we just ate ours with the corn-on-the-cob, Ranch Style beans, and apple slices- no rice.
This is a winner of a recipe—even my child that had been running fever all day ate some without being asked to eat. We will be having this again—maybe next time for a picnic in the park!
If you need a fast dinner and you have eggs and deli ham in the refrigerator, then this meal is for you! Several years ago I found a recipe on kraftfoods.com for an Easy Herb Frittata. The first time I made this for my family I called it the “Sun and Fun Frittata” in hopes that my girls, then 2 and 5 would eat it….they did! And even tonight with a few different things thrown in the mix—they gobbled it up.
This really is an easy one to whip up. I was able to mix up the eggs and goodies and just leave it in the refrigerator for my husband to then pour into the greased pie plate and slip it into the oven so we could eat as a family when child #2 and I walked in from dance class. We served it with a wonderful mixed green salad.
Since finding the recipe I have tweaked it to make it my own…here is how I make it.
Sun and Fun Frittata
Beat, with a wire whisk (or just a fork!) in a mixing bowl:
- 8 eggs
- 2 Tablespoons of water
- deli ham (I usually just tear it up and stop putting it in when it looks like enough! The original recipe says 4 oz)
- snip up some fresh parsley (I have some growing in a pot on my deck)
- add any other leftover vegetables you might want to include. This time I had some fresh mushrooms that I sliced and chopped for our dish. Red or Green bell peppers would be good too.
- a nice handful of mozzarella cheese (or swiss or a Italian blend would work too)
Finish off by adding to taste:
- dash or so of white pepper (I used white pepper originally because my girls would balk at anything dark in their food. They have grown out of that but I still use the white pepper!)
- dash or salt
Now you can cover and place that in the refrigerator until you are ready to pour and bake.
Pour Egg mixture into a greased 9-inch pie plate
Bake, in a preheated 350° oven, for 30 minutes or until puffed and golden brown.
I would recommend that you make two if you have more than 3 good eaters in your family. We are a family of four (two of those four being girls under the age of 11) and only had one little sliver left.
It was a dark and stormy night…perfect for a warm, filling meal like Mexican Casserole! This is a recipe that my mother-in-law wrote down in a cookbook she gave to us for our wedding. So we have been eating this one for 18 years! It doesn’t really fit with my “lean and healthy” recipes that I’ve been trying to make more of lately but the day was just screaming for something in our comfort food genre. I had all the ingredients on hand.
Brown in a skillet:
- 1 lb ground beef
- 1 medium onion, chopped
Drain off fat and return to the skillet.
Add to the meat mixture:
- 1 can Ranch Style beans
- 1 can cream of mushroom soup
- 1 can Ro-Tel
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp chili powder
Stir and then simmer for 10 minutes.
Layer in a greased 3 quart casserole dish
- Tortilla chips
- meat mixture
- grated cheddar cheese
Bake, uncovered for 30 minutes in a 300° oven.
We like to serve it with salsa, pico and/or sour cream.
If you live north of the Mason-Dixon line it might be hard to find the Ranch Style Beans. KMart often carries them so try there. I am thankful to my SIL who supplies me with them via the “if it fits it ships” boxes from the USPS.
Thursday nights at our house are just the girls and I for dinner. Often times ( I must confess) I simply open up their favorite cans of dinner and heat and serve….yes the dreaded Chef Boyardee and Spaghettios. OK, I said it—confession is good for the soul.
But this week, even though I had the cans in the pantry, I decided to make something for dinner. I had a Chili Mac recipe that I’ve made before but I didn’t really follow it. Here is what I did instead (these items are almost always in my pantry/refrigerator so this works for a good “throw down” meal)
In a large skillet cook over medium heat:
- 1 lb ground beef
- 1/2 c chopped onion
Drain off fat from beef
Stir into meat and onions:
- 1 can of Ro-Tel
- chopped green bell pepper (I put about 3/4 cup in)
- 8 oz tomato sauce
- 1/2 of the tomato sauce can of water…so I guess that would be 4 oz!
- 2 teaspoons chili powder
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
- 1/4 teaspoon cumin
- 1 cup dried elbow macaroni
Bring all of that to a boil
Cover, reduce heat to simmer and cook for 15-20 minutes or until the pasta is tender.
I cut up some strawberries and put out some raw mini-carrots and voila! dinner is served.
So I checked the mail before waiting for the school bus yesterday and that was the ticket to dinner! My Food Network Magazine was in there so I flipped through it while waiting for the girls to get home. I had already decided to make none other than the exciting Grilled Cheese for dinner but then I saw Melissa d’Arabian’s recipe ads for Kellogg’s.
She had a spiced apple compote that she was serving on Kellogg’s waffles. Well, I had a box of waffles in the freezer and all the ingredients for the compote so dinner took a new look—Waffles and left over sausage! Perfect dinner for a night when Brad isn’t home.
Emily helped me make the compote. It was a nice addition to the waffles.
Spiced Apple Compote
Peel, Core, and Cut into 1/2 inch pieces:
- 2 baking apples (I used granny smith apples)
In a small saucepan combine:
- 2 T sugar
- 1 T lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon allspice
Cook and stir over medium-high heat about 5 minutes or until slightly softened.
Reduce heat to medium.
Cook, covered, for 12 minutes or until softened, stirring occasionally.