There are two reasons behind this post: I’m fascinated by what other people have for dinner, and I need ideas.
We don’t meal plan much these days, except for Friday pizza (which I love and adore because nobody complains, and because at least one night’s dinner is decided, forever and ever).
Instead, we keep the fridge and pantry stocked with the ingredients we need to make a variety of staple meals in loose rotation.
We always have chicken breasts and ground beef on hand. (Hot tip: if you have a Fresh Market in your area, see if they run Tuesday specials. My local store has weekly deals on ground beef and chicken, and the price and quality can’t be beat.) We stock salmon and flat iron steak and the occasional pork roast or pack of chicken thighs. We rely on chicken sausages for busy nights. We always have shredded and chunk cheese, lots of fresh and frozen vegetables, salad greens, canned tomatoes, jarred olives and peppers.
From these ingredients, we can make a good variety of dishes: meatballs, burgers, and a variety of chicken dishes: piccata, tikka masala, teriyaki. We do pulled pulled pork and grilled salmon. We pile shredded rotisserie chicken or ground beef in bowls with bell peppers, tomatoes, avocados, and fresh cilantro and dub it a “burrito bowl.” Will and I love dinner salads; the kids think dinner salads are instruments of torture.
Those meals are all fresh and fast, healthy and tasty.
Here’s the problem: when spring started springing, we dropped half of our old reliables out of rotation: no more chili, pot roast, or coq au vin. No more soups or stews in the crock pot. It’s getting too warm out for that kind of comfort food, but we haven’t found good spring replacements yet.
I’m not the only one who struggles when the seasons change: I told a few friends I was looking for fresh ideas, and they said me too.
I’m wracking my brain, trying to remember what we ate at this time last year. (I do this every year. Sigh.) I got the Costco Slow Cooker Freezer Meals ebook in the Ultimate Homemaking Bundle, and I’m giving a few of those recipes a try. I could browse through my favorite cookbooks, but this is my busy season: I love to cook, but this just isn’t top priority right now. I could browse Pinterest, but hello information overload.
In the meantime, Sarah, our 10-year-old, is bringing some variety to our table: she’s assumed responsibility for Monday and Thursday night dinners around here. I don’t meal plan much these days, but she does—otherwise we’d never have the ingredients on hand for her lofty picks. I’m into fast and functional dinners right now, but Sarah is cooking for fun, and it shows in her menus: salmon en croute, rack of lamb, goat cheese mousse.
(Of course it’s awesome to have my kid cook for us. But before you get too jealous, I’ll relay a conversation from last week: when my mom asked if Sarah could start cooking three nights a week, Will replied: I don’t have time to wash that many dishes.)
I know we have the ingredients on hand to make lots of fabulous food, but I don’t know what that looks like. (I especially struggle with ground beef and chicken breast recipes. How do I make those interesting without dousing them in sugary sauces or piling them on top of rice or pasta?)
My question to you:
What are your go-to weeknight dinners for this time of year? What are your favorites that are fresh and fast, healthy and tasty? Thanks in advance for your great ideas!