What are your go-to weeknight dinners?

What are your go-to weeknight dinners?

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.

What are your go-to weeknight dinners?

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!

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  1. Jaime K. says:

    I’ll give the disclaimer that I enjoy cooking and I generally enjoy looking through recipes and thinking about new ones I’d like to try. I’ve found doing weekly meal planning to be extremely helpful and not as time consuming as you might think. I like that it keeps my grocery list focused and I’m not wracking my brain at 5:00 to think of what to make for dinner. It has also helped me try new recipes I’ve clipped from magazines or flagged in cookbooks. I usually pick out a few quick and easy meals, maybe 1-2 slightly harder/more prep kind of dishes and 1-2 nights are some type of vegetarian fare to keep costs down a little and do a little less meat. We live on a military base in Japan so our grocery store is very close to home and our church. They also tend to run out of things quickly, especially if you try to shop on afternoons and evenings. I work full-time during the day, so I found that shopping on Sunday mornings right after going to our 8:00 church works fantastic to avoid crowds and mill around a fully stocked store. I know every Saturday I sit down for about 20-30 minutes in the evening and prep a weekly meal list and grocery list. I’m finding I’m trying many new recipes and feel organized/prepped for my week. Also, if there’s any prep I might need to do for one of the dishes, Sundays I’m usually around more and have time to do it. I did the Whole 30 challenge over Lent and got hooked on both the “Well Fed” and “Well Fed II” cookbooks. Lots of really fun, tasty recipes that are healthy, Whole 30 compliant. Some are more work than others but well worth it.

  2. LadyWoman says:

    Two favorites that you can have on the table in 30-45 minutes max and are of the “put in as much or as little as you feel like” variety:

    (1) Chop up a few garlic cloves, cook briefly with a bit of oil, add a cup or so of white wine and the juice of a lemon, bring to a boil & reduce a smidge. Turn heat to low and add a pat of butter and a few good spoons of creamy cheese (I like Boursin garlic herb). Add a big handful of finely chopped parsley and serve over pasta. I also like to add shrimp & tomato but you can add chicken or other veggies.
    (2) I call this Sister Soup since my sis introduced it. Cook 1-2 chicken breasts in a soup pot, shred & set aside. Chop up an onion and a ton of garlic, add to the pot with some oil & cook until translucent, then pour in a can of black beans and some chicken stock. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and add the chicken, some frozen corn, and a finely chopped jalapeno (I like to roast mine first for some extra smokey flavor) simmer until corn is cooked through. Just before serving, add a fistful of finely chopped cilantro. Serve with corn tortillas, and lime wedges & avocado for garnish.

  3. LadyWoman says:

    I lied, here’s a third, and it’s a crock pot recipe! The night before (or morning of) put a boneless pork shoulder in a crockpot, cover with water & add a quartered onion, some garlic cloves, a 1/2 tbs salt and some oregano. Cook on low for 8ish hours. Remove & shred the pork. Skim fat if you want, remove and dice the onions. Put it all back in, add a big can of hominy, a jar of salsa verde, a can of diced green chiles, a chopped bunch of cilantro and a heaping table spoon of cumin. Here you can either just serve or you can leave for another little while if you’ve got stuff to do. I serve with diced granny smith apple, radish, fresh cilantro, lime wedges & corn tortillas or tortilla strips. So good and a crowd pleaser – I make it for dinner parties.

  4. Sarah says:

    Black Bean soup from Desperation Dinners by Mills & Ross. I think it’s the only recipe I’ve ever made from that book my copy opens right to it but I’ve made it at least twice a month for three years. It reheats well and requires only fresh onion everything else is from the pantry so it makes a great emergency dinner or lunch.

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