Wanted: Dinner Ideas

You know how I decided to scale down my weekly dinners? Create easy meals that the whole family would enjoy? Spend 30 minutes or less preparing them? For the last month I’ve put that plan into effect and it’s been working just fine except for one thing: it’s so boring! I remember now why I seek out new and exciting recipes and vary my cuisines so much. Spaghetti and meatballs can only be thrilling for so long. After awhile, I start to lose interest. Like after the 2nd time.

So here’s where you come in, friends. You must have some “tried and true” recipes that you fall back on when life gets too busy, right? I’d love you to share them with me. Surely, your simple dinners can’t be exactly the same as mine. We can work together on this. For example, here’s the menu I came up with last week:

  • Monday– Fish sticks + rice + peas
  • Tuesday– Egg burrito in spinach tortilla
  • Wednesday– Baked potatoes + salad
  • Thursday– Spaghetti + meatballs + salad
  • Friday– Vegetarian chili + cornbread
  • Saturday– Bean burritos
  • Sunday– Grilled cheese sandwich + tomato soup

See what I mean? So this is a call, a plea for new ideas, or at least a different spin on the old ones. If you have meatless recipes, even better– though I’ve found that so many tasty vegetarian dishes are the main culprits for time suckage. Alas.

So what do you say, help a girl out?

(And those of you who’ve already shared some ideas, THANKS! I’ll be trying them out soon…)

5 thoughts on “Wanted: Dinner Ideas”

  1. Ooh, I have a new favorite that I just started making: Take 6 cups of broccoli florets (it works best if they are small if chopping yourself), 2 t minced garlic, 1/2 c chopped walnuts, some salt and pepper and coat in olive oil (about 3 T). Roast in a 400 d. oven for 13 minutes, stirring twice. Boil your favorite noodles and combine noodles, broccoli, 1/2 c veg or chicken stock and 2 T butter!! Easy and yummy. Even I don’t mind running the oven for 20 minutes on a hot day.

    Stir fry is also a fall back of mine. I just buy the frozen blend at Costco and combine with a favorite teriyaki sauce and put over (or on the side of) rice. We like to have Costco potstickers or egg rolls to go with.

    During the summer I am sure you will grill more too– you know what I’ll just send you an email because this comment is getting too long!!

  2. Have you looked at Mark Bittman’s “How to Cook Everything Vegetarian”? That book is bigger than a bible and has a lot of great ideas for cooking vegetarian meals. Everything in it isn’t amazing, but the good thing about is the way that every recipe can be varied infinitely. So, your basic baked potato will have 20+ different spins on how to top it, etc. Useful for your situation.

    You can always make breakfast for dinner- I like this pancake mix: http://imeanreallyhappy.blogspot.com/2010/03/flip-flap-jack.html
    When we’re pressed for time, I make quesadillas or eggs, but it seems like you have this covered. Also, I think that you are forgetting leftovers. Can’t you spend a little more time one day and then spend zero the next?
    You might have to spend more time chopping, but you are an experienced cook, so I’m sure it would take less time than it might take others. We have stirfrys with tofu quite often. It’s something that you can prep when the kids are in bed, even- chopping the veggies and tofu (and drying it between some paper towels or marinating it). Hopefully you have a rice cooker so you don’t have to spend time monitoring the rice.
    If your food budget is like ours, then you’re eating on the cheap- cheap cuts of meat and so forth. You can always do the old shredded meat in the crockpot trick. I often make this recipe: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Carolina-Pulled-Pork-Sandwiches-101803
    with a pork shoulder in the crockpot (3 lbs, so half the spices) and it makes a ton and lasts for days. Or you can freeze what you don’t use. Also roast beef- just stick it in the crockpot- eat it as a roast with carrots and potatoes that you cooked it with and then use it in burritos or in pasta over the week.

    Pizza- that’s another thing that’s good leftover.

    Pasta with sauteed or roasted veggies and some parmesan and goat’s cheese and nuts.

    Casseroles that last at least 2 meals.

    Real Simple Magazine has a decent recipe section- you could check some out of the library.

    Did you want a complete essay about cooking? Sorry to take up so much space. I’m interested to see how things evolve as your new lifestyle continues. Do you feel like you’re getting good returns? Maybe we should start up dinner club again. Do you think that the Bingham’s would be in? 🙂

  3. When I fail to have something planned, my fall backs are always- pita pizzas (pita bread with pizza sauce, some spinach leaves, pepperoni,tomatoes,olives, and cheese baked in our toaster oven under broil). I also always keep the salmon burgers from Costco stocked in our freezer and we cook those up from frozen to done in 15 minutes. Awesome.

  4. Are you guys doing vegetarian food now? The fall back in our house requires meat…..Oh well, here it goes anyhow. It’s one of Zeke’s so Chinese food here you go(plus he doesn’t exactly measure either, sorry). Thinly slice meat of your choice, we usually use chuck steak or roast(beef takes very little marinading time). In a bowl put a few tablespoons of soy sauce and a couple drops of sesame oil. Any other spices are up to you. Zeke will regularly add a minced garlic clove and some sliced onions, some pepper, etc(really up to you, if I wasn’t eating it, he’d put some heat in it too). Marinade the meat in that while you chop the veggie. We use broccoli about 90% of the time. So really this is Zeke’s beef and broccoli. A little oil in the pan toss the meat in there until it looks mostly cooked, then toss the broccoli in with it and cover it to help get some steaming action going on. Once it looks ok to you, you have two choices. It’s done and serve over rice or you can take a little corn starch/water mixture and thicken up the juices to make a kind of sauce with the liquid. Our kids love the sauce on their rice. Oh and one more thing, before you do any of this, make sure you have rice in your rice cooker going.

    Zeke’s is usually perfect. I have had trial and error on this sometimes. If it tastes a little salty, add some water to it or eat more rice with it. It just means I had too much soy sauce. We have used other veggies too when in season, asparagus was yummy in it too. So really, you can do what you want with this one.

  5. Hey Jeanne! Sorry to stalk you a bit – found your blog through Cami’s, and it’s been fun to see what you guys are up to.
    I too draw a blank trying to think of new/quick dinners (though being in Peru, it’s a whole different challenge). I don’t really have any recipes/ideas for you – though french bread pizza was often my fall back – just buy a loaf from the store, pour on some sauce, add cheese – and if there’s time to chop, then some veggies too – otherwise frozen peas and/or baby carrots on the side. I really just wanted to share this article from the nytimes about cooking co-ops:
    I love the idea.

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