Our family just wrapped up what is sure to go in the record books as the most chaotic week of 2017. We did not stop running, driving, playing and working to come up for air at all. Between Halloween, baseball playoffs for two boys in two different leagues, the school Fun Run, gymnastics lessons, obsessing over the World Series, and all of the other various activities that happen during a normal week, I felt like we were constantly on the go, constantly moving in 5 different directions, and constantly pushed to our max.
The good news in all of this is that, at least for the very near future, the activities will calm down. November and December are calmer months for the Burnt Toast household. Our activities tend to take holiday breaks and we intentionally slow down, hibernating from the chaos of our every day to enjoy the holiday season. The bad news is that all of this fall “busy-ness” takes its toll. It catches up with us. And I find that by the end of October, we’re all short on patience, understanding, and, in some cases, health. This constant on the go is not unique to my family, either. Sometimes I think as moms we wear our “busy-ness” as a badge of honor, a token of importance. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve walked away from a conversation with another mother somehow feeling like I’m losing at this game of momming because I’m not as busy as she is. It’s not a race, this life. It’s not a judge of importance to be the busy-iest. I’m pretty sure that God loves us when we have schedules jam-packed with kids activities and STUFF. But I’m also positive He loves us when we’re not so busy, and when we do take time to slow down and enjoy a different pace of life.
But I digress…..
So as this season of chaos is wrapping up for my family I started to think about what exactly we need during times like these to sustain us, to help us through. I realized that when we are the busy-est as a family, dinners are hard fought and often times not healthy or even that palatable. To be honest, when we’re running in the door from practice at 7:30 with just a few precious minutes to eat and then shower and then jump into bed the last thing I need is to be whipping out a recipe and trying to follow along, but yet I’m not comfortable with fast food every day of the week. I want to give my family good home cooked meals, but really when I take an honest look at my life, there’s often not the time. But I also realized something else, something that might help you, dear readers, if you’re anything like our family and pushed to the max. I realized that I have a tried and true arsenal of meals that I know by heart, that take under 30 minutes to throw together and that are prefect for a busy weeknight meal. And I want to share them with you. Because maybe they’ll help you get through your crazy weeks with a little less chaos. And that would make me happy.
So, without further ado, I have compiled this list of my Top Go-To Weeknight dinners. All of these dinners get Burnt Toast family approval, with at least 2 out of the 3 of my children loving them. (My oldest, if you’ll remember, doesn’t eat anything but microwave pizza and grilled cheese. Good news, he cooks them himself. Bad news, I don’t know how he even functions on his diet). They are all lightning fast and usually can be made with ingredients you already have on hand. No complicated recipes required.
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- Tacos: Everybody loves tacos, kids and adults alike. And they take about 15 minutes, tops, to make. Yes, you can get the little packets of taco seasoning at the grocery store to get you started. There’s nothing wrong with that and you won’t get any judgement here if you do. But it’s also super easy to make your own and when you do, it tastes better and typically has less sodium and strange additives that you can’t pronounce than the store bought version. My favorite taco seasoning recipe is from Laura Lea. If you don’t know her, check out her blog, www.llbalanced.com or her cookbook. You are sure to fall in love. Her food is amazing and always healthy. Check out her taco seasoning recipe here and simply combine with 1 lb ground beef and a few tablespoons of water for a quick and easy family Taco Night.
- Meatball Subs: This one takes about 10 minutes. Even my pickiest eater loves them and with the addition of my Clean Kale Salad you can even feel good about the balanced nutrition you are feeding your family. All you need for these are some frozen meatballs (we buy ours in bulk from Costco), some pasta sauce, crusty rolls and mozzarella. Simply heat the meatballs and sauce, place in the rolls (instead of slicing through, make a pocket so the meatballs aren’t falling out of the bottom), smother with cheese and broil until melted. SO EASY! SO GOOD!
- Breakfast for Dinner: No one loses when you do breakfast for dinner. NO ONE. It’s quick and easy and if you’re lucky you may even have leftovers to make the next mornings breakfast a breeze. My go-to during the fall is my Pumpkin Spice Pancakes. You can grab the recipe here from my guest post on www.jennyatdrapperhouse.com. You probably have everything you need on hand to make them and they are a breeze to throw together. Just add some maple syrup and fresh fruit for a complete meal that leaves everyone happy in no time flat.
- Sheet Pan Nachos: So easy. So good. And everyone loves them. Highly customizeable, too; you can make these with whatever you have on hand. I try to always have some shredded chicken stored in the freezer (often the extra from my Chicken Noodle Soup) and it’s easy to throw it on some chips with black beans, salsa, and cheese for a quick and delicious meal. For an easy to follow full recipe visit thebakermama.com. Her entire blog is filled with tasty treats and this particularrecipe is so good. Check out her full recipe here.
- Skillet Lasagna: Lasagna is one of my favorite all-time meals. What’s not to like about noodles, sauce, meat and cheese all baked together into a melt-y concoction straight from the heavens? If you don’t like it, you’re either lactose intolerant or have no soul. There simply is not in-between. But it’s time consuming and labor intensive. It just takes too much time for a regular day. But a one-pan take on lasagna that takes 15 minutes but tastes like a dream? Now that is Wednesday friendly if I’ve ever seen it. My go-to recipe is from damndelicious.net. One of the top food blogs anywhere with a huge following (with good reason), damndelicious is a great resource for home cooks and food bloggers alike. This recipe is tough to beat. It’s weeknight friendly because it’s quick but it’s perfect for any day because it’s so good. Check out the recipe here.
- Poor Mans Ramen: My love for Ramen knows no bounds. It is so cheap that it’s basically free (in my mind anyway). It’s so versatile that you can use it in soups, salads, and pasta dishes. It’s basically the perfect food. Poor Mans Ramen is finished in the time it takes to boil the noodles and you can feed your entire family in less than 10 minutes with this amazingly satisfying dinner. Find the recipe here.
- Stir-Fry: Wait. I know what you’re going to say. Stir-fry is intimidating and it sure as heck doesn’t seem quick. But, honestly, it’s one of my quickest and best go-to recipes for a busy night. I just cheat a little. This stir-fry sauce is made ahead (recipe below), so it’s waiting in your fridge for when you’re ready to use it. Combine it with some quick stir-fried pre-cut chicken tenders and microwaved veggies and you’re good to go. It’s so good no one will guess you how quick it was to put together.
Easy All-Purpose Stir Fry SauceNovember 6, 2017
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 1 inch piece of ginger, peeled and grated
- 1/2 cup soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1/2 teaspoon Sriracha (more if you like it spicy)
- 1 cup broth (chicken or vegetable)
- 2 teaspoons corn starch
- Step 1 Whisk all ingredients together in a medium bowl.
- Step 2 Store for up to 2 weeks in an airtight container in the fridge.
- Step 3 To use, add 1/2-3/4 cup sauce to stir-fried meat and vegetables for 2-3 minutes until thickened.
- Asian Meatballs and Rice: This is not the first time I have mentioned this meal; I briefly talked about it in my post Top Five Kitchen Hacks for Busy Moms post. It is a go-to in my household. I did not, however, give full credit where credit was due for the origins of this recipe back then and I want to right that wrong right here and right now. Yes, it’s true. All of the credit for the love of the Rice Cooker and the creation of this recipe belongs to my husband. He brought the rice cooker with him into our marriage and he threw this meal together in desperation on afternoon because it’s all we had on hand. It’s good and quick and even the kids love it.
Asian Meatballs and Broccoli over RiceNovember 6, 2017
- 10-15 frozen meatballs
- 1 bag frozen steam in bag broccoli
- Steamed White Rice
- Korean BBQ Sauce (We use Bibigo Original Korean BBQ Sauce)
- Step 1 Combine Meatballs and BBQ sauce in a small pan over medium heat. Simmer, stirring often, until meatballs are heated through.
- Step 2 Meanwhile, cook broccoli according to package instructions.
- Step 3 To serve, top pre-steamed rice with the broccoli, meatballs and sauce.
- Step 4 Season with Sirracha and Toasted Sesame Seeds as desired.
So, friends, I hope that your schedules are going to start to relax for the next few months like ours is. But I also hope that for the evening when it’s not relaxed and you are still crazy with things to do that you can think of this post and try one of these recipes out. Be sure to let me know if you do! And I’d love to hear what you do for dinners when your time is pressed but you don’t want the drive-thru. We’re all in this crazy thing called life together, we might as well share our wins so we all can all do better in the end. XOXOXOXO
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