I love the articles and Pinterest boards that promise "Easy Weeknight Dinners with just 3 hours prep on Sunday!" First of all, if I have three hours to spare on a Sunday, I sure as hell am not spending it in the kitchen. Second, travel baseball season starts this weekend, I have no free Sundays.
Whether it's sports, work, activities, or you just want to spend more time outside, home cooking with a hectic lifestyle seems like an oxymoron: you can't possibly have both. Until now.
It's time to end the viscous "7pm and everyone's hangry" drive-thru routine. Wouldn't it be nice to know- as you're leaving the field/office/gym at 6:45- that dinner is already waiting for you at home?
Yeah. I thought so.
Cooking for busy nights isn't about gourmet dining, but creating healthier options from real ingredients. I generally plan five dinners for the week, and figure one night we'll go out and another night is a "clean out the fridge" dinner.
None of these meals are specifically vegan or gluten-free, but they could easily be adapted. You also may need to adapt quantity: these recipes are based off my family of four...with two hungry teenagers! Choosing ingredients with organic, non-GMO, hormone/antibiotic-free, and sustainable seafood labels is important to me, it's ok if they aren't for you...baby steps!
2 lbs. chicken breast (about 6)
1 lb. italian sausage (about 4 large)
1.5 lbs. ground sirloin
1 carton vegetable or chicken stock
1 can black beans
1 jar marinara
1 jar enchilada sauce (Trader Joe's or Frontera has a good one)
1 jar corn salsa
1/2 lb. chihuahua cheese (as a chunk to grate, or pre-shredded)
1/2 lb. mozzarella or cheddar cheese
1/2 lb. colby jack cheese (as a chunk to grate, or pre-shredded)
1.5 lbs potatoes (fingerling or Yukon gold)
1 large head broccoli
1 large onion
2 bell peppers (I like green and orange)
2 heads romaine lettuce
1 bunch green onions
1 package mini-buns
1 package hamburger buns
1 package brat buns
1 package corn tortillas
1 bag tortilla chips
Favorite salad dressing
If I learned any thing from Rachel Ray's early episodes of 30 Minute Meals, it's her often repeated philosophy:
Need it Twice? Cut it Once
This idea applies whether it's for the same recipe or meals later in the week. That way items become ready ingredients rather than additional cooking steps.
If you reserve your crock-pot for winter pots of chili, bring it back out. If you don't have one, ask your mom or neighbor with kids in college! Granted, these aren't 5 star, Michelin worthy recipes, but they a quick and healthier option than most take-out. Even "guilty pleasures" like roasted potatoes with cheese (addicted!) aren't as unhealthy when you control the ingredients.
Step 1. Start with the chicken. Put all of the chicken breasts in the crock pot, season lightly with salt (I use kosher), and add a little bit of stock (about an inch or so) and let 'em cook on low about 4-6 hours depending on your crock pot's temperature. If they pull apart easily with a fork, they're done. Transfer to a regular or mixing bowl (yes, the viral Facebook post actually works) and shred. Separate into three containers for separate meals (or use one right away in one of the recipes below). Add a little extra stock to each container before placing in the fridge to prevent chicken from drying out.
So, skip the drive-thru, because by the time your athletes have showered and changed clothes, dinner will be on the table!
BBQ Chicken Sliders (5-10 minutes). shredded chicken, bbq sauce, mini buns, broccoli
Warm one container of shredded chicken in saucepan with enough bbq sauce to cover. While warming, rinse and chop broccoli. If there's time, season (love the Trader Joes seasoning grinders!) and steam broccoli until firm yet a fork goes in (4-5 minutes), or serve cold if everyone is famished. Serve pulled bbq chicken on slider buns with broccoli side and extra sauce.
Italian Sausage with peppers and onions (5-10 minutes morning/afternoon prep, 5 minutes to serve) Italian sausage, onion, bell peppers, marinara, romaine lettuce, brat buns
Slice onion (store half in fridge for a different recipe), and put into crock pot. Remove stem, seeds, and inner white part of peppers. Cut into strips and add to crock pot. Add Italian sausages (raw); then pour jar of marinara on top. Turn crock pot on low, cover, and let cook all day, 6-8 hours. When ready to eat, rinse, pat dry, and tear or cut romaine lettuce (little hands are great helpers for this part). Reserve some of the lettuce for another night. Serve sausages on brat buns (with or without peppers) with a side salad.
Chicken Enchiladas (20 minutes) shredded chicken, chihuahua cheese, black beans, enchilada sauce, corn tortillas, corn salsa, avocado
Preheat oven to 375. While heating, open and rinse can of black beans in a colander. Grate chihuahua cheese. Add 1/3 container of the enchilada sauce to the bottom of a 9x13 baking pan. Add chicken, beans, and cheese to each corn tortilla, roll, then place- seam side down- in pan. Top with remaining sauce and cheese. Bake in oven 15 minutes or until cheese is melted. Serve with small side of lettuce, corn salsa, and avocado slices. *save any unused beans, cheese, or chicken for another meal
Grilled Burgers & Roasted Potatoes (30 minutes) ground sirloin, colby jack, mozzarella/cheddar, potatoes, green onions, onion, hamburger buns (or skip the bun and wrap burger in lettuce), lettuce
Preheat oven to 450 and turn on grill to medium-high. Rinse and halve/quarter potatoes (depending on size), and place in large bowl (*this can be done the previous night, just cover cut potatoes with cold water and store in fridge- then rinse and pat dry when ready to use) and toss with 1-2 Tbsp. olive oil and season with kosher salt. Spread onto large baking sheet and roast about 20-25 minutes. Form sirloin into 4-6 burgers season with salt and pepper (or the Trader Joe's BBQ Rub & Seasoning with Coffee and Garlic), then grill to desired temperature. While grilling, grate colby-jack cheese and add to potatoes during last 5 minutes of cooking (*save extra cheese for another meal). Top burgers with mozzarella/cheddar, reserved raw onion, and lettuce. Snip the tops (green part) of the green onions and sprinkle on top of potatoes before serving.
Chicken Tortilla Salad (10 minutes) 3rd container of chicken, lettuce, diced avocado, black beans, colby jack/chihuahua cheese, tortilla chips...essentially anything leftover from the week!
This is a great throw together meal- and a perfect way to use up anything leftover from the week. Toss together in one large bowl, or let everyone create their own salad. Top with broken tortilla chips.
Looking for a few other quick meal ideas? Click here! What are some of your favorite recipes that get you through hectic nights?
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