Friday, September 13, 2013

Fast Any Night Dinners

After requests from a few friends, here are 6 of my favorite quick dinner ideas.  These friends somehow think I've got my sh*t together, which is flattering and an enormous joke all at the same time.  After living with two men, working late evenings, and hubs who needs re-heatable dinners (for 3 - 11), we've gotten our fair share of successes and failures.
  • Fake chicken parm
  • Chili and cornbread
  • Chicken Caesar salads
  • Pulled Pork Sandwiches 
  • Frittata & Toast
  • Enchiladas 

My favorite easy dinner (especially for company) is fake chicken parm.  We started calling it fake because I once used pre-breaded chicken tenders for the chicken part and ramen noodles for the spaghetti.  While that might work in a pinch - I don't suggest it.  I've found if I pound the chicken breasts when I get home from the store and before freezing, I can put them in the fridge when I leave for work and they thaw by the time I get home.  Three bowls/plates might seem like a big mess, but just plan on using the dishwasher tonight. Preheat your oven to 350, and bread the chicken.  Spray the now coated chicken and the pan, and throw it in the oven for 20 minutes.  Now, go clean the bathroom and start a load of laundry.  After the first 20 minutes, flip the chicken over (spray again), and put your water on to boil.  Set the table, throw the pasta in the water, and clean the other bathroom.  I usually put sauce on the chicken and put it under the broiler for 2 - 3 minutes to warm it up while the rest of the sauce warms up in the now drained pasta.  Shredded Mozzarella is easy to keep the fridge and melts quickly right on top of the chicken.  Now, in an hour you made chicken parm and pasta, have two clean bathrooms, and a load of laundry done.  Heck yes, you are super woman.  Now eat dinner, load the dish washer, and have some wine.
Dinner is served!
Chili & cornbread is another dinner that we LOVE, and if you do the 10 minute dump the night before or morning of, can be served in 15 minutes once you're home.  This is the first of several meals that involve the crock pot for obvious reasons.  I call our chili recipe the dump recipe, because I am guilty of using canned beans, tomatoes, and corn for most of it.  I do brown the ground beef (or whatever meat) along with green peppers and onion before putting it in though.  So - two cans of crushed tomatoes, two cans of beans, one lb of browned ground beef, two green peppers, two onions, and whatever spices I grab.  In the crock pot everything goes on low with the "light timer" set to turn on 8 hours before I get home.  I also fully admit to cheating with corn bread and I use the Jiffy kind.  Jiffy cornbread with an extra egg, shredded cheddar, and diced jalapeno put into muffin pans can be done in 12 minutes when you get home!

Chicken Caesar Salads - this is one that I'll usually make on a leftover night, and Kevin and I can both take for lunches throughout the week.  No secret here, I just cook 4 or 6 chicken breasts that I've marinated in Caesar dressing on the grill, and then chop the chicken as soon as it is cooked.  Once it's already cooked and chopped, we can make whatever kind of salad we want and the hard part is already done.

Pulled Pork Sandwiches - this is another crock pot cheat meal.  I typically make it one of two ways.  The first is with McCormick's Pulled Pork packet (adding ketchup, Cider Vinegar, and Brown Sugar) or with a can of Dr. Pepper, Apple Cider Vinegar, and Chili Flakes.  Turn this one on with the light timer to kick on about 4 hours before dinner-time, and it is plenty of time to cook a 1.5 to 2lb pork roast.  I usually remove the meat from the crock pot to shred it, and then toss it back in the pot with the leftover juices before serving.

Frittata for dinner is a quick way of saying that Kevin and I like fluffy eggs! Our typical process for this is to scramble 6 - 8 eggs in a bowl, and set aside with a few tbsp of milk.  I saute in a large frying pan kale or spinach, onions and mushrooms.  Then pour in the eggs, add tarragon, oregano, etc and put the lid on.  If you have the pan on a medium heat, the eggs will steam and create a frittata with very little effort on your part.  If you would like to add potatoes, we have done this too - just make sure they are fully cooked before adding to your eggs. Kevin usually has toast (even if I add the potatoes), and we love this with a quick fruit salad too.  This is typically an easy 20 minute dinner - and since the eggs cook on their own, gives me time to pick-up the kitchen, set the table, yada.

Enchiladas - I'm not even going to pretend on this one.  I use Wifessionals Enchilada recipe, and multiply it times 4.  I freeze three pans and we eat one the day I make it.  An easy overnight defrost and a quick 20 minutes in a preheated oven - dinner is served! 

Have fun - go make dinner tonight, or make a dinner that can last you three nights.  You'd better believe this girl cooks about 4 nights a week and depends on leftovers and tomato sandwiches to get me through the rest! 

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