Sometimes the workweek can feel like a whirlwind. I have a full-time job, and my husband Kurt and I have begun going to the gym together in the evenings. By the time we get home, it’s usually between 7 and 8 p.m. It can be tough to get dinner on the table at a reasonable hour, once the day’s chores are all wrapped up. Maybe you have children to pick up after school, or are in that season of life where you’re constantly running one child to soccer practice and the other to ballet.
The fact is, we’re all busy people and if proper planning isn’t in place, mealtime can feel like an afterthought. Today, I’ll recommend a few staple pantry items to keep on hand, plus three quick fix supper ideas, so you can whip up a wholesome dinner in no time flat. Busy lives call for efficient meal preparation, but that doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice flavor or nutrition.
Keep these pantry and refrigerated staples stocked, so you’re always ready to cook up dinner in a flash:
- Minute Rice (brown)
- Chicken and beef stock
- Frozen stir-fry vegetables
- Whole wheat pasta: Spaghetti, penne or rotini
- Boneless, kinless chicken breasts
- Lean ground beef
- Good quality jarred pasta sauce
- Fresh herbs
- Fresh Parmesan and Cheddar cheese
- Seasonings: Kosher salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, Herbs de Provence
- Fresh garlic
- Bell peppers
- Frozen dinner rolls
These three meal ideas are my go-tos for busy weeknights. If it’s Monday through Friday at my house, you can bet one of these Some Kinda Good dinners are on my table.
Casseroles are hearty and come together easily with just a few steps. Brown ground beef, onion and garlic in a skillet and season well with salt and pepper. I like to throw in Herbs de Provence, my favorite Italian seasoning blend, and red pepper flakes to give the meat mixture a little kick.
While the meat is browning, bring a pot of water to a boil and cook pasta according to package directions. Add a good quality pasta sauce to the meat mixture, including a ladle of pasta water, and let simmer at least 10 minutes. Don’t drain your pasta — instead, using a spider spatula transfer the pasta to your meat sauce and toss well to combine. Transfer the pasta and meat mixture to a casserole dish and top with grated cheese. Cook at 350 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes or until cheese is melted.
Finish with fresh herbs. Cook frozen dinner rolls according to package directions alongside the pasta dish, so these are ready at the same time.
I couldn’t live without brown Minute Rice. It is literally ready in 5 minutes. Here’s my secret to give the rice it’s best flavor though: Cook it using beef or chicken stock instead of water. In a separate skillet cook your meat — stir fries are so versatile, but my favorite meat to use are strips of pepper steak. Remove the meat from your skillet, then add more oil if needed and saute frozen stir fry vegetables. Remember to season them well. Serve the meat and vegetables over brown rice and top off with crunchy La Choy noodles.
Sheet Pan Dinners
Sheet pan dinners are all the rage these days and there are so many combinations. The idea is that you’re cooking all your ingredients on one sheet pan and everything is done at the same time. Just be sure your vegetables are chopped consistently the same size, so that everything cooks evenly.
My Tuscan lemon chicken is always a hit and would you believe, there’s no thawing required? I take frozen boneless skinless chicken breasts right out of the package and place them on a sheet pan with a good rim. Drizzle with olive oil, and season both sides well with salt, pepper and Herbs de Provence. Top the chicken with slices of lemon, fresh rosemary and smashed garlic cloves. Add about an inch of water to the pan to keep the chicken from drying out. This also creates a nice pan sauce when it finishes cooking. Cook at 425 degrees for 40 minutes or until a meat thermometer reaches 165 degrees. Serve with brown rice.
Food Network Star finalist Rebekah Faulk Lingenfelser is a food enthusiast and writer. Her blog, Some Kinda Good, features Southern, coastal recipes, locally sourced and in-season. Like Some Kinda Good on Facebook, follow @SKGFoodBlog on Twitter and Instagram or visit RebekahLingenfelser.com.