In honor of back-to-school week, and especially in honor of my sister, who is starting a brand new job as a 5th grade teacher, I thought it would be helpful to post my favorite--and fastest--dinners for a busy school night. I know I'm always looking for dinner inspiration, especially if it is speedy-quick, and uses normal ingredients I already have.
These are my favorite go-to dinners:
1. Make your own pizza night! Otherwise known as: Mama's too busy to cook, so let's all pitch in!
Ingredients: Pita bread (for the crust), pizza sauce in a jar, shredded mozzerella, other cheese ('cause Mama likes fancy pizza! I love goat cheese, or even a shredded 5-cheese blend), pepperoni, other toppings (tomatoes, green peppers, sausage, pineapple)
Instructions: Everyone assembles their own pizzas, puts them on a baking sheet, and mama bakes them at 400, until cheese is bubbly and slightly browned. If mama is so inclined, she serves some bag salad or carrot sticks and ranch on the side.
2. Chicken and Noodles in the Crockpot, otherwise known as "How's Yer Whatachicken?"
Ingredients: 3-4 (boneless/skinless) frozen chicken breasts, 2 cans cream of chicken soup, 1 can of chicken broth (not pictured-sorry!), 3/4 bag of wide egg noodles (also not pictured...fire the photog!), seasonings (pepper, celery seed, garlic powder)
Instructions: (Feel free to read the extended version here!) Put 3-4 frozen boneless/skinless chicken breasts in the crockpot and cover with 2 cans of cream of chicken soup. Sometimes, (thanks to my friend Dawn) I mix 1 can cream of chicken with 1 can cream of celery. Add some seasonings to the soup--quite a few shakes of pepper, and a couple of shakes each of celery seed and garlic powder, and a shake of salt. Cook on low all day.
About 30 minutes before dinnertime, boil 3/4 bag of wide egg noodles on the stove, and drain. Pull the chicken out of the crockpot and shred. Put chicken back in crockpot and add noodles and chicken broth. Add less broth if you want more of a "casserole" texture, more broth if you'd rather more of a "soup" consistency. Add more pepper if it tastes too bland. I promise you--this is a COMFORT DISH DELUXE!!! Warning--It will remind you of your grandmother's chicken and dumplings, and will make you cry tears of joy.
3. Breakfast for dinner, otherwise known as the pantry's empty...what in the world can I serve???
Ingredients: eggs, grated sharp cheddar cheese, bacon or sausage, bread for toasting--or pancake mix. Basically, whatever I have on-hand.
Instructions: What is more comforting than breakfast for dinner? Yum. I like adding grated sharp cheddar cheese to the top of my scrambled eggs--just to make them more special for dinner. I also like to fry up some bacon or sausage, if I have them. If not, it's just cheesy scrambled eggs and toast. Or pancakes, if that's what I have. I also like to serve orange juice in fancy glasses--'cause as you can tell, I am a fancy kind of girl.
4. Meatballs and sticky rice, otherwise known as my picky daughter's favorite meal.
Ingredients: Bag 'o meatballs (you snobby people--those are in the freezer section, next to the Bagel Bites. If you don't know what those are either, then let me just warn you--they are not located in the organic section. They are, however, delicious. And fast) BBQ sauce (or Pioneer Woman's version--which is divine!! I use her sauce recipe with the frozen, pre-made meatballs), and rice.
Instructions: Pour a load o' meatballs into a casserole dish, and microwave them a bit to thaw them. Pour sauce over them (Pioneer Woman's sauce, if you're fancy like me...which is only ketchup, vinegar, sugar, worcestershire sauce, diced onions, garlic powder, and pepper), and put in the oven at 350 and bake for 20 minutes. (The meatballs are pre-cooked--you're just getting them hot and flavorful!) Your family will kiss your feet because the house smells so good. (I hope your feet are clean.) For picky eaters, like my darling daughter, serve them with toothpicks sticking in them. Who knew that toothpicks could entice a child to eat beef? It's a culinary miracle.
Now, you can just make regular old boring rice. OR, you could make my FAVORITE version of rice--what I like to call STICKY RICE. (Yes, I am yelling at you.) You can ask my family--I am kind of a sticky rice groupie. I know this rice takes a few extra steps, but it is totally worth it. Oh, and just so I don't seem like a total loser, I should tell you that I do serve a green vegetable with this meal. Usually green beans, which I completely drain, add water, and season with a chicken bouillon cube, some sugar, and pepper. Delish. And...serve them also with toothpicks, if it helps.
5. Chef salads, otherwise known as fast dinner that makes mom look like a health rockstar!
Ingredients: Bag 'o salad for the fast version, bag 'o spinach salad for the healthier version, or hand-torn lettuce for the ladies with too much time on their hands, tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, boiled eggs, sliced turkey or ham, block of cheese (sharp cheddar for me, please!)
Instructions: Chef salads are a great staple meal because they use everything I keep on-hand to make lunches--with the addition of lettuce. You can make these for your family, or you could set out the ingredients, and let everyone make her own. The only things you need to do ahead of time are wash the salad stuff, boil the eggs, and slice up the turkey/ham and cheese and salad items.
6. Tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches, otherwise known as a last resort meal!
Ingredients: Campbell's tomato soup, basil, pepper, bread, cheese
Instructions: Heat up the Campbell's soup (I like water in mine, verses milk), add some dried basil and pepper. Make some yummy grilled cheese. To amp up the grilled cheese, add 2 kinds of cheese--swiss and cheddar are my favorites! If I'm out of bread, I also make cheese quesadillas, using flour tortillas. (Which I love...because then I can tell my kids, "Eat your dang quesadillas, Tina!")