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5 Easy Dinners

I love cooking and baking, but this formerly pleasurable experience took on a Top Chef-like twist when it now meant I had about 20 minutes from walking in the door after work to get a hot meal on the table before my kids started either crying, whining, or opening up everything they could find in the pantry. Luckily, I don’t have picky eaters in the house, but that’s also likely because I’ve never really offered many options – this is likely due to the 20 minute thing I just mentioned!

So, here’s a few ideas you can try at your house when you’re strapped for time. I won’t claim they’re very culinarily advanced or inventive, but their beauty is in simplicity because the straightforward flavors are an easy sell for kids, but still enjoyable for the adults in the house!  Note all recipes below make enough for at least 4 people.

1) Roast pork tenderloin with Honey Butter – adapted from and Everyday Food

This dish is so yummy! But it’s super fast and requires no cooking skills. Sometimes if I feel lazy I don’t even bother with the step #3.  If I want a quick side dish for this I throw some fingerling potatoes or baby new potatoes washed and sliced in chunks into the actual pan with the pork tenderloin to roast in that rich honey butter. Then the potato is ready with the meat!  DO NOT attempt with regular potatoes, they don’t cook fast enough.  The other side I serve with this is pan roasted brussel sprouts or steamed broccoli or asparagus. EASY & healthy! 


  • 3-4 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 1/2 pounds pork tenderloin, trimmed 
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup water
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a Dutch oven or ovenproof skillet, heat the butter and honey over medium-low heat, stirring to melt butter. Season the pork with salt and pepper and place in pan. Cook until lightly browned on all sides, about 10 minutes. Reduce heat if honey begins to burn.
  2. Transfer to oven, and roast until pork is cooked to 145 degrees, 12 to 15 minutes. Transfer pork to a plate. 
  3. Add water to pan, and place on stove over medium heat, cook stirring with a wooden spoon to scrape up all the browned bits. Add any accumulated pork juices from the plate, and simmer until sauce is reduced to about 1/2 cup. Slice pork on the diagonal, and serve drizzled with the sauce.

2) Enchilada lasagna

I improvised this myself one night in a pinch and actually have made it many times since because it turned out pretty tasty and the family liked it — what’s not to like about cheese and tortilla chips??


  • 1 lb. ground beef or meat from 1 small-medium rotisserie chicken
  • 1 small onion diced
  • 1 to 2 cups of shredded cheddar or cheddar and jack cheese
  • 1 can mild enchilada sauce (this is because my family doesn’t like spicy food, if yours does, I’d use regular or hot, and even add diced jalepenos!)
  • A few handfuls corn tortilla chips or 6 corn hard taco shells broken in half to be flat-ish
  • 14.5 oz. can Muir Glen organic diced fire roasted tomatoes undrained (can use any brand, but these add a deeper, smoky flavor and are so fresh tasting — also, don’t need to use entire can, use to your family’s taste)
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  1. Preheat oven to 400 F. Spray 9×13 casserole pan with Pam or other non-stick spray. 
  2. If using ground beef, heat skillet over medium-high heat and brown with onions in a skillet until cooked through. 
  3. If using rotisserie chicken remove chicken from bones and roughly shred/chop into small chunks.  Then, heat a little olive oil in skillet over medium-high and cook onion.  Remove from heat and throw in chicken chunks.
  4. Pour and spread a very thin layer of enchilada sauce into casserole dish.  Layer on top tortillas, spread on top of tortillas cooked meat/onion mixture. Then add spoonfuls of diced tomatoes in juice.  Pour about 1/2 cup of enchilada sauce over entire pan. Add thin layer of shredded cheese.
  5. Repeat entire layering again.
  6. Put the whole pan in the oven for about 15 minutes.  Then switch to broil for another 5 minutes or so to get cheese on top browned a bit, if desired. Serve with a little dollop of sour cream on top.

3) Broiled or roasted salmon

We love fish at our house, esp because it’s so quick to cook.  This is really basic but good. Great served with rice and some greens, but if time doesn’t allow to cook the rice, try couscous or even buttered egg noodles or whole wheat noodles, as those can all be cooked in about the same amount of time it takes the salmon in the oven!


  • 1 lb salmon fillet with skin on
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • Seasoning options: could use coarse kosher salt and fresh ground pepper, or add to it a squeeze of juice of half a lemon, or use a lemon pepper if you have it, or Italian herb mix, or a mix of 2 Tbsp Hoisin sauce and 1 Tbsp soy sauce for an Asian twist.
  1. Put oven rack to top third of oven and preheat to 425 F. Line a jellyroll pan with tin foil, or a cookie sheet, but then turn up the edges of foil to make a little pan so roasting juices don’t drip off into your oven.
  2. Put salmon skin side down onto foil, then rub all over with olive oil.
  3. Season with some of the options above, rub into fish
  4. Roast in oven until just cooked through, about 12-15 mins. depending on thickness of fillet.
  5. Cut salmon into individual portions and then slide spatula between fish and skin to separate and lift servings onto plate.

 4) Chicken “nuggets” or fish “sticks”

If your kids like nuggets as much as mine, this will be a savior. Esp because although McDonald’s isn’t forbidden at our house, I do try to limit it and while these aren’t exactly health food, at least they’re homemade and you know what the ingredients are. 🙂  Same exact recipe can work with fish too if your kids like fish sticks.  Good sides are applesauce, steamed broccoli, or maybe green beans or peas (I use the frozen organic all the time because it tastes good and I’d rather spend my time cooking the main dish — sometimes sides can be so elaborate, and I find it’s better saved for weekends).


  • 1/2 cup vegetable or canola oil (divided)
  • 3-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts or 1lb any mild whitefish fillet (such as cod or tilapia) cut into small strips or nuggets
  • 3 eggs beaten
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 cups panko breadcrumbs (found in Asian aisle of grocery store)
  • 2 tsp. kosher salt and 1 tsp coarse ground pepper
  1. Put flour into a large ziploc bag along with salt and pepper.  Put panko into pie tin or casserole dish, and beaten egg into another pie tin or casserole dish. Mix 2 Tbsp water into eggs.
  2. Heat 1/4 cup of oil in large skillet over medium high heat
  3. Put handful of meat into ziploc bag, seal, shake to coat.
  4. Remove meat and place into egg mixture to coat.
  5. Put meat into panko to coat and place carefully into skillet to fry. Reduce heat if browning to quickly. Flip after about 2 mins. and cook for another 2-4 mins until meat looks done.
  6. Remove from oil onto plate with paper towel to soak up excess oil.
  7. Repeat 3-5 until all meat is cooked, then serve.

5) Skillet cheeseburger casserole

Truly a 1-pan meal that is a kid favorite! Actually, my husband frequently requests it too and even makes it himself for the kids when I’m not around. 🙂  A friend shared this recipe with me, which I believe she got off the back of a tomato can!


  • 1 lb ground beef (can sub ground turkey if you wish)
  • 1 small onion diced
  • 14.5 oz. can Muir Glen organic diced fire roasted tomatoes undrained (can use any brand, but these add a deeper, smoky flavor and are so fresh tasting)
  • 1 cup elbow macaroni or penne pasta
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese 
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Heat skillet that has a cover over medium-high heat. Add ground beef and diced onions, breaking up beef with spatula as it browns.  Cook through.
  2. Add can of tomatoes, water, and pasta, stir and bring to a boil.  Reduce toa simmer, cover tightly, and cook for 10 minutes until noodles are cooked through and liquids have been absorbed.
  3. Remove from heat, sprinkle cheese on and return cover to pan. Let sit 5 minutes for cheese to melt. Serve alone or with garlic bread and side of veggies, but tomatoes in the dish make the veggies an extra here.

One comment on “5 Easy Dinners

  1. Pingback: New parents: do try this at home | found! not lost blog

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This entry was posted on October 28, 2010 by in food and tagged , , , .
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