4 Quick and Easy Meals That Answer Question, “What’s for Dinner?”

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Ok, mamas, if you’re like me, I cannot stand the, “What’s for dinner?” question. It floods me with stress to try to throw something together based on random ingredients still lingering in the fridge. I admire the people who find this Chopped challenge as a way to show off their culinary creativity. For me, I need to have a go-to list of quick and easy meals ready to make any day of the week. It is also a huge help when meal planning!

Here are 4 Quick and Easy Meals to the Dreaded, “What’s for Dinner?” Question:

1. Quesadillas/Tacos 

    • Required Ingredients: Soft or hard tortillas, shredded cheese
    • Optional: Pinto/black/refried canned beans, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, peppers, sour cream, salsa, jalapenos 
    • One reason I love this meal is because of how easy it is to customize. I load mine with spicy jalapenos, my kid wants his as bland as possible, and my husband will only add lettuce if I’m watching. 

2. Cheese and Crackers Board

    • Required Ingredients: Various types of block cheese (we love swiss, cheddar, and pepper jack), various types of crackers
    • Optional: Fruits, veggies, anything to make it fancy
    • I used to joke that what my Italian family ate for appetizers, could have been a meal by itself, but now it’s really true! Slice up different types of cheese, lay them down next to some other kinds of crackers on a wood board, and boom, dinner is served! 
    • I know we’re not hitting all colors of the rainbow with this meal. There are some days that we just need to eat with minimal time to prepare. These days I take a breath and trust that we’re getting all of the other food groups in another meal. 
    • There are endless combinations of boards. Veggies and dipping sauces, fruits and cheese, waffles and toppings, etc. It may feel like a black hole searching for ideas at first. Just save your favorites that can be easy go-to’s for your family.

cheese and cracker board

3. Grain + Sauce

    • Required Ingredients: Pasta, quinoa, or couscous; sauce (red tomato, alfredo, pesto, olive oil, butter, etc.)
    • Optional: Veggies, meatballs/”meatballs”
    • Need a meal in less than 10 minutes? Keep the pantry stocked with one of these items that are always good to go. Boil some water, add your grain, then top with sauce. Done easy. The combination possibilities are endless!
    • Our favorite right now is “Hulk Pasta,” aka frozen tortellini with pesto sauce (get it, green like the Hulk?). This kid looks forward to Hulk Pasta nights, and I love having a go-to quick meal that we all enjoy!

Hulk Pasta

4. Freezer Make-Ahead Meals

    • Required Ingredients: Depends on the recipe (see links below)
    • Optional: depends on the recipe (see links below)
    • Freezer meals are a lifesaver for us. This will take a little bit of pre-planning and a lot of cooking time but is invaluable for us on future busy days.
    • I try to find a weekend that isn’t crazy busy to make a bunch of extra meals. Then, I freeze them all in the most space-saving way possible. Make sure to label the containers; they all look the same over time.
    • To help me remember what’s buried in the back, I write up a quick list of all recipes I’ve frozen on a piece of paper that lives on the fridge. Each time we eat one of the frozen meals, I scratch it off the list. Easy, no brain power required. 
    • To create individual serving sizes for most recipes (soups, chili, breakfast quiche, etc.), I freeze everything in muffin cups. Once frozen, the food is taken out of the muffin cups, stacked into a gallon-sized freezer bag, and stored standing up. You don’t have to do it this way! This is just the best way I can get everything stored in the space we have. 
    • For recipes being stored without portion sizing, I fill up a gallon-sized freezer bag, flatten as much as possible, and place on a cookie sheet to freeze. Once the meal is frozen, remove the cookie tray, and you can stack multiple meals on top of each other. 
Orange Soup
Orange Soup

Here are our favorite freezer meals:

Of course, these ideas aren’t all you can do! These are just the ideas that my family loves and will happily eat any night. Figure out what your family loves and will keep your nights easy-peasy! I hope these ideas get you rolling. Share your favorite ideas too!

 

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Amanda loves supporting young children and their families as a doctoral student studying Infant and Early Childhood Development specializing in Infant Mental Health and Developmental Differences and through her work as a Judy Center Specialist here in Maryland. Years of working with young children and prenatal/postnatal mamas have given her hours of material that she is excited to share in her blog posts. (She had her half-Jamaican son born during a blizzard and traveled to the hospital in Uber. Just one of the fun stories she has to tell!) When they aren't exploring every playground in Silver Spring, her family loves discovering new ways to have fun together around town on their bikes. Likes: NY Pizza, Chocolate Everything, Trapeze, Aerial Yoga Dislikes: Calories, Snow