Easy Dinner Routines
We’re back in Houston after spending a chunk of summer in Sun Valley, Idaho. It’s time for kids’ haircuts, orthodontist appointments, new shoes, and school shopping. My head is also swimming with “to do” lists. In the car on our way home from the airport tonight, I did a quick Instacart order to stock up on essentials. Our dinners this week will be simple. I don’t have the energy to do much more than just get dinner on the table. And that’s ok. I’m writing this late Sunday after a long travel day, so email subscribers won’t see this in their inbox until Monday night. Even if it’s a day later than usual, take a few minutes to make your dinner plan for the week ahead. It will be one thing you’re crossing off your list ahead of time.
When we got home, I quickly surveyed the freezer for emergency meals. This is what I call pre-made dinners that are ready and waiting. Besides a few soups, there’s a batch of meatballs, TJ’s cauliflower gnocchi, and a batch of pesto. I’m working through what’s there to make life easier this week. First up, pan-fried cauliflower gnocchi with any greens pesto harvested from the freezer!
Ground beef tacos for the 15-minute dinner. Sure this isn’t very earth-shattering or creative, but it’s fast and easy. Use turkey meat if you prefer. Follow the directions in the recipe for added flavor! We’ll use romaine leaves for lettuce tacos or chop it up for taco salads. A batch of my favorite Instant Pot black beans will be perfect on the side.
It’s one of those days full of appointments and errands. I’m making a simple pantry pasta and a side salad with my go-to vinaigrette. You can make a pantry pasta with almost anything: Red chili flakes, butter, olive oil, Parmesan, anchovy paste or capers, drained garbanzo beans, bread crumbs, or just salt and pepper. In the early days of the pandemic, I taught a cacio e pepe cooking class if you need a refresher.
For an easy end-of-the-week dinner, here are some Trader Joe’s “cheater meals” to keep you going. If you don’t have a TJ’s near you, opt for a one-pot or sheet pan meal with easy clean-up. Here’s an idea:
If you’re short on time, use store-bought blackened seasoning or Creole seasoning, such as Tony Chachere’s. Add thin haricot vert, cut asparagus, mushrooms, and/or bell pepper slices to the pan. Serves 4-6
- 1 tablespoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano
- ½ teaspoon dried thyme
- Several grindings of black pepper (10-20)
- 4 6-ounce salmon fillets, skin-on, or one whole side of salmon
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1-2 lemons, cut into wedges
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Mix spice ingredients and set aside. Brush the top of the filets with olive oil. Sprinkle spice mixture generously over the salmon until it’s well coated, press down gently to adhere the spices to the fish.
Cover sheet pan with parchment paper (or don’t, it will totally be fine without, just require a little more elbow grease to clean). Add the fillets, skin side down, and leave some space between the filets, at least an inch, and make sure they aren’t touching.
Roast in the upper third of the oven for 12 minutes. The internal temperature of the fish should reach 140-145 degrees.
Easy weekend grilling. If you haven’t made my rib-eye kabobs, there’s no time like the present! I’ll steam some bok choy or spinach if we want extra greens. Or make a big chopped salad with cucumber, tomato, shaved red onion, and carrot ginger dressing. We had amazing chili udon noodles this summer, topped with a heap of crunchy peanuts, cilantro, scallions. I’d love to recreate them this weekend!