Crazy Quick Dinner Ideas

healthy recipes meal prep tips Mar 11, 2022
A dinner plate with grilled chicken, green beans and a simple salad.

One of the best things we can do for our health is to make and eat from-scratch meals made with whole food ingredients. But managing the demands of every day life (work ... kids ... carpool ... ALL THE THINGS) and trying to get good food on the table can put us straight into overwhelm. So I decided to sit down and make a list of the easiest dinner ideas I could think of to make both meal planning and dinner-time as quick as possible over the coming weeks. I had 3 simple criteria:

  1. Hands on time must be very minimal

  2. Clean up must also be very minimal

  3. Resulting food should taste good

Below are the recipes that made my list.  I was sooooooo tempted to add a bunch more recipes but they all either took more time, were just a little more complicated or dirtied an extra dish or two and that totally defeats the purpose here.  The recipes below really are as easy as they come.

Also, it’s worth noting that some of these recipes require side dishes for a complete meal.  This is where pre-cut veggies, frozen veggies and pre-cut and washed salad mix are your best friends. A big handful of pre-washed greens + your fav bottled clean salad dressing makes for a perfect no-fuss side dish.

Without further ado, here is my current list:

Tostadas Salsa Verde: we’ve used rotisserie chicken to make this extra fast, and subbed sharp cheddar for the pepperjack when we didn’t have pepperjack on hand .  We’ve also used corn tortillas in lieu of flour and they’ve still turned out great. Want more veggies? A very simple salad of chopped romaine topped with Bolthouse Cilantro Avocado dressing would be perfect here.

Salsa Verde Crispy Carnitas: Skip searing the meat (& the crisping it at the end) ... just season it and dump it all in the instant pot or crockpot. Pick up tortillas, cotija cheese (or feta) and ready made pico & guac from the grocery store and dinner is served!

Egg Roll in a Bowl: takes longer than 15 minutes (more like 25-30) but super easy and pretty darn delicious too.  Especially if you buy shredded or pre-cut carrots and frozen rice you can reheat in the microwave so you don’t have to clean an extra pot.

Greek Lemon Chicken Soup (Avgolemono): so easy, so delicious.  Just make sure to follow the directions exactly or the chemistry doesn’t quite work out the soup is stringy instead of silky (we learned that the hard way).  We add rice instead of orzo (I have kiddos who are GF), and usually toast up some yummy bread on the side. A simple side salad (pre-cut and washed greens FOR SURE) would also be nice here. 

Quick & Easy Breakfast burritos (for dinner): because sometimes breakfast for dinner is the only answer at the end of a long day, and a breakfast burrito with beans, eggs & avocado sounds better than pancakes & syrup during the carb-heavy holiday season.

Sarah’s Roast Salmon with Cooked Frozen Veg & Rice on the side: this all comes together in a quick 20 minutes, and that includes cooking time!  If you can spring for wild caught salmon, we always recommend it (much much much better for you and the environment).

Jo Cook’s Instant Pot Chicken Soup: this needs time for the instant pot to come up to pressure, etc. but the actual hands on time is very minimal and the resulting soup is really delicious.  

Fried Rice with Kale & Scallions : sometimes we throw in leftover protein we have in the fridge, or top with a fried egg.  FOR SURE make with leftover rice or pre-cooked brown rice from the grocery store to keep this extra quick & simple.  I like this with tart orange slices served on the side!

Not sure we'll be in the mood for pasta with the carb overload this time of year, but there is no denying these next three are super easy and also super yum:

Cacio e Pepe: pasta doesn’t get much easier than this!  Serve with blanched green beans or broccoli (2-3 minutes in salted boiling water), cooked frozen peas and/or bagged pre-washed salad green & your fav clean dressing. Also would be good with leftover Christmas ham on the side!

Spaghetti Limone Parmegiano: slightly more involved than the Cacio e Pepe but still so easy and yummy.  Again, I would serve with whatever easy veg sides I can grab from the freezer or buy pre-cut from the store and throw on a roasting pan, etc.

Simple Spaghetti with Meatballs: Tis the season for finding clean, pre-made meatballs in the freezer section of your grocery store and adding them to spaghetti noodles & high-quality jarred sauce (we like Rao's or Ravarino's). Want bonus points? Serve the spaghetti & meatballs over a pillowy bed of cold ricotta.


From Laurie: "I love Trader Joes when I don't have energy to meal plan. Their frozen falafel is really good. I usually make a big greek salad and toss some of those in there. I also love their pre-cut fresh stir fry veggies. Add some shrimp and some light seasoning and you have an easy dinner. Another fast go to is portobello cap pizzas. Just scrape out the gills and add sauce and cheese and toppings. I also try to keep homemade veggie burgers in the freezer for those days when I don't want to cook."

From Alexandra: I keep chicken sausage on hand at all times. Chop whatever veggies I have on hand, toss with garlic and EVOO, and roast for 15-20 minutes. Last 5 minutes I add the chopped chicken sausage. I also buy jumbo shrimp from Costco. They defrost and cook so quickly, it takes very little forethought on my part!

xoxo, Rebecca

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