Guest post by Rebecca of A Humble Place
There’s no way around it – real food takes work!
I originally planned on calling this post “easy” weeknight meals, but as I was writing down the recipes, I had to be honest with myself and admit there really isn’t much that’s easier than Kraft dinner or Hamburger Helper.
Packaged meals are often touted as “easy homemade” because something is being done on the stove, but it’s pretty much just reheating some powder, water, and meat. Not much effort is needed for the “made” part of “homemade,” but at the same time, not much nourishment is being served either.
Relative ease aside, not all real food meals have to take sixteen hours of soaking, fermenting, grinding, or butchering, nor do they have to be some kind of crazy concoction with sixteen different ingredients that no one has ever heard of.
Instead, what I’ve found to be useful is to have a collection of tried and true recipes that I can stick into my weekly meal plans on a regular basis. I’ve discovered that once I’ve planned these a few times, I learn the quickest and most efficient way of making them, as well as how my family likes them prepared.
These are a few of our favorites:
1. Meat Sauce with Pasta (recipe here)
If you’d like to add even more nutrient value, just include some ground liver along with the beef while you’re cooking. For a gluten-free option, you can have this with Tinkyada brown rice pasta, or for a grain-free option, heap it on top of roasted spaghetti squash. I usually serve it with a big salad and simple dressing.
2. Pan-Fried Burgers (recipe here)
Combine 1 pound of ground beef with 1/2 tsp salt and pepper to taste and form 4 patties. Melt 2 tablespoons of ghee (or butter) in a pan, then drop the patties into the hot fat, cover, and fry them on both sides until they reach desired doneness. If you’d like cheese, add slices to the top of each patty and allow to melt for the last five minutes or so of cooking. You can serve these on buns, but they’re also good on their own. These are easy to make while you have french fries baking in the oven!
3. Crockpot Roast
If you have a little extra time in the morning, slice up an onion and lay it out on the bottom of your slow cooker, then place a roast (thawed or frozen solid!) into the crockpot, cover it with salt, pepper, dried thyme, and about 2 cups of red wine or chicken/beef stock (or a mixture of both), and let it cook on low for at least six hours. This is excellent with mashed potatoes (you can omit the scallions in this recipe and it’s still very tasty). Use the juice straight or reduce it further in a small saucepan on the stove with some butter to make an amazing gravy. And there you have a classic meat and potatoes meal with very little fuss!
4. Swedish Meatballs (recipe here)
If you’re short on time (or energy!), you can skip the gravy part of this recipe as these are quite tasty on their own! I like to serve these with carrots Vichy, which I get started before I start forming the meatballs.
5. Tacos (or Taco Salad)
This one’s so simple, it barely needs a recipe! Brown 1 pound of ground beef, then add taco seasoning and 1/2 cup of water. Let that simmer for about 10 minutes and prepare your taco shells or greens for a salad. Assemble it all together by adding sides like shredded cheese, sour cream, salsa, avocado slices, or tomato slices. This goes well with peppers and onions which can cook while you’re browning the meat.
6. Cheesy Sausage and Spinach Baked Ramekin Eggs (From Beth’s ebook: The Breakfast Revolution)
I love these because they give me an excuse to use my ramekins every so often. Quick, easy, and a lovely presentation, these have been a huge hit in my family!
7. Spanish Omelet (recipe here)
This is, hands down, my son’s favorite dish. This goes well with a simple salad or sautéed spinach.
8. Sausage and Leek Egg Casserole (recipe here)
You could also pre-assemble this and then pop it into the oven when you’re ready to serve it.
9. Easy Roast Chicken (recipe here)
I know that sounds intimidating, but I promise it’s not! If you have a few extra hours in the afternoon, plan to start your chicken around 2 pm. (Confession time: I don’t normally truss my chicken. I’m a lazy real food cook. You can truss it if you’d like, but I think it’s okay if you don’t. I’m sure some culinary master somewhere is scoffing at me.) The recipe calls for olive oil to be drizzled over it, but I like to place a few pats of butter on the top of it instead. By 6 pm, you’ll have a beautifully roasted chicken that took all of about 5 minutes to prepare!
10. Roasted Chicken Thighs/Legs/Quarters (recipe here)
This is an absolutely delicious way to cook chicken that can be used with virtually any spice rub/seasoning/sauce combination. Pretty much any side dish goes well with this!
11. Creamy Green Chili Beef Skillet (recipe here)
A tangy and satisfying dish that’s ready in a very short time. I like to serve this with roasted Brussels sprouts.
Soup & Legumes
12. Garlic Chicken Soup (recipe here)
This is a great way to use up any extra chicken you have leftover from roasting a chicken. It also does wonders if there’s illness floating around your house!
13. Tomato Soup (recipe here)
The red and white can of tomato soup is often a staple in most households, but it’s not too difficult to make your own! Serve this with grilled cheese sandwiches, or even some baked cheese “crackers” for a grain-free option!
14. 30-Minute Chili Cheese Lentils (recipe here)
This recipe is frugal, fast, and incredibly satisfying with that classic cheesy, chili-esque flavor. Always a favorite around here.
15. Potato and Fresh Herb Soup (recipe here)
Another confession: I usually skip the herb part of this recipe and just make a basic potato soup with liberal amounts of garlic salt and shredded cheese on top. I never have leftovers when I make this.
And there you have it! Just a few ideas of real food meals to add to your meal planning rotation! What’s your go-to weeknight meal?
Rebecca grew up in the midwestern United States and currently lives in Colorado with her husband and two kids. She has a degree in art history, but is now quite happy to fill the role of stay-at-home-mom with a hobby on the side of photography. Her current obsessions include simplifying her life in whatever way she can and buying some land so she can raise some chickens. Her husband likes the simplifying but isn’t so sure about the chickens. She writes at a humble place.