I used to love cooking when it was just my husband and me. I loved scouring Pinterest and blogs to find creative and interesting dishes to create. We would put on the Black Keys Pandora station, crack open a craft beer or bottle of wine, and leisurely dice, saute and simmer our way to a delicious dinner. We loved food, and cooking was a fun thing that we did together.
Then we had a kid.
These days, cooking is about how fast I can make a meal before my toddler has a meltdown, grabs my legs and doesn’t let go. It doesn’t matter if daddy is there or not, I’m convinced toddlers have an internal clock that goes off at 5:15 pm every day that makes them run straight for their mamas.
These days, it’s all about efficiency. How can I make a decent, affordable and healthy-ish meal for my family without losing my mind?
I’ll tell you how. Find recipes that have only a handful of ingredients and don’t require a lot of prep work. Bonus points if it uses minimal pots and pans.
Here are a few quick-and-dirty, easy-peasy recipes that have made the rotation in our family. I hope they’ll make an appearance on your dinner table soon!
- Freezer-to-microwave breakfast burritos. Mornings around here are crazy. That’s why we spend one hour on Sunday prepping these breakfast burritos. One hour on the weekend = saving my sanity for the next five days. And that is more than worth it to me. We use regular Jimmy Dean breakfast sausage, organic baby spinach and cage-free, organic eggs in the recipe. I cut my daughter’s burrito in half, diagonally, and she happily goes to town on it. We pair it with a piece of fruit and a pouch of organic whole-milk yogurt and brekkie is served.
- Skinny sloppy joes. I’m not gonna lie, sometimes I go the super-cheat route and use Manwich Sloppy Joe Sauce. Have you ever had that stuff? It’s delicious! But when there’s a few extra minutes in my day, I’ll take the longer road and make my own sloppy joe sauce. Really, the only thing that takes extra time is dicing the veggies. I’ve found the more I can mince them, the more they disappear in the sauce and my daughter has no idea that she’s eating veggies. Score! Bonus points if you use grass-fed organic beef.
- Crockpot honey sesame chicken. My crockpot and I have a love and hate relationship. I love to use it, but hate to clean it. Especially with my shallow sink, water gets everywhere when I’m rinsing it out. Super annoying. But you know what’s not super annoying? Eight to 10 minutes of prep time and dinner is done. No, that’s kind of awesome. We made this last week and everyone gobbled it up. I used raw, unfiltered honey and organic chicken thighs.
- Salsa verde chicken bake. I kid you not, this recipe is three ingredients and takes 30 minutes to make. But it tastes like you spent hours slaving away in the kitchen. Pair it with a side of rice and dinner is served.
- Crockpot balsamic pork roast. This is one of those “set it and forget it” recipes. I make a side of butter and herb noodles and call it a meal.
- Healthy turkey meatloaf. Comfort food at its finest, but packed with protein and without all the unnecessary fats. My kid and husband eat this one up! We don’t even make a side because it’s hearty enough on its own.
- Man-pleasing chicken. Don’t be fooled by the name. This is FAMILY-pleasing chicken. It’s tough to get toddlers to eat chicken that isn’t fried or in nugget form (or is it just mine?) but she will scarf down this dish — and so will my husband and I! I think it’s the perfect balance of sweet-savory-tangy that makes it so scrumptious. We put it over rice and slurp up the sauce. I probably make this dish once a week using organic, boneless, skinless chicken thighs and so far, no one’s tired of it. Tip: I don’t use rosemary and it’s just fine without it.
- Crockpot kid-friendly turkey chili. This one is super easy to make. As most crockpot recipes go, you literally just throw everything in, turn it on and in a few hours, dinner is ready. The trick to crockpot cooking is to NEVER OPEN THE LID. Even if you just want a peek or a smell, don’t do it! It’s not worth it. Trust and follow the recipe. Except in this case, where I add in a can of cannellini or black beans for some added protein. Add a piece of cornbread to round out the meal.
- Cheeseburger casserole. A friend told me about this recipe and while it takes a little bit longer because you have to cook the pasta — and it takes some extra clean up time because there’s a baking dish, a skillet and a large pot involved — it makes a ton of food. The best part? It reheats really well so it’s great for lunch leftovers for a couple of days.
- Crockpot BBQ pulled pork. I’ve saved the best for last. Although it’s not the healthiest, it’s super easy and quick to make — and we have no problem eating this for the next few days. Some nights it goes on a bun as a barbecue pork sandwich. Other nights, it pairs well with a side of coleslaw and potatoes. Then we eat it as barbecue pork nachos. The possibilities are endless. We use Sweet Baby Ray’s Original Award-Winning Barbecue Sauce. Sometimes it goes on sale at Fry’s for $1 per bottle and that’s when I stock up. One last tip: try it with pork shoulder instead of the pork chops/steaks. It comes out more tender and even tastier!
What are your families favorite recipes?