Thursday, October 23, 2014

Dinner Menu Ideas from My Friends

Dear friends, I have recently been trying to bring new life to my family's dinner menu, so I posed the following question to my friends on Facebook:
Dinner dilemma: I can hardly find anything worth trying when I go hunting for recipes that are inexpensive, relatively healthy, and don't take hours to prepare. Is this really too much to ask?! (Probably, but humor me here...) Anyone wanna share their favorite go-to dinners that fit the description above? If my family has to eat spaghetti one more time, I may have a mutiny on my hands!
The responses I got were wonderful! And since I wanted to continue to be able to easily access all the ideas I received, and also to share them with others, I decided to record all the responses here on the OFM blog. *Please note that some of the suggestions also have links to the recipes.*

So, without further ado, here's a list of go-to recipes from my fabulous Facebook friends-- real moms just like you!
  • Taco Soup: 1 lb hamburger, 1 can corn, 1 can chili, 1 can black beans, 1 can kidney beans, 1 can stewed tomatoes, 1 can water, 1 pkg taco seasoning. We scoop it on top of corn chips and add shredded cheese and sour cream. Super simple and yummy!!!!
  • Cheesy Rice and Beans with Corn Chips: Cook 1 cup brown rice. Saute one diced onion in 1 T olive oil, then add one can diced tomatoes with juice and 2 teas chili pwd. Drain and rinse 1 can beans (we like black) and stir into tomato mixture. When rice is done, layer it with the tomato mixture in a greased casserole dish along with shredded cheese. Bake at 350 for 30 min. We like to have toppings with it like sour cream, guacamole, olives, green onions, etc. We eat it with corn chips and serve corn on the side.
  • Soups: I do chili, chicken tortilla soup, loaded baked potato soup, lotsa soups. They're my substitution for casserole for my large family.
  • Lemon or Orange Chicken with Rice and Steamed Veggies: We stopped breading the chicken and just grill it on th BBQ. Cuts down on time and calories and tastes GREAT. Each person can put as much or little of the orange or lemon sauce on their chicken as they want.
  • Tater-tot casserole: It's easy and cheap!
  • Lentil Porridge, Rice, Naan Bread, Veggies
  • Stir Fry and Rice: which means whatever is in the fridge or freezer and if there is meat available....the biggest amount of time prep is cutting veggies. I always have fish sauce, rice wine vinegar and soy sauce available because they are staples in stir fry. Terayaki sauce is easily made with soy sauce and a little sugar and water. Sweet n sour, with a tomato base, pineapple juice and apple cider vinegar.
  • Shepherd's Pie: My family LOVES [it]! I brown hamburger, add a can of corn, green beans, carrots, and tomato soup. Mix it all together in a casserole dish, and cover with mashed potatoes (I use my food storage instant potatoes sometimes) and grated cheddar cheese. Cook at 350 for 30 minutes.
  • Hawaiian Haystacks: There's tons of recipes for them on Pinterest.
  • Salsa Chicken: Throw some chicken in the crockpot with some salsa and cook it and then shred it and have it in tacos. Super easy and yummy!
  • Hamburgers with Small Baked Potatoes
  • Homemade Pizza: [We use] dough from Fresh and Easy and [top with] leftover ground hamburger.
  • Crockpot Pork Chops: [Serve] with soup over them and rice on the side.
  • Chicken Veggie Stew: I like to add cream of chicken soup to make it creamy and then cook dumplings on top.
  • Hot Dog Chimi Casserole: Take hot dogs roll in tortillas, put chili in bottom of cake pan, put rolled hot dogs in top then 2 cans chili on top. Cheese bake 30 mins at 375, I believe, and crumble Fritos on top.
  • Rice and Stir Fry Veggies: [It] is always good. 
  • Pesto Pasta: To buy pre-made stuff is expensive and so are most recipes. But there are two inexpensive ways to do it. You can make it out of spinach instead of basil or they also sell pesto packets for a dollar where you just add oil and water. Super yum!
  • "Everything in the Fridge" Soup: I just dig out every veggie and meat I can find, chop it up, add a can of tomato or cream-of-whatever soup, a big plop of sour cream and whatever spices smell good. Its quick, easy, and cleans out the fridge.
  • Easy Korean Beef:  I make it with ground beef and even throw in some quinoa to make it even cheaper. We eat it with rice and steamed broccoli. My kids love it!// My kids really, really love this one. It's really easy to put together and you can make it even easier by buying pre-made bulgogi sauce at the store. All you have to do is put some rice in the rice cooker. We love serving it with lettuce to wrap it up in. Yum.
  • Recipe Websites:  Have you tried,,, or I have to have 30min or less recipes for myself and my clients and those are few of my go-to resources.
  • Zuppa Toscana: We love potato soup and Toscana soup
  • Honey Mustard Chicken and Roasted Winter Veggies or Potatoes: Brown chicken thighs then place in pan. Mix together equal parts honey and Dijon mustard. Pour over chicken. 3 ways: add sliced Jalepenos for a kick, basil for the classic style or mushrooms and mozerella for a dressed up version. Salt and pepper. Bake at 400 for an hour. Turn every 15 minutes for equal glazing, if desired.
  • Chili and Bread: You can make it with canned beans that are cooked and soft already when you need to make it in a hurry. 
  • Pancakes and Eggs: Works once in a while for dinner. 
  • Homemade French Fries and Hamburgers
  • Baked potatoes: [Serve with] toppings or top with chili and cheese are also quick and easy.
  • Chili Mac: Add chile to macaroni and cheese for --that's something older kids can make on their own when you need a night off. 
  • Taco salad: Easy Peasy
  • Tacos
  • Homemade Pizza
  • Chicken with Rice
  • Pork Chops
  • Baked Potato Bar 
  • Twice Baked Potato
  • Rice Bowls
  • Tortilla Pizzas: On the griddle
  • "Goolosh": Quick and easy--rice, cream soup and whatever veggies and or meat you want.
  • Stews: They are nourishing, yummy and easy. Lentle stew, potato chowder, chicken noodle soup, broccoli chowder, beef stew (more expensive than most, but I look for sales and buy a roast cheaply then cup it up and cook it in a crock pot or pressure cooker). All the chowders can be dairy free by using coconut milk and or cashews.
  • Shipwreck Skillet (from the cookbook "Cheap Fast Good"): [Made from] hamburger, onion garlic bell pepper sautéed then cooked rice (we use quinoa sometimes) and Worcester and seasoning.
  • Chicken Curry: [It] has become a favorite easy meal and I cook it quickly and not do all the simmer time and it is still delicious. First I get 3 cups of rice cooking. Next, I purree an onion and garlic, chop up 2 chicken breasts, put them in a skillet with 1 tsp salt, 1/3 tsp pepper, 2 to 3 TBS curry powder, and 1 to 2 TBS coconut oil. I stir fry that and when the chicken is cooked I pour in one can of coconut milk (needs to be the thick canned stuff) and one medium sized can of tomato sauce, and 1TBS sugar. I let that boil for a couple of minutes and then serve it over the rice. We love it.
  • Ready to Go: I try to always have rice, corn chips, flour tortillas, onions, garlic, canned tomatoes, canned beans, canned coconut milk, canned corn, bell peppers, lettuce, and tomatoes on hand at all times because I can usually concoct something easy and healthy from some combination of them.
  • Bean Quesadillas: One of our favorites is to take tortillas (corn or flour, both work) refried beans, green chilies, and cheese. Mix the beans, chilies and cheese together. Spread over a tortillas. Top with another tortilla, or fold one in half. Toast on a griddle or fry pan. If you want to be unhealthy but decadent, fry them in oil instead of toasting.
  • Taco Soup: My taco soup recipe is meat free, and all from canned goods. 2 cans Kidney beans, 1 can corn, and 2 cans Mexican style stewed tomatoes. Mix with some taco seasoning and you're done. Serve with cheese, or sour cream and chips.
  • Kat's Lentil TacosThey are seriously so delicious! // This is one of my favorites. it’s super inexpensive, usually everything is on hand, healthy (if you don’t fry the tortillas ; ) ) and good enough to entertain with.
  • Steamed Potatoes and Smoked Sausage with Green Beans: Peel your potatoes and cube them up or you can keep the skins on, slice up a bunch of carrots or use baby carrots and a can or two of green beans. Then you buy the smoke sausage, has to be the smoke sausage , and you slice that up. The trick is you need a pan that steams. It's like a colander pan and so the steam is what cooks everything it doesn't actually boil or touch the water and you put the sausage over all the vegetables so that the juices run down over and give them flavor. Cook until the vegetables are done, put butter over everything and I like to use Mrs. Dash to season. It is delicious and feeds a lot of people.
  • Pinto Beans and Smoked Ham Hock (with corn bread): I don't always love crockpot meals because they taste all the same to me. But, I DO like crockpot pinto beans (which can turn into refried beans the next day), with cornbread. My cornbread recipe is a yellow cake mix plus 2 Jiffy corn muffin mixes. Maybe not super healthy, but the beans are at least.
  • Slow Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala: I love Indian food, and my kids love tikka masala. This is a good one!
  • Gnocchi with Zucchini Ribbons & Parsley Brown Butter: Another easy meal that's quick to throw together is anything with store bought gnocchi. It's so filling and yummy.
  • Turkey Breast and Crash Hot Potatoes: We also will get a pre-cooked turkey breast and serve it sliced with Crash Potatoes which may seem hard, but are really so easy my kids make them frequently.
  • Chinese Cabbage and Hamburger: So in desperation one day I made up a recipe and everyone liked it so we have it regularly now. I get a head of cabbage and slice it up so it is shredded. No need for perfection here. Then I dice an onion. I stir fry the onion a bit and add the cabbage. Cook tip soft. I add a little tamari sauce and some fish sauce--I don't measure. After that is cooked I set it aside and brown some hamburger also adding a bit of tamari (or soy sauce) and some fish sauce and some garlic powder. (Use as much or as little beef as you want. It adds flavor even when there is not much.) I then throw all of it together and serve over rice. Tastes like Chinese food.
  • Hamburger Gravy over Mashed Potatoes: My mom's go-to meals when all of the kids were at home was hamburger gravy over mashed potatoes and hamburger with cabbage. Brown hamburger, add chopped cabbage, saute til cabbage is soft.
  • Skillet meals: Hamburger/macaroni noodles/tomato sauce/topped with cheese and hamburger/potatoes/carrots/onions/beef bullion. 
  • Sloppy Joes
  • Chicken pockets: Chicken/cream cheese baked inside refrigerator croissants
  • Beef Stroganoff
  • Chicken with Dumplings: [Cook] in the crockpot with refrigerator biscuits 
  • Meatballs over Rice
  • Homemade Mac n' Cheese
  • Grilled Tuna or Cheese Sandwiches
  • Slow Cooker Bajio Chicken: My kids love this chicken in taco salad, burritos, etc.
  • Crockpot Chicken Fajitas: We just did these last night...every single child plus the missionaries gobbled it up. That NEVER happens!
  • More Soups: I love soups! Beans are cheap if you start from dry. I like to stock up when they are on sale at sprouts in the bulk foods. I hear Winco has cheap bulk food, too! I buy whole chicken's (which lately have been under $1/lb on sale) and I can usually get three large crockpot soups out of each one. If you use the beans or lentils you can stretch the chicken meat even farther and save some for casseroles and sandwiches. I use ground turkey instead of hamburger. (Hubby claims to tell a difference in taste, but I tell him I feel a difference in the wallet!)
  • Creamy Chicken Stew: Chicken breast, chicken stock, peas, carrots, potatoes, spices, with a roux to thicken it, and whole wheat drop biscuits. It took longer than I had planned, but it was cheap, we had all the ingredients, and it was pretty healthy!
  • Beans and Rice: My family is only five, so you will need more, but I use 3 cans of kidney beans (drained) and 1 Hillshire turkey sausage thingy. I put 1 1/2 cans of beans in 3 cups chicken broth with some spices. (Whatever you like, I use cumin, chili powder, garlic and thyme.) Mush the beans up with an immersion blender and then add the other can of beans. Bring to a boil and simmer for 20 minutes while frying the sliced sausage. Add the sausage to the bean mixture and serve over rice with green beans on the side. My whole family likes this.
  • Fajitas: Slice 1-2 onions and an equal amount of colored bell peppers (red, green, yellow, orange - your choice) removing pepper seeds. Slice up 1 lb. of either beef or chicken into thin strips. In a bowl combine 1 Tbsp. olive oil, 1 Tbsp. lime juice, 1 garlic clove minced, 2 1/2 Tbsp. fajita mix (recipe to follow) and add to the meat, covering it all well. In a large non-stick skillet over medium high heat, heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil. Add onions and peppers, stirring for 3-4 minutes until softened; transfer to a bowl and set aside. Add meat to skillet and cook, stirring 3-4 minutes or until they lose their red color. Return onions and peppers to skillet; stir for about 1 minute. Serve in warm tortillas, with toppings such as salsa, cheese, sour cream, etc. Feeds 4-6 people. Fajita mix (enough for 5 recipes): 1 1/2 tsp. chili powder, 2 1/2 tsp. cumin, 2 1/2 tsp. hot pepper flakes, 2 1/2 tsp. black pepper, 2 1/2 tsp. salt. Mix together in a bowl.
  • Crepes with Jam: [This] is another fun breakfast/dinner we do it with canned fruit or jam. Or if you've read a jam blend up the fruit and call it good.
Are your creative homemaker juices flowing? I know mine are!

As I finish my new menu for the Autumn season, I am looking forward to trying some of these ideas for our large family's dinners. 

If you have some dinner ideas you'd like to share, please comment below! I'd love to hear them!


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