Home-cooked meals have many benefits over takeout or processed foods. It allows you to control and use more healthy ingredients and use less sodium and preservatives. Cooking at home can also save money compared to eating out. Most importantly, gathering for a home-cooked meal is a great way to connect as a family. However, cooking dinner every night can be a real challenge for busy adults.
The good news is that with some easy recipes and preparation, anyone can make quick, delicious dinners for their family.
1. Pesto Pasta with Chicken or Shrimp
Begin this flavorful pesto pasta dish by bringing a large pot of salted water to a boil. Once boiling, add 8-10 ounces of pasta like farfalle or rotini, and cook according to package directions.
While the pasta cooks, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 8 ounces of diced chicken breast or medium shrimp and sauté for 3-4 minutes until the protein is cooked through and opaque. Remove the skillet from heat and stir in ¼ cup of prepared basil pesto sauce.
Drain the pasta once al dente and immediately toss it with the pesto chicken or shrimp mixture in the skillet. To serve, transfer the pesto pasta to a platter or individual bowls. Garnish with freshly grated parmesan cheese and torn basil leaves for a delicious, quick weeknight dinner.
2. Spaghetti Alla Puttanesca
For a classic Italian dish with a burst of flavors, this recipe of spaghetti alla puttanesca from cucinebyelena.com is a must-try. Begin by heating 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add in a finely chopped onion and shallot, letting them sauté until they’re soft and aromatic. Next, incorporate a large, finely chopped garlic clove, and if you like a touch of heat, throw in ½ teaspoon of red pepper flakes. After a minute, pour in a 28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes, followed by either 5 finely chopped anchovy fillets or a tablespoon of anchovy paste, depending on your preference. For added texture and a Mediterranean kick, mix in ½ cup of pitted black olives and 2 tablespoons of drained capers. Allow the sauce to gently simmer for about 10 minutes to meld the flavors together.
As the sauce works its magic, bring a pot of water to boil, seasoning it generously with salt. Add in 1 lb. of spaghetti and cook it until al dente. Once cooked, drain the spaghetti, but remember to set aside ⅓ cup of the pasta water. Combine this with your simmering sauce, stirring them together for an even consistency.
Finally, toss your spaghetti in the rich sauce, ensuring each strand is lavishly coated. Before plating, sprinkle a handful of finely chopped fresh parsley for a burst of color and fresh flavor. Serve up this traditional Italian masterpiece with a slice of rustic bread, and transport your taste buds straight to Italy.
3. Sheet Pan Chicken Fajitas
For easy chicken fajitas with tender meat and perfectly charred veggies, arrange 1 pound of sliced chicken breast, 1 sliced red bell pepper, 1 sliced green bell pepper, 1 sliced yellow onion, and 1 sliced zucchini on a large rimmed baking sheet. Toss the chicken and vegetables with 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 teaspoon ground cumin, 1 teaspoon chili powder, 1 minced garlic clove, and the juice from 1 lime. Use tongs to evenly coat everything.
Roast the sheet pan of ingredients at 450° F for 15-20 minutes, tossing halfway, until the chicken is cooked through and vegetables are tender with nice char marks. While the chicken cooks, warm 8-10 small flour or corn tortillas by wrapping them in foil and placing in the oven for the last 5 minutes.
When the chicken and vegetables are done, assemble fajitas by placing the hot chicken-veggie mixture into the warm tortillas. Serve with your choice of toppings like guacamole, salsa, shredded cheese, sour cream, or shredded lettuce.
Baked Salmon with Asparagus
For a simple baked salmon dinner, begin by preheating the oven to 400° F and lining a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Next, toss 1 pound of fresh asparagus spears with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, ¼ teaspoon of salt, and ¼ teaspoon of black pepper to evenly coat. Arrange the asparagus in a single layer on one-half of the prepared baking sheet. Roast the asparagus for 10-12 minutes, until bright green and just tender when pierced with a fork.
While the asparagus roasts, pat dry 4 6-ounce salmon fillets and brush them with olive oil. Season the salmon with salt, pepper, and any other desired spices like garlic powder or paprika. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and carefully place the salmon fillets on the empty side. Return the pan to the oven and bake for 8-10 minutes more, until the salmon is opaque and flakes easily with a fork.
The salmon releases juices and flavors that perfectly complement the roasted asparagus. Serve this simple baked salmon dinner with brown rice or quinoa for a balanced, nutritious meal.
5. Stir-Fry with Pre-Cut Vegetables
For a quick and easy veggie stir-fry that comes together in minutes, begin by preparing your ingredients. Heat 1 tablespoon of vegetable, peanut, or sesame oil in a large wok or deep skillet over high heat. Add 8 ounces of bite-sized pre-cut chicken or shrimp and stir fry for 2-3 minutes until nearly cooked through. Move the protein to one side of the wok. To the cleared center space, add your choice of fresh or frozen, pre-cut vegetables like 1 cup broccoli florets, 1 cup thinly sliced carrots, 1 cup sliced bell peppers, 8 ounces sliced mushrooms, 1 cup snap peas, and ½ cup diced water chestnuts. Stir fry the crisp vegetables for 4-5 minutes, tossing them constantly.
Once the vegetables are tender-crisp, add ¼ cup stir fry sauce or teriyaki sauce to the wok. Return the protein to the vegetables and toss everything together until evenly coated in the sauce. Serve the quick and easy stir-fry over white or brown rice. The pre-cut vegetables make this a super-fast, healthy dinner.
With a well-stocked pantry, some easy recipes, and ingredients like eggs, cheese, and vegetables on hand, anyone can make simple, satisfying dinners for their family. Getting dinner on the table quickly doesn’t have to mean takeout or processed foods. All it takes is a little planning and some easy homemade recipes.
Use these weeknight-friendly dinner ideas for tasty, nourishing meals that will bring your family together. Home cooking is worth the effort!