Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Confessions of a Newlywed Cook Part II: Using Simple Recipes

Yesterday I wrote about meal planning for busy working women and I confessed that sometimes we eat completely processed easy dinners like hot dogs!! I promised that I would follow up with a list of my favorite SIMPLE recipes. The only way we can cook most of your weeknight meals (as opposed to sandwiches, frozen pizza or takeout)  is to avoid weeknight recipes that are too complicated and too time consuming. As I said in my last blog post, try that complicated multi ingredient recipe from Southern Living on the weekend or when you have time to prep ahead, but 6:30 pm on Tuesday is likely not going to work. Your stomach will be growling and you will either fill up on snacks while you take too long to cook dinner, you’ll rush through important steps and ruin the meal or you’ll give up due to exhaustion and hunger and just make a sandwich!!  PLUS, no one who has worked an 8-10 hour day wants to come home and work 2 more hours in the kitchen!

I generally try to make 1-2 new recipes a week and keep the rest of our meals to simple "go-to" recipes that we have made before, I know we will both eat and that are easy!! If I make a recipe that has a lot of ingredients or several different steps (like enchiladas or casseroles), I usually make ahead and freeze.

So here are our favorite EASY meals:

Breakfast Wraps

  • Tortilla wraps
  • Scrambled Eggs
  • Cooked Bacon, turkey sausage, etc
  • Shredded cheddar cheese
  • Veggies
  • Saran wrap
Sometimes on Sunday, I will cook a bunch of eggs and turkey sausage and make 10 or so “premade” breakfast wraps for us (this will last us a couple weeks!) You literally put cooked eggs, meat, cheese and any veggies you like in a tortilla, wrap with saran wrap and FREEZE. You can then pull a wrap out in the morning, remove the saran wrap and heat up for a couple minutes in the microwave. I use turkey sausage and low cal wraps so it keeps the wraps between 200-250 calories. Plus Dave likes "real" breakfast instead of cereal. Although he doesn't demand I cook daily warm breakfasts, I like being able to give that to him when I can. Premade wraps makes it easy for me to do that, especially since he can heat one up while I am in the shower!

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Muffins

  • 1 box of spice cake mix
  • 1 can of pumpkin
  • 1 cup of semi sweet morsels
  • muffin/cupcake holders
Mix all three ingredients together and fill into a lined muffin tin. Each holder should be 2/3 full. Bake on 350 for 15 minutes.

This is not as fabulous as your mamma's homemade, from scratch, pumpkin bread, but for what it is - a 3 ingredient recipe- it’s delicious and simple. AND with no oil, eggs, better, etc, it’s fairly healthy!  I suggest keeping all the ingredients in your cupboard in case you need to bring a last minute snack to a meeting or want to make a fall breakfast! It definitely tops slice and bake cookies! ALSO, I recently learned that you can store muffins in a zip lock bag and pull them out, pup them back in the muffin tin to reheat in the oven. This is great news as Dave and I cannot eat all the muffins before they are gone! I have a bunch of pumpkin muffins from this weekend to try this "reheating" method...I'll let you know if it’s a success!

Cheese it chicken

  • Cheese its
  • Sour cream
  • red pepper
  • pepper
  • chicken
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut chicken in to strips. Mix some sour cream, red pepper and pepper in a bowl and set aside. Then put 2-3 cups of cheese-its in the blender or food processor until it’s a powder. Pour the powder into a separate bowl. Dip the chicken strip into the sour cream mixture and then into the cheese-it powder and place on a baking sheet. Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes. VOILA, a healthier version to chicken tenders! Serve with veggies or slice some potatoes and make fries!

Easy Chili

A friend gave me this recipe years ago....It's the easiest chili I have ever made, and although I have made better recipes that take a bit more time and preparation, this is my "go to" for a quick meal because it doesn't take long and I can even tell Dave to start browning the meat before I get home. It also makes a big batch and I freeze the rest so that we can eat it the next week.

  • Large jar of tomato sauce
  • 1- 1.5 pounds of ground turkey or lean beef
  • 1 can of diced tomatoes
  • 1-2 cans of black beans
  • 1 packet of taco seasoning
  • Possibly add other veggies like peppers, etc if you want

Brown the meat. At the same time, heat up the tomato sauce and stir in the diced tomatoes, seasoning and black beans. Once the mixture is boiling, add the cooked (drained) meat. Let it simmer on low for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve with cheese, sour cream and maybe corn chips!

*Bonus: if you use ground turkey (or even very lean beef), this is not a very fattening meal! Also, picky eaters will love this recipe because its not full of too many veggies.

Italian Chicken

  • 2-3 cans of green beans
  • 4-6 chicken breasts (I usually cut them in strips)
  • Several new potatoes, cut into pieces
  • 1  stick of butter, melted
  • 1 packet of Italian seasoning
Preheat oven to 350. Cut up your potatoes. Place the green beans on one side of a greased baking dish (9X13) and the potatoes on the other side, with the chicken strips in the middle. Pour the melted butter and Italian seasoning on top. Cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake for 60 minutes at 350 degrees.
For 2 people, just cut this recipe in half, I do that and we have enough for dinner and one person gets leftovers for lunch.

Parmesan Zucchini

  • 3 Zucchini, cut in long thin slices like fries
  • ½ c Parmesan cheese
  • 1-2 eggs
  • ½ c bread crumbs
  • ½ tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp oregano

Preheat oven to 425. Spray a cookie sheet with cooking spray. Cut your zucchini into pieces.  Fix two different bowls – one bowl with 2 whisked eggs and one bowl with shredded parmesan and bread crumbs, garlic powder and oregano – or if you don’t want the carbs, just the cheese, garlic and oregano!!  Dip the individual zucchini pieces in the eggs, then place in the cheese mixture.  Set the cheese topped zucchini on the cookie tray and bake for 10-15 minutes at 425 degrees.

Dave doesn’t like zucchini, but I have been making this recipe for years.  Zucchini is one of my favorite veggies and I love parmesan cheese. During my 2 months as a SAHW, I would cook this for myself at lunch most days because I knew Dave wouldn’t eat it at dinner. Delish and easy - the perfect side dish!

Coconut Chicken

*This is Dave's favorite because he LOVES coconut!

  • unsweetened coconut
  • bread crumbs
  • chicken breasts, cut in strips
  • flour
  • 2 eggs
  • milk
  • salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400. Spray a cooking sheet with spray. You need 3 bowls: one bowl with equal parts bread crumbs and coconut with a dash of salt and paper, one bowl with whisked eggs and splash of milk and one bowl with flour. Dredge the chicken strips in the flour, then the egg mixture and finally, in the coconut mixture. Place the strips on the cookie sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes and flip halfway through the baking!

At first I felt guilty about "easy" recipes -- surely I should be working on my cooking skills, but the truth is, some of my favorite meals growing up weren't complicated at all (YAY tacos and spaghetti!).  I'll keep trying to make some facier dishes -- but not every night can be a feast, life is busy and sometimes tasty meals are spending less time in the kitchen leaves more time in the evenings for us to curl up on the couch and watch tv or a movie!!

 TUNE IN tomorrow and I will share about the essentials we keep in our kitchen for weeknight meals!


  1. Great post. Check out my blog. I have some great and easy recipe's too. Feel free to try them

  2. Katy, I've just got to say that you're such a sweet wife. These recipes look great . .. I'm super impressed by your planning!

    Thanks for sharing

    ~Emily from The Orange Slate

    1. Ha, I'm a planner by nature and if I don't plan, we will eat PB&J every night ha! Thanks for brunch last week, it was wonderful! We will have you over soon!