My worst nightmare hits about 5 o’clock if I have no plan and nothing thawing for dinner. The natives are getting restless and to be honest, would be perfectly happy snacking all evening. But, that just doesn’t fly. My brain is toast, I am tired from the day, and at this point I just want dinner to cook itself. Right?! Been there?!

So I have a plan, and a few contingency plans too, to make sure dinner happens:

Yes, I know, I don’t love this task either. But, I do love having a plan and not having to think come 5 o’clock each weeknight. So in my world, meal planning is less evil than not meal planning. In the past I have used a meal planning service and that was heavenly. Since then, meal planning services have only gotten better. One to check out now is called Real Plans. They have traditional, paleo and vegetarian options, grocery lists are provided and you can move things around to your liking.

  • Utilize the Crockpot.

Quite possibly my favorite tool in the kitchen, particularly in the winter. For me, Thursday night is my least favorite night to cook and my solution is to make it a crockpot night. By the time 5pm rolls around I don’t have to cook and I get an extra hour in the evening to hang out with my kids and play. Win-win. Needing some new inspiration for the crockpot? The standbys in my kitchen for years have been “Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker Cookbook” and “Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker Cookbook for 2″.

  • Don’t Underestimate the Power of the Skillet.

Ground meat or sausages, greens and veggies of choice, plus potatoes all sautéed in fat of choice. Add in a little broth for more moisture (if needed), season to taste and you are done. Endless possibilities with such a simple template. The best one-pot meal ever. Well, except for soup.

  • Soup!

You all are making broth on a regular rotation now, right? If not, then it is time to get started! Once you have broth, it takes just 20-30 minutes to create a little magic in your kitchen and also facilitates option #2. In our house, soup is on the list at least once a week and more in the fall and winter. To keep things simple, soup is how I clean out my fridge from the veggies not yet used, throw in a protein of choice and voila!  Dinner is done. Did I mention I like to keep things simple? I sometimes add in beans, rice or gluten free pasta (and that makes the natives super happy) too. Mix it up! My favorite source for soup recipes? Nourishing Traditions (seriously, you MUST try the seafood soups/stews).

  • Thai Green/Red Curry

We are the rare house that doesn’t make a whole lot of stir-fries, but we do make a whole lot of curries. This works so well for mild flavored fish (that we have two full freezers of right now) making it a regular feature on our dinner table. Red curry works beautifully with salmon. Below is the template we use:

Thai Green Curry 

2 T coconut oil
1 1-in knob ginger, grated
2 shallots, peeled and finely sliced
1 – 1.5lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts or white, light-flavored fish (chopped into bite-sized pieces)
1 T Thai Green Curry paste
2 C coconut milk (1 can Native Forest)
1 T fish sauce
2 limes, quartered
4 scallions, sliced thin
1 bunch stir-fry greens of choice, chopped and washed
1) Melt oil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over a moderately high flame.  Stir in shallots and ginger, frying until fragrant.  Then stir in chopped chicken breasts and cook through. (if using fish wait until step 2)
2) Whisk in curry paste, coconut milk and fish sauce and simmer, uncovered for about 5 minutes.  If using fish, stir in fish and continue to simmer until just barely cooked through.
3) Add in greens and cover pot.  Allow greens to wilt (2-3 minutes) and fish to finish cooking.
4) Serve over rice or riced cauliflower garnished with quartered limes and sliced scallions.

 

Double bonus is that all of these dishes allow me to sneak more veggies into everyone. I am all about efficiency and getting in more greens without fuss is a win-win. Shh! Don’t tell!

So, how do you feel about dinner?  Ready to go make something amazing?  What are your dinner hacks?  Share in the comments below!