Get Cooking: Easy Family Dinners

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Easy family dinners are possible if you know a few good recipes! Home cooked meals used to be a staple of American households. Before the advent of fast food, practically every meal was cooked at home. With today’s busy schedules, however, it can be next to impossible to find the time to prepare complicated dinners. Instead of resorting to eating out, there are plenty of meals that can use partially prepared ingredients that can be bought at the grocery store. For example, instead of spending hours cooking a chicken, buy a roasted chicken from your local deli.

Easy Recipes for the Family

Fortunately, there are a lot of easy family dinner recipes that are fun to prepare. In fact, a lot of dinners are healthy and so easy to make that the kids can do it. If you’re looking for some creative but easy dinner ideas for your menu this week, try these recipes.

Tacos

Tacos are a favorite quick easy dinner recipes for family because there’s no mixing of ingredients. Every component goes into a separate bowl or pan, and every member of the family can choose what they want. Start by browning one pound of meat or tofu. Ground beef is easy to make, but you might also want to consider using chicken or pork. While the meat is cooking, chop up tomatoes, lettuce, cheese, and peppers. Serve with sour cream, salsa, and/or guacamole.

Pizza

Just about everyone loves pizza, but store bought versions tend to use greasy toppings and skimp on the vegetables. Making it at home is an easy family dinner and a lot healthier. Use your favorite pizza dough recipe for a 16” pie or use refrigerated store-bought dough. Roll out the dough on a round pan, then add ½ cup to 1 cup of pizza sauce. Top with 1 to 2 cups of cheese. Add toppings, then bake according to the dough instructions.

To make everyone happy, have each of them “decorate” their piece of the pizza with toppings that they choose.

The World’s Easiest Crock-Pot Soup

This is a recipe that works best in a slow cooker. It can be packed with vegetables, making it a good way to get kids to eat well. Fortunately, it’s also easy enough for those kids to practically make by themselves. In fact, a lot of parents have their older kids make this easy recipe on their own when they get home from school.

Start by cooking one to two pounds of chicken, ground turkey, or ground beef. To make it really easy, just use whatever leftover meat you have in the fridge. For every pound of meat used, have the kids pick three or four cans of vegetables from the pantry or three to four small bags of frozen vegetables. Since they’re picking out the vegetables themselves, they’ll be a lot more likely to eat the final product. Have them pour the entire contents of the can (including the water) into the slow cooker with the meat. If you’re using frozen vegetables, add ½ cup of water for each bag poured in the pot. Cook on high for at least one hour, then reduce heat to low.

Once your kids have mastered the basic recipe for this soup, get creative. Try different combinations of spices (adding one tablespoon of garlic and paprika for each pound of meat is a good place to start). As they get older, it might also be a good idea to let them cut up leftover vegetables to add instead of canned vegetables.

Chicken Pot Pie Cups

Ingredients:

1 can of large, flaky-style refrigerated biscuits

1 cup of chopped cooked chicken

2 cans of mixed vegetables

1 can of cream of chicken soup

Directions:

  1. In a bowl, combine all ingredients except the biscuits. Mix well.
  2. Separate the biscuits and flatten each biscuit into a 6” diameter circle.
  3. Place each flattened biscuit into a cup on a greased muffin tin.
  4. Place about 1/3 cup of chicken mixture into each cup.
  5. Pinch dough at the top to seal mixture inside cups.
  6. Bake at 375 degrees for 22 minutes.
  7. When baking is done, carefully remove each mini-pie from its pan and serve.

Everything Salad

This is a really easy recipe if you don’t want to cook but you can’t convince everyone in your family to eat leftovers. Start by pulling out all the meat and vegetables that need to be eaten from the fridge. Have everyone pick the meat they want to eat, and heat them up in the microwave. Then, give each person a bowl of lettuce. Place their chosen meat on top, then have each one add the vegetables they want to eat in their bowl.

Don’t be deterred by unusual ingredients. Corn, strawberries, and even leftover tortilla chips can be made into a good salad. Encourage kids to try something they otherwise wouldn’t eat. If you have leftover bread, serve it on the side.

Taco Bake

Ingredients

6 cups of tortilla chips

1 pound meat (chicken, ground beef, tofu, and pork work well)

2 cups shredded cheese

2 medium tomatoes

1 bell pepper

Directions

  1. Brown meat in a skillet. If desired, season with paprika and chili powder to taste.
  2. While meat is cooking, lightly grease a 13 x 9 pan.
  3. Pour 3 cups of chips into the dish.
  4. Cover with one cup of cheese, 1 chopped tomato, and ½ of the chopped bell pepper.
  5. Remove meat from heat; pour half on top of the chips and vegetables.
  6. Bake at 350 degrees for 5 minutes, or until cheese has melted.

This recipe makes just about everyone in a family pretty happy. If desired, you might want to add chile peppers, lettuce, salsa, and sour cream after pulling the dish from the oven.

Breakfast for Dinner

Kids seem to love eating breakfast for dinner. Make an easy meal by melting cheese on toasted bagels, then pairing it with fresh fruit. You might also want to mix up a quick batch of pancake mix and pair it with sausage and fruit.

Make Your Own Sub

This is one of the easiest meals to make because kids can make it themselves. Start by buying sub rolls from your local bakery, or just use the bread you have on hand. Lay out leftover meat, cold cuts, cheese, vegetables, salad dressing and other condiments. This can be a great way to clean out your fridge and get rid of small amounts of leftovers that no one can turn into a meal on their own.

Have everyone pick out the sandwich toppings that they want to eat and stack them on their bread. If desired, serve with deli-prepared potato salad or coleslaw.

Spaghetti and Sausage

Ingredients

1 to 1.5 pounds of prepared sausage links

16 oz spaghetti noodles

24 oz spaghetti sauce

Directions

  1. Fill a 2 qt pot ¾ full with water and bring to a boil.
  2. While the water is heating, place sausage links in a skillet and cook on medium heat, turning occasionally.
  3. Pour noodles into pot, cook under tender.
  4. Pour spaghetti sauce into a small pot and heat on low.

This recipe is a lot easier than making meatballs, and just about everyone likes sausage. You might want to get different varieties to make everyone happy, though. Spicy turkey sausage might make adults happier than full fat mild Italian sausage.

Chicken and Rice

Ingredients

2 to 3 pounds chicken

2 cups rice

1 can cream of chicken soup

1/3 cup breadcrumbs

Directions

  1. Grease a 13×9 pan. Prepare rice according to package directions. You do not need to cook the rice. Pour rice into 13×9 (it will be watery).
  2. Layer raw chicken on top of rice.
  3. Pour soup on top of chicken. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs.
  4. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. If desired, pair this with a side salad or other green vegetables. For a lower calorie option, you might want to eliminate the breadcrumbs.

As you can see, it’s never too difficult to come up with simple, creative and healthy ideas for a homemade dish or two. Get cooking today, and bon appetit!

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