I love to cook special meals but hate to cook the mundane meals that are required day to day. The challenge is not only making something healthy for your family but something they enjoy as well. It is so often hard to accomplish both criteria especially when the some of the best and easiest meals are not so healthy. My feelings on healthy meals is to try and make them as healthy as possible the majority of the time but from time to time you just have to rely on what tastes good and is quick and easy. I am going to share some of the quick and easy meals that I cook often and some that come up on occasion just for the pure pleasure of eating something yummy.
1. Goulash – This is a family recipe that has been passed down to me that continues to be a quick and reliable crowd pleasing meal. It is so very simple yet so tasty. I use ground chuck because we love the flavor and it does not even come close to the grease content that the plain ground beef has but it is totally your preference.
1 lb. ground chuck
1 small onion
1 8 – 10 oz package of macaroni or some form of pasta
1 to 2 cans of petite diced tomatoes
Salt and Pepper to Taste
Chili Powder to Taste
Brown the meat and onion together in a large skillet and pour off the grease. While you are browning meat prepare the macaroni. Add a can or two of tomatoes based on your families taste. Salt and pepper to taste. Add the prepared macaroni to the hamburger and tomato mixture and stir. Add chili powder to desired taste.
I know this sounds simple but it is really a wonderful dish. We usually have a loaf of French bread on hand and add a salad or vegetable to complete this meal.
2. Beef Stroganoff – This is another family favorite that I make from time to time that happens to be a favorite of my son in particular. I am not sure if it is just because he loves pasta of any kind or it is the combination but this is one he requests often.
1 lb. boneless top round steak (or hamburger)
2 tablespoons flour
2/3 cups water
1 tablespoon cooking oil
1 tablespoon (or to taste) Worcestershire sauce
1 – 1 ounce package of onion soup mix
1 – 4 ounce can of mushrooms (not drained)
8 ounces of sour cream
1 large package of egg noodles
Slice steak into thin strips, dredge in 1 tablespoon flour and set aside. Combine remaining 1 tablespoon flour and 1/3 cup of water and set aside. Cook the steak in 1 tablespoon (more or less as needed) cooking oil in large skillet until brown. Add remaining 1/3 cup water, the onion soup mix, and the mushrooms. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes. Add flour and water mixture set aside above stirring constantly until thick. Add the sour cream and Worcestershire sauce and heat thoroughly but do not boil. Serve over cooked egg noodles.
This can be served with a salad or vegetable on the side. It is not difficult and makes a nice hearty weekday meal.
3. Easy Lemon Baked Chicken – We love this chicken, it has great flavor and it is a healthier alternative to all the beef but it does not take a great deal of time and effort to prepare. I generally use fresh boneless chicken breasts or thighs but sometimes if I am in a pinch I always keep a sack of frozen chicken breasts on hand for just this purpose. It is wonderful served with any type of rice or mashed potatoes. Broccoli makes a wonderful side or any type vegetable to round out this meal.
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (or adjust for family size)
1 egg, slightly beaten
¼ cup lemon juice (bottled or freshly squeezed)
½ teaspoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
4 – 6 tablespoons butter or low-calorie butter
Italian flavored bread crumbs
2 whole lemons (optional)
Set your oven temperature at 350 degrees. Melt 4 – 6 tablespoons butter in oven
proof baking dish to fit breasts. Beat egg, lemon juice, garlic powder, and Worcestershire sauce together in bowl big enough to dip the chicken breasts in. Dip your chicken breasts into the egg mixture and coat with Italian flavored bread crumbs. Place chicken in baking dish with melted butter. At this point I slice up fresh lemon and place it on the tops of the breasts but this is optional. Depending on the size of your breasts and thickness bake approximately 15 minutes and then turn over and bake 15 more minutes. I turn them and put the slices back on the other side. At this point I sprinkle on some capers for the last 15 minutes.
4. Crunchy Tacos – This has been a family favorite since I was a young person and it is still a big hit in our house. Of course it depends on your family and whether or not they like cabbage but I would suggest giving it a try especially if you like slaw. It is a wonderful alternative to regular tacos for a change in pace.
½ pound ground chuck or beef (adjust as needed for family size)
½ cup of chopped onion
1 – 16 ounce can of diced tomatoes
(I usually triple the following slaw recipe for my family of four as we are big eaters, but not the salt, it stays the same!)
2 cups of cabbage
2 teaspoons cider vinegar
2 teaspoons salad oil
½ teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon salt
Brown the ground meat with the onion and pour off excess grease. Add the tomatoes and salt and pepper to taste.
You can either shred a head of cabbage or use bagged cabbage that is pre-shredded and add the vinegar, salad oil, sugar, and salt. The above amounts are from the original recipe. I often add more vinegar and sugar and taste as I go along because my family likes things a little more vinegary and sugary.
You can use soft taco shells or hard. You can eat them just with the meat mixture and the cabbage or as we often do, spread sour cream on your shell first, add the meat, put a little shredded cheese on and then add the slaw. They are just wonderful!
5. Sausage Pilaf – Here is a wonderful old recipe I got from my mother-in-law years ago that we still love today. It is another recipe that is easy to throw together at the last minute. You can make this one healthy or not so healthy depending on the kind of sausage you use. I often use turkey sausage but sometimes we splurge and use the regular smoked sausage links. Once you get it into the skillet it only takes 20 minutes to cook.
1 pound smoked sausage (you can double this if your family likes more meat)
1 small onion chopped
½ green pepper chopped
2 small stalks of celery chopped
2 – 16 ounce cans of diced tomatoes
1 ½ cups of water (water varies, see below)
1 cup of rice
Cut sausage into bite size pieces and brown in large skillet. Pour off any excess grease. Add the onion, green pepper, celery, tomatoes and rice to the skillet. The amount of water varies, what you need to do is to drain off the juice in the tomatoes into a measuring cup. Since the rice is one cup rice to two cups of water when you prepare it that is what you are aiming for. Measure the juice and add water to make two cups. Add it to the skillet, stir well, and bring to a boil. Place a lid on it and cook like you would your rice for 20 minutes on low heat without lifting the lid or stirring.
I hope that your family likes at least a couple of these recipes because these are such friendly week day or weekend recipes that will definitely not stress you out. Please give them at least one try and hopefully you will have a couple of new easy meals to put into your rotation. Enjoy!
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