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3 Easy, Family-Friendly Weeknight Dinners | Recipes and Easy Meal Ideas

With busy schedules and long workdays, weeknights can be a challenging time to prepare a healthy and satisfying meal for the whole family. However, with some planning and creativity, it’s possible to make quick and easy dinners that everyone will enjoy without sacrificing taste or nutrition.

We’re focusing on EASY weeknight dinners that are big on flavor and small on time and ingredients. It doesn’t have to be a major time investment to feed your family, and many of the recipes included in this month’s column contain pantry items that are easily accessible, budget-friendly and absolutely delicious.

After all, why make busy weeknights any more hectic by fielding the dreaded “What’s for dinner?” question from your family. Let’s get started with the best weeknight dinners for your family!

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Easy Weeknight Dinners for the Whole Family

Savory Salisbury Meatballs and Mash

Serves 4-6 

Prep Time: 15 minutes 

Cook Time: 20 minutes

weeknight dinners

These savory and super tasty Salisbury meatballs are a family favorite when we want something warm and comforting in our tummies, without having to spend all day cooking. It’s truly a delicious meal the whole family will love!

Our family LOVES them served over mashed potatoes, but they are also perfect atop rice or egg noodles! This weeknight dinner recipe is easy to make your own, too, so feel free to swap out the meat with veggie or turkey meatballs for different options. 

Ingredients

For the meatballs:
  • 1 ½ pounds of 80/20 ground beef
  • 2 eggs
  • ⅓ cup Panko breadcrumbs
  • ⅓ cup ketchup (YES, ketchup. Trust me!)
  • 2 tablespoons mustard 
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1 teaspoon of the following:
  • Salt 
  • Pepper 
  • Garlic powder
  • Onion powder
  • Thyme
  • Chopped parsley
For the gravy:
  • 1 quart beef stock
  • 2 tablespoons beef base
  • ⅓ cup flour
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  • Step 1: In a large bowl, combine the above ingredients, mixing just enough to ensure they are well incorporated. 
  • If you find the mixture too loose to form meatballs with, add more Panko to the mixture.
  • Step 2: Begin rolling the mixture into meatballs that are about 1½ inches in diameter. 
  • You can certainly make them larger, if you prefer, though the size does affect the cook time. 
  • Step 3: Heat a large, nonstick skillet over medium-to-high heat (looking to sear off our meatballs), and add the cooking oil of choice. You don’t need a ton. We are just giving the meatballs somewhere to go. 
  • Step 4: Begin to sear meatballs in batches to get a good, brown crust on the exterior. 
  • Make sure to not overload your pan with too many meatballs at one time, or you may struggle to get a good sear. We want them crispy!
  • Step 5: Once all the meatballs have been seared off, reduce your heat to medium and add the flour to the drippings from the meatballs. 
  • Step 6: Whisk the fat and flour together well. 
  • Add beef base to mixture and allow to cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. 
  • Step 7: Pour the beef stock into the pan and whisk it all together. 
  • Allow stock to simmer, whisk once more, and add the meatballs back into the pan. 
  • Step 8: Continue to cook over medium heat for about 15 minutes, gently stirring every few minutes. Gravy should be thickened and meatballs cooked through. 
  • Taste and adjust the seasoning to your liking. 

Bacon, Artichoke and Spinach Pasta

Serves 4-6

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

We LOVE to have this garlicky, rich pasta alongside a simple dinner salad for a really nice, midweek meal! As with the other weeknight dinners listed, you can also get creative with the bacon (take it out or replace it with tempeh bacon!) and switch out the vegetables if you have a picky eater who doesn’t, say, like the taste of artichokes!

Ingredients

  • 1 pound pasta of choice
  • ½ pound bacon of choice, cooked and diced
  • 5 cloves, or enough garlic to make your heart happy; minced
  • 1 can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
  • 2 cups baby spinach, rinsed
  • 1 cup Parmesan cheese, plus more for topping
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional, but it gives a lovely hit of heat)
  • 2 cups pasta cooking water, reserved
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • 2 tablespoons Avocado oil

Step 1

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-to-low heat.

Add the bacon you’ve previously cooked.

Add garlic and sauté until it becomes fragrant, then add chopped artichoke hearts and allow them to warm through. 

Step 2: 

While the artichoke hearts are sautéing, prepare your pasta to package instructions, reducing cook time by two minutes. The pasta needs to be fairly underdone, as it will finish cooking as we build the sauce. 

Step 3: 

Over low heat, add the *par-cooked pasta, a cup of the pasta water, lemon juice, crushed pepper flakes and spinach; toss together. 

*Par-cooked: To partially cook food.

Step 4: 

Stir in egg yolks and Parmesan cheese. 

Allow to cook over low heat for another 3-5 minutes, gently tossing the pasta regularly until the cheese has incorporated into the pasta water* to become creamy. 

*If the sauce is reducing faster than the pasta is cooking through, add more pasta water in ½ cup increments, and continue to simmer.

Step 5: 

Using tongs, toss the pasta together to ensure even sauce coverage. 

Once the pasta is fully cooked, taste to check the seasoning level and adjust as needed. Then serve – viola, one of your weeknight dinners is done!

Easy Rotisserie Enchilada Bowls

Serves 4-6

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

weeknight dinners

It doesn’t get much easier than this recipe for a quick and tasty dinner on a busy evening. I usually put out all the toppings, and then everyone goes through and builds their own bowl to their personal specs… which means a stress-free dinnertime for me! This delicious recipe also contains simple ingredients that shouldn’t go too hard to find. The ability for everyone to make their own ‘perfect dinner’ makes this one of our favorite weeknight dinners!

Ingredients

  • 1 package taco seasoning of choice*
  • ½ Costco rotisserie chicken, meat removed and shredded
  • 1 can Las Palmas Enchilada Sauce, roja or verde, both are DELICIOUS!
  • 1½ tablespoon Knorr’s Caldo de Tomato Bouillon 
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • Refried or whole beans of choice, prepared however you like.
    • I usually simmer my whole beans with a couple of tablespoons each of avocado oil and prepared taco seasoning, a good squeeze of lime, some salt and pepper, and enough chicken stock to cover. 
    • Let simmer for about 10 minutes, taste for seasoning/adjust if needed, and serve.
  • Rice of choice, prepared to package instructions … with a twist (see Step 1 below)
  • Any and all burrito toppings you would possibly want!
    • We LOVE Herdez brand Guacamole Salsa, shredded cheese, sour cream, pico de gallo, my pickled red onions, fresh avocado and cilantro. 

*I make my own, but there’s ZERO shame in using convenience foods … however, if you want to try it, I’ve included the recipe for my homemade taco seasoning below. 

Basic Taco Seasoning Recipe

  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon Knorr’s Caldo de Tomato bouillon
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon ground paprika
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder 
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper

This recipe makes enough for one batch, or one taco night. Feel free to double or triple the recipe for later use!

Step 1: 

Prepare rice to package instructions, adding the juice of lime and bouillon to the recipe. 

Step 2:

Heat a large skillet over medium heat, and add the Las Palmas, taco seasoning and shredded rotisserie chicken.

Mix the chicken well to coat it all in the sauce, and simmer for about 15 minutes, or until the chicken is heated through. 

Step 3:

Once rice is prepared and fluffed, begin to assemble your individual bowls and top as you like!

Whipping up delicious and nutritious weeknight dinners doesn’t have to be a daunting task. With a little creativity and some simple recipe ideas, you can create satisfying meals that are both easy and quick to prepare. The key is to find recipes that appeal to your family’s taste buds and dietary needs, and to make mealtime a fun and stress-free experience for everyone. So go ahead, get creative in the kitchen, and enjoy some delicious weeknight meals with your loved ones!

Kim Lehr

Kim Lehr is a bar/restaurant industry veteran who owns The Accompaniment Co. and is obsessed with all things pickled. Most importantly? She’s a wife and mom who wants to feed her family more healthful, wholesome, flavorful, and creative meals. Join her to share some of those meals and her small batch, local products with your family’s table.

read all of kim’s articles here.

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