Add New Recipes to Your Dinner Plans (Without a Fuss)
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Raise your hand if you tend to stick to the same few tried-and-true dinners, night after night. When you’re balancing work and family, who can blame you?
Here’s how to expand your list of go-to recipes, while still getting a meal on the table in 30 minutes or less. Rule No 1: Pay attention to why your family loves their favorite foods and branch out from there. For example, if rich, comforting, mac and cheese is their jam, liven things up by adding an adjacent flavor, such as veggies with cheese sauce (you can find the recipe below). Rule No. 2: Premade soups and/or sauces will save you ample time when you’re in a rush. See how Campbell's Cream of Chicken Soup works magic as a foolproof stand-in for cream sauce in the one-pot spaghetti carbonara recipe (also below). Rule No. 3: Allow yourself to experiment and have fun!
Broadening your culinary horizons is easy. Read on for inspiring ways to liven up your weeknight meals in 30 minutes or less.
If your favorite part of “Lady and the Tramp” was the spaghetti scene, you’re in good company. But try a fresh take on the dish by swapping in zucchini and marinara sauce. This mouthwatering recipe from Cuckoo Kitchen, which takes just 20 minutes to throw together, features springy, juicy zucchini spirals as a stand-in for traditional pasta. Simply pour canned marinara sauce over your fresh veggies, add cherry tomatoes and basil, and you’re done! This recipe calls for tempeh crumbles as an alternative to meatballs, but you could just as easily go without (or crumble parmesan cheese atop the sauce as a finishing touch). If you don’t have a spiralizer to make zoodles, don’t worry: You can use a vegetable peeler to shave off ribbonlike zucchini noodles in no time.
2. If everyone loves the Italian place around the corner … try:
Spaghetti Carbonara is irresistible, but it can involve a lot of mess. Who has the energy to cook pasta, sauté pancetta and whisk together a sauce, all in separate cookware, on a weeknight? Instead, try cooking pasta in the sauce, and save time with the ultimate cream sauce hack: premade cream of chicken soup! This recipe is a fantastic cheat to get the same smokey flavor and velvety texture of traditional carbonara, but with less elbow grease.
3. If your crew craves pasta Alfredo … try:
This delightful recipe ingeniously substitutes classic pasta Alfredo's cheese sauce with pureed squash and whole milk instead of cream. While you’re certainly welcome to chop and roast squash as explained here, you can save time by buying pre-baked, pre-chopped frozen squash and popping it in the microwave for a minute. Simply mash and blend with the whole milk and cheese over the stove, as called for here, add seasoning, and toss with your pasta of choice! It will be creamy and satisfying like pasta Alfredo, but slightly more interesting.
4. If they only ever want mac and cheese … try:
I know that cheesy vegetables don’t sound nearly as comforting as macaroni and cheese, one of the most beloved American foods of all time. But hear me out: Soft, steamed cauliflower and broccoli loaded with buttery cheese sauce is reminiscent of mac and cheese’s signature flavor. This version just sneaks a few more vitamins in. You can still get this easy meal on the table in half an hour, tops. Enjoy with a side of rice and some lean protein, like roasted chicken breast.
5. If you love takeout curry but balk at making your own…try:
Thai chicken curry has got to be one of the most delicious dishes of all time, but it doesn’t exactly scream “easy weeknight meal.” However, this shortcut changes the game: It cuts the prep time down to just 30 minutes by using premade cream of mushroom soup as a base. Instead of simmering spices on the stove for hours, you only have to add spices and vegetables to a rich, readymade broth. Plus, this hearty version bulks up a traditional curry with satisfying additions like spinach and sweet potatoes, making it a sensible, filling dinner.
6. If cheddar cheese is always a hit.... try:
Cheese is easy to love. Broccoli is…less so. Yet the two play well off one another, somehow making the other even more delicious. When you long for nachos or queso but want to be healthy, try savory broccoli soup to get the creamy, cheesy flavor you crave. Totaling just 35 minutes of cook time, this recipe is a cinch to throw together on a weeknight. Try using an immersion blender to puree the broccoli and emphasize the cheese flavor.
7. If you love juicy stuffed peppers… try:
Stuffed peppers look fancy, taste great, and are easy on the waistline. However, preparing them takes significant time and effort. This deconstructed version skips the fuss while tomato soup adds nuance. All you do is sauté the dish’s classic ingredients, including onion, turkey sausage, and bell peppers, then add cooked rice and condensed tomato soup to the same skillet. Top with mozzarella cheese, which melts on its own. In just 30 minutes – and with one pan – this delicious comfort food will be ready to serve.
8. If you long for French fries but want something healthy…try:
These crunchy baked zucchini sticks are a light, DIY alternative to the original fry. Zucchini’s neutral flavor mimics the taste of potatoes, and it behaves similarly to the starchy root vegetable when breaded and baked. Instead of ordering greasy French fries (or attempting messy deep frying at home) you can recreate everyone’s favorite snack in just 30 minutes. Simply slice zucchini, dredge it in eggs, cheese, and seasoned breadcrumbs, and roast for a healthy, filling, and crispy entrée. Pair it with scrambled eggs for an easy, fun dinner!