What to make for dinner when you are exhausted…
Okay guys, final blog post for 2018! I figured I better make it a good one and what is better than 3 super easy, “barely a recipe” dinners?
So here is the thing. I am tired. So very tired. No one really talks about the exhaustion that can come along with grief. I think the exhaustion is because grief is just all consuming, ever present and painful. There is space for nothing else.
I have been doing my best to cut myself some slack, keep expectations low and just focus on keeping my family moving along. I was so incredibly fortunate to have meals delivered by my friends every night for an entire month (!!!!) after I lost Thad. Seriously, a whole month! I AM SO LUCKY.
After that I knew that one of those spaces to ease up on myself was dinnertime. Family dinner is still a must but I just don’t have it in me to make multi step dishes with lots of planning… and clean up all the time. That said I don’t want to have my family eating frozen pizza every night, though there is a time and a place for that for sure. So how to still eat a thoughtful, healthful meal that takes little prep and a small grocery list (because let’s be honest going to the grocery is not high on list of things I want to do right now!) and tastes amazing? The answer is short cuts and quality ingredients. Grass-fed beef instantly makes a dish better as does a quality BBQ sauce. I keep a pantry and a freezer stocked so you only need a few things at the store. These three dishes have been in heavy rotation this fall!
But, before I get to the food, I wanted to thank you dear readers. Thank you for following along in this space that allows me to stay busy. I cannot adequately express the gratitude I feel for the support I have received from you all. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
We are traveling for Christmas, so while I will not be posting here until 2019 I may pop on Instagram to chronicle our travels, or I may tuck my phone in my pocket and leave it on silent… we shall see :)!
Okay, now the non recipe, recipes! Each dinner serves 4-6 with leftovers!
Quick Meat Sauce with Pasta (and maybe spinach)
Quite possibly one of family’s all time favorite meals. It tastes like amazing restaurant level food if you use high quality meat and jarred sauce.
- 2 pounds ground beef (we like grass fed best)
- 2 24 ounce Jars of your favorite marinara sauce (Rao’s is the BEST, in my opinion)
- 1 box of your favorite dry pasta (I like Jovial for gluten free)
- Grated parmesan
- salt & pepper
- Box of frozen chopped spinach (if you choose!)
Add ground beef to a large skillet that you can cover (like a le creuset) and season with with salt and pepper. Saute the beef on medium high heat until it is browned. Pour in the jars of marinara sauce, stir to combine. Turn heat to low and cover the pan.
While the marinara and beef is simmering together bring a pot of water to boil for the pasta. Go back and stir the marnina sauce. Cook the pasta to the packages directions. If you so choose stir in frozen spinach in the last few minutes of cooking to the pasta. Sometimes I can get away with this with my kids, sometimes I can’t! I like that it adds a green vegetable to the bowl.
Stir the marinara sauce again and then drain the pasta.
Portion out the pasta and top with the marnina meat sauce. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese if you like! It reheats well and the sauce freezes perfectly too!
BBQ Chicken in the Instant Pot with Ranch Coleslaw
This one is right out of the wonderful Melissa Clark’s playbook (Dinner In An Instant)- it is so delicious and SO easy. You could serve with brown rice on the side (which they have in the freezer section!), but my kids love it with corn tortillas!
- 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs
- 1/2 cup quality BBQ sauce (we love Bone Sucking Thicker Style)
- 1 Bag coleslaw mix (Trader Joe’s has a great organic one)
- 1 Bottle Brianna’s Classic Buttermilk Ranch Dressing
- Brown rice or corn tortillas (or chips!)
This is made in my best friend, the Instant Pot, but you could make in slow cooker too. See notes below.
Plug in your instant pot and turn on the saute function. Add in the BBQ sauce and reduce to a paste, about 3-5 minutes. Then fold in your washed and seasoned (with salt and pepper) chicken thighs. Turn off the saute function. Place lid on instant pot and turn valve to sealing. Set the instant pot for manual high for 15 minutes.
While the chicken cooks put the coleslaw mix in a large bowl. Pour on just enough ranch dressing to lightly coat. Toss and set aside.
Once the chicken is done allow for a natural release and then remove lid. Take chicken out and place in a separate bowl. Turn on the saute function and reduce the BBQ sauce. Shred chicken and once sauce has reduced pour over chicken and combine.
Serve chicken with coleslaw on the side- dinner is served!
Slow Cooker Method: Add BBQ sauce to the slowcooker and turn the heat on until it bubbles a bit. Add chicken and toss with sauce to coat. Cook on high for 4 hours and follow the rest of the steps above!
Roasted Chicken Sausage and Winter Vegetables
This is old standby- some of you may even enjoy this recipe from last year- we make this a lot too.
- 2 Packs of Chicken Sausage (I like the smoked kind from Mike’s Organic Delivery)
- 1 Bag of precut butternut squash (Trader Joe’s has organic)
- 1 Bag pre-washed and chopped lacinato kale (Also, Trader Joe’s has organic!)
- Olive oil
- Bragg’s Sprinkle Seasoning (this stuff is amazing)
- Maple syrup (real)
- Salt & pepper
Preheat oven to 450. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. On one lay out the chicken sausage and drizzle with a little olive oil. On the second sheet empty out the bag of pre-cut squash. Drizzle with olive oil, salt, pepper and a heavy amount of the Bragg’s Sprinkle. You want to really see it coated on the squash. Toss to combine.
Place both trays in the oven. Check both after 10 minutes, tossing the vegetables and turning the sausage. The sausage should be ready in about 25 minutes (total) once it is golden brown. Remove from the oven. When you take out the sausage remove the squash and toss again. Then drizzle a little maple syrup over the entire pan of squash. Pop back in the oven for 5 minute. Remove again and add the pre-washed bag of kale directly on top of the squash. Toss with tongs and place back in the oven for another 5 minutes or until the kale is wilted and browning at the edges.
Remove from oven and check for seasoning.
Serve the sausage on a bed of the roasted vegetables – done!
These keep it clean, fresh and healthy on nights I have no real interest in cooking. I keep the pantry items on hand, always have frozen ground beef, chicken thighs & sausage in the freezer- it makes it easy!