I cook dinner at least five nights a week, and while there's no shortage of food blogs or cookbooks in our house (or phone calls to my mom for any one of her famous recipes), I still find myself struggling keep the weekly menu mix interesting, ethnic and easy.
Now, I'll share my hours of labor, testing and research with you. Haven't gone to the grocery store yet? Good. These seven recipes will change the way you think about week-night dinner.
Cajun Chicken Spaghetti Squash Bake
One hour, serves 6
Lighten up this classic pasta dish with spaghetti squash for an extra serving or two of veggies, without the Monday morning bloat. To cut down on time and effort, substitute for rotisserie chicken, instead.
Kitchen tip: For perfectly roasted spaghetti squash that looks more like its pasta cousin, slice the gourd into 1-inch thick rings. Knife out the seeds, place the disks on a roasting sheet, lightly salt on both sides and roast at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes. Once cool, peel away the skins and separate the long strands.
Coconut Butternut Squash Soup
Two hours, serves 8
Don’t be turned off by the cooking time here; most of that is spent roasting the squash. To save some time, opt for frozen butternut cubes. Let them defrost and roast for less time than you would raw. You’ll want to keep this in your regular Meatless Monday rotations. New York Times Well columnist Tara Parker-Pope’s cozy winter veggie soup uses kale and red onion to cut through all that squashy sweetness. The result is just perfect for these chilly fall nights.
Herb Roasted Pork Loin
55 minutes, serves 4
Until this year, I was intimidated by pork loin. Every time I’d made pork chops, they came out dry and chewy, and my pulled pork always came out too sweet. The other white meat and I really aren’t friends, until I met the boneless loin. Cook this roast low and slow (that is, low heat for a long time), and you’ll be rewarded handsomely.
The herbs here are interchangeable. Experiment with more peppered blends heavy on the peppercorn, or try something Italian by upping the garlic and nixing the rosemary in favor of oregano.
One Skillet Paleo Mediterranean Chicken
45 minutes, serves 4
This is a favorite on regular rotation in my house. One-pot pans are already great, but what really makes this dish awesome is how interchangeable these ingredients are. Don’t like olives? Sub chickpeas. Can’t find sun-dried tomatoes at the store? Fire roast some bell peppers at home quickly. The original is delish, but you’d be surprised how far a little creativity can take this flavorful meal. Again, feel free to sub rotisserie chicken here.
Turkey Meatloaf with Spinach and Mozzarella
One-and-a-half hours, serves 4
Upgrade grandma's recipe for this visually stunning (and moist, delicious, complex, healthy) turkey meatloaf. Our only recommendation here is to sub out the ketchup topping for a marinara or arrabbiata sauce. And if you're worried about rolling, fret not! You can mush all the ingredients together and stick in a pan – it's all the same.
Kitchen Tip: If you're reheating last night's meatloaf leftovers, "shingle" layer slices in a roasting pan, and pour some vegetable or chicken stock in there, too. Cover tightly with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 30 minutes.
One Sheet Pan Shrimp Fajitas
20 minutes, yield 4 fajitas
Is Fajita Friday a thing? It should be, and you should definitely celebrate the end of the week with these spicy, succulent 'jitas. Definitely don’t skimp on the lime here, and for an extra treat, add some avocado. At home, it never costs extra. Serve with salad with a lime vinaigrette or with rice and beans for a more filling option.
Who wants to slave away in a kitchen all day Saturday? Stick everything in a slow cooker and walk away for 8 hours. By the time you get home, voila! Dinner's on the table and everyone will think you spent the whole day cooking.
Indian cooking is often difficult, but The Kitchn streamlined many, many steps involved in this rich dish. Once you have the spices, it comes together in a snap. Serve with steamed rice and some raita to cut through the spice.