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Recipe Roundup: Easy Dinner Ideas

Just to be clear, I am no food blogger. I'm a food lover. In fact, one could say eating is a personal hobby. I can get down on a dive bar burger and a five-star steak with equal panache.

Cooking (and grocery shopping) is enjoyable for me, but honestly at times it just feels like one more thing I have to do. Mop the floor, Cinderelly. Fold the clothes, Cinderelly. Cook dinner, Cinderelly. Now that Harlow is eating solids, I can't just whip together Kraft Mac 'n' Cheese or tell Mike he's got a dinner date with Honey Bunches of Oats.

So here's what I value in a recipe: high on taste and nutrition, low on prep work, equipment, and cooking time. If I need a food processor, I'm out. These three recipes pack lots of flavor without adding stress to my tight schedule. BTW, I'm going to link the original recipe and just highlight certain aspects/steps...mama ain't messing around with copyright.

MEXICAN CAESAR SALAD WITH GRILLED SHRIMP

I found this recipe via Real Simple and I'm hooked! I have to force myself not to cook it every week, but I did recently share the love and make it for some friends of ours who just had the sweetest baby boy! (Hi Eli! Harlow says hello!)

  • Keys: You HAVE to include and toast the pepitas! They make such a difference, and they're also one of the healthiest foods you can eat (as of today, you know that stuff changes every other day).

  • I've always used Granny Smith apples instead of jicama and they add such a perfect note of sweet and sour.

  • Feta or Cotija works well; I have a hard time finding authentic Cotija cheese but I do love me some affordable feta!

  • Switch out romaine for a more nutritionally rich variety, like a spring mix or baby kale. I absolutely use the pre-bagged, pre-washed salad greens.

BLACK BEAN & STEAK SALAD

With all of the online recipes available, I rarely shell out for a cooking magazine. My mom picked up a copy of a recent Cooking Light and I've found SO many amazing recipes in it! It's taught me to give their printed copies another look-see in the grocery aisle. Anyhoo, ways to adapt this protein- and veggie-rich salad.

  • Keys: Save time by buying Seeds of Change microwavable quinoa packs. Quick and healthy. Done and done.

  • I'm sorry, I hate top sirloin. I default to flank steak if a nicer cut isn't specified.

  • Other easy switches I make: bottled OJ for fresh, agave nectar for honey. It really boils down to convenience and/or preference.

SPAGHETTI WITH TURKEY MEATBALLS

Another new fave from that same copy of Cooking Light mag. Mike's been training for a Spartan race, so he's all in on the Friday night carbs before weekend runs and, eventually, the race. We also have the most delicious fresh basil growing in our back "yard" which makes cooking Italian a must. I've always heard fresh herbs far outclass their grocery store cousins, and boy, they weren't lying.

  • Keys: This recipe comes with a built in hack: instead of making homemade meatballs, just buy (organic) Italian turkey sausage and reshape the links into balls. Amazing taste, no messy breadcrumbs or eggs.

  • Publix sells Greenwise Italian chicken sausage so I use that instead of turkey. Tomato, to-mah-to.

  • This is a go-to budget dinner for me. I use whatever noodle or sauce is in the cupboard, so don't feel beholden to fettucine. That being said, I do prefer a wider pasta like fettucine or pappardelle when possible.

  • Sometimes red sauces give me heartburn. Last Friday we made this with the following adjustments:

  • Heat oil and garlic, then add the sausage links and break them up in your pan

  • When they're almost done, add quartered cherry tomatoes and a bag of baby spinach. Put the lid over your pan until the spinach is just wilted. Remove from heat.

  • Plate your noodles, then serve the sausage, spinach, and tomato mixture over top. Finish with a sprinkle of basil and parmesan cheese.

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