The alternate headline for this post was “10 of the Best Basic (Lazy) Mum Meals.” But seeing as how I am triggered by any insinuation, even jokey ones, that mums are lazy — because, hello, the mental labour we do while sleeping just to figure out how we are going to get Child 1 to and from soccer while Children 2 and 3 have piano, basketball, a giant hole in their sneakers, and an ongoing breakdown about a “sore elbow” — we went with this instead. (Plus, dads do a lot — we see you! — and they deserve easy meal ideas, too.)
It is reasonable — not lazy — if we don’t have the bandwidth to create culinary masterpieces every freaking night, don’t you think? So, raise your hand if you are not a domestic god or goddess who meal-plans in advance and always knows what’s for dinner. All ye who stare into the deep abyss of your refrigerator every night at five o’clock and softly whisper “Fuck!” — we’ve got you.
Here I shall bequeath you 10 of the easiest and quickest healthy recipes I know (short of hot dogs, DoorDash, or just eating cheese, all of which I also find acceptable). And listen: This is not another “Easy Weeknight Meals!” article featuring deconstructed pear pork chops. No ma’am, we know you better than that.
Truly juicy breaded chicken
This may seem obvious to some, but I can assure you it was not to me when I began this terrible journey of providing nightly nourishment to other human beings. To get some tender-loving chicken, try the below.
Use thighs. You hear me? Thighs, not breasts, if you want actual moisture-retention and flavour. In a small bowl, beat one egg. On a plate, combine roughly a cup of bread crumbs, dashes of salt and pepper, a half cup of grated parmesan cheese, and (optional) a few sprinkles of curry or other preferred spices.
Dip the chicken in the egg, then saturate on both sides with the bread crumb mixture. Heat olive oil in a pan over medium-high heat. Place the chicken in said pan, and heat for one to two minutes. Flip the chicken; cover and heat on low for ten minutes. And this last step is important! Turn off the heat, but leave the chicken covered — seriously, don’t lift the lid — and let it sit for another ten minutes before enjoying this never-dry chicken.
(Pro tip: Let picky, chicken-hating children dip it in ranch dressing. Ranch fixes most things.)
Honey-rosemary pork chops
Take 450 grams of butterfly pork loin cutlets (or just regular chops that you thinly cut) and cover with a few tablespoons of olive oil and honey, pinches of salt and pepper, and about a tablespoon of rosemary. (450 grams of chops works for my family because my children largely subsist off of pretzels and air; adjust amount according to your family’s appetite.)
Mix thoroughly with tongs. In a pan lightly coated with olive oil, cover and heat on medium-low heat for 1-2 minutes each side. Voilà: Protein is served.
(Note: The liquid left in the pan makes a great addition to any rice or mashed potatoes you may serve alongside. I suggest the quinoa and brown rice packets sold at Costco that heat in the microwave in 90 seconds. Add some frozen veggies, and all of a sudden, you’re looking like Martha Stewart’s cousin.)
This one honestly seemed too easy to even include, but what are we here for if not the painfully simple? Thaw two to three pieces of frozen salmon in warm water (or hot water if, like me, you have 5 minutes to get this show on the road before your kid steals another unsanctioned pre-dinner snack from the pantry). Heat, flesh-side down in olive oil over medium-high heat for one minute. Turn heat to low, flip to skin-side up, sprinkle with salt and pepper, cover and heat another 10-ish minutes. You’re done.
If you have lemon, squeeze some of that bad boy on top. If you have sour cream and honey mustard, mix those in even amounts for a dipping sauce. If you have neither of those things, just eat the damn salmon plain — it’s good for you. Give yourself some chocolate after to reward your Spartan efforts.
(Also: Frozen tater tots or sweet potato fries pair well with this complicated flavour profile.)
Painless pasta and meatballs
Step number one: always have one or two packages of frozen meatballs in your freezer. Always. Heat them. Boil pasta. Combine. Toss with olive oil and shredded parmesan, tomato sauce or a few spoonfuls of pre-made pesto (also sold at the Mothership, aka Costco). Throw in a bowl of frozen peas, and you might just be ready for your own cooking show.
Not-your-mama’s meatball sliders
Another fun way to eat meatballs (which, while not the quickest, are extra delicious if you make them from scratch) is inside a slider. Use your bun of choice (mini brioche or Hawaiian rolls are both good options). Combine heated meatballs, heated spaghetti sauce, and a slice of provolone or mozzarella cheese inside the bun and boom. Sliders are born.
(For a holiday-themed twist, check out these easy Thanksgiving-themed sliders, pictured above.)
Ridiculously easy cashew chicken
Chop 450 grams of chicken into 2 centimetre pieces. (What cut of chicken? Thighs, of course!) Cover and sauté over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Once cooked through — about ten minutes, use your judgment — add a few tablespoons of soy sauce and a cup of unsalted cashews. Use small spoonfuls of corn starch, as necessary, to thicken the sauce. Throw in some broccoli if you’re feeling fancy. Eat with rice.
OK, this one you need an hour for, but it’s an easy hour. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius. Drizzle drumsticks with olive oil, hefty pinches of salt and pepper, and about a tablespoon each of onion powder, garlic powder, and the key ingredient — cinnamon. To quote my super-formal recipe: “Mix around in bowl ‘til those puppies are covered.”
Place on baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake 30 minutes. Flip and heat another 30 minutes. Hello, moderately salty drumsticks with a hint of sweetness.
Stupidly simple stir-fry
Heat small pieces of meat — chicken, steak, or Korean beef tips — in a pan (or in a wok, if you are graced with enough space in your kitchen to store one). Add a few tablespoons of soy sauce and a dash of brown sugar, if you like (or pre-made teriyaki sauce). Toss in some frozen vegetables, pre-cooked rice, and a beaten egg until it’s fried. Boom. Done.
Trouble-free taco salad
Brown a pound of ground beef in a skillet over medium heat until no longer pink. Add 1-2 tablespoons of taco seasoning and a splash of water, let simmer another 3-5 minutes. Drain meat and add to a bowl of pre-washed and chopped lettuce. Add shredded cheese, broken tortilla chips and toss with your salad dressing of choice. Serve with sour cream and avocado as desired.
(Optional: Add a can of drained black beans and drained corn, if tolerated by the littles.)
No easy dinner round-up would be complete without mention of the ingenious glory that is the snack dinner. Load up a large cutting board with a combination of protein and kid-favourites, such as salami or prosciutto, cheese squares, hummus and baby carrots, mixed nuts, baby dill pickles, apple slices, blueberries, and the piece de resistance: crackers. So. Many. Crackers. You will have an insane amount of crumbs on your floor after everything is turned into a “sandwich,” but it’s fine because for once, they won’t be complaining.