5 Quick Dinners for Busy Weeknights

Between running children to school and activities, weeknight meals can be a challenge. It is hard to resist the urge to run to the fast food restaurants on many of the crazy nights during the week. Slow cooker dishes can be key in planning meals on those nights. The other key? Having just a few dinners that can be pulled together easily with ingredients already on hand.

I wanted to share with you 5 of my favorite dishes for busy weeknight meals. These dishes are fast, simple, and delicious. These are always in rotation in my menu plans and are just a few of my family’s favorites!

Skillet Ziti With Chicken & Broccoli

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast, sliced into 1″ pieces
Salt and pepper
3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1 onion, minced (we omitted this due to personal tastes)
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
3 garlic cloves, minced
8 ounces ziti (2 1/2 cups)
2 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup heavy cream (I substituted this with half & half)
1 bunch broccoli (1 1/2 pounds)
1 cup jarred roasted red peppers, rinsed and sliced 1/4″ thick (we omitted these due to personal taste)
1 ounce Parmesan cheese, grated (1/2 cup)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (optional)

Pat the chicken dry, then season with salt and pepper. Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in a 12″ skillet over medium heat. Add the chicken and cook until it is lightly browned, but not fully cooked, about four minutes. Transfer chicken to a bowl. Add 1 more tablespoon of the butter, onion, red pepper flakes, oregano, & 1/2 teaspoon salt to the skillet. Cook until the onion is softened, about five minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 15 seconds. Sprinkle the ziti evenly into the skillet. Pour the broth and cream over the ziti. Cover and bring to a boil, about five minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low and stir in the broccoli and roasted red peppers. Cover and continue to simmer, stirring occasionally, until the pasta begins to soften and the broccoli turns bright green (approximately eight minutes). Stir in the chicken and any accumulated juice. Cover and simmer until the chicken is cooked through, about three minutes longer. Stir in the remaining 1 tablespoon butter, the Parmesan, and lemon juice (if using). Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Yummy Sloppy Joes

1 lb ground beef
1 cup chopped onions (I omitted these because I don’t like onions)
1 cup ketchup
1 tablespoon mustard
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

In a large skillet, brown beef with onions (make sure to drain or rinse your meat after this step). Mix the rest of the ingredients together. Add to beef and onions. Cook for 1 hour over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Serve on warm hamburger buns.

Chicken Broccoli Lo Mein

8 ounces thin spaghetti (if linguine is available, I prefer this over the spaghetti)
2/3 pound skinless, boneless chicken (3 chicken breasts, thawed overnight)
1 cup fresh button mushrooms
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 bag frozen broccoli pieces
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1 tablespoon ketchup

Cook pasta as directed. Clean & chop mushrooms. Heat oil. Cut chicken in bite size pieces. When all the chicken is cut, add it to the skillet. Add mushrooms and broccoli to the skillet. Cook for five to six minutes or until mushrooms have released their liquid and chicken is cooked through. Add soy sauce, vinegar, and ketchup. Stir to combine. Add cooked pasta and serve immediately.

Bow Ties With Sausage, Tomato, & Cream

1 (12 ounce) package bow tie pasta
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 lb Sweet Italian Turkey Sausage (removed from the casing)
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (can omit/decrease if your family doesn’t like spicy dishes)
1/2 cup diced onion
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 (28 ounce) can Italian-style plum tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1 1/2 cups heavy cream (or half & half to save on calories)
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Cook pasta in boiling water for 8 to 10 minutes, or until al dente; drain. Heat oil in a large, deep skillet over medium heat. Cook sausage. Stir in onion and garlic, and cook until onion is tender. Stir in tomatoes, cream, and salt. Simmer until mixture thickens, 8 to 10 minutes. Stir cooked pasta into sauce, and heat through. Sprinkle with parsley.

Whole Wheat Cinnamon Waffles

1 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup unbleached flour
1/4 cup toasted wheat germ (I substituted this with 1/4 cup rolled oats)
1/3 cup instant nonfat dry milk powder
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs (separate the egg whites from the egg yolks)
3 tablespoons canola oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups buttermilk (I used regular milk and then added 2 tablespoons of vinegar & let it stand for five minutes)

In a large bowl, combine the whole-wheat flour, unbleached flour, dry milk, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, wheat germ, and salt; mix well. Separate the egg yolks from the egg whites. In a medium bowl, mix the yolks, oil, buttermilk, and vanilla. Pour over the dry ingredients. In a small bowl beat egg whites until stiff peaks form (tips stand straight up). Gently fold egg whites into flour and egg yolk mixture, leaving a few fluffs of egg white, Do not overmix. Coat your waffle iron with vegetable cooking spray and preheat. Pour 1/2 cup
of the batter into the center of the hot waffle iron and cook until the batter stops steaming, about 6 minutes. Cooking time varies according to the they type of waffle iron you have. Repeat with remainder of the dough, applying the cooking spray between waffles. Serve warm with your favorite syrup.

Do you have a favorite busy weeknight meal to share? What meals do you rely on to get dinner on the table quickly?

Published September 21, 2009 by:

Amy Allen Clark is the founder of MomAdvice.com. You can read all about her here.

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