This post is by Sarah Powers, Happiest Home contributor and Managing Editor, and blogger at Powers of Mine.
There is no shortage of dinner inspiration online. Scrolling through my Instagram feed, I see one friend’s colorful chopped vegetables ready to go into a hearty soup and someone else’s beautifully plated pork tenderloin with mashed potatoes and green beans. Pinterest brings recipe searching to life with gorgeous photographs that lead to one lovely food blog after another.
But do you know what we don’t see much of online and in social media? Cop-out dinners.
Look, everyone! I made grilled cheese again! or Check out the perfect shade of orange on this box o’ mac!
It just doesn’t have the same appeal, does it? It’s sort of the culinary equivalent of sharing pictures of your kids with runny noses, or your hamper overflowing with laundry, or the back seat of your car. We all know that the reality of busy family life means there are nights where dinner isn’t anything special, but we don’t really talk that much about it.
But if you ask me, there’s actually something really useful, encouraging, and helpful about knowing what other moms make for dinner with life is rushed and babies are pulling on your legs and you haven’t been to the store in days. We all have those meals we pull out of nowhere and serve without fanfare for the sole purpose of putting food in front of our families. And while they may not be dinners we take a picture of and share with our friends, there’s something of value in them nonetheless.
So for the sake of transparency, and to get a little conversation going (I hope!), I’m going to share four of my “cop-out dinner” standbys. For me, a cop-out dinner meets these requirements:
- I already have the ingredients on hand and haven’t had to shop specially for them
- I do not need to follow a recipe
- I can go from conception to table in 20 minutes or less (there are lots of great “quick meals” out there, but if they don’t also meet those first two criteria, they still require forethought and recipe-following and thus are not true cop-out dinners)
I am willing to bet that your go-to quick meals are different than mine, and maybe we can even help each other out by sharing ideas in the comments. I’ve included very brief recipe instructions with each idea, because even though these are no-brainers to me, I won’t assume they are for you.
Black Bean Quesadillas
I eat quesadillas more than I’d like to admit. I think the black beans make them a little healthier and more of a meal. The kids are cool with it, so off we go.
- Ingredients: can of black beans (rinsed), tortillas, shredded/grated cheese
- Preparation: place one tortilla on a frying pan over medium-high heat (I don’t grease or spray the pan, but you could); spread grated cheese and black beans evenly over the tortilla and place a second tortilla on top; when cheese is melted and bottom tortilla browned, flip once and continue cooking on the second side
Years ago, a pediatrician recommended French toast to my mom as a go-to meal for picky eaters. Because it combines whole grains (if you use whole wheat bread), eggs, and milk in one bite, you’re already better off than a lot of other processed or packaged food. Also? French toast for dinner = awesome.
- Ingredients: eggs, milk, bread, cinnamon (optional), butter and syrup or jam for serving
- Preparation: in a shallow bowl, beat eggs, milk, and a sprinkling of cinnamon together by hand with a fork (I use a roughly 1:1 ratio of eggs and milk; 3 eggs and about a cup of milk will make about 6 pieces of French toast); melt a little butter in a large frying pan; dip bread in egg mixture and flip to coat; fry bread for a couple of minutes on each side
I did this on a whim one time and the kids loved it. They totally ate WAY healthier than they normally would, just because I presented them so many options in a different format (the muffin tin). And it may not look like “dinner” in the traditional sense, but if you look at the nutrients and food groups, it’s all there!
- Ingredients: assorted cold single-ingredient finger-foods, cut into bite-sized pieces; some examples: cashews, almonds, cheese, berries, apples, hard-boiled egg, deli meat, crackers, raisins, dried fruit, carrots, cucumbers, cherry tomatos
- Preparation: arrange ingredients in a muffin tin or small bowls and allow kids to serve themselves!
Scrambled Eggs & Toast
We don’t eat eggs for breakfast very often during the week, so scrambled eggs for dinner feels like a treat and everyone likes them.
- Ingredients: eggs, bread, butter, cheese (optional)
- Preparation: crack eggs into a bowl and whisk with a splash of milk (optional); pour mixture into a lightly buttered frying pan over medium-low heat; allow eggs to cook slowly, stirring frequently; when eggs are no longer runny, sprinkle cheese over eggs and mix to melt; serve with buttered toast
These are not Pinterest-worthy meals, my friends. But they are real life, mom-to-table, kid-friendly fare. And in most cases, they’re more cost-effective, faster, and healthier than hitting up the drive-thru or ordering a pizza. Serve with a side of fruit or baby carrots and call it a day.