House & HomeMom's LifeThe KitchenWork and Passions

{ 40 comments… read them below or add one }

Shannon January 24, 2014 at 7:44 am

We do quesadillas too! We have a griddle that I love because it makes quick work of the quesadillas, among other things. Definitely should try the French toast more, it’s easy on the griddle too. You can make six pieces at a time. We always have pancake mix on hand so we do pancakes for dinner a lot. Bonus is you can make extra and freeze them. Once frozen you can take out a few and microwave. Now you have a dinner that’s even faster!
Spaghetti and those frozen ravioli are also staples in my house that my children love. It’s quick and salads can be done on the side for extra veggies.

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Sarah Powers January 24, 2014 at 7:57 am

Shannon, you’ve totally reminded me about using the griddle to do more at once! I have one and don’t always drag it out (for no good reason – it’s just tucked away and I forget). Thank you! This sounds terrible, but often I don’t do pasta because it seems like it takes too long. That’s how quick I need my cop-out dinners, I guess. But raviolis are usually super quick, huh? Hmmmm… Thank you!

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Cameron Cummings January 24, 2014 at 8:02 am

Pasta is a favorite for us too- one of my kids just likes butter and parmesan. I usually sauté mushrooms, a red pepper, steam some frozen broccoli, hope for leftover chicken (or even pork tenderloin), always have olives in the pantry- and everyone can kind of tailor their own. I usually keep garlic bread in freezer too. Similar ingredients can be used for quesadillas!

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Sarah Powers January 24, 2014 at 2:25 pm

Cameron, this sounds great! Thanks!

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Liz January 24, 2014 at 9:02 am

Breakfast for dinner is one of our go-to’s – either pancakes, french toast or eggs. The kids love it and we always have what we need on hand. We also do the classic grilled cheese and soup with cut up veggies or applesauce on the side, and pasta is a go-to as well. Sometimes with just butter and Parmesan, sometimes with jarred sauce or pesto if it’s in season. The best part about pasta for dinner is easy lunch leftovers for the kids’ thermoses the next day!

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Sarah Powers January 24, 2014 at 2:27 pm

Yes, agreed on leftover pasta for lunch! My husband isn’t a big pasta eater, but it works for the kids and me for sure.

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Claire January 24, 2014 at 9:06 am

Well, tonight is a good example: I have to take my son to his swimming lesson, and I won’t get home till almost 5:30. Since he’ll need playtime with Daddy, and I want him in bed by 8, that doesn’t leave me much time to cook. So my plan is that we’re going to have a “picnic” in the livingroom, roasting hot dogs and marshmallows on the fire (and I’ll have some grape tomatoes and baby carrots to add a symbolic element of health!).

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Sarah Powers January 24, 2014 at 11:32 am

Claire, thanks for this. I love that even though it’s easy/quick, you’re still planing for it. One thing I’ve tried to get better about is knowing in advance when we’ll be having a “cop-out dinner.” This makes me feel a little more intentional and less like I’ve let the family down or just ran out of time or didn’t plan well, you know?

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Claire January 24, 2014 at 11:37 am

Well, planning is second nature to me. I envy people who are able to fly by the seat of their pants when it comes to dinner (among other things!). Spontaniety is a huge challenge for me! I am not good at thinking fast.

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Sarah Powers January 24, 2014 at 2:26 pm

Which is weird, because I am a classic planner in other ways. Just not a meal planner (yet). :)

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jennielynn January 24, 2014 at 10:24 am

Pancakes, buttered pasta and box o’ mac are my usual cop-outs. I love the smorgasbord idea though. Definitely going to be trying that very soon.

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Sarah Powers January 24, 2014 at 2:28 pm

Thanks! I actually had kind of forgotten about that smorgasbord, too, and need to resurrect it here, too. I send the kids outside with the muffin tin and they think it’s the coolest picnic ever!

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Steph January 24, 2014 at 11:09 am

When my Dad was younger, he invented Macaroni and Eggs. I’m pretty sure we’re the only family that makes this, but basically you boil macaroni, and then add it to the pan with eggs, and you scramble them with the macaroni, some garlic salt or powder, and parsley if you want to get fancy. SO good. Serve some veggies on the side and it’s a quick and easy meal that my kids NEVER complain about!!

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Sarah Powers January 24, 2014 at 11:30 am

Trying this immediately. But WITH CHEESE. :)

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Caroline January 29, 2014 at 6:46 pm

It’s an Italian staple. We added peas too! Eggs peas and macaroni with parmesan cheese. It is called pastavisillio (I am sure that is spelled wrong) add the frozen peas to the pasts a minute or so before the pasta is done cooking. Yummy.

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lynne January 24, 2014 at 11:14 am

My kids have just started getting into yogurt and granola and it’s a great go-to. Protein, good carbs, and fruit from the jam we use to sweeten the yogurt. My daughter dipped her carrot sticks in the yogurt the other day – even better! Plain pasta and cut up raw veggies is another standard, sometimes we throw in a plain piece of cooked chicken. I can’t believe I never thought of french toast for dinner! Totally adding that to the list.

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Sarah Powers January 24, 2014 at 2:28 pm

Great idea – thanks, Lynne!

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Vanessa January 24, 2014 at 11:40 am

I can’t do anything in less than 20mins! Hubby is super picky, he has international tastes and a mother who slaved ALL day in the kitchen, so this grilled cheese kind of girl had to get creative. I try to plan ahead as much as possible to keep the time spent in the kitchen each night to a minimum and keep my cupboards stocked with our staples :P. While cooking Sunday or Monday I generally cook extra chicken (individually frozen breasts baked in the oven in chicken broth) so my meat is done. Then I just add it to whatever in on the menu. It really lessens the amount of time I have to spend each night and if I have any chicken left over I slice and freeze it to use later. Chicken fried rice with chicken corn soup are my fall back dishes, left over chicken and some rice and just sauté it up with lots of butter, garlic, ginger, soy sauce, frozen mixed veggies and an egg. Soup is just chicken, broth (usually left over from cooking the chicken earlier in the week) a can of cream corn and an egg mixed in after it all boils (sounds terrible but is yummy, think egg drop soup with finely shredded chicken and corn in it). But I use the chicken as a short cut for all kinds of meals, chicken and dumplings (Bisquick, chicken, and broth), el rozz con pollo (a Mexican chicken and rice soup, made with canned tomato sauce garnished with cilantro) I usually set aside some of the rice for fajitas later in the week, chicken pot pie (store bought pie crust filled with chicken, can of cream of chicken soup and a can of Veg-all).
I also freeze the gravy from one of the labor intensive dishes his mom used to make him, Biryani, then spread it on a bed of rice for nights when I haven’t kept the cabinets stocked with our usual staples for quick meals.

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Sarah Powers January 24, 2014 at 2:31 pm

Vanessa, we use leftover chicken in a lot of things, too. I should have mentioned that usually our cop-out dinners happen when my husband is traveling, as he also has different tastes than me and the kids (I’d be happy eating “kid food” 90% of the time :)). He eats extremely healthy (very little meat, dairy, and complex carbs, most of his diet is fruits/veg/legumes/lean protein) so it’s a different ballgame when we’re all home. I can relate!

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Vanessa January 24, 2014 at 4:37 pm

Oh, if is just me and the kids :P I have recently introduced one of my favorite childhood go-to dishes to my oldest, peanut butter and syrup. Roughly equal parts mixed together until whipped then we pinch little bites out of it with fresh white bread. Not sure how health it is but I still crave it as an adult! Otherwise we snack a lot on cheese and dried fruit like apricots, plums, raisins with crackers, enough to not have to actually cook!

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Joanell January 24, 2014 at 7:11 pm

Vanessa, if you want to “health up” the PB & Syrup (which I know is an awesome combo since that’s how I like my pancakes), try blending equal parts peanut butter (or almond butter) with non-fat plain yogurt & sweetening with agave nectar or honey (or even your syrup). I love it on cut up apple slices.

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Tawn January 24, 2014 at 2:22 pm

I’m a child nutritionist and I still have cop out dinners. I love your suggestions above. Black beans with chips and cheese is our go-to instead of quesadillas (and i can microwave a plate of them, one less pan to wash up!) “Bean dip” with layers of refried beans, salsa, sour cream, cheese, and other toppings we have on hand, again with tortillas chips. Breakfast for dinners, and then BLT’s, but often I don’t have both lettuce and tomato, but can subsitute cheese, avocado, sweet onions, etc for the lettuce and tomato. There’s nearly always carrots in the fridge and a can of fruit and we’re good to go.

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Sarah Powers January 24, 2014 at 2:31 pm

Oh, thanks for this, Tawn! Great suggestions!

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Ana January 24, 2014 at 2:52 pm

I love the macaroni and eggs idea…I’ll have to try that (DEFINITELY with cheese). Tacos/nachos with beans, frozen ravioli, hot dogs + veggie, spaghetti and sauce, and breakfast for dinner are big around here. Of those, the first is the only one the adults will also eat, though, but once they are asleep we have more time to cook something palatable.

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Meagan Francis January 24, 2014 at 3:00 pm

I’m all about the grilled cheese sandwiches over here. Pair ‘em with a veggie or a salad and it ALMOST feels like part of a real meal plan!

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Kara January 24, 2014 at 3:10 pm

Our family’s favorite cop-out is salami slices (nitrate/nitrite free please!), slices of cheese, with baby carrots and fruit. Everyone loves the nibbling and I find that those are the nights we sit around the table talking much longer. We also do it intentionally and fancy it up a bit with olives, grapes, etc. I try to always have a stash of salami because it’s also a cop-out lunch for my husband!

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Ericka January 24, 2014 at 3:21 pm

We make apple wraps. Whole wheat tortillas with peanut butter, apples and honey folded in half and smoothed on the countertop grill. We’ve used applesauce, buddy fruit, berries, and bananas when we were out of apples.

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Kristen January 24, 2014 at 4:21 pm

A big hit in our house is pigs in a blanket! All you need is the Pillsbury Crescent Roll dough, a slice of cheese and your favorite hot dogs (we use the Oscar Meyer Turkey dogs which are actually really yummy). Roll it up and stick it in the oven and voila!

Love the smorgasbord idea! Gonna try that one.

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Janet January 24, 2014 at 4:36 pm

Egg sandwiches are my favorite cop-out dinner: a fried egg and cheese between two slices of whole grain bread. Add some bacon, lettuce & tomato if I’m feeling fancy. I also always have tomato soup in the pantry – heat it up in a saucepan and serve with grilled cheese.

My other go-to cop out dinner is nachos. I cover a cookie sheet with tin foil, a layer of corn chips, then toss on whatever toppings I can scrounge up: rotisserie chicken, black beans, shredded cheese, tomatoes, black olives, salsa. Broil in the oven for a few minutes to melt the cheese. I usually then throw the pan in the center of the table and we eat with our fingers so cleanup is easy too.

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Tricia January 24, 2014 at 5:57 pm

We do either chicken or black bean quesadillas, bean and cheese burritos, pasta and sauce (butter or tomato) or Whetabix cereal with greek yogurt. All of these I serve with fruit and my boys think they are getting a special treat.

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Olivia January 25, 2014 at 8:11 am

We do veggie omelette, no fancy folding just scramble eggs with sauteed veggies and spices, cook until done on the bottom, then put it under the broiler to cook the top. Serve with a bag of sweet potato fries or fried plantains.

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Sarah @ Beauty School Dropout January 25, 2014 at 8:53 am

I made something similar to your smorgasboard and called it a “snack pack” and my son LOVED it. (Thank you, Diego!)

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Alison January 25, 2014 at 2:57 pm

1) Tuna fish, crackers, cheese slices, and whatever cold veggies or fruit I can chop up quick.
2) Grilled chicken on the Foreman. If I’ve been thinking a day ahead, I’ll trim up a whole package of chicken breasts just so I don’t have to later. Throw a breast sliced in half on the grill, sprinkle some seasoning on, and 7 min later the kids are raving. Nuke some Frozen broccoli, can of green beans, you know.
3) Cheese quesadillas and white or black beans on the side. My girls love black olives and mushroom right out of the can. That makes things SO easy!

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Regina S. January 25, 2014 at 9:53 pm

Pasta with bacon and peas – a quick version of pasta carbonara. Spaghetti pasta cooked with peas (saves a pot), drain it, then add cooked bacon and lots of grated cheese.

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Kelly R. January 27, 2014 at 1:23 pm

English Muffin Pizzas! I grew up on them and after reading this on Friday, I knew that is what I had to make. Whole wheat english muffins, jarred tomato sauce or frozen (whatever is on hand), and shredded cheese. a couple minutes in the toaster oven – and your done. My 3 year old loves to make them herself. Thanks for all the great ideas.

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Marjorie January 27, 2014 at 8:55 pm

I do the English muffin pizzas too! Stouffer’s is my official cop out meal. The lasagna or the rigatoni with chicken is pretty decent. Sometimes I will toast turkey and cheese sandwiches and slice up some sweet potatoes to make over fries to go with it.

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Beth January 28, 2014 at 11:14 am

I do smoothies for dinner. My kids love a peanut butter banana smoothie – 1 frozen banana, 1 1/2 TBS of creamy peanut butter, 1/4 cup of plain yogurt and 1/2 cup of low-fat milk. Also, my cop out veggie is frozen pureed squash. I microwave two packages with a little kosher salt, 2 TBS maple syrup and 1 TBS of butter. As you can tell, my kids like sweet and soft, smooth foods! Thanks for your ideas. I’m definitely going to use them this week with my husband traveling!

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ES January 28, 2014 at 4:45 pm

Love this post. Pregnant with my fourth and trying to fight off pregnancy problems with eating more protein, but the process of cooking wipes me out and gets my heart racing again. I like all your suggestions here too. Sometimes we will just have what I like to call a “fancy tea time meal” since I have 3 girls so far under 5 and sometimes they get frustrated with my cop out meals and say this isn’t dinner! They’re such girly girls and all about plating and variety as their gourmet cook daddy likes to go all out on nights he makes dinner. But if I throw out a bowl of mixed nuts for protein, some yogurt, some fruit, some vegetables, maybe a few crackers or sliced cheese, roll up some lunch meat into sticks, really whatever I can scrounge and brew some calming chamomile tea with honey that they love and call it a tea time meal, they don’t get as mad at me. haha! We’ve also done cereal and oatmeal nights and I try and throw something healthy on the side like fruit or something. We’ve also done plain old beans and rice or beans and quinoa, but rice is a huge pain in my opinion to cook. I think I need a rice cooker or something. it takes forever! But it is filling if you’re completely out of groceries and in a pinch to fill some bellies! Also very versatile as you can add whatever flavors you want to do. It’s always a good lesson for all of us on being grateful for what we have, even when it’s not our favorite or what we are craving. Tough for mommy to learn sometimes too when I’m pregnant and REALLY want something tasty, but can’t have it.

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Vanessa January 29, 2014 at 3:12 pm

ES, I couldn’t live without my rice cooker! You can steam veggies in it too :P
I thought of you all last night when my oldest and I had quesadillas, with sliced avocado, salsa, and sour cream. Just happened to have everything we needed and it was yummy. I think he ate more avocado than anything!

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pattie February 5, 2014 at 12:33 pm

I always have salad fixins’ on hand..so I make a big salad in the morning..cover it tightly then just before sitting down to dinner saute either chicken strips, steak strips or even pork…throw it on top…crisp up a little garlic bread and yumola dinner is served!

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