Family Dinner 2.0

I wrote last summer about how important it is to me for us to have family dinner together at the table (or counter) every night. For us all to sit down – sans devices – and enjoy a meal together.

In my post last summer, I highlighted a week in which I had managed to make dinner 5 nights in a row – which is truly a huge mom accomplishment in the “normal” world we used to live in. I did not comment or post earlier this year during the lockdown about the marathon of meal cooking that we did in our house, since I figured that all of you were probably doing the same things we were. Breakfast, lunch and dinner at home almost every day, with a few takeout meals here and there to help support our local restaurants when we could.

family dinner

Now that we are back into a somewhat more normal schedule with kids back in school – in whatever form that might be – I am going to highlight a week (+/-) of dinners that we had from September 8-16. During that time, we had 7 unique dinners and one lunch at home, ate out one night (but made lunch earlier that day), and only had one night of eating leftovers.

As always, I will point out that while I enjoy cooking and I don’t mind taking the time to put together meals that involve a little prep, I am also a big fan of using what I can to make dinner easy!

Need some new dinner menu ideas? Here you go!

Dinner #1: Broccoli Cheese Soup

These soup mixes are so good!

I love a good Broccoli Cheese soup – using one of my favorite Frontier Soups mixes from Lindsey’s store – and this one took less than 30 minutes! Sometimes we pair this with bread and butter, biscuits, rolls, or beer bread.

Dinner #2: Chili

Our family recipe for chili is so easy – and it was a great make-ahead crock pot dinner on a chilly day. We always have cinnamon rolls with our chili, and carrots and celery on the side.

Yield: 6-8 servings

Chili

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 6 hours
Total Time 6 hours 10 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs ground beef
  • onion
  • heaping tablespoon of flour
  • 1 large can V8 juice
  • 1 can kidney beans
  • 1 can chili beans
  • 1 cup prepared salsa
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • salt, pepper and garlic to taste

Instructions

1. Brown hamburger, add onions and saute until translucent, then add flour to coat

2. Transfer to crock pot and add remaining ingredients, cook on low for 6 hours or more (or cook all together in one large pot for an hour)

3. Serve with refrigerated cinnamon rolls and fresh carrots and celery

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

8

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 392Total Fat: 20gSaturated Fat: 8gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 10gCholesterol: 101mgSodium: 661mgCarbohydrates: 16gFiber: 4gSugar: 5gProtein: 35g

Dinner #3: Pork Roast

I put a pork sirloin roast in the crock pot, added onion, potatoes and carrots, and sprinkled with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, brown sugar, garlic, salt and pepper, and a little red wine.

Dinner #4: Honey Garlic Crock Pot Chicken Thighs

This yummy Honey Garlic Chicken Thighs recipe was great, with rice and frozen veggies that I made/heated up just before serving.

If you don’t have a crock pot in your kitchen – buy one now!!! My go-to is a 6-quart workhorse like this one, but I’m also a huge fan of our Ninja Foodi. (Contains affiliate links – I earn from qualifying Amazon purchases)

Lunch on Day #5: Jack O’Lantern Sloppy Joe Pie

To commemorate the kids and their dad pulling out our “Halloweentown” decorations and the unofficial start of fall in our house. We have used this Taste of Home recipe for years, and it is always a big hit!

Jack-O-Lantern Sloppy Joe Pie – always a winner in our house!

(Day #5 dinner was out to a restaurant after our youngest had her much-delayed dance recital that was originally scheduled for May).

Dinner #6: our epic Oktoberfest dinner.

My husband organized the whole thing, and this year we did a Sauerbraten roast (including pickling/larding it with bacon a day ahead) in the crock pot (a combination of two different recipes), hot German potato salad, Braised Red Cabbage with Apples (Rotkraut), and homemade pretzels. It was so amazing!

Sauerbraten roast, German potato salad, Red cabbage slaw, and homemade pretzels – all so amazingly good!

Dinner #7: leftovers

(My fridge was full).

Dinner #8: make your own taco night.

This is a go-to favorite in our house, and always a winner with my kids! I usually brown hamburger and onions, and do bowls of refried beans (I use dehydrated beans, but you can also use canned), diced tomatoes, avocado, shredded cheese and lettuce, with sour cream and salsa for everyone to add their own toppings as they choose.

Yield: 4-6

Make Your Own Tacos

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes

Ingredients

  • ground hamburger
  • taco seasoning
  • diced tomatoes
  • diced avocado
  • diced onion
  • chopped lettuce
  • salsa
  • sour cream
  • dehydrated refried beans
  • taco shells and/or tortillas

Instructions

1. Brown hamburger, drain

2. Add taco seasoning and 2/3 cup water, bring to a boil and simmer for 4-5 min.

3. Dice veggies and set in separate bowls for serving

4. Add water to dehydrated beans and prepare in sauce pan or microwave dish

5. Let everyone make their own tacos!

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

6

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 201Total Fat: 11gSaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 7gCholesterol: 18mgSodium: 362mgCarbohydrates: 18gFiber: 6gSugar: 3gProtein: 9g

Dinner #9: Spaghetti.

Another staple for us. I brown hamburger and/or Italian sausage with onions and garlic (sometimes I add other veggies I have on hand), add a jar of your favorite spaghetti sauce, and pour over noodles of your choice. On this night, we also had a no-lettuce salad (known by my son as “mom’s famous salad”) – a very simple side of diced tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, and thinly sliced onion drowned in Zesty Italian dressing.

If you missed it, I do sometimes make an easy homemade spaghetti sauce when I have a plethora of tomatoes from my garden. This year, we had an early freeze and snow, and my tomatoes did not do as well as usual. In case you were more fortunate, check out my recipe!

Yield: 6 servings

Easy Homemade Spaghetti Sauce

spaghetti!
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 3 hours
Additional Time 20 minutes
Total Time 3 hours 40 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 onion
  • 5-6 garlic cloves
  • 12-15 tomatoes
  • dried basil
  • dried oregano
  • salt pepper
  • 2-4 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup red wine
  • 1 lb hamburger

Instructions

  1. Chop onions and garlic
  2. Saute onions, garlic and spices in olive oil in a large pot
  3. Cut up tomatoes (you don't have to dice, just quarter and then halve the pieces) and add to pot
  4. Bring to a boil and simmer on low for 2-3 hours or more, until tomatoes have broken down
  5. Add butter and wine, and use immersion blender to chop up the tomato skins
  6. Brown hamburger, drain and add to sauce
  7. Simmer all those flavors together while you make the noodles
  8. Enjoy!

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

6

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 325Total Fat: 17gSaturated Fat: 8gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 7gCholesterol: 61mgSodium: 439mgCarbohydrates: 29gFiber: 4gSugar: 9gProtein: 15g

Friends, if you are anything like me, you have been struggling to come up with dinner ideas. These are a few that I have used, and I hope you enjoy them as well. Pandemic cooking has been an adventure this year. We all have staples in our dinner rotation. I try to come up with new ideas to mix in, and sometimes (like the Honey Garlic Chicken above) I literally do a Google search and use the first recipe that sounds good.

I consider 7 out of 9 dinners to be an epic mom win – and definitely a winning week of recipes and dinner ideas for our Weekly Recipe Wins series!

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