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Entries in weeknight dinners (39)


Clutter to Calm: Meal Planning and a Recipe Binder

If there is anything busy parents need, it’s a “go-to” recipe for dinner every night. Ever since we started meal planning, and compiling a binder of our favorite recipes, it has made dinner time enjoyable.

The nice thing about having meals planned for the next seven days is that even if Monday is “Spaghetti Bake with Garlic Bread” and you don’t have a taste for that after a long day at work, you have six other meals to choose from AND you know you have all the ingredients on hand.

So every Sunday, I sit down with our recipe binder and take a look at new recipes, something we haven’t had in a while. I then take a very unofficial poll of the family members and ask “What do you have a taste for?”

I list out the days and note anything special going on each night and any nights that we might be eating out or going out with friends or having family over. Next step is to write the meals along with any ingredients we need. These are added to the shopping list. 

I’m not a huge coupon clipper, but I know many people are. Planning meals around what’s on sale is one way to save money. I will look at ads (if I remember), and every once in a while if I see something on sale at the store, I will adjust the menu.

Something that makes menu planning SO much easier is that I have a binder of tried and true recipes to refer to. I know many people are digital and keep recipes on their computer/iPad, but I don’t trust myself when it comes to cracking eggs and sifting flour and having expensive technology close by!

The clipboard with this week's recipes hangs on the left. The pink binder is family favorite recipes, next to other cookbooks. Photo by Andrea Lukas.

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Weeknight Dinners: Easy and Savory Chicken Soup

Thanks to Tamara Hickman for sharing an easy recipe for savory chicken soup. If you have a dinner recipe you'd like to share, please send it this way to editor(at)gowestyoungmom.com -- Tara

I love to cook, but I don't cook enough. So I thought I'd share the easiest chicken soup recipe I've ever seen. For this recipe, you can't beat a $5 roasted chicken from Sam's Club or Costco. The flavor of the roasted chicken gives this soup a savory taste. Recipe is from Allrecipes.com.
  • 2 quarts chicken broth
  • 1 quart water
  • 1 store-bought roast chicken
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 large onions, cut into medium dice
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and cut into rounds or half rounds, depending on size
  • 2 large stalks celery, sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
  • Bring broth and water to a simmer over medium-high heat in a large soup kettle. Meanwhile, separate chicken meat from skin and bones; reserve meat. Add skin and bones to the simmering broth. Reduce heat to low, partially cover and simmer until bones release their flavor, 20 to 30 minutes.
  • Strain broth through a colander into a large container; reserve broth and discard skin and bones. Return kettle to burner set on medium-high.
  • Add oil, then onions, carrots and celery. Saute until soft, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add chicken, broth and thyme. Bring to a simmer. Can be refrigerated up to 3 days in advance. Return to a simmer before adding the extras of your choice.

Cool Meals for Hot Nights: Crockpot Chili

The latest recipe in our “Cool Meals for Hot Nights” series is for Crockpot Chili. It comes from Kim Tracy Prince, the editor and founder of Agoura Hills Mom, a blog about one family's discoveries and adventures in a suburban-style town just northwest of Los Angeles. 

I know, you were expecting something like a cold salad or a grilled meat entree for hot nights, but honestly, sometimes you want something HOT on a hot night.  Chili is crowd-pleasing and delicious, and you can vary it by serving over rice, hot dogs, burgers, or with different topping.  My favorite way to eat this chili recipe is to top it with chopped fresh cilantro and shredded cheddar, with a nice cold light beer to go with it.

This recipe is SO EASY to make, and so tasty to eat, that you will not believe it.  It's perfect to cook up overnight when you know you'll be gone all day at the beach or other summer outing, and you won't want to deal with putting dinner together when you get home.

Crockpot Chili


  • 2 lbs. ground beef
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 14 oz cans dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1.5 x 28 oz cans tomato puree
  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • 2 tbsp chili powder
  • salt and pepper to taste 


  • Brown ground beef and drain, place into crockpot.  Add all other ingredients.  Cook on high 4-5 hours.
  • BAM!  Depending on how big your family is, one pot of this chili can last you several days.

Notes:  I found the original recipe on the internet many years ago, and I have adapted it a lot to suit my family's taste.  You should definitely add more chili powder if you like it super spicy!


Cool Meals for Hot Nights: Farm-to-Table Frittata

The latest recipe in our “Cool Meals for Hot Nights” series is for a Farm to Table Frittata and Baked Apple dessert. It comes from Colleen, the owner/publisher of SaratogaMama.com, an online resource for families in Saratoga County, New York (just outside Albany). If you have friends or family around upstate New York, please let them know about SaratogaMama!

For my recipe, I opted for a Farm-to-Table dinner, meaning all the fresh ingredients were purchased that day at our farmers market. In the pouring rain, my partner in crime Christine and I braved the market to collect our bounty.

The beauty of shopping at a farmers’ market is that your meal can be altered based on what fresh ingredients are available that day. We went in with a plan in mind, but due to the rain, and there not being bread at the market, we were forced to deviate; and forced to use the oven versus our intended heat source, the grill.

Armed with fresh eggs, sausage, broccoli, garlic and herb goat cheese, apples, salad greens and radishes, we embarked on our meal!

Photo courtesy of SaratogaMama.com

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Cool Meals for Hot Nights: Tuna and Shells

The latest recipe in our “Cool Meals for Hot Nights” series is for Tuna and Shells. It comes from Annie, the creator and writer of {kidlist} activities for little kids, a resource for families in the near west suburbs of Chicago. If you have friends or family in LaGrange, Hinsdale, Western Springs or any other suburb in that general area, please let them know about {kidlist}

Recipe: Tuna and Shells

Serves: 4
Prep time: 20 minutes


  • 2 cups medium shell pasta (8 oz.)
  • 1 (7 oz.) can of tuna, drained and flaked
  • 1/2 cup celery (about 2 stalks), minced
  • 1/4 cup sweet pickle, chopped
  • 1/4 cup green pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 cup swiss cheese, cubed
  • 2 tablespoons white onion, minced
  • 1/2 cup ranch dressing
  • 1/4 cup greek yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • pepper to taste

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