In a rut, casting about for new ideas! The weeknight dinner slog is getting me bummed out.

I love sesame tofu. My kids love sesame tofu. But I swear, if I serve sesame tofu to my family one more time there's going to be an armed revolt. I know that variations of this question have come up before, but there are always great new ideas out there and I'm casting about for inspiration. Bonus points if I can avoid going to the grocery store on the way home. Extra super bonus points in I can get it to the table in 60 minutes. No dietary restrictions but the five and eight year old can't handle thai hot food (sniff sniff) yet.

  • Posted by: Niknud
  • September 30, 2015


Summer O. October 7, 2015
First of all, can you share your sesame tofu recipe? I didn't see it and it sounds great to me. While it takes longer than an hour a roasted chicken involves only about 5 minutes of hands on time, I serve with a seasonal veggie - every week. I've also been making an assortment of Venezuelan arepas lately. For the actual arepas (versus the filling) I use Terry Romero's recipe from Viva Vegan. Very easy and inexpensive. I also find doing peel and eat steamed shrimp an easy way out as well.
Niknud October 7, 2015
Uh....would love to say that I have a sesame tofu recipe but it usually invovles the following in no particular order or amount: press and cube tofu and dust with corn starch. Fry in as little oil as I can get away with until dark and crispy. Combine in a bowl any and all of the following: soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, mirin, sesame oil, fresh garlic, ginger and a few red pepper flakes. Douse the tofu and then bust out the shaker of toasted sesame seeds (the Asian market is your friend here since they come pre-toasted). Good luck! Love your and Sam's idea of peel and eat shrimp - couldn't be easier!
Sam1148 October 6, 2015
The last of the summer fruits, in a mexican fruit salad.
Watermelon cube, pineapple, orange slices, grapes, Jicama (or waterchestnut), red or green onions, cherry tomato. Parsley or Cilantro, or chives.
Mix up a dressing for honey, lime juice, cumin, a bit of chili powder..and optional heat---chopped peppers or red pepper flakes or none.
For the kids; back off on the hot or make it optional. They should like cumin and chili power or use mild packaged taco seasoning mix to make a dressing.

Serve that with grilled shrimp. skewer pealed raw shrimp with two skewers like this =))))))=
And give them a brush with some lime juice/oliveoil/garlic/ginger and broil or grill.
Westcoasty October 6, 2015
Sam1148 mentioning shrimp reminded me of another quick recipe that we love: Add in some rice and salad and you're done. Lots of savouriness but no heat.
Niknud October 7, 2015
Love the peel and eat shrimp idea. Not sure why I hadn't thought of it, but it should be a piece of cake and super fast/easy! Thanks Sam!
Westcoasty October 6, 2015
Another quick to make dinner is the one-pot pasta:

I used gluten-free pasta and it still worked out well. Next time I'm going to experiment with different ingredients, however, as the basic recipe was a bit too pasta-y for me. But my partner loved it as it was.
Susan W. October 6, 2015
I love this recipe. It's just fun! Do experiment. I've added pesto, clams, shrimp, more veggies, Marcella Hazan tomato sauce. Not all at the same time, of course. Go wild.
Westcoasty October 6, 2015
Thanks, Susan W! I will definitely give it a try. It seems like a good base dish, for sure.
Windischgirl October 4, 2015
Gosh, I remember those days...back before we were paying 3 college tuitions...sigh.
My two suggestions:

first for inspiration:I'm crazy for international cookbooks, so I'd have the kids pick a country and we'd cook a dish from there.

Second: for time and not having to run out for ingredients-- we did "bars" of various sorts, such as the "baked potato bar" and the "quesadilla bar"... I would bake the potatoes (or microwave) and then put out a bunch of toppings so each person could customize. Put the potato in a micro safe bowl, top, and reheat until hot. Great way to use up leftovers and those little bits of stuff as well.
C S. October 2, 2015
When my kids were in the soccer stage these were two of our go to meals.
One was spaghetti with a simple clam sauce made with a little white wine, canned clams, garlic, and a few red pepper flakes. Fast and good.
Another was quesadillas, a simple chopped salad with tomatoes onions parsley and maybe avocado next to tortillas warmed with cheese, a side of canned refried beans and maybe browned ground beef or strips of chicken breast.
Neither are gourmet but they got us sitting down quickly. Believe me its over soon.

sexyLAMBCHOPx October 2, 2015
I find myself completely lost ( or not motivated) about what to cook when the family needs a meal. Regardless of how much I frequent this site and others on a daily basis. When this happens I reach for Everyday Food: Great Food Fast by Martha Stwart. It's divided by seasons and provides easy recipes that I have on hand or an inspiration to take it up a notch. It calms me down, lol. If you're going to the library, I highly recommend!
Niknud October 2, 2015
Well we're going to the library this weekend (school project on mosasaurs) and I've got several cookbooks on the list now. Hopefully next week's dinners should be a bit more inspired. SOmetimes you just find yourself cooking the same 10 things on some sort of endless loop. I just figured that my 10 things were different from other peoples' 10 things and maybe we could help each other out a bit. I really appreciate all the inputs from the f52 family!
Susan W. October 2, 2015
There was another thread like this a while back. Someone posted this and I make it on a regular basis. It's delicious. Don't get carried away and make double the sauce like I did the second time. If you have too much, it won't glaze the chicken if there's too much liquid. Do use the bulb of garlic, it mellows nicely with cooking.
Niknud October 2, 2015
That sounds amazing! Love the honey/chili pepper combo. Saving the website for trying.
Bevi October 1, 2015
Niknud, I made these noodles by Jane Brody all the time when my kids were your kids' ages. You can eliminate the crushed red pepper - I always did. This meal come together in a flash:
Niknud October 2, 2015
Peanut butter noodles are AWESOME - thanks for the recipe!
E E. October 1, 2015
Hi Niknud, just saw your question. I would just go to some place reliable and ask what they have that is local or fresh. In my market right now it's a red snapper. (East Coast in the U.S.) But it will work with any fish. There is something about olive oil, lemon, salt and pepper that makes it just delicious. The fishmonger can debone it for you, and take of the head if that's an issue. You can put whatever you like in the cavity while it cooks too: more lemon slices, Italian parsley, maybe tarragon. But there is no need unless you'd like to.
caninechef October 1, 2015
Requires a trip to a produce stand/market/garden but I have been obsessed this summer with a sort of no fry/no breading rift on eggplant parmesan. Using smallish thin eggplant, split lenghtwise, cover with olive oil and bake until tender. Prepare a quick fresh tomato sauce, for me it's just chunky tomatoes, onion, garlic, basil microwaved for about 4-5 minutes ( for one person amount). Top eggplant with sauce and bake a bit more until sauce evaporates a bit. Finish with a topping of grated cheese and breadcrumbs, either broiled or baked a bit to toast.
dinner A. September 30, 2015
Francis Lam's pasta and greens carbonara is one of my favorite fast dinners, and more wholesome than the original. It's good with any sturdy, flavorful green, and I might even prefer it with whole wheat spaghetti (the DeLallo brand is pretty good). The website he originally posted it on is gone, but the exact recipe exists (unattributed) on Epicurious:
Niknud October 1, 2015
A healthy carbonara? I'm in!
HalfPint September 30, 2015
@Niknud, since you'll be going to the library, check out Nigel Slater's Fast Food. Since he's English, the recipes are not too spicy for the kids and the recipes are quick and nicely unfussy (in preparation).
Niknud October 1, 2015
It's going on the list. And I can't wait until the kids like the spicy food. I respect the young palates, but MAN I miss putting finger peppers in my stir fry. Just not the same when you put them on top.
E E. September 30, 2015
(1) Breakfast for dinner is sometimes nice, it's actually less rushed than in the morning. Omelets, pancakes, sausages, fruit, etc. (2) I bought a pork loin boneless roast yesterday, gave it the sage and garlic treatment, and then baked sweet potatoes alongside in the oven. a 2 lb. roast would be enough for your family and would come close to the 60 minute mark. At the very last I quickly cooked some green beans, but you could do any vegetable. (3) Roast a whole fish in the oven (use the very high heat, 5 minutes for every inch technique), and give everyone a helping with olive oil, capers, lemon, and salt and pepper on the side (or it sounds like you are great at Asian cooking, you could do a little drizzle of sesame oil and soy sauce.) Rice and cucumbers in a mild vinegar and some herbs on the side. A green salad would be nice. (4) Skirt steak, grill it or throw it in a cast iron pan. It cooks so quickly. Slice it thin and put it in soft corn tortillas with some guacamole and/or salsa. Doctor up some canned beans as a side. Add on scallions, cheese, cherry tomatoes, whatever is hanging about in the refrigerator and should be used up. (4) Bake potatoes in their jackets and cook up whatever veggies are around as sides.
Niknud October 1, 2015
These are great ideas! Do you have any suggestions for good fish to roast whole?
E E. October 1, 2015
Hi Niknud, just saw your question. I would just go to some place reliable and ask what they have that is local or fresh. In my market right now it's a red snapper. (East Coast in the U.S.) But it will work with any fish. There is something about olive oil, lemon, salt and pepper that makes it just delicious. The fishmonger can debone it for you, and take of the head if that's an issue. You can put whatever you like in the cavity while it cooks too: more lemon slices, Italian parsley, maybe tarragon. But there is no need unless you'd like to.
mrslarkin September 30, 2015
Wait a stinkin' minute...since when did your kids turn five and eight years old?? I'm sure they were babies like yesterday. :)

We like fast food, i.e. make-ahead stuff that we can reheat easily during the week. I recently made slow cooker pulled pork - it was very good! McCormick's dry mix at the store, recipe on back of package. Leftovers for days. Serve on buns or with steamed rice (made in the rice cooker). It was a tad too sweet so next time I may cut the sugar.

We also eat mac and cheese like crazy, but that's boring, so don't make that.

I'm making this tonight:
alongside some steamed rice. it's very yummy, but I will probably be the only eating it since no one else likes eggplant what is wrong with them.

Niknud September 30, 2015
I know, right? Wee Connor started kindergarten this year! And we took them on their first international trip to visit their Grandpa in Hong Kong this year. Mad props to Jameson for eating anything and everything - up to and including the baby octopus (heads and everything). Sigh. Good call on the McCormick's - i wouldn't have thought to use a prepackaged mix but I could see where that would be totally handy on a weekday morning when you're heading out the door. Gotta love the slow cooker. I can't get the 'add an image' button to work but if I can manage it at home I'll send a picture of the heathens.

Voted the Best Reply!

Niknud September 30, 2015
Growing up fast!
mrslarkin September 30, 2015
Oh man they are sooo cute!!!

Here's another sorta quick noodle stir fry thingy I made with thick Udon-y noodles. Some chopping and prep required, but goes together very fast, especially if you make some roast pork ahead.
Niknud October 1, 2015
I think I'll make that tonight - it looks good. Do you think it would work as well with ground pork? I've got a ton in the freezer from this year's hog.
mobloom September 30, 2015
This is easy to make, delicious, and especially quick if you prepared the rice the night before:
Niknud September 30, 2015
For sure the rice cooker would make the prep work easier. Just make it the night before and put it in the fridge before you go to work. Thanks for the idea!
leigh F. September 30, 2015
I like this recipe from woks of life.

I also have been in a rut so I went to the library and took out a bunch of cookbooks. I've found some different recipes that I love.
Niknud September 30, 2015
Going to the library is a great idea. As much as the internet is a great resource (like now), sometimes it wonderful to page through a new cookbook.
HalfPint September 30, 2015
Serve this:

Quick to make and a total hit with kids and adults. Use any dark soy sauce and any onion you have on hand. The only thing that is a must is the fresh ginger.
Niknud September 30, 2015
This looks yummy - and quick! Thanks
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