My Blog

Quick and Easy Family Dinners

Here’s an article I first posted earlier this week on LinkedIn:
Quick and Easy Family Dinners. I cover some basic ideas for dinner. Especially for those who get home from work and are greeted by a hungry family.

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In a hurry? Feeling lazy or just uninspired? Let me help you create a repertoire of quick and easy family dinners. Meals that you can make without too much planning, with ingredients you have on hand in the refrigerator, freezer, or pantry. Or those you can easily find at your local market.

These should be meals you know your family likes, that you can create without looking at a recipe. Quick and easy dinners that you can make without a lot of preparation. No need to get out the food processor or blender. Here are my suggestions for dinners that include meat, chicken, fish, or just a big salad.

Meat

Quick Easy Family Dinners

Beef steak is an easy choice for dinner. Typical cuts of beef for steak include tenderloin, strip, T-bone, and rib-eye. If you have a large family, or are on a budget, chuck or flat iron steaks may work better for you. Your choice of steak can be sauteed in a pan or broiled. To make the meal complete add peas or corn. I prefer the frozen varieties. I usually like to include another side dish too. Try boiling small potatoes. They cook quickly and shouldn’t take more that 10 to 15 minutes to boil. Frozen veggies and a starch, like instant rice, can be added as side dishes to any of these meals.

Chicken

Quick Easy Family Dinners

Chicken is a staple in my repertoire. I usually choose chicken that has already been cut into pieces, like breasts, legs, or thighs. Chicken can be broiled or sauteed, and if the weather is good, cooked on a grill. For quick added flavor, I keep a dry rub from the grocery market in my cupboard that I can sprinkle on chicken or fish. An easy side dish is green beans. Most grocery markets now carry them pre-washed and packaged in the produce department, ready to steam or microwave.

Fish

Quick Easy Family Dinners

My favorite fish as a main dish is grilled salmon. It can be prepared quickly in a grill pan on your stove top or on a gas grill. I choose salmon fillet and ask my grocery’s butcher to slice it for me. For quick side dishes, I like corn and couscous. But if that’s too much starch for you, try a pre-washed salad or Cole slaw kit. Doles’ Sesame Asian salad kit is one of my favorites.

Salad

Quick Easy Family Dinners

The great thing about having a big salad for dinner is you can use any leftovers from the previous meals above to top them. Just toss your salad greens with your favorite dressing, plate, and top with sliced steak, chicken, or fish. If you are a vegetarian, try grilling tofu and adding it to top your big dinner salad.

I shop for food about once a week to make sure I have the ingredients I need to make several quick dinners for my family. Once you have confidence in 4 or 5 quick and easy meals for your family dinner repertoire, start adding a few more. Pork or lamb chops? Why not? Pasta? Sure! I make pasta at least once a week. I promise that as you practice your repertoire, it will become easier and easier to quickly whip up a delicious dinner.

Got questions? I’m here to help.

Spanakopita with feta cheese

“SPANAKOPITA!”

I love this moment from the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2, where Yiayia, sitting under a table at her great granddaughter’s high school’s college fair event, emerges from the tablecloth to cry, “Spanakopita!”  😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀

Greek spinach pie, spanakopita with feta cheese, is also called “Spanakotiropita.” I made this version for Easter dinner yesterday. It was a big hit with my family.
Spanakopita with feta cheese

Here’s the recipe for my spanakopita with feta cheese, adapted from my Mothers’ Hellenic Cuisine 1956 cookbook by Saints Constantine and Helen Ladies Society.

Spanakopita
Author: 
Recipe type: savory pie
Cuisine: Greek
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 16 pieces
 
Spanakopita - Spinach Pie with butter recipe adapted from the Hellenic Cuisine cookbook by Sts. Constantine and Helen Ladies Society, Detroit MI 1956
Ingredients
  • 2 lbs. of frozen spinach
  • 2 small bunches of green onions
  • 1 lb. crumbled Greek feta cheese
  • 7 eggs, beaten
  • 1 lb. of butter
  • 1 box of frozen phyllo / filo pastry sheets (2 rolls per box, approximately 20 sheets per roll)
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. pepper
  • ½ tsp. garlic powder
  • ½ tsp. dried oregano
  • ½ tsp. dried basil
Instructions
  1. Day before baking - Allow spinach to thaw and drain over night in a colander (use a bowl underneath the colander to catch the moisture)
  2. Allow frozen phyllo to thaw in refrigerator overnight
  3. Next day - Preheat oven to 350° F
  4. Combine spinach, crumbled feta, green onions, beaten eggs and spices, and mix into a large bowl
  5. Melt butter and set aside
  6. Grease 9 x 13" pan
  7. Place 10 - 12 pastry sheets into pan brushing each with melted butter
  8. Spread spinach mixture on top of buttered pastry sheets
  9. Cover spinach mixture with 10 - 12 pastry sheets, each also brushed with melted butter
  10. Score the top of the pie to the size of desired pieces
  11. Bake at 350° F for one hour or until golden brown

 

And look who won the egg cracking contest this year. Good luck for me!

Spanakopita with feta cheese, The Egg Cracking Champion

Happy Easter! Kalo Pascha! Christos Anesti!

More of my Greek Easter blog posts and recipes here:

 

Greek Lagana Bread

Greek Lagana is a flat, sometimes oval, or rectangular shaped bread that is very traditional and it is the custom in Greece to baked it today. Today is Kathari Deftera or Clean Monday, and marks the beginning of Orthodox Lent.

But… ¯\_(”)_/¯ it’s delicious, so go ahead and bake it whenever. It’s perfect for appetizer recipes calling for crustini.

Here’s my “step-by-step” of how I made Lagana today from an adapted recipe by Greek Chef Diane KochilasA printable version is at the bottom of this post.

Greek Lagana Bread

First, it’s a good idea to read through the recipe, and then gather and measure all the ingredients.

Greek Lagana Bread

In a medium bowl, dissolve the yeast, sugar, and 1/4 cup of the flour in warm water. Let it stand covered for 15 minutes or until the mixture starts to foam and bubble.

Greek Lagana Bread

In another larger bowl, combine 7 cups flour with the salt. Make a well in the center with your hand and pour in the oil and the yeast mixture. Mix well with a wooden spoon until all the ingredients are combined. You might want to also use your hands.

Turn the dough out on to a counter or table dusted with flour and knead for about 10 minutes or until the dough feels smooth to the touch but not sticky.

Greek Lagana Bread

Shape the dough into a ball, brush it with oil and allow it to rise in a covered bowl for about 2 hours or until doubled in size.

Punch the dough down and knead it for another 6 or 7 minutes. Divide the dough into 2 equal parts. Using a rolling pin, or your hands, shape the dough out on to two lightly oiled, or parchment lined, baking sheets into flat ovals about 15 inches long and about 6 inches wide.

Greek Lagana Bread

Brush with oil, sprinkle with sesame seeds, and allow it to rise again until your finger poked in the bread leaves an indentation without springing back.

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees during the final rise.

Using your index finger, poke holes across the surface of the bread (about every 2 inches). Bake for 15 – 20 minutes.

Remove and place on a rack to cool.

Greek Lagana Bread

Oh, how I love the smell of just baked bread.

5.0 from 1 reviews
Greek Lagana Bread
Author: 
Recipe type: Baking bread
Cuisine: Greek
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2 loaves
 
Clean Monday marks the beginning of Orthodox Lent. Greek Lagana is a flat, oval shaped bread that is a very traditional and to be baked only on this day. This recipe is adapted from "The Food and Wine of Greece" by Diane Kochillas
Ingredients
  • 3 envelopes active dry yeast
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 7 to 8 cups bread flour
  • 2¼ cups warm water
  • 1 tbsp. salt
  • 5 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • Sesame seeds for sprinkling
Instructions
  1. In a medium work bowl, dissolve the yeast, sugar, and ¼ cup of the flour in the warm water.
  2. Let stand covered for 15 minutes or until the mixture starts to foam and bubble.
  3. In a large work bowl, combine 7 cups flour with the salt.
  4. Make a well in the center with your hand and pour in the oil and the yeast mixture.
  5. Mix well with a wooden spoon until all the ingredients are combined.
  6. Turn dough out on to a counter or table dusted with flour and knead for about 10 minutes or until the dough feels smooth to the touch but not sticky.
  7. Shape the dough into a ball, brush it with oil and allow it to rise in a covered bowl for about 2 hours or until doubled in size.
  8. Punch the dough down and knead it for another 6 or 7 minutes. Shape it into 2 equal loaves. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough out on to two lightly oiled baking sheets into flat ovals about 15 inches long and about 6 inches wide.
  9. Brush with oil, sprinkle with sesame seeds, and allow to proof (rise) again until a finger poked in the bread leaves an indentation without springing back. Preheat oven to 450 degrees during the final rise.
  10. Using your index finger, poke holes across the surface of the bread (about every 2 inches). Bake for 15 – 20 minutes

 

Want to read my other posts about Lenten foods? Here are a few:

 

 

Gooey Fudgy Dark Chocolate Brownies

This gooey fudgy dark chocolate brownies recipe is sooooooo good. I am obsessed with these brownies. First thing to do is check my printable recipe at the bottom of this post. Gather and measure all your ingredients.

Start by positioning a rack in the lower third of your oven and preheat to 325° F. Next, cut an 8 by 16-inch piece of parchment paper.

Gooey Fudgy Dark Chocolate Brownies

Lightly butter an 8 by 8 by 2-inch pan and line it with the parchment, allowing it to extend evenly over the opposite sides. Butter the parchment including the paper on the sides of the pan.

Gooey Fudgy Dark Chocolate Brownies

Place the chocolate and butter in a large heatproof bowl set over a pot of gently simmering water and stir occasionally until melted and smooth.

Gooey Fudgy Dark Chocolate Brownies

Remove from the heat. With a large rubber spatula or wooden spoon, beat the sugar and salt into the chocolate mixture. Beat in the eggs one at a time.

Gooey Fudgy Dark Chocolate Brownies

Add the flour and mix vigorously until the batter is very glossy and pulls away from the sides of the bowl.

Gooey Fudgy Dark Chocolate Brownies

Fold the walnuts into the batter. (I also added some dried cherries.)

Gooey Fudgy Dark Chocolate Brownies

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and tap the pan bottom on your counter top to level the batter.

Gooey Fudgy Dark Chocolate Brownies

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a skewer in the center comes out moist but clean.

Fudgy Dark Chocolate Brownies
Author: 
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: International
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 8 or 9 brownies
 
I adapted this from Robert Steinberg's recipe for fudgy dark chocolate brownies.
Ingredients
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into cubes, plus more for the pan
  • 8 ounces dark chocolate chips or chunks
  • ¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • ⅓ cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup toasted walnut halves
Instructions
  1. Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
  2. Cut an 8 by 16-inch piece of parchment paper.
  3. Lightly butter an 8 by 8 by 2-inch pan and line it with the parchment, allowing it to extend evenly over the opposite sides.
  4. Butter the parchment including the paper on the sides of the pan.
  5. Place the chocolate and butter in a large heatproof bowl set over a pot of gently simmering water and stir occasionally until melted and smooth.
  6. Remove from the heat.
  7. With a large rubber spatula or wooden spoon, beat the sugar and salt into the chocolate mixture.
  8. Beat in the eggs one at a time.
  9. Add the flour and mix vigorously until the batter is very glossy and pulls away from the sides of the bowl.
  10. Fold the walnuts into the batter.
  11. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and tap the pan bottom on the countertop to level the batter.
  12. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a skewer in the center comes out moist but clean.
  13. Let cool in the pan on a cooling rack for 10 minutes.
  14. Remove the brownies from the pan using the parchment “handles,” and cool completely on the rack before cutting into squares.

 

YUM!
Make some for your Valentine.
Here are a couple of cocktails for your boo too. 
happy-valentine-smiley-emoticon

Gooey Fudgy Dark Chocolate Brownies