Monday, August 27, 2012

Weekly Menu 8/27: Easy Dinners for School Nights

Weekly family friendly, easy dinner ideas for back to school

If you have kids and they are already back to school or about to return, you know you have some jam-packed days in your near future. The paperwork! The carpools! The lunch packing! The return to some semblance of a schedule!

With all that on your plate, let me get some tasty stuff onto a different kind of plate without further ado. I bring you some seriously easy, low maintenance dinners that may just earn their way into your weeknight rotation.

Balsamic Brown Sugar Pork

Browned, tender slow cooker pork seasoned with Balsmic vinegar and brown sugar

Shred the pork and serve on your favorite rolls. I tried this dish for the first time last week and it was a *huge* hit in our house - we couldn't stop eating it and had no leftovers.

Cole slaw, rolls and sliced watermelon (optional)

  • Use a "cole slaw kit," which is a bag of shredded cabbage with a pouch of dressing included. Fresh Express is an option.

Make Ahead Notes:
  • Prep the glaze ahead and reheat when you need it toward the end of the pork's cooking time
  • Cut up watermelon for a side dish
  • Slice the rolls
  • 1 (2-pound) boneless pork loin
  • 1 teaspoon ground dried sage
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 clove crushed garlic
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 Tablespoons soy sauce
  1. Mix together sage, salt, pepper, and garlic.
  2. Rub the mixture over the pork. Add it to the slow cooker and pour 1/2 cup water in the bottom of the slow cooker. Cook on low for 6 to 8 hours.
  3. One hour before the pork is cooked, put the brown sugar, cornstarch, balsamic, water, and soy sauce in a sauce pan. Bring the mixture to a bubble over medium heat. It will thicken.
  4. Pour half of the glaze over the pork. Reserve the rest to serve alongside.
  5. Cook the pork for another hour.
  6. Shred the pork with a fork. It will fall apart, it is so tender.
  7. Serve with the remaining glaze.
 Originally found on BakedBree

Grilled "Unbelievable" Chicken

Marinated, grilled chicken served with steamed green beans and buttermilk biscuits

My store now carries a variety of canned, refrigerated buttermilk biscuits with no preservatives, bleached flour or trans fats.They make for a good spur of the moment, comfort food side dish.

Sides: Steamed green beans seasoned with S&P, a squeeze of lemon juice and some lemon zest, plus refrigerated buttermilk biscuits.

  • Buy pre-washed and trimmed green beans

Make Ahead Notes:
  • Mix up marinade and add chicken in the morning or several hours in advance
  • Rinse and trim green beans and place in a microwave steamer bag

  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons prepared Dijon mustard
  • 3 minced garlic cloves
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • ground black pepper to taste
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 6 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
  • In a large bowl or Ziploc bag, mix the cider vinegar, mustard, garlic, lime juice, lemon juice, brown sugar, salt, and pepper. Whisk in the olive oil. Add chicken and marinate 8 hours or overnight. 
  • Preheat an outdoor grill for high heat.
  • Lightly oil the grill grate. Place chicken on prepared grill and cook 6 to 8 minutes per side, until juices run clear. Discard marinade.
Adapted from this recipe on Allrecipes

Spaghetti Carbonara

Spaghetti dish cooked with bacon, eggs and Parmesan cheese

Sides: Arugula or spinach salad and your favorite vinaigrette

  • Buy pre-grated or shredded Parmesan cheese from the deli section
  • Use jarred, minced garlic
 Make Ahead Notes:
  • Fill water pot and set on stove for later
  • Cut up bacon and refrigerate for later
  • Rinse and chop parsley or if you have a kid who's handy with scissors, have them do the chopping into a bowl

  • 2 eggs 
  • 3 ounces Parmesan cheese, finely grated or shredded
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more for garnish
  • 1/4 pound thin-cut bacon
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil 
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine 
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 pound spaghetti or spaghettini 
  • Put a large pot of water on to boil. Crack eggs into a large bowl and beat lightly. Add 1/2 cup of the grated or shredded cheese to eggs, and set the rest of the cheese aside. Finely chop parsley and add to eggs. Add pepper and whisk to combine well. Set aside.
  • Cut bacon into 1/4" pieces, set aside. Heat oil in a small frying pan over medium-high heat. Add bacon and cook, stirring occasionally, until it starts to brown. Add garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add wine and cook until liquid is reduced by about half. Remove from heat and set aside.
  • When water boils, add salt and spaghetti. Boil pasta until it is tender to the bite. Drain well and immediately pour pasta into bowl with egg mixture. Toss to thoroughly coat pasta with egg mixture (the heat from the pasta will partly cook the egg and melt the cheese). Pour bacon mixture on top of pasta and toss to combine thoroughly. Sprinkle with remaining cheese and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

Originally from this recipe on MyRecipes

Extra Credit: Roasted Chickpeas

Oven roasted chickpea snack, seasoned with cumin, chili powder, olive oil

This is a fun, healthy, easy-to-make snack that would be great in lunchboxes. My kids scarfed them and said they reminded them of Corn Nuts. These would taste good with so many different seasonings - have fun experimenting.

Make Ahead Notes:
  • Rinse and drain the beans long enough to get them as dry as possible
  • Mix up the seasoning mix in a medium bowl
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  •  1 (15 ounce) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • Preheat oven to 400. 
  • Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and spread the dry chickpeas in one layer.
  • Roast for 30 minutes, turning every 10 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, whisk the oil with all seasonings in a small bowl
  • Remove the chickpeas from the oven and toss in the oil mixture to coat. Return seasoned chickpeas to pan and spread into a single layer.
  • Roast for 10 more minutes until nicely browned and slightly crispy. Allow to cool thoroughly. 
Adapted from this recipe on Allrecipes


  1. If anyone is on the fence about the pulled pork recipe... don't be!!! My family just devoured it -- picky eaters included!

    1. Thanks for trying in, Eileen, and I'm glad it was a hit at your house too!

  2. We are trying the pork tonight Steph! I love all the recipes you are posting. Great job!

    1. Can't see your name here, but whoever this is, I thank you for following the blog and for trying this recipe!