5 Simple Dinner Ideas to Kick Off Summer

No need to overthink dinner when the sun is shining and school is out! Get your week started with meatballs and fried catfish, then finish things off with cauliflower gnocchi, pork chops, and BBQ pizza!

This month, we welcome back Marta Rivera for more of her meal plans. Marta is a trained chef, mom of twins, Army wife, and a Simply Recipes recipe tester and developer!

Summertime means simplicity to me. I like to ease into the season with meals that aren’t too cumbersome or won’t bog us down with too many ingredients because I’d rather be hanging out by the pool or lounging in a hammock.

As we stroll into warmer months, we may also need meals that are simple to prepare and less labor-intensive. Yes, we’ve spent more than enough time at home this year, so newly-honed culinary skills make cooking less stressful, but summer means relaxation. So let’s take advantage of it!

One last thing: Looking for dinner ideas? You’re in the right spot! We just launched our new paid meal plan service. We have delicious meal plans to suit every taste and lifestyle — Healthy Eating, Family Favorites, and Vegetarian just to name a few. These one-week plans are $1.95 and, with them, you get a dessert and weekend prep recipe and a shopping list. They’re beautifully designed and perfect to print and save or simply load and cook right from your computer!

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Meatballs with rice in a white dish.

This nostalgic dish is one I like to assemble in stages. The day before, I prep the meatballs. That way, my workload is even lighter come cooking day. With stovetop instructions also included, this doesn’t have to be an exclusive Instant Pot recipe. Be sure to serve these meatballs with your favorite pasta and a side salad.

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Fried Catfish

We love pairing catfish with a side of coleslaw, which I make using pre-shredded, bagged cabbage. Throw in a few lemon wedges, and you have a fairly substantial dinner. If you don’t mind turning on the oven in warm weather, consider serving this catfish with a pan of cornbread.

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Gnocchi Recipe with Tomato Sauce

The foundation of this dinner can be streamlined by purchasing the cauliflower gnocchi at your local grocery store. If you’re coming up empty, just use traditional gnocchi in its place. My family loves it when I add sliced grilled chicken to this dish, but it’s hearty enough to enjoy on its own as a vegetarian supper.

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Easy Pork Chop Recipe pork chop and greens on plate

I remember eating pork chops and applesauce when I was a child. Season and marinate the chops overnight to allow that spice rub to penetrate the pork fully. For even greater simplicity, toss all of the applesauce ingredients into a slow cooker and cook on low for eight hours. Mashed or roasted potatoes are good side dishes for this meal.

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California Pizza Kitchen BBQ Chicken Pizza

My kids love to assemble pizza, and anything that lightens my workload is a win in my book. Making these as individual pizzas gets the whole family into the mix. Most big warehouse stores sell small sheet pans that are perfect for personal (or two-man) pizzas. Set the toppings on the counter or island, then let each person customize his or her own pizza. Pizza parties scream “TGIF!”

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Weekend Baking

Horizontal view of stacked lime refrigerator cookies coated in powdered sugar and sitting on a pink linen. A small wooden bowl of powdered sugar and small sifter are to the left. Limes on their branches are in the background.

Make these in bulk, and simplify your dessert-making for weeks to come. Freeze half of the batch and you’ll have cookies for days.

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Marta Rivera

Marta Rivera is trained chef with over 20 years in the culinary field and the blogger behind Sense & Edibility. She graduated from the Baltimore International Culinary College with degrees in Culinary Arts and Classical Pastries. Her cookbook is Taste and See Cooks.

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  1. Joyce

    I haven’t thought about Porcupine Meatballs for years! My mom used to make them and I’m 72 now. I mean years!!! I’m so excited to make them and thank you for resurrecting this old recipe.

  2. Judy