5 Worry-Free Weeknight Meals

Skip the takeout, grab a helper, and whip up these carefree weeknight recipes. One-pan tilapia with mushrooms and tomatoes, beef lettuce wraps, chicken and rice soup, and creamy polenta with white beans and broccoli. Eating at home never tasted so good.

This month welcome Sara Bir. Sara is the author of two cookbooks, Tasting Ohio and the IACP award-winning The Fruit Forager’s Companion. She also moderates and replies to your comments here on Simply Recipes. Follow her @sausagetarian.

Even though I often enjoy making dinner, sometimes I don’t look forward to it. It’s a roadblock between me and the opportunity to knock out a pressing task, or simply the chance to sit down and do nothing. Do you ever feel the same way? I was there last week and I nearly broke down and ordered takeout.

Ordering takeout is certainly no moral failing, but the takeout where my family lives is not good. After browsing a few uninspired online menus, we pushed through and cooked a simple pasta dinner that easily outdid anything we could have ordered. Plus, it was ready in about the same amount of time it would have taken to go pick it up and drive home.

These minimalist recipes are made for just those occasions. If you’ve hit a wall, press on: They’ll reward you with wholesome, hassle-free dinners. Once you’re sitting with your family, you realize the only task at hand is to eat, talk, and be nourished.

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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Pre-cooked chicken gets this soup on the table fast. If you don’t have any around, the easiest route is to pick up a rotisserie bird. If you have help, ask someone to pick the meat off the bones while you prep the other ingredients. You can also just cook a few chicken breasts on their own so they’re ready to go into the soup.

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Low carb lettuce wrap with sliced steak, mint, radish, cucumber and peanuts wrapped up on a plate. A dipping sauce is on the plate as well.

The marinade for these wraps doubles as a dipping sauce—just set some aside to serve with the wraps, then marinate the beef in what remains for at least 30 minutes, or up to 24 hours. Most of the prep work is in advance, giving you that wonderful feeling that dinner’s in the bag.

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Vegan Polenta with Broccoli

Pureed canned white beans are the secret to making this polenta extra-creamy, with a silky body. Nutritional yeast adds a cheesy flavor and keeps this dinner vegan. We’re not vegan in my household, but we love nutritional yeast! We call it “nooch” and sprinkle it one everything from popcorn to pasta.

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Tilapia with Olives Mushrooms Tomatoes

Here’s a one-pan meal packed with veggies. Onions, mushrooms, tomatoes, and olives for a quick-cooked sauce that you simmer the fish in. After about 10 minutes, dinner’s ready. Serve with a green salad and tasty bread for dipping.

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White plate with quick and easy grilled shrimp over couscous with lemon and pepper. To the left is a platter of additional grilled shrimp on skewers.

Both shrimp and couscous cook in mere minutes. Use your favorite seafood rub (Old Bay works, or use our own recipe), zest a lemon over the couscous, and sauté some Swiss chard on the side, if you like.

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Sara Bir

Sara Bir a graduate of The Culinary Institute of America and the author of two cookbooks: The Fruit Forager’s Companion and Tasting Ohio. Past gigs include leading chocolate factory tours, slinging street cart sausages, and writing pop music criticism. Sara skates with her local roller derby team as Carrion the Librarian.

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