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Best Weeknight Dinners

Best Weeknight Dinners

Nourishing Family Meals in 30 Minutes

By Elyse Kopecky


I fully appreciate how difficult it can be to make dinner from scratch night after night for your hungry yet picky family. There is nothing worse than putting in the effort and time to watch your kids refuse to taste the dish. In our household I’ve come to accept the fact that weeknight meals must be simple. The recipes we’ve come to depend on are fast, use ingredients that we have on hand, require minimal dishes, and most importantly appeal to our finicky little eaters (read more about feeding picky kids here).

I know how challenging it is to work, raise little people, train, cook wholesome meals, and keep some semblance of order in your home. The chaos (and joy!) that came after my second baby was born is what inspired me to write Run Fast. Cook Fast. Eat Slow. Lucky for us these are still the dishes that nourish my family week-after-week, which makes meal planning and grocery shopping a breeze.

Here are the 10 recipes that I make most frequently in our household and the tricks I use to pull off dinner in less than 30 minutes.


RFCFES = Run Fast. Cook Fast. Eat Slow.

RFES = Run Fast. Eat Slow.


  1. Power Bowls (RFCFES page 122)

Power Bowls are rice bowls (or other whole grain) topped with veggies, a protein, and a sauce. I’ll admit we probably eat rice bowls twice per week. It’s so easy to toss rice into my Instant Pot and everyone loves being able to assemble their own bowl. My kids prefer to keep everything separate (I love the OXO kid plates that has all the dividers). Bowls are the best way to use up leftover roasted veggies (Sunday Sweet Potatoes RFCFES page 161) and leftover burgers (Bonk Burgers RFCFES page 139) or chicken. When I’m really in a time pinch, our bowls are as simple as short-grain brown rice topped with beans, sautéed greens, a fried egg and sliced avocado.


  1. Marathon Bolognese (RFCFES page 144)

Both my kids love spaghetti and ask for it daily. We eat pasta more frequently since having kids than we ever did before. That’s ok when I’m topping the spaghetti with a rich sauce that’s loaded with grass-fed ground beef and veggies.

Our simple bolognese recipe is available on the ButcherBox blog. Speaking of our friends at ButcherBox, right now (until March 31st 2019) they have an incredible deal going down—get 2 pounds of FREE ground beef for the life of your subscription. We love that they’re making grass-fed meat more accessible (straight to your door!). Now your freezer will always be well stocked to prevent last minute runs to the grocery store. Learn more here.


  1. Simple Soup with Grilled Cheese

In the winter we eat a lot of soup. My kids never seem to tire of it, especially if I serve the soup with grilled cheese, quesadillas or a baguette with butter. A family fave is Broccoli Chevre Soup (RFES page 102) or Carrot Ginger Soup (RFES page 116). Another super easy soup that is a meal on its own is the Chicken Cannellini Soup (RFCFES page 116). I usually double soup recipes so we can have it for multiple dinners.


  1. Breakfast-for-Dinner

Every kid (and kid at heart!) loves breakfast for dinner. We don’t do this very often so when we do it’s a treat and everyone wears their PJs to the table. Per the important request of my 4 year old this meal usually includes bacon. I’ve found cooking bacon in the oven is simple and makes the least amount of mess. We also get our bacon from ButcherBox and love that it is uncured and organic.

Breakfast-for-dinner favorites are Oatmeal Banana Pancakes (RFCFES page 80) or Spinach and Sausage Frittata (RFCFES page 79). If I had it my way I would serve Avocado Toast with Greens (RFCFES page 85), but my kids won’t eat smashed avocado…oh the sacrifices!


  1. Bison Chili (RFCFES page 120)

This is the recipe I make when the fridge looks empty and I don’t feel like grocery shopping. I always have carrots, celery, and onions on hand (learn what fresh ingredients to stock to save time) so I sub that for the red bell pepper. We also always have a stash of ground bison in our freezer because our favorite bison rancher (Pine Mountain Ranch) is just up the road.


  1. Beef and Lentil Minestrone (RFCFES page 115)

My kids love this soup because they can mix in fun pasta shapes to their liking and top it with Parmesan. I love this soup because it’s high in iron thanks to the power combo of grass-fed ground beef, kale, and tomatoes (the vitamin C in tomatoes helps with iron absorption). We wrote this recipe to be an easy one to toss into the slow cooker in the A.M. before you leave for work, but I’m not usually that organized in the morning so I just make it in my trusty Le Creuset Cast-Iron Pot in 30 minutes.

To save time and effort, keep the basics for soups stocked including frozen chicken thighs, ground beef, lentils, canned beans, canned tomatoes, low-sodium broth, and pasta.


  1. Miso Butter Salmon (RFCFES page 155)

My kids will not touch salmon unless it’s this recipe. The honey in the miso butter gives the fish just a touch of sweetness, which they go for. So really this is the only fish recipe that we make lately, but I’m not complaining because I love the buttery richness. I serve this with Coconut Nori Rice (RFCFES page 164) and a simple salad. 


  1. Pesto Pasta with Sardines (RFCFES page 148)

If you keep pesto stashed in your freezer, this recipe can come together in under 30 minutes. My 4 year old loves sardines and my 1 year old does not, but he doesn’t even notice them in this dish because the flavors meld so perfectly. When in a time crunch, you can find fresh pesto at high-end grocery stores.


  1. Turkey Trot Meatballs (RFCFES page 147)

This recipe is a regular because my 1 year old loves finger foods. It’s a dish that doesn’t end up smeared all across his high chair and clothes (he refuses to wear bibs!). Anytime I make this recipe I always double it because the meatballs are great for leftovers—on top of pizza, salads, rice bowls, etc.


  1. DIY Grain Salad (RFCFES page 95) or Kale Farro Salad (RFES page 80)

Especially in the summertime, my husband and I love refreshing grain salads for dinner. Our kids won’t eat these types of salads, but hey, it can’t always be about them, right?! To pull this off in under 30 minutes, I cook the grains (usually quinoa or farro) on the weekend and make the dressing in advance. To add a protein boost (and feed the kids), we toss chicken, steak, or sausage on the grill.

What are your family's favorite weeknight recipes?  

Fuel happy!


Photos by Alan Weiner 

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