Back-To-School, Back To “Real” Dinners

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September rolls around every year, and I try desperately to get back to all the routines. Routines for getting ready for school, routines for after-school activities, routines for homework schedules, and routines for family meals at home. No more ice cream and boardwalk fries for dinner…PLEASE! Cooking those weeknight family meals, though, I could do without.

I actually enjoy cooking for crowds…Thanksgiving dinner, Deepavali party buffet, peanut chicken stew for 40 people in the park…these things I can do. I’m guessing I just like all the “oohs and ahhs” I receive as my reward for these once-a-quarter cooking fests.

The daily grind of preparing a dinner every.single.night (without those oohs and ahhs), though, is just not as enjoyable. I dread it, actually. This is why, like so many of us, I am always looking for shortcuts or kitchen tools to make cooking weeknight dinners more seamless and more enjoyable….or, well, let’s be honest…less awful. 

The Perfect Pot For Quick Family Dinners (It Does ALL The Things)

One single pot that can do ALL the things: boil pasta (& drain it w/ the built-in strainer), slow cook chili, roast crispy chicken, steam idlis (Indian dumplings), + pan-fry & bake things too?

Home Cook Duo | Perfect Pot | Always Pan
Plates | Bowls | Tiny Bowls (Similar) | Glasses

One single pot that can do ALL the things: boil pasta (& drain it w/ the built-in strainer), slow cook chili, roast crispy chicken, steam idlis (Indian dumplings), + pan-fry & bake things too?

When Our Place announced their new Perfect Pot and asked if anyone at TME was interested in trying it, my answer was an emphatic YES, PLEASE! One single pot that can do ALL the things: boil pasta (and drain it with the built-in strainer), slow cook chili, roast crispy chicken, steam idlis (Indian dumplings), and pan-fry and bake things too? AND it has a nontoxic, nonstick ceramic coating that makes everything slip right off the pan? AND it’s MUCH more lightweight than most dutch ovens? AND it has all sorts of fun built-in tricks? AND it looks pretty on your table? Like I said…ALL the things. Oh, yes…I am VERY into this.

One single pot that can do ALL the things: boil pasta (& drain it w/ the built-in strainer), slow cook chili, roast crispy chicken, steam idlis (Indian dumplings), + pan-fry & bake things too?

Home Cook Duo | Perfect Pot | Always Pan
Plates | Bowls | Tiny Bowls (Similar) | Glasses

On a quick side note: If you haven’t checked out Our Place’s Instagram feed, it’s ah-mazing! Hilarious video reels! I was laughing out loud at so many of them. And totally inspiring recipes, too…even for those of us who hate cooking weeknight dinners.

**ALSO: Our Place is giving TME readers a special discount code on full-priced pieces! Enter Momedit10 for 10% off. The Home Cook Duo is discounted right now as well!**

A Pretty Pot & Pan That Live On Your Stovetop

One single pot that can do ALL the things: boil pasta (& drain it w/ the built-in strainer), slow cook chili, roast crispy chicken, steam idlis (Indian dumplings), + pan-fry & bake things too?

Home Cook Duo | Always Pan | Perfect Pot

This sounds a bit silly, but I find that I am less likely to desperately resist cooking if my cooking supplies are out and ready to go at all times. I ordered the Home Cook Duo (pot and pan combo) in blue (gorgeous, but it does come in many beautiful colors), and it makes me so happy seeing both the pot and pan “live” on my stovetop.

Added bonus: the spatula and spoon live cleverly nested on the pan and the pot (they have these really cool notches and cut-outs to keep them in place). Another great detail: the pan comes with a steamer insert and the pot comes with a high-quality insert that works for both roasting and steaming.

Home Cook Duo: Ideal For No-Recipe Weeknight Dinners

One single pot that can do ALL the things: boil pasta (& drain it w/ the built-in strainer), slow cook chili, roast crispy chicken, steam idlis (Indian dumplings), + pan-fry & bake things too?

Okay…now for the actual Back-To-School, Back To “Real Dinners” menu planning and cooking. Although I dread the weeknight dinner routine, I do plan out our weeknight meals. We’re talking, though, about simple meals….like REAL simple. 

I try to make one “real recipe” a week, and then the rest of the nights are usually filled with Pasta Bar (Rao’s jarred sauce), Taco Night (Penzeys taco seasoning), Eggs-Your-Way (I become a short-order cook), Taste-Test-Chicken (vote for your fav spice/sauce), and Frozen Indian food (the packaged kind works too). And don’t forget Fridge Party and Freezer Party…the absolute best way to market leftovers to your family.

Since my Perfect Pot and Always Pan combo arrived, I’ve realized ALL of my go-to easy “no-recipe” dinners can easily be made with these two pieces of pretty cookware. Taco filling? Yep. Pasta and sauce, yep. Eggs and Taste-Test-Chicken and heating up frozen Indian food? Yep, Yep and Yep. Just let these two pretty pieces live on your stovetop, and there’s one less step to dinner on the table.

Perfect Pot: Also Good For Big-Batch ACTUAL Recipes

One single pot that can do ALL the things: boil pasta (& drain it w/ the built-in strainer), slow cook chili, roast crispy chicken, steam idlis (Indian dumplings), + pan-fry & bake things too?

Perfect Pot | Plates | Bowls | Tiny Bowls (Similar) | Glasses

One of my go-tos for the night I actually follow a recipe is Chips & Chili. Chili because….yum! Delicious! And chips because my kids will eat anything if they can scoop it with chips. Leftover chili in our household can also be used for nachos, tacos, burritos, cornbread mush, over pasta and with rice bowls. I get VERY creative repurposing leftovers.

The Perfect Pot is absolutely ideal for chili. The nonstick coating means I don’t have to use as much oil for sauteing, the size is big enough to make a large batch, and the pot is SO much more lightweight than the usual dutch ovens many of us use for this type of cooking. Note: the handles do get hot! I use folded-up towels when handling.

One single pot that can do ALL the things: boil pasta (& drain it w/ the built-in strainer), slow cook chili, roast crispy chicken, steam idlis (Indian dumplings), + pan-fry & bake things too?

I will sometimes add a chili topping bar in little bowls (these would be perfect) and put out raw veggies on a big cutting board to try and elicit at least a few “oohs and ahhs” from my family. Every oooh and ahhh helps in keeping up with weeknight dinners.

Clean-up is EASY! The pot has such a slick surface that food residue just slips off with a rinse. After they cool, I’ve been giving both the pan and pot a tiny bit of soap, a super-quick swirly wash, and then back to the stove they go. Quick and painless.

Anyone else have any “non-recipe” weeknight dinners they’re willing to share? They’re my fav! Or dinners like chili that can be repurposed for other meals throughout the week? Or super-easy ways to elicit some oohs and ahhs without much effort? Thanks in advance for sharing.

-Linzi

A big thank you to Our Place for sponsoring this post. I am THOROUGHLY enjoying the thought that went into the clever and useful design of your pieces. And of course, thoroughly enjoying that they’re so pretty too. Thank you also to all our TME readers …your time and support is SO appreciated.

16 COMMENTS

    • Haha! I always color-coordinate my shirts to compliment my cookware, of course! 🙂 It’s from ATM…it recently went on sale at Nordstrom and unfortunately there’s only one size left. I’ll keep a look-out though for if it comes back in stock….it’s a fun and pretty print for sure.

    • Oh my gosh! Not a weirdo at ALL! I’m so glad you “love-cooking-dinner-folks” are out there–it makes me so happy!!! And yum for Chicken Tikka Masala. Do you use Trader Joe’s simmering sauce or do you have a good recipe? And yay for frozen rice saving the day SO many times!! Thanks for sharing, Meg.

  1. I’m all in on the packaged Indian food over riced cauliflower – that’s definitely on regular rotation at my house.

    I also like “zucchini canoes” – basically roasted stuffed zucchini. Cut in half the long way, and scoop out the middle seed part to make the canoe. I start those roasting with some olive oil and salt & pepper. In the meantime chop up the scooped out bits of zucchini and mix with whatever other leftover bits of veggies or meats that are around (I like black olives and soy crumbles), add some tomato sauce or paste and some breadcrumbs to help it stick together. When the zucchini are softened, pull them out, stuff them, sprinkle cheese on top if you want, and stick them back under the broiler for a few mins. Takes about 20-25 minutes total.

    • I’m super lucky that I have a mother-in-law that keeps my freezer pretty stocked with ridiculously delicious homemade Indian food, but packaged Indian food is pretty darn good as well! Despite our freezer stash, we still use the packets quite a bit for super easy dinners and easy hot lunches. I am intrigued my these “Zucchini canoes”. My kids are not great cooked vegetable eaters, but I’m thinking they would definitely like the idea of a “canoe” being up on the menu board. So clever! Thanks for sharing, SS…really appreciate it.

  2. Linzi, you’re speaking to my soul. I cook so much that people assume I LIKE to cook but I always say, I don’t like to cook, I like to EAT! We eat a mostly whole food plant based diet so I naturally have to cook a lot and I def have to meal plan. But with one night a week being cereal night and one night being Junk Food Friday (usually frozen vegan pizza or nuggets) that still leaves 5.
    Baked tostadas are big in our house. Topped with Santa Fe refried beans (they are freeze dried and then we cooked them with water, 5mins, they are weirdly delicious, we always have some prepped in the fridge), and this fast and easy cashew cheese recipe
    https://itdoesnttastelikechicken.com/melty-stretchy-gooey-vegan-mozarella/
    This cheese is a game changer. 15 mins. I put it on anything, and my kids will eat it. I use it for lasagna, enchiladas, grilled cheese, scalloped potatoes, sandwiches, licked from a spoon, the list goes on and on. I usually multiply the recipe by 6 and I’m lucky if it lasts 2 days before it’s devoured. Omnivores love it too, and by volume, it’s much less expensive than dairy cheese, so it’s great for crowds.
    True non-recipe meals my kids love: microwaved potatoes with all the condiments from the fridge for dipping. Chickpeas and avocado mashed together. Polenta from a tube, cut into rounds, and baked in the toaster oven until crispy on the edges topped with anything. Hummus and crackers. Ah, I miss my pre-child days when almonds and wine were “dinner”.

    • Even in my pre-child days, almonds and wine were NEVER dinner. Add a few potato chips, however, and voila!! Dinner!! And maybe a few chocolate chips. 😉

      Haha – it’s funny how long ago that seems now. xoxo

    • Yes, yes, yes!!! Christy…these are awesome! You are speaking to MY soul….”cereal and junk food friday” may have to make it into our rotation. 🙂 I love it! When you have time, send us details of these Santa Fe refried beans you speak of. I’m always hesitant toward vegan cheese, but this looks pretty good…and LOVE your non-recipe ideas. So good. Thank you!

  3. Ha, yes, potato chips would definitely make it a more balanced meal!
    Better yet, my friends and I had what we called Happy Hour Dinner – a Bloody Mary with extra olives, and for desert, a chocolate martini with extra cherries. Dinner of Champions! – My twenties were reeeeeeeally fun! 😉

  4. Linzi, Ok, so here are the beans. The company is Santa Fe Bean Company. They can be hard to find because they sell out so fast. But as you can see from the ratings, they have a bit of a cult following. You just have to keep checking back on Amazon to see if they are back in stock. Luckily, my local grocery store sells the small packages. But when they’re in stock on Amazon, I always buy the large “culinary” size because we cook four cups at a time and like to control the amount of salt.
    Small size:
    https://www.amazon.com/dp/B000FICDO8/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_glt_fabc_KTP1J2X8YD9AHYVH8NMM
    Large size:
    https://www.amazon.com/dp/B004P0YZFM/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_glt_fabc_TRKGZEDKD7RQ9VDX5C2H

    It’s literally JUST beans, so I don’t know why they’re so good. Maybe they pick them in the moonlight of the harvest moon or something! 🙃 Anyway, when you eat as many beans as plant based people do, you can get pretty serious about your beans. Ha, if twenty year old me could hear forty year old me, she’d be so confused!

  5. Big hit in my house – stuffed spaghetti squash. Have grocery cut squash in 1/2 for you – bake for 30-35 minutes – top with black beans, cheese and salsa, or sauce 1/2 lb of turkey sausage and spoon over squash with melted cheese. Endless possibilities. Dinner for 4 Is also pennies.

    • Haha! Ummmm….my personal preference for dinner is NO recipes. :). But FINE…I get that folks are looking for recipes too. I’ve had a couple requests for my chili recipe, so I’ll post that soon. Also…Shana did a pretty fantastic round-up of her go-to weeknight Vegan Recipes here and our own Emily has AMAZING recipes here.

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