8 Fabulous Dinners That Don’t Take All Night to Make

I don’t trust anyone who isn’t sick and tired of slaving over the kitchen stove or -- dare I say it -- standing in front of the microwave. Eating great food is one of the best highlights of having two hands and a mouth, but preparing it is usually a far cry from satisfying. Most of us, though, can’t afford to dine out daily. And cheap, boxed food gets old, even though it doesn’t seem to have an expiration date…eerie.

In the absence of restaurant service and without tolerance for pounds of pre-packaged deli meat, we become desperate for good food. Unfortunately, we’re also always desperate for time. We don’t want to come home from a draining day at the office to spend another hour and a half standing in the kitchen. This article, then, is about combining two of the best ingredients life has to offer: food and free time. 

And if you want to save money on your grocery bill, check out The Grocery Coupon Network for coupons on all the foods you'll need to make these easy recipes.

These eight dinner ideas offer delicious meals that don’t fry your patience. If all goes well, your food preparation should take you less time than it takes to read this post. (That doesn’t mean this isn’t worth your while!) Take time to gather these eight recipes now so that you don’t have to waste time later.

7 Mushroom Pork Chops

This dish, designed to serve 4, is the perfect hearty meal after a long, tiring day. Nothing brings you back down like a heavy pork chop saturated in cream of mushroom soup. And nothing lifts you up quite the same way, either.

The Essentials

For this meal, you’ll need 4 pork chops, a pinch of salt and pepper, a pinch of garlic salt, a chopped onion, ½ lb of fresh mushrooms, 1 10.75oz can of condensed cream of mushroom soup, and 40 minutes. Save yourself a few extra minutes by throwing that onion in the blender rather than crying over top it. You can also find sliced mushrooms at the grocery store, so you’ve avoided slicing and dicing altogether. 

The mushrooms, onion, and garlic add numerous health benefits to this meal, including antioxidants, detoxifying agents, and digestion health through fiber. Enhance this meal by serving it over brown rice. Enjoy the full recipe and directions here.

2.Throw Chicken and Peppers Into a Pot

Designed by a health-conscious college student on a tight budget, this dish is good for you all the way around. If this recipe suits a college student with little time and probably even less patience for cooking, this recipe is perfect for your time and energy. Save time, money, and calories by following her steps to making an easy chicken stir fry.

The Essentials

To do so, you’ll need 1 boneless, skinless chicken breast, 2 teaspoons of olive oil, half of a red pepper, half of an onion, a garlic clove, 10 cherry tomatoes, 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, and ground black pepper. This recipe is obviously meant to serve one – especially one holed up in a 5x5 dormitory bedroom. Feel free to double the ingredients or to add them tenfold. Get the full recipe here. Preparing her stir fry should take about 30 minutes of your time. 

It sounds worth it to me.  

6 Your Pasta is Leeking

This green dish is something even Dr. Suess’s “Sam I am” couldn’t stick his nose up at. Providing you with a great mixture of the food groups, this pasta puts those pasta nay-sayers to shame. The nutritional value of spinach, the spicy kick of leeks, and the heavy texture of shrimp come together to make a dish that is satisfying in every way.

The Essentials

For your pasta, pick your poison. The recipe recommends short pasta, but I wouldn’t tell anyone if you just went rogue with it. Along with your noodles, throw together unsalted butter, 2 halved leeks, kosher salt and black pepper, a pound of peeled, deveined medium shrimp, zest of a lemon, ¾ cup of heavy cream, and 10 ounces of baby spinach (the cutest spinach). You’ll have to devote only about 10 minutes to preparation and give the dish 20 minutes total. You can get more details about this savory dish here.

5 Chicken Tortilla Soup

No, this isn’t as gross as it sounds, or gross at all, really. This soup is an easy and quick dish that is perfect for a cold winter evening after work (or cold summer evening, if you’re in the north this year). With perhaps the shortest hands-on time in history, this soup might even take fewer minutes of your time than those microwave TV dinners you’ve resorted to.

The Essentials

Before getting ready to make your soup, gather together 16 ounces of salsa, 14 ounces of chicken broth, 8 ounces of mexicorn, 10 ounces of kidney beans, 1 pound of cooked chicken, cheddar cheese, sour cream, and tortilla chips. You could even skip some steps at home by buying a roasted chicken at the store. Liven this dish up by tailoring the tortilla chips to your personal preferences. These chips come in numerous flavors; don’t limit yourself to only the standard ones.

If you enjoy a vegetarian diet, feel free to replace the chicken broth with vegetable broth and forget the pound of cooked chicken. The soup is just as tasty and satisfying without it. And while it would be delicious as is, you could still replace the chicken with lentils or another meat substitute to give the soup more weight. Get more details here on how to make a great soup in less than 15 minutes. 

4 Spicy Salmon With Bok Choy and Rice

This meal is about as healthy as a meal gets. Filling your plate with fish, greens, and rice is always a good choice, no matter how you dress it up. This recipe does offer a great outfit for it, though.

If you’re unfamiliar with bok choy, it’s a leafy green of the cruciferous family – which means it’s similar to broccoli and kale. Just like its cousins, bok choy offers numerous health benefits, like lower blood pressure, anti-cancer properties, strong bone structure, immunity building, and healthy skin.

The Essentials

Bring together 1 cup of long-grain rice, 2 tablespoons of honey, 1 tablespoon of soy sauce, ¼ teaspoon of crushed red pepper, 4 6-ounce skinless salmon fillets, and 1 pound of baby bok choy (which is about as cute as the baby spinach we talked about earlier). For 20 minutes of your time, you can sit down to this healthy, satisfying meal. Read the full ingredient list and directions here so that you can prepare this quick meal for four. 

3 Southwestern Beef Chili

This recipe is about enough to make someone fall back in love with chili after those traumatizing experiences most of us had with school cafeteria chili. The recipe takes chili from a bland tomato paste dish to something exotic and enlivening. For 30 minutes, the smell of this chili will undoubtedly make your mouth water.

The Essentials

This chili, being full of great foods and spices, has a pretty lengthy list of ingredients. Pull together 1 tablespoon of olive oil, 2 carrots, 1 onion, 1 pepper, ½ pound of ground beef, 2 tablespoons of tomato paste, 2 15-ounce cans of black beans, 1 tablespoon of chili powder, ½ cup of corn kernels, ½ cup of grated cheddar cheese, 2 scallions, kosher salt, and black pepper.

For a vegetarian chili, just nix the ground beef. You might even replace the beef with tofu or another meat substitute. Lentils or soybeans make some of the best meat replacements. The black beans in the chili are already great for providing a hearty texture. This dish is a perfect warm and heavy meal for meat lovers and vegetarians alike. Find the full recipe for this wild chili here

2 Pasta With Turkey and Broccoli

The name of this dish doesn’t really leave much to the imagination or much to be explained. What might surprise you, though, is that this delicious-sounding pasta will only demand 20 minutes of your time. Just like the leek and spinach pasta above, this pasta is healthier than most of the pastas we typically enjoy. I’m looking at you, microwavable cups of mac and cheese.

The Essentials

To make this savory meal, you’ll need ¾ pound of orecchiette, 2 cups of broccoli florets, 3 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 pound of ground turkey, 2 cloves of garlic, 1 teaspoon of fennel seed, ½ teaspoon of crushed red pepper, kosher salt, and, of course, parmesan cheese. By the looks of things, you need to stock up on olive oil if you plan on utilizing most of the recipes on this list. If you’re throwing your pasta together and realize you’re out, canola oil makes a fine substitute. Enjoy the full recipe for the turkey and broccoli pasta here

1 Mac & Cheese Quesadillas

I was so intrigued and lured by the title of this recipe that I made these bizarre quesadillas for dinner the night I read about them. They’re as adorable as they sound, but the recipe called for a meal that truly left a lot to be desired. So, we’ll review the original recipe and add my – hopefully enhancing -- alterations.

The Essentials

To serve 2, you’ll need 2 tortillas, ½ cup of prepared macaroni and cheese, 1 slice of cheese, and 6 minutes. The directions tell you to microwave the quesadillas for a minute and 45 seconds, and that’s where things go awry. The microwaved tortillas get soft and soggy, making them hard to pick up and, well, hard to stomach. Try cooking the quesadillas on a frying pan. 

The tortilla shells become nice and solid, holding up your pile of macaroni and cheese. And be sure to add the extra cheese so that your noodles don’t dry out with the heat. These quesadillas are a fun snack or meal that tastes great with ketchup or dipped in salsa. This recipe is also a great one to get your kids involved in.

These recipes are hearty and – mostly – healthy options that cater to a variety of interests. From chicken and beef to spinach and bok choy (that doesn’t get any easier to spell with practice, sorry!), these dishes offer quick fixes to your nagging hunger. And if you’re the cook for the family, these meals should be a win-win. Your family eats great food without you getting angry at how long you’ve been working alone in the kitchen. Yes, that’s a thing.

Enjoy these quick and easy recipes any time of the year and make it a habit to treat yourself and your family to fabulous meals. 

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