Fitting space into your schedule to make a proper homemade meal isn’t always easy. With fall sport practices, music lessons and errands to run, we tend to grab something quick and easy when we’re on the go. We’ve all been there when a stop at Chick-fil-A makes everyone happy; however, you don’t always have to turn to fast food or take out when it comes to dinner.
To help ease the cooking process during the busy weeknight rush, we turn to meals that can be made ahead of time and served without spending hours in the kitchen, such as the recipes below.
The explosion in popularity of Instant Pot and slow cooker recipes have helped us cut down prep time and allowed us to get other things checked off our to-do list while they’re cooking. As much as we love these cooking appliances — they really do make life a little easier — you don’t need them to prepare everything. We’ve included recipes that allow you to throw things into a Dutch oven or pie dish and let them cook without any extra steps once you get them into the oven. These recipes are meant to help you step away from the drive thru and back into your kitchen, even on your busiest nights.
The preparation and cooking time for this chili recipe is a little longer than a chili made with ground beef, but your patience will be rewarded with an intensely beefy stew thickened by the pureé of rehydrated dried chiles. This is not a recipe you can throw together at the last minute, but if you take a Sunday afternoon preparing this chili, you can reheat it and have dinner ready in 10 minutes any other day of the week.
Get the recipeAnne Byrn's Chicken Pot Pie
We hold chicken pot pie in a special place in our hearts. As the ultimate comfort food, each bite of chicken pot pie is like a warm hug. Unlike other chicken pot pie recipes that use canned soup and products, this recipe still relies on a homemade sauce that adds a touch of comfort you expect from pot pie. While Anne Byrn still uses a few shortcuts — frozen pie crust, storebought rotisserie chicken — her homemade sauce really brings the dish together. Feel free to make this pot pie ahead of time, freeze it and reheat when you’re ready to serve it to your family.
Get the recipeCider-Braised Pork Shoulder
With fall and winter fast approaching, we are getting ready to drink as much cider as we can get our hands on, but the fall beverage also works well in savory cooking. In a traditional braise, you’ll see red or white wine used to deglaze, or lift, some of the browned bits from the bottom of the pot. But it’s hard to go wrong pairing sweet apple cider with hearty pork shoulder. After the pork has finished cooling in the braising liquid, reduce the mixture to concentrate the sauce and help the cider flvaors to come through even more. Once you’ve placed the braised pork, cider sauce and veggies in the Dutch oven, sit back, relax (or get some things done) while the pork cooks for about three hours.
Get the recipeCrab and Spinach Quiche
Quiche is a versatile dish that is customizable to everyone’s taste. We love a good country ham and cheese quiche, or this seafood-centric crab and spinach version. After cooking and cooling, a quiche can be refrigerated and reheated (or served cold!) when you’re ready to eat. While it’s normally a breakfast or brunch food, feel free to serve it at dinner if you’d like.
Get the recipeKing Ranch Casserole
Like traditional casseroles, King Ranch casserole is created using condensed soups and leftover chicken. But unlike traditional casseroles, the flavors of King Ranch casserole are spicy, full of Tex-Mex flair and pay homage to the state from which they hail. Easy, quick and comforting, this cheese-covered meal has become a staple in many Lone Star State homes and has spread throughout the entire South. To make the cooking process even easier, you can use any leftover chicken you’ve got at home for this recipe, or you can purchase a fully-cooked rotisserie chicken and use its meat instead.
Get the recipeSlow Cooker She Crab Soup
She crab soup is a creamy Low Country bisque, flavored with sherry and the roe of female crabs. Because crab roe is seasonal and often difficult to find, claw crabmeat offers the most pronounced crab flavor at a great value. Blending half of the crab into the soup gives body and deep crab flavor, while stirring in the remaining crab at the end brings texture and briny brightness. Cooking everything in a slow cooker keeps the recipe ultra-streamlined and easy. Using crackers to thicken the soup is a great shortcut and prevents the need to whisk together a roux.
Get the recipeVirginia Willis’ West African Chicken Stew with Collard Greens and Peanuts
While the peanut likely originated in South America, peanut stew was introduced to the South by the enslaved. Originally made and found across West Africa, peanut stew is a hearty stew that has a long list of potential ingredients which often includes okra, tomatoes, hot peppers and ginger. In this recipe, Virginia Willis adds chicken, collard greens, sweet potatoes and spices like coriander, cumin and cinnamon, to create a peanut stew that pays homage to the South and West Africa. Make this one-pot meal over the weekend and simply reheat when it's dinner time.
Get the recipeOne-Pot Chicken and Sausage Jambalaya
One-pot meals make life easier with a quick clean-up and easy serving. The secret to getting the full flavors of jambalaya in this one-pot recipe is by deeply caramelizing the meats. Both the dark fond built up on the pot and the browned meats will impart their savory flavors into the rice as it cooks. Because of the many different cured (and salty) meats involved in this recipe, salt should only be added to taste at the end.
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Photo (Pot Pie): Danielle Atkins
Photo (Pork Shoulder, King Ranch Casserole, She Crab Soup): Ramona King
Photo (Chicken Stew): Angie Mosier
Photo (Jambalaya): Maura Friedman