If so, then congratulations! (But this post is not for you.)
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, I’m talking to my girls who are tired. You reach 5:30 on a weeknight, and dread starts to set in. While your friends are Instagramming their beautiful slow cooker meals that they’ve been carefully basting and babying for the last 12 hours, you are flummoxed about what to make for dinner. Every night you are forced to face up to these hungry people in your house (who for some reason turn to you for sustenance), and you rummage around in the kitchen pretending that you have a plan, but you don’t. Your favorite nights are take-out nights, and your best friend is that little white glove character from the Hamburger Helper box.
You are my people.
And like me, I bet you know that there are a lot of Pinterest recipes pretending to be “quick” and “easy,” but they’re not. They are IMPOSTERS. Once you scroll through all of the fine print (and oh, there is a LOT of it), you figure out that you should have started making this recipe forty minutes ago because the people in your house are hangry RIGHT NOW! Toddler is tugging on the knee of your pants telling you his belly is grumbling, and sassy elementary schooler is pretending that he smells something amazing cooking for dinner, even though you have only started boiling water. You need something that is actually quick, as in assembled in ten minutes and on the plate in twenty. And you need something that is easy (REALLY easy), as in cracking open a can or a jar. Why bother making your own mediocre homemade sauce when Ragu has already perfected their recipe? You don’t care if it’s organic; you just want it done.
Ladies, if your family is getting worn out on eating the same five tired meals on repeat each week, let me give you a few easy options that you can add into the mix. These meals can all be made in 20-25 minutes and don’t require ANY chopping. They are all relatively unhealthy, but I’ve also added some suggestions at the end of each recipe so that you can adjust the ingredients to suit your needs.
1. Cheesy Chicken Broccoli Casserole
- 2-3 cans of premium white chicken (Valley Fresh is probably the healthiest brand to use, followed by Swanson or Hormel)
- 2 cans of cream of chicken soup (but if you like mushrooms, you can do 1 can cream of chicken and 1 can cream of mushroom)
- 1 box of Minute Rice
- 8 ounces of shredded cheddar cheese
- 1 bag of frozen broccoli florets
- Cook 3 cups of Minute Rice on the stove according to the box directions. I hate to give you an extra pot to clean, but it’s super fast (takes maybe five minutes) and it’s the primary ingredient in the casserole. I rarely cook normal rice anymore; Minute Rice is my go-to.
- While you’re waiting for the water to boil, go ahead and open your cans of chicken. You’ll need to drain the excess water and shred up the chunks a little bit with a fork.
- When the rice has soaked up all the water and seems to be a good consistency, transfer it from the pot to a 9×13 casserole dish. I have a glass Pyrex dish I like to use for this, but you could use an aluminum baking pan as well. (If you hate cleaning dishes, use a disposable tin foil one! I like the Hefty brand. Just remember to take off the clear plastic lid. I won’t provide the details here, but there was an incident one time when I instructed my husband to bake a lasagna that I had pre-assembled the night before and left in the fridge, and I forgot to mention that important step. The plastic lid is for refrigerating only.)
- Open up the two cans of soup and mix them into the rice. Do not add water. You want this to be more of a thick sauce than a soup.
- Mix in your shreds of chicken from the cans and also your frozen broccoli. You may not want to use the entire bag of broccoli. Just eyeball it, and if it seems to be too much, save some in the freezer for later.
- Cover everything with shredded cheese and bake it in the oven at 400F degrees for about 15-20 minutes. The only thing you’re actually cooking here is the broccoli (and you’re melting the cheese). You might want to stick a fork into one of the florets to make sure it’s soft and ready to eat. Spoon it into individual bowls, and you’re done!
If you want to make it more homemade, of course you could cook a whole chicken and pull the meat off the bone yourself for this casserole. But honestly, if you get the right brand, canned chicken is just as healthy as one that you’ve freshly cooked yourself. Also, my elementary kid is adamantly opposed to frozen broccoli, so I have also made this by chopping fresh florets myself and cooking them before adding them to the casserole. My husband (who is addicted to seasoning), feels that this recipe is a bit bland on its own, and when he makes it, he likes to add a lot of spices to it before serving. Any way you cook it, it’s always a win!
2. Tortellini Soup
- 1 package of refrigerated tortellini (I like Buitoni brand)
- 1 can of premium white chicken (my old friend)
- 1 (32 oz) box of chicken broth
- 1 bag of frozen Pictsweet Farms chopped onions (I keep one in my freezer at all times)
- 2 (15 oz) cans of diced tomatoes
- 1 small carton of heavy cream
- 1 (8 oz) bag of finely shredded Parmesan from the refrigerator section (trust me, it’s better than the green can of powdery cheese)
- 1 bag of fresh spinach leaves (optional)
- Pour the chicken broth into a pot and get it boiling. You may not need the entire box. If you’re making this in a medium-sized pot, you’ll want to be careful not to fill it super high (leave room for the tortellini).
- Also, add about a handful of the frozen diced onions. Keep the rest of the bag in your freezer — I bet you’ll need them at some point for a different recipe. I LOVE pre-chopped frozen onions because it means I will never have to cry over a cutting board again.
- Once it’s boiling, add the entire bag of tortellini. Cook according to the package directions (usually you only need to boil it for 3 or 4 minutes).
- After it’s done boiling, turn it down to medium heat and add in the two cans of diced tomatoes (no need to drain — you want that tomato juice).
- Continue stirring everything together, and add some canned chicken, shredding it with a fork before scooping it into the soup.
- Pour in a little bit of the heavy whipping cream. I always tend to just eyeball it, but maybe add about a half of a cup. Stir it until the soup starts turning from red to pink. Beware that if you pour in too much, your soup is going to be super rich and may give you a stomachache later. Save the rest of the cream in the fridge.
- Turn off the burner and ladle the soup into bowls, fishing around so that everyone gets a good serving of shredded chicken, tortellini, and soup broth. Sprinkle with the shredded parmesan.
If you are feeling bloated just thinking about eating this giant bowl of cream and cheese, consider adding some spinach. I usually buy a bag of fresh spinach leaves and just throw in a few handfuls towards the end, when the soup is simmering (before adding in the heavy cream). They just need to wilt a little bit. You may also use tortellini that is stuffed with spinach or meat instead of cheese to cut down on the dairy a little.
3. Tuna Stuffed Shells
If you’re like me, you may initially recoil at the thought of tuna fish together with cheesy alfredo sauce. However, it’s actually an unexpectedly delicious combination!
- 1 box of jumbo pasta shells
- 3 cans of tuna (I recommend solid white albacore in water)
- Pictsweet Farms frozen chopped onion
- 1 jar of alfredo sauce (I recommend Classico brand)
- 1/2 cup of Italian bread crumbs
- 1 (8 oz) bag of shredded mozzarella cheese
- Italian seasoning
- Boil some water to cook the jumbo shells. You probably only need to use about half of the box.
- Toss about a handful of frozen diced onion into the boiling water with the shells.
- While the pasta is cooking, open the cans of tuna, draining the excess water.
- Scoop the tuna into a bowl and mix it together with 1/2 cup of Italian breadcrumbs.
- Once the shells are finished cooking (you will probably want to shorten the cooking time a bit so that they’re “al dente” and easier to stuff), drain the water and place the shells (and diced onions) into an 8×8 casserole dish.
- As best you can, stuff the shells with the tuna/breadcrumb mixture. (Honestly, I’ve been lazy before and just dumped it all together, and though it looks better when it’s properly stuffed, it tastes the same either way.)
- Drizzle the tuna stuffed shells with alfredo sauce from the jar. Sprinkle it with some Italian spices.
- Sprinkle shredded mozzarella over the entire dish, and broil it (550F degrees) in the oven for just a few minutes to melt the cheese. (You’re not really cooking anything in this step, but it tastes better once the tuna has been heated and the cheese has melted. Be careful to keep an eye on it or else it will burn!)
Most of the ingredients in this recipe can be substituted for low-fat alternatives. You can use whole wheat pasta instead of the normal kind. You can use light tuna instead of solid white. You can also use skim milk/low fat alfredo sauce. I definitely recommend adding a salad or some sort of vegetable on the side. And of course, if you’re not a fan of fish, you could always try using canned chicken instead of tuna.