If you’re anything like me during this time of year, specifically this week, you are SO tired of eating indulgent food but also kind of stuck in the hamster wheel of reaching for leftover cookies, some dried-out mac and cheese and just waiting on the New Year to “start fresh.” I know, I know…
But I’ve got something for you today. Something to either help you plan for that first week back to work or RIGHT NOW. I’m sharing my favorite super easy, fairly nutritious but also very satisfying recipes perfect for lunch or dinner. I’ve made these on repeat for years and they always hit. Even my toddler eats most of these happily, vigorously signing for more (especially the lentil soup). So family friendly + filling + around 30 minutes to make = a win in my house.
Let’s start with that lentil soup I mentioned that I’ve kind of doctored up myself from many recipes I’ve tried over the years. Here’s where I landed after making my own tweaks. One note is that I’m not a recipe writer, and I also rarely measure anything so forgive me if anything here looks off. I took note of how much I was throwing in while I made it this time for the photo for the post and yeah, my 22-month-old ate her bowl, half of my bowl and half of my husband’s. 🙂
Arlyn’s Lentil & Kale Soup
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Total time: 45 minutes
- 4 tablespoons olive or avocado oil, divided
- 1/2 large white or yellow onion, chopped small
- 3/4 cup carrot, chopped small
- 3/4 cup celery, chopped small
- 3-4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 cup green lentils (rinsed and picked through well)
- 14.5 oz crushed tomatoes
- 32 oz chicken or vegetable broth
- 2 dried bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon each of onion powder, garlic powder, cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- A few scrunches of freshly cracked pepper
- 2 cups kale, taken off stem and chopped (I prefer the dark, flat kale over the lighter green curly kale here)
- 1 lemon cut into quarters, for serving
- Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large soup pot or Dutch oven on medium.
- Add chopped carrot, celery and onion. Saute for about 5 minutes, until onion is translucent.
- Add garlic. Saute until fragrant, about 1 minute.
- Add lentils and stir for another minute or two.
- Add the rest of the ingredients (except the kale and lemon). Increase heat to medium-high. Stir to combine and let it come to a full boil. Reduce heat back to medium (or whatever temperature allows the soup to simmer/bubble without boiling).
- Cook for 20-25 minutes until lentils have softened.
- Turn off the heat. Remove bay leaves, add in the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and, using an immersion blender, pulse the soup 4-5 times. This will make it a little creamy but still textural. (Note: If you don’t have an immersion blender, simply add the 2 tablespoons of olive oil to a blender and about a cup of soup. Blend but be careful because hot soup in a closed blender creates a lot of pressure and you risk the top blowing off and burning yourself. I speak from experience…)
- Once blended (and recombined if you used a blender), add in kale. The residual heat of cooking will wilt the kale just enough. Taste and adjust seasonings to your liking.
- Plate the soup and add a drizzle of fresh lemon
Depending on if you want a little carb to finish it off, you can serve it with a crusty roll or baguette. Even though this has tons of veggies in it, I also occasionally start with a simple greens salad drizzled with olive oil, sharp balsamic and whatever herbs I have going bad in the fridge.
Avocado Mojo Bowls
Recipe: via Pinch of Yum
Pinch of Yum is one of my favorite food accounts to follow. I’ve never made a bad recipe from her. This one uses the magic of a store-bought rotisserie chicken, a quick avocado mojo sauce (IT’S SO GOOD I tend to go overboard in my bowl) and some seasoned sweet potato wedges which is a great balance to the savory nature of the sauce and protein. I like to steam some green beans to throw on the side and it’s the perfect, wildly yummy and wildly easy dinner for when you have nothing left to give. (Note: the recipe link actually includes chicken meatballs which I’ve never made, but she shared the sauce and wedges recipe on her Instagram with rotisserie chicken and that’s how I always did for the dish.)
La Scala Chopped Salad
Recipe: via Danielle Moss
A version of this salad exists in nearly every corner of the Internet. The original is from a restaurant here in LA called La Scala. For having a fairly short list of ingredients, it’s just so dang satisfying and well-balanced. I usually use Danielle’s recipe because it’s the first one I tried and I’m loyal since it hits the spot. She uses deli turkey, but I usually use salami instead (the restaurant offers both versions and I enjoy them each for different reasons). Sometimes I add in chopped tomatoes if they’re in season, red onion, shallots, or even hard-boiled egg, but it’s honestly perfect as written.
Weeknight Whole30 Chicken Burger
Recipe: via No Crumbs Left
There are very few times when I can tolerate a burger-like meal in a lettuce bun. Stop. That’s just a salad. But I have to tell you. There’s something about the combination of the outstandingly juicy chicken burger with the dreamy remoulade (sounds fancy, is SO easy), marinated red onions, pickles, and crunchy iceberg lettuce that is pretty magical. All of Teri’s/No Crumbs Left’s recipes are. I usually put it in a bun for my husband but I gladly eat this—with extra pickles and sometimes a slice of melted white cheddar—as shown. UGH, it’s so good my mouth is watering thinking about it. I usually make a double batch and freeze what I don’t eat fully cooked for another day. They reheat great in the air fryer. If you’re feeling like you need something else, throw in some sweet potato fries on the side.
Salmon Tacos W/ Mango Cucumber Salsa
Recipe: via Pinch of Yum
Tacos are always a hit and with so many options for tortillas these days (corn, flour, casava almond flour, etc.) you really can tailor them to your dietary needs and preferences. These salmon tacos are a hit in my house. They’re beautifully spiced, easy to throw the salmon in the air fryer or even toaster oven for about 10 minutes, and you can make the salsa while that fish cooks. Boom, done! I was a little skeptical of the corn/mango/cucumber combo but it works, trust me. Fresh, crisp, sweet. And it’s all rounded out with a drizzle of honey which you can leave out if you’re watching your sugar but if you’re okay with it, it takes it all over the top. I found that the recipe for the salsa makes a bit too much, so feel free to scale back…or just make more salmon. 🙂
Cod In White Wine Tomato Basil Sauce
Recipe: via Baker by Nature
Of all the recipes on this list, I’ve been making this one the longest. If you’re ever looking for a fast recipe, white fish or shrimp is usually the best base because it cooks in minutes (like…in under 10 minutes). This is SO DELICIOUS. The white wine tomato basil sauce is something I could drink. I lick it off the spoon while I’m cooking (unless I’m cooking for other people because I’m not rude). I’ve even made it without the wine for the whole family and it was still great. A little less punchy but still satisfying. To round it out, I make asparagus that I throw in the oven while this cooks and if I’m feeling fancy, some little potatoes I prep in the air fryer.
Creamy White Beans With Herb Oil
Okay look, I know I’ve written the words “THIS IS SO GOOD” in nearly every recipe here, but THIS IS SO GOOD. I’m heavy in a bean phase right now, so this is likely representative of that, but honestly, it’s a world-class recipe made from a can of white beans and herb oil that’s very similar to a pesto without the parm (though a bit of premade pesto would be fabulous here, too). Sometimes I simply just eat a bowl of beans, other times I throw in an acidic salad and crusty ciabatta and IT’S THE PERFECT MEAL. I’ve never had the patience to make this with dried beans but I guarantee it would take it over the top.
And that’s it! A week’s worth of dinner recipes for you (or lunch and dinner if you make double portions or are only feeding two people). I really hope you try some of these as they truly are some of my top go-to’s and I always feel great after eating them. Never heavy or heartburn-y, though I recognize everyone is different when it comes to food.
Have a WONDERFUL New Year everyone, and see you in 2024. 🙂
Your friend in design (and easy dinner recipes),