Simple Weeknight Dinners

We are busy. Ridiculously busy. Between events, dance classes, running errands, etc. it’s hard to just have a night of quiet. OK. Not hard. Nearly impossible it seems. So, I am on the lookout for easy weeknight dinners that don’t require a lot of prep work and can be done in little time….And that the girls will want to eat.

One of our go-to meals is mini pizzas made on English muffins. Spread some pasta sauce on the English muffins. Add some cheese. Throw it in the oven and you’ve got pizzas. I’ve been trying to use it as an easy way to get the girls to eat more veggies but they keep picking them off. Thankfully, they’ll both eat a handful of carrot sticks or cherry tomatoes if they won’t veggies on their pizza.

What are your favorite recipes for easy weeknight dinners?


Cross this one off of the list

So, as my readers already know, I love the Travel Channel and Food Network. In fact, if the tv is on in the living room, the chances are really good that one of these channels is on.

I love when they show foods/restaurants in Chicago because I love finding new food.

Quite a long time ago, a show that I was watching on one of these channels was discussing types of pizza. Of course, Chicago has a lot of pizza types to try. Deep dish pizza is great if you want a lot of food in one slice of pizza. Traditional thin crust Italian pizza is delicious but it sure is easy to eat an entire pizza in one sitting. (That might just be me.) However, this show talked about a kind of pizza that I had not heard of.
Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder
in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago has a pizza pot pie. Seriously.

Yesterday, I finally had the  chance to try this and it is delicious.   And you definitely don’t have to worry about leaving hungry.  Portion sizes are, well, filling.

Giant salad

Seriously giant salad

The pot pie tastes more like a big bowl of pasta sauce with a nice chunk of bread to soak up all of the sauce.

The big blobs under the cheese are whole mushrooms. Yum!

Yum! Yum! And Yum!

The key to going to try this is to get there soon after they open.  Ryan and I tried to go there a couple months ago and the line was simply ridiculous.  Yesterday, we got there right after they had opened and were able to get a table as soon as we walked in the door.  By the time we were ready to leave, there was already a line at the door.

So get there early.  But give it a try.  This is some seriously comforting food.

My list

You’ve heard it before, I’m sure.  If you were trapped on an island and could only have five foods for the rest of your life, what would they be?  But I feel that this is far more than an ice-breaker question at an awkward dinner party.  Think about.  Really think about it.  The five foods that you could no longer live without.  I feel like those five items have the power to tell a life story.  And so, I bring you….My list:

1)  Papa’s Fried Chicken.  I love fried.  All things fried.  But once in awhile, you come across a fried food that goes beyond bar grub or fast food.  Once in awhile, you come across a fried food that puts all other foods to shame.  My mom’s dad makes fried chicken that fits into that category.  I don’t know the recipe.  Maybe it’s not even the recipe that makes it perfect.  Maybe it’s the old pan that he fries the chicken in.  Maybe it’s because after all these years he knows the exact second that ensures that the chicken is ready.  Maybe it’s because he’s Papa and it’s Papa’s fried chicken.  I don’t know what it is.  But I’ve had fast food fried chicken, grocery store fried chicken, fancy-pants restaurant fried chicken and nothing compares.  Nothing even comes close.

2) Fried Morel Mushrooms.  So, as you have already read from list number 1, I love fried foods.  As you may not know, I love mushrooms.  And the king of mushrooms is the morel.  This side dish must be served with above list item.  Papa’s friend chicken deserves a platter of fried morel mushrooms.

This is one of those items that, if you grew up with grandparents who lived in a rural area you probably ate by the bucketful without ever knowing that people pay hundreds of dollars for those mushrooms.  When we were going to have fried chicken for dinner, Papa would take everyone for a walk in the woods to go mushroom hunting.  We would come back with a bucket full of mushrooms.  The morels were everywhere.  It’s sad to now think  of how many we stepped on because we didn’t see them until it was too late.  (Of course, we were kids and probably not the best people to take morel hunting.)  These mushrooms were then lightly floured and fried.  It’s actually pretty funny to think of the giant platters of mushrooms that we would eat every spring.  And now, a small bag of dehydrated morels cost $10.

I’m hoping that this spring will give me the chance to hunt for the king of mushrooms once more and dine on $50 worth of mushrooms that I will spend $0 on because they were simply in the backyard.

3) Raspberry Marzipan Torte.  There are some foods that I know that I could make if I tried or if I wanted to try.  This is one of those that I know that I would never be able to duplicate.  The marzipan is sweet and slightly chewy.  The buttercream is light and delicious.  Even the little raspberry on top is perfect.  Even in February the raspberry on top is perfect.

This….cake……..awesome.  Seriously.  If you live in Chicago, drive right now to Cafe Selmarie.  Order a slice of the raspberry marzipan torte.  Thank me.  If you don’t live in Chicago, drive to Chicago and drive to Cafe Selmarie.  Order a slice of the raspberry marzipan torte.  Thank me.

4)  Manchego Cheese with Tamarind Dipping Sauce.  I know what you’re thinking.  Cheese with a dipping sauce?  That’s your number four.  But, this was one of those life changing foods.  It was so simple.  But it was also insanely delicious.  I never would’ve guessed when Ryan and I went to Mercat a la Planxa that my favorite dish of the whole meal was going to be the cheese.  But, that’s exactly what happened.

Every piece of our meal was delicious.  If you love Spanish food and if you love tapas, then you will love Mercat a la Planxa.  And if you love Spanish food and if you love tapas, you should order the chef’s selection.  The joy of the chef’s selection is that you have no control over what you are going to eat.  There were a couple items that I probably would’ve ordered on my own, but almost everything that we ate were items that I never would’ve thought to order.  It worked out perfectly because the cheese and dipping sauce that I never would’ve thought to order for myself ended up being a food that I still talk about almost a year after our meal.

5) Pizza.  Pizza is probably the least specific item on my list.  Every place that I’ve lived has had a new favorite pizza.  Growing up, I loved Papa John’s with sausage and mushrooms.  When I was in college, I could’ve lived on Del Carmen’s double-crust, double-cheese pizza.  When I moved to Chicago, the first pizza that I fell in love with was at the pizza-by-the-slice place located next door to the laundromat that we would go to on Sunday afternoons. While living in the Ravenswood neighborhood, I discovered the joy of true Neapolitan style pizza at Spacca Napoli.  While working downtown, I learned how great a lunch at Lou Malnati’s can be.

My current favorite is the margherita at Apart Pizza.  It’s delicious and conveniently located close to our apartment.  And the next time that Ryan and I move, whenever that might be, there will most likely be a new all-time-favorite pizza place just waiting to be discovered near by.

So, that’s my list.  And now I want to know, what’s yours?