dinner ideas

3 Dinner Ideas for Before Christmas

3 Dinner Ideas for Before Christmas | Writing Between Pauses

It's that time of year. 

Yes, Christmas. But also, the season of food. Of eating. Of being invited to brunches, lunches, parties, and get togethers. 

Especially when you have kids, you still need to make dinner--and you want it to be something fast and reasonably healthy (considering you have at least a dozen cookies in your house at all times, as well as any number of snacks, cakes, leftovers, and more). 

The past week (and actually, this week as well), I've been really struggling with cooking dinners. We are exhausted after long days at work topped with getting ready for Christmas, visiting friends and family, and making dishes for pot lucks. But Forrest has a pretty set schedule for his meals and trust me, the kid knows how to read a clock. 

Here are 3 recipes I'm turning to this week and next to help us eat well on the lead up to Christmas. 

1. One Pot Chicken Pasta

This is one of my tried-and-true, if I make this everyone will eat it and enjoy it dinners. I usually make extra veggies to go alongside it (usually roasted carrots and Brussel sprouts), but even on it's own, it's extremely tasty. 

I actually no longer follow the recipe anymore because I customize it so much. I cut out the bacon, keep the chicken, use milk instead of cream and veggie stock instead of chicken, add broccoli, and add the parmesan at the end of cooking (instead of at the beginning--I have found it gets separated and weird if I put it in at the beginning). This would be a really easy recipe to make vegan: use veggie stock and replace the milk with either almond milk or soy milk; no chicken, but stir in beans at the end of cooking (or use vegan crumbles); use a cheese substitute or nutritional yeast. 

2. Taco Bake

This is my own personal recipe. It's incredibly easy and can be made ahead. I actually made a few trays of it recently and put them in the freezer for quick dinners through the winter. Here's what you'll need: 

  • 1 pound of ground beef (or chicken if you prefer) 
  • 1 packet of taco seasoning OR about 1/2 cup of salsa or enchilada sauce
  • 1 can of refried beans OR 1 can of black beans to make your own (just cook in a pan and mash as you do so, add a little salt and pepper) 
  • Tortillas
  • Cheese
  • Carrots, peppers, spinach, corn, and broccoli 
  • About 1 cup of leftover rice (or cooked fresh) 

Start by preparing a baking dish; I use a 9x9 square pan, spray with nonstick cooking spray, then put down a layer of tortillas. Cook your ground beef or chicken in a pan, adding the taco seasoning or salsa (whatever you've chosen to use). If you need to, start cooking your refried beans and rice. (If you're using leftovers, it cuts out that step!) In the oven, roast your veggies of choice, then add a few dashes of hot sauce as you mix them up. Once you have everything cooked, it's time to layer. I usually do a layer of refried beans onto the tortillas in the prepared dish, then meat, then veggies, then a light sprinkle of cheese. Layer tortillas again and repeat until you run out of everything. Top with cheese and bake for about 20 minutes. 

It's so good, so easy, and can be made using almost entirely leftovers. 

3. A Cheese Plate

If it's just you and your partner (or just yourself!), the simplest dinners are sometimes the best. Recently, Danny and I, after Forrest has gone to bed at 3:30 because he hadn't napped all day, had a cheese plate dinner. We sliced up some nice cheese, made a few slices of toast, made a chocolate sauce for some strawberries, peeled a few mandarin oranges, and opened a bottle of wine. It was simple and super satisfying. Next time, we want to make some bruschetta and toast, as well as cheese and strawberries, to enjoy. 

5 Easy Autumn Dinners to Make This Month

5 Easy Autumn Dinners to Make This Month | Writing Between Pauses

The truth is I’ve been hoarding Autumn recipes on Pinterest for weeks. About halfway through August, I started really craving soup. Two weeks ago, when it started to rain in Oregon, Danny had to remind me that we can’t eat just soup all week. Why not?! For that reason, I limited myself to ONE soup recipe in this round up. Why? Because maybe you aren’t into soup as much as I am or maybe you don’t own a crockpot. No matter what, these recipes scream Autumn—they are warm, cozy, and a little heavy. Enjoy! 

1. Crockpot tomato soup

This is one of my favorite soups of all time. I used to hate tomato soup—that is, until I started making tomato soup this way. I use the above recipe, but I changed a few things to make it my own. Mainly, I don’t use a parmesan rind (dairy free) and I don’t add any milk or cream. I do sauté the onions and garlic before adding to the crockpot. I add sweet mesquite seasoning, lots and lots of garlic, and a little pinch of cinnamon (you heard me). If you want to add some extra nutrients, a bag of spinach before you blend it up really punches up the health aspect. 

2. Butternut squash and spinach tortellini

I love a pasta, especially in the winter. One of my favorite ways to eat pasta, especially heavy dishes like fettuccines and mac’n’cheese, is to use blended up squash instead of something like heavy cream and cheese. This butternut squash and spinach tortellini recipe looks so good and it’s perfect for a weeknight dish when it’s a little rainy outside. 

3. Sweet potato & black bean tacos

A list of easy recipes wouldn’t be complete with tacos. Tacos are one of the easiest things to make on weeknights—and I love using Fall veggies like sweet potatoes, delicata squash, and butternut squash alongside black beans. I would also probably add some sweet corn if your local farmer’s market has any left! 

4. Salmon & potato bake 

Creamy potatoes and salmon in one dish? Sign me up, I’m there. This would be perfect for a Friday night when you just want something heavy and warm to soothe your soul. 

5. Spinach & lentil fritters

I’ve been a little obsessed with fritters lately. Something about them is just very Autumnal to me. These lentil and spinach versions really back a punch. Serve with some pita or nan and some cucumber-yogurt dipping sauce and they’d be absolutely delicious. Or serve with mashed potatoes and roasted broccoli. Either way, serve them because they’re yummy.