Late Enough I Ask Advice Button

I Ask: What Is Your Favorite Home-cooked Meal?

Okay, I probably should ask: What’s your favorite dinner for me to make with two kids who are hungry at 5 p.m. so you only have 30-45 minutes to make it and, by 30-45 minutes, I mean as long as 2 Dora the Explorers on Netflix?


I made a delicious meal on Monday. Except my husband’s fanfare made it clear that the last delicious meal I made was … well… no one could remember.

So I need your help, Foodie McFooder.

Here are some guidelines:

  1. N isn’t really into TV yet (WEIRDO) so unless she finds something fun, she finds something mommy, and I’m cooking one-handed.
  2. If the meal needs a lot of focus, I have to make it mid-afternoon during N’s nap (see reason #1). So it must be reheat-able. Or long simmer-able. Or room-temperature-able.
  3. If you want me to eat dinner, it cannot be chicken-based. All other meats are on the table, but chicken is gross.

Here is my pantry:

Bonus if you can include the fluff.

Here is my daughter terrorizing the grocery store:

It'd probably be best if you didn't include watermelon in the recipe.

So I ask: What is your favorite home-cooked meal?

I’ll cook it and let you know how easy it is to ruin.

Alex Iwashyna

Alex Iwashyna went from a B.A. in philosophy to an M.D. to a SAHM, poet and writer by 30. She spends most of her writing time on, a humor blog (except when it's serious) about her husband fighting zombies, awkward attempts at friendship, and dancing like everyone is watching. She also has a soft spot for culture, politics, and rude Southern people who offend her Yankee sensibilities. She parents 2 elementary-aged children, 1 foster baby, 3 cats, and 1 puppy, who are all Southern but not rude. Yet.

45 thoughts to “I Ask: What Is Your Favorite Home-cooked Meal?”

  1. I love this!

    An old standby I make here in 20 minutes or less is kielbasa with black beans and rice. I throw the rice in my rice cooker (but I see some of Ben’s in your pantry) and while it’s cooking, I slice up the kielbasa (use hot dogs in a pinch – especially with small kids) in little circles and throw them in a frying pan. While they’re frying, I dump a can of Busch’s black beans (don’t drain them) in a saucepan on medium-low. You could even nuke them and get this down to 5-10 minutes. I serve the black beans on top of the rice and if we have it, I throw a little salsa and sour cream on top of them. Yum! I suppose you could substitute the sour cream for fluff if you’re brave enough.

    Good luck!

  2. I like lasagna with ground beef. Make it whenever during the day and then throw it in the oven about an hour before it is time to eat. Ground beef, lasagna noodles, tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, ricotta cheese, and some parm cheese. Brown some bread and make a caesar salad. My family enjoys it.

  3. I’m in the same boat, with a kid who won’t watch TV yet. He wants to be held all the time, so if I can’t throw dinner together one-handed, we don’t eat it.

    I also like things that use very few pots… I hate clean-up. By the end of the day I just want to be done with all of it!

    The go-to in our house is rice and beans. Quick rice if I forget to start “real” rice in time (which is usually the case).

    We use the rice and beans as a base for whatever we have around. Sometimes I top it with salsa and guacamole; sometimes with veggies (I like the edamame succotash w/ corn and red peppers); sometimes I throw in a can of diced tomatoes. It’s your basic one-dish wonder. You can go cajun or southwestern. Use any vegetables you have.

    Another staple is couscous or quinoa, with dried fruits & nuts thrown in (I like raisins, cranberries, pine nuts). Small grains can be a nightmare to clean up, though. My little one usually gets couscous everywhere. But he eats it happily, so it’s a trade off.

  4. My love, YOU need a crock pot.

    I have a ton of quick “mix, dump, and go” recipes that can cook all day.

    Like beef stew?

    This recipe looks way more complicated than it is in reality. Buy stew meat because it’s already cut up for you. Mix everything else, dump it in, and cook it on low for 8 hours, high for 4 (depending on your time table.) Toss in some egg noodles 10 minutes or so before you want to serve, and voila–dinner. Don’t skimp on the fresh herbs—it makes all the difference. And you can buy most of the veggies pre-cut, too!

    Chili is also easy–I make mine with ground turkey. Another dump and simmer meal. Don’t have time to chop? Leave out the minced garlic and the onion. No one will miss it. Then it’s just browned ground beef, a few opened cans of stuff, and the seasonings. Done and done.

    Lastly, pizza. What kid doesn’t love pizza? And you can put as much effort or as little effort into it as you have time for. You can buy those premade crusts, or get the ones in the tube in the biscuit section. Cheese, sauce, oven. Done. Or, if you want to get fancier, you can add more toppings. And if your kids (or hubby) are picky eaters, it’s a great way to hide veggies.

    Happy cooking!

    PS: I have a TON of quick easy chicken recipes, too….but alas, you’re a non-bird-eater.

  5. I love to cook my own food, but I’m also lazy, and usually already hungry when I get home from work. My favorite quick meal (other than pasta) is veggies with teriyaki sauce over rice. Fresh veggies are yummier but to make it quick, you can just buy frozen stir-fry veggies or whatever mixed veggies your kids will eat. Cook with a little bit of vegetable oil and a lot of sauce- I use Soy Vay brand “Veri Veri Teriyaki” sauce- one of my favorite sauces ever. I am vegetarian, and this is a meal my meat-eating friends like and eat with me all the time! (You could also add meat, or fake meat stir-fry strips.) If your kids won’t eat teriyaki, maybe they will eat just soy sauce? My dad made me rice and veggie bowls with soy sauce when I was a kid.

  6. Does your family like shrimp?

    My wife is a trained/schooled chef. She buys fresh shrimp, makes her own ginger sauce, boils some noodles, adds cilantro, and seasoning and you have a healthy, delicious shrimp pasta that can feed a family of five.

  7. Here you go. Kids love it. Easy. Reheatable. Low maintenance.
    Taco Soup:
    1 lb ground beef or turkey
    1 can corn
    1 can kidney beans (I like dark best)
    1 can Rotel tomato (it’s by all of the other tomato stuff, it is chopped tomatos and green chilis-Kroger has a store brand)
    1 can green beans
    1 can hominy (by the corn)
    1 package of taco seasoning

    1. Brown the meat.
    2. Drain and rinse the kidney beans, leave the water in all of the other cans.
    3. Put everything else in the pot with the meat.
    4. Simmer at least 30 minutes.

    Easy as pie, right? Sometimes we serve it with sour cream, too, to cool it off a little if it’s too spicy! Oh, and tortilla chips. And maybe avocado.

  8. Home Made Cheeseburger Macaroni
    1 lb ground beef
    1 box Deluxe Mac and Cheese
    1 can of Cream of mushroom soup.

    Boil up water in 2 quart pot.
    Brown meat while waiting for water to boil.
    Toss noodles into boiling water.
    Make sure meat isn’t burning.
    Stir noodles every now and then.
    Drain noodles when they are nice and fat.
    Stir cheesy sauce into noodles.
    Toss in Mushroom soup (it makes it thicker without waiting).
    Bring noodles to boil and stir in meat.
    Serve or let stand on stove or reheat when victims have been assembled.

    Double recipe if they ate it the first time.

    Make it Fancy Dancy by using weird, freaky pasta and Velvetta and your favorite spices. Personally I get lazy and sprinkle McCormick’s Perfect Pinch Garlic and Herb on everything.

    20 minutes easy peasey.

  9. Crock Pot Tacos
    2 lb London Broil
    1 tablespoon of white vinegar
    1 package of taco seasoning
    1 cup chopped onion
    1 4.5 ounce can of chopped green chiles
    1/2 cup of water

    – Spray inside of crock pot with non-stick cooking spray (I usually use olive oil spray)
    – Trim fat from meat
    – Rub taco seasoning over both sides of the meat
    – Place meat in crock pot
    – Add onion, vinegar, green chiles, and water
    – Cook on low for 9 hours
    – Shred the meat with a fork

    Serve on corn or flour tortillas (personal preference… I like flour…) with any taco fixings you want – re-fried beans, guacamole, salsa, cheese, tomatoes, etc. So easy – so delicious… And leftovers reheat VERY well…

    I got this recipe from my sister, but my husband loves to cook and he will usually get all fancy and throw in all sorts of different peppers instead of using taco seasoning… But it isn’t necessary unless you want to get adventurous with different flavors…

  10. Here’s a couple things….

    1st – Chili:

    2 cans diced tomatoes with basil and oregano
    1 can dark kidney beans (do not drain or rinse)
    1 can light kidney beans (do not drain or rinse)
    2 lbs ground beef or turkey (browned and drained)
    3 Tbsp ketchup
    1.5 Tbsp sugar
    2 packets of Chili-O chili seasoning (its the best kind)
    few dashes of all purpose seasoning (I use nature’s own)
    Salt and pepper to taste

    Add all of the above ingredients to a crock pot and cook on low all day or high for 3-4 hours. I make mine in my bean pot (I sell these and can sell you one too, but this is not a sales pitch!). I find it’s better this way b/c none of the liquid evaporates out like it does in the crock pot from the lid rattling. If you do it in a bean pot (or another covered stoneware pot) put it in the oven at 250 degrees for 3 or more hours. The longer it cooks, the better.

    Serve with whatever you like! We usually make cornbread and top it with cheese and sour cream.

    **If you like your chili spicy feel free to add hot sauce, red pepper flakes, or something like that to give it more heat but spicy doesn’t go well with my acid reflux and my son won’t eat it either.

    Also, let me recommend the Wanchai Ferry boxed meals near the hamburger helper section. (Not the frozen ones!) We make the orange chicken one all the time. You don’t have to use chicken. You can use shrimp! (Really you can, it says it on the box.) We just don’t add the chilis (again with the spicy). I add half a bag of frozen stir fry veggies for the last 5 minutes or so of cooking to add some nutritional value and more umph to the meal. If you don’t, you’ll probably need to fix something on the side to fill you up! I actually planned on doing a blog post on this meal in the near future!!

    1. Oh one more…

      Penne or spiral pasta
      Chicken or shrimp
      Italian dressing
      Frozen broccoli
      Italian dressing
      Parmesean cheese

      Marinate chicken or shrimp in enough dressing to cover. Marinate for at least 30 mins up to overnight. Cook chicken or shrimp in a pan. Cook pasta. Cook broccoli according to directions on box/bag. Combine pasta, broccoli, and chicken/shrimp together. Mix in more italian dressing to taste. Top with parm. cheese.

      You could do this with frozen stir fry veggies as well or even leave out the protein and it would be like a warm pasta salad.

  11. No chicken? Wow, that makes it harder, lol. I love 4 cheese tortellini cooked, then add it to a pan of browned butter, swish it around, coating it the butter then splash with some balsamic vinegar to make a yummy syrup, top with parmesan cheese and some chopped parsley (maybe only for the adults….as my kids hate anything that look healthy).
    I also have a wonderful bowtie pasta with peas and sausage recipe using cream and white wine (mmmmm, love cooking with wine, sometimes it even makes it in the dish, teeheehee).
    Yesterday, I made a beef stew for the crockpot using guinness beer (I swear, I’m NOT an alcoholic) and chocolate. Let me know if you want any of the recipes!

  12. Chicken is gross. Sadly, my family loves it.

    But they also ate this recently:
    Whatever you got frittata.
    You need a skillet you can put in the oven.
    Sauté some veggies (ideas-squash, onions, spinach, mushrooms, bell pepper, tomatoes, mushrooms, but maybe not all at once).
    Turn heat to medium low.
    Add beaten eggs (4-6 ish).
    I give it a quick gentle stir.
    Let cook a few minutes. It will start to set on the bottom.
    Turn on your broiler and stick the pan in there – 4-5 minute. (check it around 3, you don’t want burned ickiness.)
    Serve. Hot or cold. Breakfast, lunch or dinner. Done.

    Or quesadillas. Who doesn’t like cheese and tortillas ( cook on a med hot pan, ungreased, but watch them).

    Or fluffernutter sandwiches,p. If you have fluff, you know.

  13. There are oh so many to choose from.
    Fajitas – I chop up the steak, peppers, and make a tiny tortilla for my little guy
    Grilled kielbasa with grilled zucchini, cabbage, onions, mushrooms, red/green peppers (we use a vegetable grill pan)
    Lots of easy pasta recipes – penne with sweet italian sausage (great flavor and texture), green peppers, mozzarella, parmesan and then baked for a few minutes
    Slow cooker/Crock pot recipes are good

    I do prep at night after bedtime so no matter what happens during the day I’ve got part or all of dinner ready to go. Good luck!

  14. I love that you hate chicken! I hate it and no one understands why. It’s harder than being that one kid who doesn’t like chocolate.

    My favorite quick fixes is:
    Cheater’s mac-n-cheese w/veggies – just cook your favorite shape pasta, throw in a little milk, a tbsp or two of butter, and a cup or two of shredded cheese and some salt and let it melt/simmer until it looks like mac-n-cheese. Thaw some frozen veggies (or fresh veggies if you have time and remember) and toss them in too. Mix well. I guess if you want to get crafty you could even bake it or add herbs and spices. Sometimes I add basil or oregano, Oh and garlic. But it’s all optional and all to taste and clearly not an exact science, which is why I call it Cheater’s Mac-n-Cheese.

  15. I’m the queen of quick, one pot meals. One of our faves is border bowls.


    2-3 cups cooked brown rice (or white or Jasmine)
    1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
    1 can of corn, drained and rinsed
    1 can Anaheim diced chilies
    1 chopped onion
    2 chopped bell peppers (any color) or buy the bag of frozen from TJ’s and throw it in your food processor for a few swirls to chop up
    1 pkg fajita seasoning (do NOT look at the sodium content)
    1 can diced stewed tomatoes

    Throw everything into a large pot and cook until hot. Spoon into bowls and serve topped with cheese and sour cream or put it in a tortilla for a very full burrito. My husband likes his in a bowl with tortilla chips and avocado. The variations are endless. Not really, but there are a lot of ways to eat it. 🙂

  16. Mmmm… you might have to let N work some of her grocery store magic, but one of my family’s favorite quick meals is Beef Stroganoff. Even my kids eat it – miracle of miracles!

    1lb of beef steak, sliced into bite-sized pieces
    1/2 to 1 small onion, diced fine (so they don’t even know it’s in there)
    2 TBSP Worcestershire Sauce
    1 tsp pepper (and salt if you want, but the Worc is pretty salty)

    Saute these in a little olive oil (just enough to coat the pan). While they’re cooking, start a pot of water boiling for pasta.

    Turn the heat down to low and add 1 can of Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom soup to the meat.

    Cook your pasta (egg noodles work best).

    When the pasta is ready, add 1C sour cream to the meat mixture and heat until warm. Mix in 2 tsp of paprika, or just sprinkle it over the top of the noodles and stroganoff once you put them in bowls.

    If you like a thinner “gravy” add some milk until it is thin enough for you. It takes about 20-30 minutes to make, especially if you cut up the meat and onion while N is napping. My little monsters don’t even know there’s onion and mushrooms in there, and they even love it reheated. Good Luck!

  17. I only have like a million recipes on my site. {}
    But, if I had to pick some favorites they would be:
    Waffle Sandwiches:
    Baked Chimi’s:
    Taco Soup:
    Pasta with Spicy Chickpea Sauce:

    Or just cookies.

  18. things i absolutely always have in my pantry:

    kalamata olives
    olive oil
    parmesan in a green can
    tons of black beans
    canned tomatoes
    canned chilies

    plus, my favorite tortillas and shredded mexican cheese in the freezer, and onions. if you have these things–and aside from the onion, it will all keep forever–you can make my two favorite (and my kids’ favorite) meals in like ten minutes.

    linguine w olives: in a big bowl, combine 6 tbsp olive oil, 15-20 smashed olives (my kids like kalamatas but a greek mixture is awesome too), garlic (fresh or from a jar, as much as you like), chopped parsley if you have it (dried thyme if you don’t), and a pinch of red pepper. do this anytime over the course of the day, doesn’t matter, because the longer it sits the nicer it all comes together. boil a box of linguine, toss it all together. serve with parmesan. my kids and i eat this UP. steam any green vegetable and you have a complete meal that will make you feel like you have really accomplished something.

    mexican beans: chop an onion, saute it in a little oil with some garlic. dump in 2 or 3 cans of rinsed black beans, a can or two of tomatoes, a couple little cans of chilies. add some seasoning–cumin, cilantro, red pepper, whatever you like–and then simmer it as long as you can stand: just til it’s hot, or long enough to let it mellow a bit. put it in tortillas, sprinkle with cheese (sour cream, guacamole, go crazy), serve. my boys like it as quesadillas, cleo and i eat it as burritos–i make this every week, and i eat it almost every day of my life. cheap, fast, healthy.

    bonus tip: chickpeas are food of the gods. rinse a can of good quality chickpeas, toss them in a bowl with a drizzle of olive oil, a generous squirt of lemon juice, salt and a little chopped red onion. with some kalamata olives on the side, scrumptious. even owen will eat chickpeas, and he literally hates everything.

  19. Easiest dinner ever that will taste fancy:

    One 28 oz can of whole peeled tomatoes
    3-5 tablespoons of butter or olive oil
    Half of one yellow onion, peeled
    two peeled whole cloves of garlic.
    Pasta of your choice and protein if you want it (hot turkey sausage works well as do the premade turkey meatballs from Trader Joe’s).

    1. Dump can of tomatoes in pot. Crush with hands. (Good for alleviating rage induced by Dora the Explorer.)
    2. Stick the onion in the crushed tomatoes.
    3. Smash the cloves of garlic with a the side of a knife. Put in pot with tomatoes.
    4. Add butter or oil (more or less depending on your taste/desire to fit into your pants).
    5. Add protein if you are going to do so, after cooking and draining fat.
    6. Simmer at least 10-15 minutes or as long as you want (reduce heat as necessary.) Remove onion and garlic cloves before serving. You can go nuts and add some fresh basil towards the end if you’re feeling crazy.
    7. Cook pasta. Serve with sauce.

    Also works well for meatball sandwiches the next day aka two dinners in one!

  20. I feel your pain. My kids have to eat by 5:30 or they freak out and I get home around 4:40. three things off the top of my head:
    Super quick stir fry-
    Cook rice (brown, white,instant, traditional, whatever-
    add oil to pan until hot. add broccoli (get precut if you need) shrooms, edamame, matchstick carrots, red bell pepper, cashews, spring onions.
    cook until tender but crisp. Add garlic towards the end. Add Soy and ginger ( i use powder b/c i work) towards the beginning. When done squeeze one lime and add cilantro. Serve over rice.

    Enchilada Verde. Mix one jar salsa verde and 8oz sour cream in a blender. wrap any combo of meat and or veggies in whole wheat tortilla. I use bells, cheese, shrooms, onions etc. with some corriander or cillantro, lime juice, garlic white cheese. Top with the salsa verde mix and cheese-bake 350 till bubbly.

    Bad day dinner: One can of Trader Joes Cuban black beans. Choose your rice, we like TJ’s brown or Jasmine. Add 1/2 lime to bean mix and throw in some cornbread muffins and a beer.

  21. Get fresh pizza dough. Heat up pizza stone (good investment if you dont have one) heat up to 500 degrees. Throw corn meal on stone, roll out dough. Jar pizza sauce, shredded mozz, and anything you want on top. Bake until it looks good. We do this at least once a week. Takes no time, tastes good.

    This is the most I can cook. Except, of course, for chicken.

  22. Girl, you gotta get you a crockpot, and the cookbook “Fix it and Forget It, Lightly”. Here’s one you won’t see in the cookbook though:

    pork tenderloin (or loin) – no bone
    remove all visible fat
    1 jar salsa
    2 Tblsp chopped onion (can skip)

    Cook on low all day or on high for 4-6 hours. Can be cooked until sliceable (less time) or shreddable (more time – and my preference when I ate meat). Salsa and meat juices make a tomatoey gravy you can skip for the kids.

    Check out my notes section for others.

    1. And by notes section, I mean on Facebook.

      *Facos are popular at my house (fake-meat tacos)
      *package of taco seasoning
      *fake beef – heat together with some water (or the ‘beef’ will dry out)
      *can veggie refried beans with some salsa mixed in to make them pliable – heat on stove or in microdoodle
      *corn – cook
      *rice if you have it (i use quick cook brown)
      *serve with salsa, tomatoes, sour cream, heated taco shells

      *tortellini and jar alfredo sauce with fake meatballs from the freezer

      *make up meatloaf on the weekend and put them in muffin tins. Freeze. Remove from tins and pop in a zip-top bag. When ready to bake, put them back in a muffin tin and bake at 350 until done. Smaller portion = less time to bake

  23. Hmmm…I’ve got one almost impossible to screw up because it’s so easy – we call it Chicken Da Bomb (it’s a churched-up version of Chicken Divan) – but you couldn’t screw it up!

  24. From

    Serves 4. Published May 1, 2007.

    Use either hot or sweet Italian-style turkey (or chicken) sausage here. Pork sausage can be substituted, but you will have to drain off the extra fat before adding the pasta. When you are adding the spinach, it may seem like a lot at first, but it wilts down substantially. Ziti can also be used here.

    Super easy, and quick. I used canned minced garlic and toss in a Table spoon of red pepper flakes (for the adults)

    It reheats really well.

    * 1tablespoon olive oil
    * 1pound hot or sweet Italian turkey sausage , casings removed
    * 3cloves minced garlic (use the kind in a jar)
    * 2 1/4cups low-sodium chicken broth
    * 2 1/4cups water
    * 8ounces penne pasta (2 1/2 cups) (*you can use any kind of pasta)
    * 1/2cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes , rinsed and chopped fine (I’ve also used jarred roasted red peppers, chopped)
    * 1 (6-ounce) bag baby spinach
    * 1/2cup grated Parmesan cheese (the powdered stuff is fine)
    * 1/4cup pine nuts , toasted (optional)


    1. Brown Sausage: Heat oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking. Add sausage, breaking it up with a spoon, and cook until lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

    2. Simmer Penne: Stir in broth, water, penne, tomatoes, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Increase heat to high and cook, stirring often, until penne is tender and liquid has thickened, 15 to 18 minutes.

    3. Wilt Spinach: Stir in spinach, handful at time, and cook until wilted. Off heat, stir in Parmesan and nuts. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve.

  25. 2 tablespoons shortening
    4 pork chops
    Muenster cheese (enough thin slices to cover pork chops)
    1 large onion, sliced
    2 (10.75 ounce) cans condensed cream of mushroom soup
    2 cups milk
    1.Melt shortening in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook chops in hot skillet, just enough to brown both sides.
    2.Place pork chops into a slow cooker, and arrange sliced onions over meat. Then lay slices of cheese over this. Pour soup and milk over the meat, onions and cheese.
    3.Cover, and cook on High for 4 to 5 hours, or on Low for 8 to 10 hours. Make noodles or rice to serve on the side. Peas go well with this too.

  26. Okay I can’t even beat all those great recipes down there, and the recipe I just posted has chicken (although you can easily substitute another meat. I made grilled cheese for the kids tonight.

  27. I know it’s been a while since you posted this, but a mom can always use another quick recipe, right?

    I see applesauce in your pantry. Here’s what I’d do with it:

    Super Tasty Yummo Pork Chops (I just made that up)
    Take about 20 minutes, if you’re really slow or the chops are thick.

    You’ll need:
    Some pork chops
    Apple juice (water is fine in a pinch, but the apple juice makes the chops really moist and tender)
    Apple sauce
    Seasoning salt
    Skillet with a lid

    Lightly season the pork chops with your favorite seasoning salt. Put into skillet on medium-high heat and brown on one side. Turn and brown the other side “halfway.” Then reduce the heat to medium-low and add 1/2-3/4 cup apple juice (more for bigger skillet, we’re not trying to boil the chops here, just don’t let it cook dry). Cover and allow to simmer until chops are cooked through. While they’re simmering, steam veggie of your choice or whatever you like for a side-dish. I like stove-top stuffing or broccoli.

    Serve chops with apple sauce. We love dipping bites into it!

      1. Burrito bowls in mandyland’s comment were super easy and good. Also beef stew under Abby gabs although it’s a slowcooker recipe so move fast! I’d trust Alli n son and the kitchwitch with any recipe.

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