One-dish dinners

Getting everyone ready for the start of the school year just means your already-busy schedule becomes more packed. Keep dinner simple with these quick and easy (and tasty) dishes that require minimal time and tools.

For whatever reason, the end of the Summer feels just as busy as the weeks leading up to Christmas for me. Our calendar is crazy this time of year: fitting in play dates and pool time, finishing the “to-do this summer” list I wrote in May, school supply shopping — all while maintaining a job and normal home-life stuff.

Somehow I feel this pressure to get it all done and I begin the “Make the most of your Summer!” mantra. And when I’m spread thin like this, the tell-tale sign in our house is that we start eating out more. I’m barely keeping up with stocking our fridge with milk and bread, let alone making a proper meal.

Yes, I know there is a light at the end of this tunnel — 19 days till school starts, but who’s counting? But, in the meantime, I’m frustrated because home-cooked meals are important to me. Heck, they’re important for the general well-being of my little family. I’ve got to buck up and get this dinner thing under control.

What to do? Simple stuff. One-dish dinner stuff. I’m not usually a casserole girl, but at times like these I totally get why they were ever dreamed up in the first place. I need to make an easy grocery list, spend a maximum of 30 minutes prepping a meal, be able to re-heat it if necessary, and it must include a vegetable.

Below are my three favorite go-to’s when the calendar is tight and dinner at home still needs to happen. I should also mention that these are good enough for company. In fact, if I invite you to dinner at my house, you are likely to be served one of these meals if my day has been busy. These are also great meals to keep in mind for the college kid’s freezer, as a house-warming gift for a new neighbor, or a welcome-baby meal for a family.

(By the way, once you make these once, you shouldn’t have to look at the recipe the next time, that’s how easy these are.)

Spicy Pork Tenderloin with Potatoes and Peppers


  • 2 TBS olive oil
  • 1 1lb piece of pork tenderloin
  • Kosher salt and pepper
  • 1 lb new potatoes, quartered
  • 2 large garlic cloves
  • 1/2 c. dry white wine (such as Savingon Blanc)
  • 1/2 c. low sodium chicken broth (or water is ok too)
  • 1/3 c. jarred hot cherry peppers, seeded and roughly chopped
  • 1/4 c. flat-leaf parsley leaves

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Season the pork with 3/4 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper. Place it on one side of the skillet; place the potatoes and garlic on the other side and season with ½ tsp salt. Cook, stirring the potatoes and turning the pork, until the pork is browned on all sides, 6-8 minutes. Add the wine, broth, and cherry peppers. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, covered, until the pork is cooked through and the potatoes are tender, 12-15 minutes. Transfer the pork to a cutting board and let rest at least 5 minutes before slicing. Stir the parsley into the potatoes and serve with the sliced pork.

Chicken Pesto Spinach Lasagna


  • 12 lasagna noodles
  • 1 container Digiornio pesto sauce (any brand is okay, I use 1 1/2 of the small containers)
  • 2 c. fresh spinach
  • 2 c. cooked and shredded chicken
  • 1/4 c. butter
  • 1/4. c. flour
  • 1 c. parmesan cheese, shredded
  • 6 oz motz cheese, shredded
  • 6 oz monteray jack cheese, shredded
  • 2 c. of half-and-half

Cook noodles and drain. In a saucepan, melt butter, stir in flour until smooth. Add cream. Stir over medium heat until thick (takes about 5-8 minutes). Add pesto. Put 1/2 c. sauce in bottom of greased 13×9 baking dish, 3 noodles, 1/2 c. sauce, 1/3 c each cheese, 1/4 c. chicken, 1/4 c. spinach. Continue layers and bake for 30 minutes at 325.

You can jazz this up with your own pesto.

Gluten free? Turn this in to a baked-spaghetti dish using quinoa noodles, mixing the cream sauce (use Pamela’s baking mix in place of flour), chicken and spinach all together, and topping with the cheese instead of doing the layers.

Thai Curry Chicken or Pork and Rice


  • 4 chicken breasts or 1 pork tenderloin
  • 1/2 container of red curry paste
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 1 bag frozen peppers/onions
  • 2 cups cooked rice of your choice (I use jasmine)
  • 1 pineapple, sliced

Stir together the curry paste and coconut milk. Place meat (uncooked) in crock pot and pour the milk on top. Set crock pot to cook for desired amount of time. Thirty minutes prior to eating, pour entire frozen veggie bag in to the crockpot, on top of the meat. Also at this time, cook your rice. Serve pork/veggies on top of rice, and top with sliced pineapple.

Cooking a one dish dinner may not be your go-to on a regular basis, but we all have times where we need the ease they provide. A few other things to keep in mind:

  • These dishes are typically great choices to freeze. If you know you’re facing some time crunching weeks, double it, and freeze one portion.
  • Think ahead while you’re cooking, and keep dishes to a minimum. Reuse your knives, use a bigger pot or bowl instead of five smaller ones. You’ll thank me when you’re doing the dishes.
  • Use good kitchen tools. A good knife makes all the difference, so can an extra large cutting board, so that you can do several things at once.
  • While these recipes contain a vegetable, make it a complete meal by adding a loaf of bread and a green salad.
  • Take advantage of convenient foods, such as pre-sliced cheeses and even pre-cooked meat from the deli section.
  • Read through your recipes completely prior to heading to the grocery store. These recipes are rarely difficult, and you can save time by understanding the direction you’re headed before you begin.
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Kelly Blanchard

Kelly Blanchard loves thinking about, preparing, consuming, and serving good food. Believing that life is to short to eat the same stuff over and over, she loves to test new eats on her friends and family. Kelly loves her coffee-addicted hubbie, her two little blonde-haired babes, all things sweet, black tshirts, and the color pink.

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