Between hosting parties, hosting family, traveling, shopping, and all that is the holiday craziness, sometimes the easiest thing to do is to hit a drive through for dinner. But in order to stay sane, it’s important to maintain the habits and rituals of sitting down for a meal. So we wanted to showcase some easy weeknight dinners you can make during the holiday season.
1. Cream Cheese Potato Soup
Soup is the ideal food for colder months, and this hearty pot of creamy, cheesy deliciousness makes for a terrific meal for a family.
This recipe calls for ham, but if you have a little extra time, we prefer bacon. Start by cooking your bacon in your soup pot until crispy, remove from the pot, and drain excess grease.
Next add your water, chicken bouillon (or substitute chicken broth for water), onion, and cream cheese, and cook until cheese is melted.
Once the cheese is melted, add the hash browns and remaining ingredients, and simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until hash browns are tender.
Now you’ve got a delicious meal for your family, and it only took 30 minutes!
2. Homemade Hamburger Helper
The stuff out of the box is, we admit, an iconic flavor that many of us grew up on. But storebought just doesn’t stand up against homemade, and the only real difference is that you season and flavor it yourself, instead of with the mysterious packet of powder.
When selecting your ground beef, remember, it’s always worth it to get the best meat you can afford, so try to go for the stuff ground at the grocery store that you can actually see, rather than the stuff in the tube.
Once your meat is browned, drain excess grease.
Add the water, milk, pasta, and your spices and cornstarch. Bring to a boil, cover and let simmer for about 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the pasta is tender.
During the last minute or so of cooking, stir in the cheese, and cover until it melts. When the pasta is done, uncover and let the dish stand for a few minutes, as it will continue to thicken. Enjoy!
3. Philly Cheesesteak Sloppy Joes
If you’ve got ground beef on hand but aren’t feeling the Homemade Hamburger Helper, this recipe is even easier. The only other ingredients you need are an onion, a green bell pepper, a few seasonings, hamburger buns, and some cheese.
After you brown your ground beef, drain it and set it aside. In the same pan, sweat your onions and peppers. Return the beef to the pan. Whisk cornstarch into some water or beef broth if you have it, and stir that into the beef with some A-1 steak sauce. Add your seasonings (we like steak seasoning, such as Montreal), salt and pepper. Simmer for about ten minutes.
Meanwhile you can preheat the broiler, if you prefer your cheese melted. Once the sloppy joe mixture is thickened up, add it on top of hamburger buns arranged on a baking sheet, and top them with cheese, keeping the top bun upside down to toast. Remove after about a minute, and you’re ready to eat.
4. Creamed Corn
While some of us here on the Key Ingredient team can put away pints of creamed corn at a time, and believe it should be treated as a dinner meal, we concede that this view is not shared by most people. But we included it because this easy recipe because it’s a great side dish, and you’ll probably find yourself craving creamed corn during the holidays.
5. Western Omelettes
Omelettes, besides being the ideal breakfast food, also make wonderful dinners. They’re filling and nutritious, packed with protein, and you can fill them with whatever you want.
We’re partial to this Western omelette, not least of all because you can use deli ham, which you may already have. But we encourage you to play around with what you’ve got in your fridge and pantry.
Make sure before you start that you have a non-stick pan in good condition. We like this one by T-fal. Some tips to keep your non-sticks around for years: never use metal utensils in them, don’t stack pans on top of them or inside them, and you should maintain a perfect non-stick surface. And remember—always use butter for omelettes!
6. Caramel Apples
Just because things are crazy doesn’t mean you don’t need to eat dessert. In fact, the opposite is true. But you’re probably getting sick of all the cakes and pies (jk), so how about a healthier option?
The most important thing when making caramel is not to allow the sugar to crystallize. If it does, you have to start over. A few tips to keep it from crystallizing:
—Don’t introduce any foreign objects into the sugar once it begins cooking; this includes using a clean pot to start with. Instead of stirring with a spoon, swirl the pot to ensure even cooking.
—If you have a pastry brush, dip it in water and brush the sides of the pot to dissolve any sugar that has splattered there, which can harden and crystallize.
—If you don’t have a pastry brush, you can loosely cover the pot with a lid, so that the steam will help dissolve hardened sugar on the sides of the pot the same way as a brush.
Once the caramel is a golden brown color, carefully stir in the cream and vanilla bean. If you don’t have vanilla bean, you can use vanilla extract. Simmer until it reaches a saucy consistency, and enjoy with tart Granny Smith apples!
All recipes were made with T-fal Heat Resistant Nonstick Cookware Set. They’re super easy to clean, and for the money, they offer a lot of bang for the buck in terms of quality.