On more than one occasion, I've been told, "Amy, if you ever create a cookbook, I would totally buy it!" Of course it's a lovely compliment, but the truth is - my food is not original. Sorry to disappoint. Like most of you, I don't have the time or mental space to experiment with different spices and cooking methods in the kitchen. I also can't afford to cook something that is a flop with a food-loving family of five. We invest way too much money on quality ingredients to make meals that people don't want to eat.
So, I'm not a recipe-creator. I am a recipe-finder and curator-in-training!
I need tasty protein-centric meals that aren't too complicated and don't require lots of time or mess. Bonus if it makes yummy leftovers! If you need the same at your house, this post is for you - a list of 7 tried and true recipes that appear regularly in our dinner rotation. I've got the entree covered: beef, chicken, and pork, plus a soup recipe since colder weather is on the way. We usually round out the meal with a salad or colorful vegetables that I try to vary from season to season, potatoes, sweet potatoes, or organic rice that I cook with bone broth and full fat coconut milk. Fresh fruit sometimes makes its way to the table as well, especially during the summer months. Feel free to add whatever nutritious whole food sides suit your family best.
Marinated Flank Steak - This is a great one for the grill! I always score both sides of the meat and let it sit in the marinade for as long as possible, usually 24 hours, and sometimes longer. We avoid soy in our house, so I substitute coconut aminos for the soy sauce.
Lamb Meatballs - You'll notice this is actually a burger recipe, which is also delicious. But I just found our family prefers them as meatballs, and it makes prep a little easier for me if I'm pulling them together on a cold or rainy day and don't want to fight with the grill. I cook them at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes. You don't want to overcook them, and I wouldn't batch cook a huge load of them, as they tend to dry out over time. Straight out of the oven is definitely the best, and I think they taste amazing when cooked in bacon fat! You can also pop these in the air fryer at 350 degrees for 10-11 minutes if you need super quick and easy. If you think you don't like lamb, try it first, but I'm pretty sure this would also work with beef. You could experiment with different spices, or just keep them the same.
Spicy Baked Chicken - This one is my youngest's favorite chicken recipe! It's not overly spicy-hot, but I usually do omit the red pepper for our family's preferences. You could add more heat if your crew likes it burning hot. The recipe is for wings, but we use it for thighs and drumsticks, which have a lot more meat on them. Don't try to find a replacement for the smoked sea salt - it's worth a special order from Amazon or specialty store to have it in the house and definitely for this recipe. It will not be the same flavor with regular sea salt. And this goes without saying, but of course you shouldn't use anything but real maple syrup.
Bacon-Wrapped Chicken Thighs - This one takes a little prep, but not too bad. Just have plenty of space to do your work. I like to cut both the thighs and the bacon slices in half before adding the spices and assembling, as it just seems to make for a more manageable process. But you could leave everything whole and see how it goes. I highly recommend cast iron for this so the chicken browns nicely and the bacon comes out crispy. This is great for breakfast, too.
Crockpot Carnitas - You can use a tenderloin for this, but I typically use a pork butt or shoulder. You'll be salivating all day as this thing bubbles along in your crockpot while you are rocking the rest of your To Do list. I do recommend that you take the extra step of searing it in a cast iron right before serving...it creates the most delicious crunchy pieces. Add some homemade guacamole and it'll be a circus in your mouth. Plus it's so versatile and great for leftovers.
Grilled Teriyaki Pork Tenderloin - I've made this a few times and keep wishing the marinade flavor would seep deeper into the meat. So next time, I plan to score the meat like I do for the flank steak above and let it marinate for a full day or more. As with other recipes, I substitute coconut aminos for the soy sauce.
Mexican Chicken Chowder - This has been a fan favorite since I first discovered it! I usually make it on the stovetop, because that was the only recipe I had for years, but now there is an Instant Pot version which is super easy and much faster. It's my standard offering for MealTrains (particularly those recovering from surgeries and sickness), and can be jazzed up with fun toppings like bacon, sliced avocado or guacamole, chives, or sour cream. Homemade bone broth makes it out of this world, but you can get by with a quality product like Bonafide Provisions or Bare Bones. Personally, I like the frozen products better than the boxed variety like Kettle & Fire, or the jarred kind like EPIC, but you can experiment and see which you like best. Making your own bone broth is definitely the least expensive and most flavorful way to go.
If this kind of post is helpful to you, let me know and I'll work on another seven recipes as a follow up. And if you've got a favorite recipe to share, please send it my way! Truth be told, I typically rotate between the same 10-12 entrees out of necessity, but it's always fun to get inspired and try something new. So send me your best and I'll let you know when I give it a try.