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My 5 Favorite Hearty, Simple, Family-Pleasing Dinner Meals

Here’s my general feeding-the-family philosophy: serve up basic, wholesome meals your family will eat, and dinnertime will be a lot more enjoyable for everyone.

And when it comes to the dinners my kids will actually eat, it’s pretty clear what wins: classic, hearty, meaty dishes with simple flavorings. That’s why as my kids have gotten older, I’ve increasingly gravitated toward the kind of meals I grew up with as a kid: roasts, stews, and soups.

But if you aren’t used to cooking big, meaty dishes, it can be really intimidating to get started. I know. Here’s where I admit that up until a few years ago, I had never made a pot roast, roasted a chicken, or made a soup or stew from scratch. I was terrified by the whole process.

Once I got started, though, I quickly learned just how easy these family dinner staples are to make. You don’t have to serve a ton of meat to satisfy a family – a small roasting chicken feeds all 7 of us with meat left over for soup – but just having that main dish out of the way makes it so easy to pull a meal together: roast some carrots, smash some potatoes, or even just rip open a bag of frozen green beans and some instant rice, and you’ve got a meal.

Here are the five basic meat-based dinners I return to again and again:


  • Pot Roast 1 of 5
    Pot Roast
    After eating more than a few dried-up pot roasts as a kid, I was a little afraid to try my hand at cooking one as an adult. Turns out, cooking "low and slow" is the key to a tender, moist, falling-apart pot roast, especially if you're starting with a cheaper cut of meat. I use these instructions from Simply Recipes to get me started, though I often improvise on the seasonings and accompanying veggies.
    photo credit: Simply Recipes
  • Roasted Chicken 2 of 5
    Roasted Chicken
    When I made this simple roast chicken recipe for the first time, I'd never roasted a whole chicken before. I'm glad I didn't realize at the time that the author of the recipe is chef Thomas Keller of French Laundry fame, because I may have been too intimidated to try it! But not only is his recipe extremely easy, it turns out amazingly moist, flavorful, crispy-skinned chicken every time.
    photo credit: The Culinary Geek
  • Beef Stew 3 of 5
    Beef Stew
    Okay, I admit it: I don't really follow a recipe for beef stew. I usually look at a basic recipe - this one is great - and then just throw in whatever I feel like using. Sometimes it's whole baby carrots, sometimes diced carrots; sometimes big chunks of potato, sometimes little bits of potato; sometime red wine, sometimes beef stock; sometimes peas, sometimes no peas...well, you get the picture; just jump in, it's super-easy and satisfying and hard to screw up.
    photo credit: sklathill on Flickr
  • Chicken Noodle Soup 4 of 5
    Chicken Noodle Soup
    Remember that roasted chicken from a few slides back? The carcass makes a great stock for a chicken soup later in the week. Once you've made the stock, it's as simple as cooking the noodles and veggies, and adding shredded or cubed chicken. I like to alternate basic egg noodles with Amish noodles for a different flavor and texture, too. Serve with hearty bread and dinner's done.
    photo credit: littledebbie11 on flickr
  • Pork Tenderloin 5 of 5
    Pork Tenderloin
    I love pork tenderloin. A little of the flavorful meat goes a long way, so you can let the sides rule (we usually serve it with brown rice and veggies.) It's relatively quick to prepare, and extremely versatile - you can try it with almost any flavor combinations. Important: The USDA recently lowered pork's safe temperature "doneness" guidelines from 160 to 145 degrees Farenheit. That's big, because a loin cooked to 145 will be a lot juicier and tastier than one cooked to 160.
    Inspired? Choose from this list of healthy pork tenderloin recipes - you really can't go wrong.
    photo credit: The Bitten Word
.

Does your family love basic, classic, meaty meals, too? Which are your go-to staples?

Thanks for reading my post! You might also want to follow me on Twitter, check out my Facebook page, or head over to my blog, The Happiest Mom!

More dinner ideas on Babble …
20 salads hearty enough for the main course
10 recipes everyone should know how to make
50 kid-approved recipes for picky eaters, kids with allergies, and more


main photo credit: The Culinary Geek

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