No-brainer dinners: Five meals to assemble and heat

It’s summer, and I don’t wanna cook. Actually, I don’t mind the cooking; it’s the thinking about cooking I want to lose.

My ideal summer day includes leaving the house on an ill-defined adventure with no set get-home-in-time-to-make-dinner plan. When I walk in the door at 5:30 p.m. (potentially in need of a shower), it would be nice to know that a nutritious dinner is minutes from table-ready and doesn’t involve pizza.

I came up with the Rotisserie Chicken Club while writing Minimalist Parenting. But now that the manuscript is done and summer’s here (and my family is totally sick of rotisserie chicken), I made the mistake of easing off the meal planning. Summer is when I’m least motivated to think about dinner, so it stands to reason that automating meals is as important now as it was when I was focused on a project.

So, my new strategy is assemble-and-heat meals. No-brainer dinners that:

  • I can throw together with my eyes closed
  • My family likes (most of them, at least)
  • Involve very little prep and cleanup


Frozen vegetables make a big showing here for the ease-of-prep factor. I’m lucky enough to live near a Trader Joe’s, but most of these veggie combos can be found at any well-stocked grocery store.

Here are the most successful entries so far:

  • Pasta with sausage, onions, and peppers 1 of 5
    Pasta with sausage, onions, and peppers
    This is the meal that inspired this post. Garlic herb chicken sausage, grilled peppers and onions (precut and frozen from TJ's) heated and served atop pasta with a sprinkle of parmesan.
    Photo credit: Great Chicago Italian Recipes
  • Broccoli tofu stir fry 2 of 5
    Broccoli tofu stir fry
    Reliable family standby from our vegetarian days. Precut broccoli (fresh or frozen) and cubed tofu, sauteed with minced garlic and ginger from a jar and seasoned with a sprinkle of soy sauce, sesame oil and brown sugar. Sometimes I throw in a can of cut baby corn.
    Photo credit:
  • Chicken pot pie 3 of 5
    Chicken pot pie
    I got this fantastic recipe from the Real Simple website. Rotisserie chicken, store-bought pie crust, baby carrots, frozen pearl onions, frozen peas, and Better Than Bouillon chicken broth concentrate make this come together in a snap.
    Photo credit: Real Simple
  • Enchiladas 4 of 5
    My secret? No rolling! Combine a bottle of Trader Joe's Enchilada sauce with a can of tomato sauce. Layer corn tortillas, sauce, shredded cheese, grilled onions and peppers (frozen!) and whatever else sounds good. Top with cheese and bake. Garnish with sliced olives and green onions.
    Photo credit: Pinch My Salt
  • Hot dogs 5 of 5
    Hot dogs
    Not original but a major treat during short Portland summers. On the grill with corn on the cob, canned baked beans, sliced fruit and all the fixins.
    Photo credit: D. Sharon Pruitt for Outdoor Cooking Magic

What are your no-brainer dinners?

Another shortcut: a meal planning service such as the fantastic Six O’Clock Scramble.
Also: Babble has updated the slideshow functionality so that it loads quickly without refreshing the page. I’ve generally shied away from slideshows because I find them tiresome to click through, but I like this new format. What do you think?

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More on The Accidental Expert:
♦ Six life skills your kid can learn this summer
♦ A summer of self-care in six simple steps

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Article Posted 4 years Ago

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