Despite what the interwebs will have you believe, dinner does not need to be a five-course gourmet meal.
It doesn’t need to be plated just so or presented on a beautiful, perfectly lit platter complete with flat lay-worthy props.
It doesn’t need to be served on a fancy table complete with placemats, candle sticks, and proper silverware.
And it certainly doesn’t need to take you three hours to prepare.
But it does need to be doable, quick, and healthy so that you’ll actually do it, you’ll be in out and of the kitchen real quick, and you won’t feel incredibly unhealthy afterward.
No one wants to unbutton their pants after dinner.
(Who am I kidding? Comfy pants are my number one priority at the end of the day - no buttons needed, thank you very much.)
Sure, it can be fun to get your hands dirty and make a meal that is photogenic and that looks as good as it tastes. Homemade pizza from scratch?
Maybe a lasagna that would make any pasta-loving cat drool?
Bring it on. Like, once a year.
But on the average work night? Does anyone who’s not totally masochistic and who has better things to do really want to come home and do even more work?
Like, supper is so not your second job.
To tell you the truth, most of my dinners are decidedly un-fancy. Take a look at my Instagram and you’ll see how basic most of them really are. We’re talking some sort of variation on pasta, salad, or potato.
Probably why I’m not so popular. Face palm. Definitely not a chef, food stylist, or a photographer. Just a regular gal getting her healthy food on.
Un-fancy dinner eaters, unite!
Need some inspiration? Like I said, I generally stick to the same types of dinners. Whoever said variety is the spice of life never had to plan, prepare, and clean up after dinner.
So here are my three favorite basic dinners. Do with them what you will. Which I hope is eat them.
You know how to boil water and dump a bag of (non-white) noodles in a pot, right?
Voila, dinner! And leftovers for more dinners and lunches, if you’re not a carb-loading beast that can’t seem to stop at what would be considered an appropriate serving size. (Which I totally am, and I don’t believe carbs are the devil...so, yeah.)
You can get a little fancier and add some veggies or greens during the cooking process (seriously, dump some frozen veggies in the pot when your pasta is almost done) or toss in some sauce and seasonings.
I mean, I hope you do because otherwise that really is a basic dinner. Like, one step above ramen noodles.
Which I’ve never had, by the way. I’m oddly proud of myself for that.
My favorite is brown nice noodles tossed with olive oil, sea salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, and a little bit (or a lot) of nutritional yeast or some homemade vegan parmesan (nuts + nooch + spices x food processor = vegan parm).
That’ll take you about 20 minutes. Doable, am I right?
The same salad principles that we used for lunch apply here. (You got that salad building freebie, yes?) So you should have a bunch of chopped up veggies and fresh greens on hand to create your own salad bar that’s open for dinner.
All you have to do is add stuff to your bowl or plate, depending on how you roll. Or what’s clean. There’s really no cooking involved.
Maybe you’ll need to chop up some veggies if you don’t have any prepped, and maybe you’ll need to whip up some salad dressing. You might even need to make some protein like tempeh or chickpeas.
But do that one time and you’ve got options for days. And then you have an easy and healthy dinner.
And, maybe it’s just me, but I feel pretty damn good about myself when I’m eating a salad at the end of the day rather than diving head first into some frozen meal. I bet you will, too.
Have I told you lately just how much I love sweet potatoes?
No? Well, sweet potatoes are complex carbs (read: not the devil) and have loads of fiber, vitamins, nutrients, and antioxidants.
And, yes, they are different than yams.
In other words, sweet potatoes are the perfect base for a perfect dinner.
I like my sweet potatoes (roasted in the oven if you’re feeling patient or microwaved if you’re short on patience…and time) with a crap ton of veggies. Seriously. Topped with sautéed red pepper, red onion, spinach, tomatoes, and avocado, and drizzled with coconut oil and sea salt.
See how those chopped up veggies are coming in handy and how a little time invested in those chopped up veggies is saving you tons of time?
Or you could go the cheeze and broccoli route. (Here’s my Alex Trebek-esque instruction: Note the “z” in “cheeze.”)
Or how about southwestern style with black beans, salsa, and jalapeño?
My friends, the topping combinations are endless. Seriously, Google “stuffed sweet potato.” That’s enough inspiration to last a lifetime.
By the way, those sweet potatoes would make an excellent lunch choice, too. In case you were curious.
And, in case you were also curious about some non-white pastas, I’ve put together a short and sweet list of some alternative pastas to try out. Check it out below.