quick-dinner-ideas.jpgLast week we said an official goodbye to summer and hello to cool weather, bundling up, and fall recipes. One week of fall favourites isn’t enough, so this week we’re going to check out a few fall recipes that make for easy weeknight dinners.

You know weeknights – those evenings where you have to run around making dinner, doing homework, going to soccer practice, or getting things prepped for the next day after you’ve been running around all day to start with. With everything going on during the week, it’s hard to pull together an meal at all let alone something you’d actually look forward to eating.

In the past, I haven’t spent a lot of time prepping for meal times during the week, but this is the fall I aim to change all that. That’s because I’ve learnt there are certain ‘fall staples’ you can prepare ahead of time or leave in the crockpot all day that will taste amazing and ensure you don’t have to do a lot of work to get that meal on the table.

Keep these quick dinner ideas in mind on a weeknight and take the stress out of dinnertime:

Mom’s Best Spaghetti Sauce Recipespaghetti-sauce.jpg

If you have a good quality spaghetti sauce on hand, you can make spaghetti or any other type of pasta in under 10 minutes. This sauce is great because you can put it together on a Sunday and let it cook all day, then store and serve whenever you need it. I always make double the recipe and put some in the freezer, then put it in the slow cooker and let it simmer all day so it’s ready to serve.

Photo and recipe from Allrecipes.com


4 (14.5 ounce) cans whole peeled
2 (15 ounce) cans tomato sauce
4 (6 ounce) cans tomato paste
3 cups water
4 cups fresh sliced mushrooms
2 onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 teaspoons white sugar
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
salt to taste
ground black pepper to taste
2 pinches baking soda
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese



Mix together whole tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste, water, mushrooms, onions, garlic, sugar, salt and pepper, basil, and 1 pinch of baking soda in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring. Cook on low for four hours.

Stir in another pinch of baking soda; the sauce will foam. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until thick and almost brown. Make sure to scrape the sides of the pan in to the sauce.

After the sauce is fork consistency, stir in Parmesan cheese. Watch that the cheese does not burn. Taste sauce. If it is too tangy or acidic, add another pinch of baking soda and simmer another 1/2 hour.

Cool, cover, and refrigerate overnight. The next day, reheat and serve.

Skillet Rosemary ChickenFNM_050110-Weeknight-Dinners-032_s4x3.jpg.rend.sni12col.landscape.jpeg

From the Food Network, this delicious dinner is easy, it’s done in under 1/2 hour, and there’s only one skillet to wash. You can save even more time by precooking chicken on the weekend and just reheating it when you’re ready to eat.


3/4 pound small red-skinned potatoes, halved, or quartered if large
Kosher salt
2 sprigs fresh rosemary, plus 1 tablespoon leaves
1 clove garlic, smashed
Pinch of red pepper flakes
Juice of 2 lemons (squeezed halves reserved)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 skin-on, bone-in chicken breasts (6 to 8 ounces each)
10 ounces cremini mushrooms, halved



Preheat the oven to 450. Cover the potatoes with cold water in a saucepan and salt the water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cook until tender, about 8 minutes; drain and set aside.

Pile the rosemary leaves, garlic, 2 teaspoons salt and the red pepper flakes on a cutting board, then mince and mash into a paste using a large knife. Transfer the paste to a bowl. Stir in the juice of 1 lemon and the olive oil. Add the chicken and turn to coat.

Heat a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken, skin-side down, cover and cook until the skin browns, about 5 minutes. Turn the chicken; add the mushrooms and potatoes to the skillet and drizzle with the juice of the remaining lemon.

Add the rosemary sprigs and the squeezed lemon halves to the skillet; transfer to the oven and roast, uncovered, until the chicken is cooked through and the skin is crisp, 20 to 25 minutes.

Chicken EnchiladasChicken-Enchiladas.jpg

I find a lot of great family recipes on Canadian Living, but as far as easy meals are concerned, this one is our favourite. I’ve made this on a Saturday, wrapped it up and kept it in the fridge, then served it on a Tuesday, so if you want to cut down time during the week, follow the makeahead directions.


  • 8 large flour tortillas

Tomato Sauce:

  • 1 tbsp (15 mL) vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp (30 mL) chili powder
  • 1 tsp (5 mL) ground coriander
  • 1 tsp (5 mL) dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp (2 mL) ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp (2 mL) salt
  • 1/4 tsp (1 mL) pepper
  • 1 can (28 oz/796 mL) ground tomatoes

Chicken Filling:

  • 2 lb (907 g) boneless skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 tbsp (15 mL) vegetable oil
  • 1 sweet yellow pepper or red pepper, cored, seeded and sliced
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced
  • 1/4 tsp (1 mL) salt
  • 1/4 tsp (1 mL) pepper
  • 2 cups (500 mL) Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) fresh coriander, chopped



Tomato Sauce: In large saucepan, heat oil over medium heat; fry onion, garlic, chili powder, coriander, oregano, cumin, salt and pepper, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes and bring to boil; reduce heat and simmer until spoon scraped across bottom of pan leaves gap that fills in slowly, about 20 minutes.

Chicken Filling: Trim fat from chicken; cut crosswise into 1/4-inch (5 mm) thick slices. In large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat; brown chicken, in batches. Transfer to bowl.

Drain fat from pan. Add yellow and jalapeno peppers, salt and pepper; cook over medium heat, stirring, until tender-crisp, 3 minutes. Add to chicken; let cool. Stir in 1 cup (250 mL) of the Monterey Jack cheese and 2 tbsp (25 mL) of the coriander.

Spread 1 cup (250 mL) of the tomato sauce in 13- x 9- inch (3 L) glass baking dish. Spoon heaping 1/2 cup (125 mL) of the filling down centre of each tortilla; roll up tightly and place, seam side down, in baking dish.

(Make-ahead: Let enchiladas and remaining tomato sauce cool separately for 30 minutes; chill in refrigerator. Cover and refrigerate for up to 24 hours. Or wrap in heavy-duty foil and freeze for up to 2 weeks; thaw in refrigerator for 24 hours. Add 10 minutes to covered baking time.)

Spoon remaining tomato sauce over enchiladas. Cover with foil; bake in 375°F (190°C) oven for 30 minutes. Sprinkle with remaining cheese; bake, uncovered, until tip of knife inserted in centre of enchilada for 5 seconds comes out hot, about 10 minutes. Sprinkle with remaining coriander.

Unless you want to live on packaged or canned dinners, planning ahead every week is your best bet for getting a quick and delicious meal on the table. If you’ve got some quick dinner ideas to share, please do so! We love recipe ideas around here.

Having a well equipped kitchen really helps when it comes to quick meal prep, so check out all of the great small appliances on Bestbuy.ca and look for my favourites:

Dinner will be ready when you are when you have a crockpot
Toaster Ovens make a crisp pizza dinner a reality in minutes
If you missed last week’s fall favourites, check out my great fall recipes

 Images from Allrecipes.com and Foodnetwork.com


Shelly Wutke
Editor TV & Home Theatre
I'm a Vancouver freelancer and tech enthusiast. When I'm not writing you'll find me on my farm with my alpacas, chickens, and honeybees. Visit my website Survivemag