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Go-To, No-Fail Recipes for Busy Weeknights and Weekends

If cooking is your jam (and your peanut butter and your perfectly cooked steak dinner)...let us know!

Grilled corn, squash and peaches with feta and steak. Photo credit: Katie Ryan O'Connor
Grilled corn, squash and peaches with feta and steak. Photo credit: Katie Ryan O'Connor
It's definitely work to feed a family any time of year, but none more so when school and activities start back up in earnest.

I don't know many—any?—families who don't have the hours and minutes packed and stacked. It doesn't take much for parents feel more air-traffic controller than nurturing, happy home cooks.

There is also no shortage of books, blogs, studies and advice about the importance of the family meal to make you feel ridiculously guilty when you fall short.

But in truth, I found it hard to cook on busy nights and weekends even when it was just for me and my husband.

That's why last week we asked Patch readers to share their best, simplest, most go-to weeknight recipes. You can use these on a Tuesday or a Sunday—any time you are, well, pressed for time.  

John S. Snow of Woodinville, WA shared this week's winner:

"We like to make a simple, fast dinner that my late Mexican mother-in-law used to make. It only takes one 'esoteric' ingredient, but if you make authentic Mexican food, you already have some mole in your fridge."

Try John's recipe and tell us what you think! 

And here's a handy guide to jarred moles that make the cut.

I, for one, swear by the humble rotisserie chicken and the slow cooker, which can be a whole post of its own.

If you love red meat, flank steak or skirt steak needs just the presence of mind to marinate in advance and cooks super fast.

It took me a while to realize that marinades are incredibly forgiving and are the secret to fast cooking—doing it the night before only saves more time and improves flavor. Soy sauce, orange juice, garlic. That half-empty bottle of Trader Joe's Goyza dipping sauce. Whatever you have on hand that's going to impart a lot of balanced flavor and tenderize. 

For sides, grilled or steamed vegetables are no-brainers. And it's not so much the time investment, really, as whether it's hands off or on. Take baked potatoes. I use the 1 hour, 400-rule. Every baked potato, unless tiny, needs exactly 1 hour in a 400-degree oven, not 59 minutes and not 61.

I know they are going to be perfect and I can completely ignore them the entire cooking process.

Unlike, say, the kids, or work, or baseball practice...

***

PatchCooks is a new nationally crowd-sourced feature that gathers favorite recipes from Patch readers coast to coast each week on a particular theme. 

This week's theme was ridiculously easy weeknight meals.

Next week's theme: Let's make cooking even easier by...letting someone else do the work. What are the local restaurants your family cannot live without?

Share with #patchcooks on Twitter or email kathleen@patch.com.

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