Each night, I'm looking to whip up quick and appetizing dinners -- from easy pasta dishes to meals that require zero cooking. My favorite recipes include the use of a slow cooker so that, once we're home, dinner is fresh and ready to serve. With little time, it's still possible to create a picture-perfect weeknight meal that will fool your loved ones into thinking you slaved over it all afternoon. From colorful vegetarian dishes to build-your-own tostadas, here are 15 weeknight dinner ideas that are easier to make than they look.
1. Pizza Monkey Bread With Homemade Pizza Sauce
Pizza monkey bread (a.k.a. pizza bubble bread) is a simple and fun recipe that yields more food than you realize once it’s baked. With a few common ingredients and some dry yeast, you can create fluffy pizza dough balls topped any way you like. Serve it up with a light salad for a well-rounded dinner.
Use your favorite can of biscuit dough and pizza sauce to cut down the prep time.
2. Spaghetti Squash Pasta
Looking for a quick pasta fix, but don’t want to load up on carbs? Then consider roasting a batch of spaghetti squash noodles. Not only does roasted spaghetti squash shred easily and beautifully off the shell, but a single, medium-sized squash can yield up to six cups of noodles! It’s a healthy, delicious and fibrous dish and gives you plenty more noodles for leftovers so you can pack some for lunch the next day.
3. Stuffed Salmon Fillets
Step up your protein game with these stuffed salmon fillets. Combine sautéed spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, feta cheese and chopped basil, then insert the mixture into raw salmon fillets. After baking for about a half hour, you’ll get stuffed salmon fillets that are perfect in portion size and vibrant in color.
4. Moroccan Cauliflower Steaks With Caramelized Onion Couscous
For a vegetarian-friendly dish that is as aesthetically pleasing as it is tasty, prepare some cauliflower steaks and caramelized onion couscous for dinner. This dish is reminiscent of Mediterranean flavors and makes for a savory and unique meal.
Chop the cauliflower into “steaks” or smaller florets you can dip in tangy tahini sauce.
5. Spaghetti Pizza
Pizza or pasta tonight? Why not both? Turn your usual family pizza nights into a spaghetti pizza night with this recipe. To create this noodly ‘za, simply bake angel hair noodles with a few binding ingredients such as eggs and parmesan cheese, and top like a normal pizza. It’s a fun meal the whole family can enjoy; no matter how you slice it.
6. Tostada Bar
Parents know that it’s hard for kids to say ‘no’ to a meal they created themselves. That’s why this DIY tostada bar is great for families looking to please even the pickiest of eaters. With myriad Mexican-inspired ingredients -- such as adobo chicken, crisped tostada shells, black beans, guacamole and pico de gallo – your family (or friends!) can create their own freshly crafted tostadas together at the dinner table.
7. Cauliflower-Crusted Pizza
Cauliflower-crusted pizza is a gluten-free alternative to its breaded counterpart. It’s so savory and flavorful you won’t even miss the usual doughy crust. With this recipe’s attractive arrangement of ingredients such as sliced figs, chopped basil and golden cauliflower crust, you won’t be able to resist snapping a few photos of this dish before having a bite.
Add a drizzle of honey on top to make your pizza even more delectable and Pinterest-worthy.
8. Make-Ahead Broccoli, Rice and Cheese Casserole
If you’re looking to spruce up vegetables in an easy way, then this broccoli, rice and cheese casserole will do the trick. The broccoli is sautéed with onions and generously drizzled in cheese and mushroom soup, then baked to perfection over a bed of white rice. Serve the casserole as a main entrée or as a side to complement your favorite protein dish.
This casserole can be prepared in advance and refrigerated until it's time to be baked.
9. Roasted Cauliflower Pita Pockets
Golden cauliflower pita pockets are a filling dinner item that add some wonderful color to your plate. Just simply roast the cauliflower with za’atar -- a Middle Eastern spice mix of sumac, thyme and sesame seeds. Then stuff the cauliflower, shredded lettuce and chopped tomatoes into a pita pocket with a slathering of hummus for a nourishing meal.
Za’atar seasoning can be found in Middle Eastern markets, specialty spice shops and grocery stores.
10. Crescent Roll Taco Squares
These Mexican-inspired taco squares will be a great hit at any dinner party or a regular weeknight with family. Ground beef is sandwiched and baked in between two layers of crescent roll dough until golden brown. You can serve it with your favorite taco fixings such as guacamole, shredded lettuce, sour cream and tomato for a colorful presentation.
11. Pizza Cones
Pizza cones: A fun activity for the whole family. Once your cones are baked, you can customize them with your favorite pizza toppings such as pepperoni slices, mushrooms and veggies. Plus, it involves minimal cleanup, so you can get right to eating once they’re ready.
12. Vegetarian Enchiladas
For a satisfying and cheesy dinner option, serve up a casserole dish full of fresh enchiladas. This lighter, vegetarian version of the Mexican classic is easy to make and can be enjoyed any night of the week.
You can substitute the flour tortillas with corn tortillas for a gluten-free option.
13. Curried Spinach and Artichoke Skillet Pot Pie
The mix of Japanese curry, spinach, artichoke and puff pastry makes you savor every bite of this pot pie. It’s a creamy and fragrant comfort food that’s also a great meal to share during a night in. Plus, it is an easy one-pot meal that requires very little cleanup once you’re done.
Use individual ramekins in place of a cast iron skillet for personal-sized pies.
14. Spicy White Bean and Zucchini Spaghetti
This white bean and zucchini pasta dish combines a number of common ingredients to become a fun and savory meal with a spicy kick. The sauce is creamy, tangy and flavorful -- you wouldn’t even guess it's dairy-free.
15. Sweet and Spicy Teriyaki Chicken-Wrapped Asparagus
In less than one hour, you can bake enough sweet and spicy teriyaki chicken-wrapped asparagus to last not just for tonight's dinner, but also for the rest of the week. Each individually prepared chicken-wrapped asparagus gives you perfect portion sizes to serve for dinner and to pack for future meals.