Real Food Tips: 4 Super Quick Wholesome Dinners

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When your day just doesn’t go as planned or you simply don’t feel like cooking up a storm, here are four super easy “real food” dinners that can be whipped up in 15 minutes or less. That’s faster than the pizza delivery man. And most of these meals are made from ingredients with a decent shelf life that don’t have to be defrosted or prepared in advance. So if you pick up some of the suggested “items to have on-hand” the next time you’re at the store then you’ll be all set the next time you suddenly need to whip up a super quick wholesome dinner. Please also feel free to share your easy and fast “real food” dinner ideas in the comments below.

  1. Spaghetti with Sautéed Onion/Veggies
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    Items to have on-hand:
    - Dry organic whole-grain noodles – Look for a 1 or 2-ingredient organic pasta product that contains something like “organic whole durum wheat flour” and maybe “water” (avoid “semolina” because that is the refined version of whole durum wheat)
    - Jar of organic spaghetti sauce – Eden Organic “no salt added” spaghetti sauce recommended (pictured)
    - Olive oil or butter – For sauteing the veggies
    - Onion - I always try to have onions in the house…they have a fairly long shelf life and can be used in so many different recipes
    - Fresh (or frozen) organic vegetables – Some veggies that would nicely complement this dish are zucchini, yellow squash, bell peppers, and mushrooms
    - Optional items – Freshly grated parmesan cheese, fresh or dried herbs for added flavoring of the sauce
    -
    Simple directions:

    1. Boil pasta according to package directions. Once the water is boiling most noodles take 7 – 10 minutes.
    2. While noodles are boiling dice about a quarter of an onion. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil (or butter) in a large sauté pan over medium-low heat and add the onions.
    3. While the onions are cooking dice/chop the veggies and add them to the pan with the onions. Turn the heat up to medium and sauté until veggies soften, about 5 – 7 minutes. If you are using frozen veggies heat them up according to package directions or throw them in the pan to defrost/cook.
    4. Once the veggies are tender pour the jar of spaghetti sauce into the pan. Spend a few minutes warming up the sauce and then taste test to see if it needs anything else (like salt, pepper, or herbs).
    5. Drain the noodles and divvy them up. Pour the veggies/sauce over top and garnish with freshly grated parmesan cheese (if using).
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  2. Scrambled Eggs with Fruit (with Optional Greens and/or Sausage)
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    Items to have on-hand:
    - Eggs – I don’t know about you, but eggs are something I always try to have stocked since there are so many uses…also local, pastured and/or organic eggs are recommended.
    - Organic Butter – For cooking the eggs
    - Fresh or frozen organic fruit – Any fruit will work
    - A whole-grain bread-like item – Anything could complete this meal including whole-wheat sandwich bread (to make toast), whole-grain crackers (like Ak-Mak, Triscuits, or Multiseed), or possibly some homemade whole-grain muffins or biscuits if you happen to have some around
    - Optional items – Cheese, jelly (if making toast), kale or spinach, local pastured sausage
    -
    Simple Directions:
    1. If using the optional kale or spinach puree it in the blender along with the eggs. I usually figure two eggs per person. If you don’t have greens just crack open and scramble the eggs with a fork. Be sure to season with salt and pepper.
    2. Heat a medium sized sauté pan over medium-low heat and add a generous pat of butter. Once the butter has melted pour in the eggs. Let them sit for a few minutes before you start to “scramble” them.
    3. While the eggs are cooking make the sausage (if using) according to package directions and toast the bread and chop/wash the fruit. If the fruit is frozen run it under warm water to help it defrost (or blend with other ingredients to make a smoothie).
    4. Once the eggs are done all the way through sprinkle cheese on top (if using). Serve with the fruit, toast/crackers, and optional sausage.
    -
  3. Whole-Wheat Organic Boxed Mac & Cheese with Frozen Peas and Optional Bacon/Hot Dogs (just for the kids…or for the whole family if you are really in a pinch!)
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    Items to have on-hand:
    - Annie’s whole-wheat organic boxed macaroni and cheese (1 – 2 boxes) – There is only ONE variety of Annie’s mac and cheese that even comes close to fitting the real food bill (pictured) so be sure to analyze the options closely!
    - Organic frozen peas – There should only be 1-ingredient listed on the bag…avoid frozen veggies that come with sauces/flavorings
    - Optional – Organic grass-fed bacon or hot dogs
    -
    Simple Directions:
    1. Boil and make the macaroni by following the directions on the box.
    2. If using bacon/hot dogs cook according to package directions. When done cooking chop/dice the meat.
    3. Once the macaroni is done and the cheese sauce has been mixed in add the frozen peas (no need to defrost them). The frozen peas will simultaneously thaw while they also cool off the macaroni. Mix in the chopped bacon/hot dogs (if using).
    -
  4. Pizza Toast (or Bagels) with a Side of Raw Veggies
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    Items to have on-hand:
    - Whole-wheat sandwich bread (or bagels)
    - Jar of organic pizza/pasta sauce: Eden Organic brand recommended
    - Organic cheese: A block of mozzarella is recommended and if unopened will stay fresh for several weeks in the fridge (Avoid the pre-grated stuff because it has a powdery anti-caking additive)
    - Raw veggies: Carrots, celery, cucumbers or bell peppers would all be tasty quick side items
    - Optional: Freshly grated parmesan cheese (for the pizza), hummus or homemade ranch dip for the veggies
    -
    Simple Directions:
    1. Slice the bread/bagels and spread a tablespoon or two of the pizza/pasta sauce on the top. Sprinkle with mozzarella cheese and heat in the oven (or toaster oven) just until the cheese melts and starts to turn brown.
    2. While the pizza toast is cooking wash/slice veggies and make dip (if using). When the pizza comes out of the oven top with grated parmesan cheese (if using).

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117 comments to Real Food Tips: 4 Super Quick Wholesome Dinners

  • I really appreciate your blog – great info!

    I was wondering… Would you please consider allowing a full feed to Google Reader, rather than a partial feed? I subscribe in Google Reader because I don’t have time to click over to all of the blogs I follow. Partial feeds really defeat that. And, to be honest, if the topic doesn’t grab me right off, I often don’t click over and read the post. But I’d like to read them all!

    Thanks!

  • Great ideas, thank you! Easy too!

  • Sarah

    As a homeschooling mom of four boys ages 10-3 and a fifth boy coming in August this post is just what I need. Thanks so much. Another go to in our house is French Pancakes. So easy!
    8 eggs
    2 cup milk (any type works – soy, coconut, almond etc.)
    2 cup flour (we grind our own at home, whole wheat works great!) preheat oven to 425
    place 1 stick of butter in a 13x9x2 baking dish. Put the baking dish in the oven while it preheats to melt the butter
    while oven is preheating mix all three ingredients well. sometimes we add cinnamon, nutmeg or any other spices that sound good.
    once the oven has preheated and butter has melted pour the batter into the baking dish and put it back in the oven.
    It will need to bake for about 15-20 minutes maybe longer. Your meal is ready when the center is set and the sides are starting to brown. (The butter starts to brown nicely too.)
    We love this with maple syrup, jam, honey or fresh fruit on top! We have it for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

    We are big fans of Real Food! Thanks for all of your hard work!

    • Sadie

      Another good, quick, high protein pancake recipe is:

      8 eggs
      2 c. cottage cheese
      1 c. oatmeal
      1-2 tsp vanilla
      cinnamon and nutmeg to taste
      Blend it all up in a blender, and cook on a griddle

    • April

      I have King Arthur Whole Wheat flour. Would I need any baking soda or salt for this french pancake recipe? I am assuming the flour is “all purpose” which usually calls for soda and salt for it to “rise.”

  • Susanne

    This is excellent. Just yesterday, I found myself too tired to cook anything. Will add this to my grocery list this week. Thank you!

  • We like to do our pizzas on a pita cut in half the circular way (instead of like a pocket). It’s fast and easy! I also got my kids “face plates” that have an undecorated face on them. They are great for giving my kids a dinner of very random assortment of fruits and veggies. They kids use the food to decorate the plate and don’t notice the strange combinations I give them. :)

  • Love the pizza bagels for the kids. I buy lots of Eden products but haven’t tried the pizza sauce–thanks for the recommendation!

    And even for the grownups we sometimes do scrambled eggs for dinner. I like to dress them up with some of this smashed-herb cream cheese (from http://www.101cookbooks.com) and maybe a little smoked salmon: http://emmycooks.com/2012/03/03/smoked-salmon-frittata-with-spinach-and-herbed-cream-cheese/

    And THIS is my current favorite quick meal if you are an anchovy fan (and even if you think you aren’t!), made with whole wheat pasta and possibly a fried egg on top: http://emmycooks.com/2012/02/14/pasta-with-garlic-anchovies-chili-and-breadcrumbs/

  • JCo

    I have a question about your photos of the food – is that a portion that you would eat or a portion size for your kids? Portions have become so large here in the USA that I have no idea what is a reasonable portion anymore. In general, I think we all overeat.

    • 100 Days of Real Food

      Good question! The egg picture is an adult portion…although one of us might go back for a little more of our favorite item. The pizza toast was actually a picture I had from a long time…not at all enough food for my kids or for us! That picture is almost like an appetizer, but at least it shows what the pizza toast would look like. Real food is more filling than the empty calorie stuff though (like refined grains) so you don’t need as much to fill up.

  • Ryder

    Breakfast is always a go to quick meal in my house any time of the day. Also short cut rice and beans: Success (par boiled) brown rice, canned beans, canned tomatoes (onions, peppers, garlic, celery, etc – all optional and depends on what you have on hand and what needs to be used up) throw it all in a skillet and it cooks up in about 20-25 minutes. Also quesadillas.

  • Kat

    I also use whole-wheat tortillas as pizza crust when I’m in a pinch! Pull one out of the freezer, bake it for a few minutes so it gets crunchy, then add a thin layer of sauce and some cheese and veggies. Super yummy every time! :)

    • We do this, but make ‘Pizzadilla’s’….either folding over the tortilla, or using two to make a round sandwich. Go light on the sauce (so it doesn’t slop when you flip it) and heavy on the cheese, quick to cook up in a pan on the stove, or bake a whole bunch at once. We will make them to use up leftover meats, vegge’s, and spaghetti sauce.

  • Ashley

    This is great! I’d love to see more posts like this!

  • Sara

    Do you make your own bagels? Or is there a brand that is real food approved? My kids LOVE bagels, and for us that has been the hardest part of the conversion to real food.

    • Nina

      I was going to ask the same questions about the bagels, curious about your answer Lisa. Love the information you provide!

    • 100 Days of Real Food

      Yes, I’ve been *trying* to make bagels using my bread recipes. They are edible and fine, but not great yet…I definitely need more practice (but my kids love them!)

      • Sadie

        I have been making bagels for years using a recipe from allrecipes.com called “boiled bagels”. You would just use whole wheat flour rather than the all-purpose.

      • Miriam

        There is also a great recipe for bagels in Healthy Breads in Five Minutes a Day. Not terribly fast to do, but well worth it.

  • Pat Grimm

    Great ideas, thanks! I used organic brown rice pasta (Trader Joe’s) the other day and my kids thought it was the same old semolina pasta we used to use. When you buy it, it’s brown, but it cooks up light. They don’t like the whole wheat at all. I was wondering if there is any nutritional reason to use whole wheat over brown rice pasta?

    • 100 Days of Real Food

      Nope both brown rice and whole-wheat are whole grains…they are just different grains. That’s really all! (It’s like eating an apple versus a banana)

      • Stephanie

        We love the brown rice pasta, too, for its similarity to “white”, but I noticed that the brown rice pasta has less fiber per serving than the whole wheat. The total amount of carbs are about the same though. Only if this matters to you (we have a diabetic in the household)….

  • kasifrass

    Spaghetti is our favorite quick dinner — in fact, I was planning on making it tonight! I use a store brand (Sunflower Farmers Market) organic pasta sauce (which, I’ll admit, I haven’t checked for ingredients because my husband picked it out at the store last night), organic whole wheat pasta, and sometimes a little raw milk hand-shredded cheese, all-natural chicken sausage, or grass-fed beef crumbles. I think I’ll pick up some frozen veggies on the way home and toss those in the sauce! (Why didn’t *I* think of that?!)

    Our other quick dinner is grilled cheese and tomato soup. I buy whole grain sandwich bread from the bakery and a block each of raw milk mozzarella and raw milk sharp cheddar cheese with some organic butter for the outside. Organic tomato soup from the deli and we have a delicious meal in 30 minutes or less!

  • Joy

    I usually stock the freezer w black beans and garbanzo beans (chick peas) that I have cooked and packaged into 2 c. portions and cooked brown rice in 4 c. portions. I also stock up on whole wheat pita from Walmart (ingredients: whole wheat, honey, salt) and bags of frozen mixed veggies. When we’re in a hurry, I can make stir fry from the rice & veg (sometimes I add leftover chicken or tofu), rice and beans, or make hummus from the chick peas & serve w pita and raw veg and cheese. My kids actually prefer these easy meals!

  • Karin

    On my mac and cheese nights, I increase the protein and fiber by adding half a can of well-rinsed (preferably Eden organic) white beans — either great northern, cannellini, or navy beans — to the cooking water about 30 seconds before the noodles are done. I know you are not a big fan of beans, but the white beans blend in with the noodles and sauce, and the kids barely notice the difference!

  • Lisa

    Thank you Lisa for all the wonderful ideas!! One of our go to favorite is nachos with local 100% whole corn chips yummy organic cheese and local salsa is the base and then we add what ever else we have like lettuces,beans,chicken ect. or just with cheese and salsa!!

  • Sometimes I find myself starving after I get home from work late at night with absolutely no desire to cook anything, and the thought of stopping for take out crosses my mind. I’ll keep the organic mac and cheese in mind next time I go to whole foods.

  • Hannah

    We have a friend from Iran who introduced us to a fantastic way to eat eggplant that has become a good option for a quick and easy meal. (I recommend making it and freezing it ahead of time for use in a pinch).

    Grill a whole eggplant (skin and all) over a hot grill until it is very soft and the skin slightly splits.
    While the eggplant grills saute up a whole medium sized onion and four cloves of garlic in extra virgin olive oil.
    Peel the eggplant and process in a food processer with the onion and garlic until pureed but slightly chunky.
    Add a 8oz can of organic tomato sauce.
    Cook on the stove for 5-8 minutes or until thickened some.

    Use right away as a fantastic pizza sauce (and you are eating eggplant!) or pasta sauce or freeze for use later on.

    Hint: you can “hide” other vegetables in this yummy sauce too. Try adding in cooked carrots, kale, or mushrooms. We’ve found that we like the sauce better than any other for it’s thick smooth texture and rich flavor.

  • Spaghetti is one of our favorites too – I often make a huge batch of sauce and freeze most of it, so homemade sauce is easy to pull out and warm back up again!

  • Brianne

    This is such a great list of ideas. I work 2 days a week and on those days when I get home (at 5:30pm) I have 2 hungry kids! Last night (without seeing this post) I made the Annie’s mac n cheese with frozen peas and turkey hot dogs. My kids GOBBLED it up!

  • Anna

    We keep a stash of wild caught fish in the freezer that defrosts in hot water in a few minutes. We make quick fish tacos, broiled fish with lemon & pepper, or even put the fish in pouches of parchment part with veggies piled on top and baked for 15 min. I almost always round out a quick meal with a grain frozen in my freezer or some leftover homemade bread and raw fruit or veggies. We eat lots of salads and a chef salad is always a meal option for my family – boil an egg and chop up some leftover meat and voila! Chef salad.

  • Do you find that you need to keep onions below a certain temperature or somewhere dark? Mine never seem to last longer than a week or two in the summer….

    • I just keep mine in the drawer in the fridge and they last for weeks if I don’t use them first. I don’t think I’ve ever had one go bad. You can also pre-chop them and freeze to use for cooking later.

    • 100 Days of Real Food

      We keep our onions in a basket in the pantry…so I suppose it’s dark in there most of the time.

    • Lori B.

      Here in GA we get the vadallia onions and they WILL start to ferment pretty quick because of their high sugar content. I keep them in the fridge, bottom drawer, uncovered not in bags. Worst case, slice/chop and just freeze flat in bags, then crumble them up.

  • I love having old stand bys like this! I have to look for that sauce, pita pizzas are always a hit here :)

  • Alicia

    Great ideas! Spaghetti and eggs are my go-to quick meals :) I use a large can of diced tomatoes (and puree some as my kids don’t like the chunks) and add seasoning in place of the jarred spaghetti sauce. The flavor is still great and the price is less expensive.

    Another way to do pizza-put a bit of olive oil or spray olive oil on a pan. Heat on medium heat. Place a tortilla in the pan, spoon some sauce and sprinkle some cheese. Leave on stovetop until cheese melts. Roll up and cut and serve. We call these “pizza roll-ups”.

  • Justine

    Yummy sounding meals :) Can I suggest making your spaghetti sauce and mac n cheese both from scratch instead of buying packaged goods? Its so easy to do both and you would have all the necessary ingredients in your cupboard and wouldn’t take much longer than 15 minutes either! Much better flavours and better for your health :)

    • Reyka

      How do you do your mac and cheese? :)

    • 100 Days of Real Food

      I agree that making those things from scratch is great (and what we usually do as well), but that doesn’t always work for everyone so these suggestions are just to provide an even easier alternative. It would surely beat driving through!

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