Ready, Set, Go: Your Favorite Dinners in a Flash!

No time to cook? We have 10 family- friendly ideas submitted by reader's to get dinner on the table in no time!


Your family is hungry, it’s late, you just got home from baseball practice and even your dog is looking at you with that “feed me” look.

Being hungry and pressed for time is not a good combo, especially when you have lots of little eyes staring at you, rifling through the cabinets for anything resembling food. How do you save time when it comes to getting dinner on the table?

We recently asked Sonoma Patch readers and parents for your favorite quick and easy dinner ideas, and you really came through.

Here's the ten best of your healthy and fast get-it-on-the-table dinners:

  • Breakfast for dinner is a big one in our house when we are in a pinch: Usually pancakes or waffles because they're are quick to whip up and a fast payoff – the kids can at least start eating while I work on making more.  Another go to meal is spiral whole wheat pasta. It only takes nine minutes to cook, while it cooks I put a can of olives, slice up some tomatoes, artichoke hearts and basil in a bowl.  Mix that with the pasta and a little olive oil and we all love it.  Occasionally when I have time I will make a chicken apple sausage, slice that up and add in for the kids portion. - Sharon Johnston


  • I usually make a nice home made mushroom soup using baby bella, shitaki, and button mushrooms. I saute the mushrooms, onion and garlic with a little added flour, sea salt, pepper, homemade vegetable broth (but you can use bought) and then at the end, I add in some fat free half and half, topped off with a little nutmeg. I add strawberries in a green, goat cheese salad with olive oil and balsamic vinegar for this soup, and a crust bread. - Suzanne Barbara


  • Here is my grandmother's recipe for chopped meat and raisins. She would have used beef, but I have tried it with ground turkey and even ground meat substitute and it is pretty good. If you make this main dish and serve it with rice and a salad, it is a great meal and kids love these meat balls. - Renee

For meat balls:

1 lb meat
1 small chopped onion
2 eggs
cornflake crumbs or bread crumbs--not too much just to hold it together.
For sauce:
small can of tomato sauce or just tomato paste and water
chopped onion
1/2 cup raisins
1/4 spoon of sugar
In a flat pan put onion, tomato sauce (or tomato paste and water), 1/4 spoon of sugar. Cook a little while (maybe 5 to 10 minutes). While the sauce is cooking make meat balls with the onions and bread crumbs or cornflake crumbs...Add the meatballs to the sauce. Cook slowly. Add 1/2 cup raisins to the sauce. Add more water as needed. The meatballs will have a nice flavor from the raisins.
Serve with rice and a salad. 


  • On busy nights around here I really just keep it simple and its all about the pre-planning.  Tuesday's and Thursday’s are tough, so I generally start early. When I leave for school pick up,  I like dinner to be done and waiting.  Some good standbys are whole roasted chicken with orzo along with broccoli and Parmesan.  And who doesn't love left over chicken that you can do anything with through out the week, enchiladas, soup, pasta, anything really.  - Lindsey Bresee


  • If I know a head of time that it’s going to be a rushed dinner, I prep dinner either that day or the day before. That way when I get home, I can just throw it together. Or, I put something in the Crock-Pot that morning. Another great thing to have on hand is soup in the freezer. If I haven't had time to prepare anything, I always make sure to have a few jars of soup in the freezer. I thaw in the microwave for a few minutes, then throw in a pot and heat. Also, here is a good soup index.  - Lindsey Ladd


  • If I know I'm going to have one of those days I do crock pot meals; pot roast, pulled pork. chicken tacos etc. Or, if I  happen to have a plan that falls through, then it's tacos or spaghetti. Both those take 30 minutes or less and I make a point to always stock the necessary items in my house. I think that's key, plan ahead and have a few reserve meals in the rotation just for emergencies.  - Brandi Duffin


  • My go-to easy meal is: Chicken tenders sauteed in Olive oil and seasoning, Steamed Broccoli or other veggie, Couscous (5 minutes). It’s healthy and the whole family loves it! - Susan Lund

And here are a few go-to meals for my family to yours:

Curry Chicken with Rice in the Crock-Pot
This is definitely one of my easiest recipes as long as you can plug in a crock pot and open a jar, you can have a delicious dinner.

Jar of Yellow Curry Sauce ( I buy mine from Whole Foods in the Indian food section)
2 Chicken breasts
Open jar and pour over chicken in crock pot. Cook on high for 2-3 hours and switch to low or cook on low all day. Make rice right when you get home and shred chicken and return to crock pot until rice is ready.
Serve chicken over rice. Steam a quick vegetable for a side dish.

Chicken Tacos
Throw a few breasts of chicken in the crock pot. Cover with jarred salsa.. Add in corn, chopped up onion, pepper, garlic, and anything your family desires to spice it up a few notches. Let it cook until the chicken breasts are done. Pull out the chicken breasts, shred or chop them, and throw them back into the crock pot. When you are ready to eat, spoon the chicken into the tortilla, top with cheese, line up your favorite Mexican food toppings and you have a quick and very easy meal that is a guaranteed success!

Or don’t cook at all and offer up no cook alternatives instead. Once in a while I’ll make sandwiches and lots of cut-up dippers from the fruit and veggies I have in the refrigerator, hummus and pita or even a smoothie. The kids love these “picnic” nights and have no idea that I just don’t have time to cook!

There you have it, 10 different meals to prepare on busy nights! And several of this recipes can be increased so that there are leftovers that could be taken for a lunch or eaten another evening.

Irene Morgan February 24, 2012 at 08:56 PM
Michelle, these are some great, quick recipes. Thanks. Albert, how did the meatballs and raisins turn out?
Albert David February 24, 2012 at 09:06 PM
The meatballs and raisins were delicious. I made brown rice and string beans for side dishes. Plus a sliced cucumber salad. And I made enough to freeze a portion for another time---will let you know how the frozen ones turn out. Michelle, thanks for these recipes.
Suzanne Barbara February 24, 2012 at 10:39 PM
I can't wait to try these recipes.
Albert David February 24, 2012 at 10:43 PM
I just realized the column is called "mom talk" and I am not a mom. But with these good recipes it should be called "people talk".
Michelle Rulmont February 25, 2012 at 12:05 AM
Thanks Albert for the suggestion! So glad you tried the recipe and enjoyed it!


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