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My Almost Surefire Trick to Keeping Dinner Time Pleasant

If you're like me, you often fall into the trap of turning your time in the kitchen into an overcomplicated trip down a culinary rabbit hole (that usually is way outside of your talent repertoire). The meal prep starts with 'I want steak tonight' and before all is said and done, I find myself with three sides, a salad, and a dessert, and I'm too invested to actually enjoy eating it.

The truth is, especially in our house, with four small children, the more therapeutic route, is a nice, basic dish that hits all the bases and doesn't create a bunch of surprises. Do I get my steak? No. Do I keep what's left of my hair, as I prepare a relatively calm meal? betcha.

So what does that look like? Well, we LOVE beef in our house, so we often start with ground beef or stew meat, add a starch, and then get creative with the sauces and supplements. I know it sounds boring on the surface, but seriously, the options feel endless--and that's without even considering pork, lamb, chicken, or turkey!

Some of our favorites:

  • Beef Tips and Gravy over Egg Noodles or Rice

  • Spaghetti with Meat Sauce (add some Italian Sausage)

  • Swedish Meatballs

  • Goulash---with either stew or ground

  • Shepherd's Pie

  • Tacos/Taco Bakes

  • Meatloaf and Mashed Potatoes (Ketchup Glaze or Gravy are both allowable)

  • Salisbury Steak

  • Chinese Style Beef and Broccoli/Stir Fry

  • Greek "Stir Fry"--Ground beef with spinach, feta, sundried tomatoes, and greek spices

  • Chili---but not spicy!

  • Mac and Cheese with Ground Beef

  • Finnish "Ground Beef Gravy/Jauhelihakastike"---like beef tips but with ground

  • And of course, smash burgers in the cast iron skillet!

Cooking dinner for 6 or 7 can be a CHORE---it can also be fun and rewarding. The pressures of any given day can really impact the way we approach that cooking process, but so can our choices. I don't ever regret choosing a meal that is delicious and easy. When you're eating well, and have the energy for a post-dinner dance party with the kids, the steak can wait a day or two. The best part, it's not hard to keep a stockpile of ground and stew in even the smallest of freezers.

Do you have a favorite ground beef or stew meat recipe? Share it below!

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