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Our Go-To Weeknight Meals

While I would love to eat a charcuterie board for dinner each night, the other four people in my house think they need some diversity.

Juggling all the different weeknight activities, the dinners at my house need to be simple, quick, and yummy. Does it require extra effort to make a homemade meal? Yes. But, I love having all my people around the table and hearing their thoughts before inevitably reminding them if they do that one thing, one more time, they will be grounded for the rest of their lives. It's tradition.

If you’ve stumbled on this blog post and are thinking you’re not very Pioneer Woman-ish, I bring ye good news. For the first year or so I was married, I made tacos on the REG without adding any taco seasoning and added to the tragedy by also not knowing you were supposed to BAKE the taco shells. THERE IS HOPE FOR YOU.

Okay, back to it. Most nights I rotate some type of lean protein and two veggies (one is always green), but these are some of our favorites we (almost) all love.

1. Taco Bar: When there’s several picky eaters in your house and you find a meal EVERYONE likes, you make it a lot. So, the Taco Bar is a weekly go-to. Plus doesn’t “Taco Bar” just SOUND fun?! It is.

Part of the appeal is all the options, so I change up what toppings I offer: spinach, seasoned ground turkey, rice, black beans, peppers, and queso. Plus, veggies like tomatoes, red onion, cilantro, avocado, and then “extra” toppings such as tortilla chips and Thousand Island, salsa or guacamole.

Have you ever heard the quote, “people love to support what they helped to create”?

Enter the taco bar: I think any time kids can “make their own,” whether its baked potato bar, pizzas, or tacos, they’re more likely to eat it because they're proud of their creation!

2. Chicken Tender Salad: Another family fav are these buttery chicken tenders and I love to layer them on top of a big green salad. They do require a little labor of love, but we think they’re worth the mess.


· 1 pound of good quality chicken tenderloins or breasts cut into strips

· 1 sleeve of Ritz crackers, crushed into crumbs

· 1/2 cup of butter, melted

· ½ cup mayonnaise

· 1 tablespoon of mustard

· 2/3 cup of parmesan cheese

· Salt and Pepper


· Preheat the oven to 425 degrees

· Line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil. Place a wire cooling rack on top, and spray with cooking spray. Set aside.

· In a shallow bowl, whisk together melted butter, salt and pepper. Combine with cracker crumbs and cheese.

· In a separate shallow bowl, mix mayonnaise and mustard.

· Dip chicken in mayo mixture, roll in buttered cracker mixture.

· Place on prepared rack on the baking sheet. Lightly spray with cooking spray or oil (this will help the crust brown).

· Bake for 15-20 minutes, turning once, until chicken is no longer pink inside and the coating is golden is crispy.

· I serve this over a big green salad with all the yumminess like tomatoes, cucumbers, bell pepper, carrots, crumbled hard boiled eggs, shredded cheddar cheese and a couple croutons for good measure.

3. Pork Tenderloin:

Your in-laws are coming for Easter? Make this pork tenderloin.

Bringing dinner to a friend that just had a new baby? Make this pork tenderloin.

It’s Thursday and your children are looking at you with hungry eyes? Make this pork tenderloin.

It is for all the things.

Disclaimer: It seems odd to have to say this, because by now we’re friends, and none of my real friends would have an aversion to mayonnaise. Duh. But if you somehow wandered over here and are saying “ew … mayo,” just know I have made this for MANY A’ SOUL who claim to hate mayonnaise and yet have no idea it was part of this recipe. So, consider this our culinary trust fall … and fall on back.


· 1 2-3 lb pork loin (or pork loin roast)

· About ¼ cup mayonnaise (real thing, no light or miracle whip)

· Cavender’s Greek Seasoning (about ¼ cup)


· Preheat your oven to 350

· Line a baking sheet with foil and spray with nonstick spray.

· Place the loin in the middle of the baking sheet and rub the top and sides with mayonnaise … think of icing a cake.

· Then cover the loin with liberally with the Greek seasoning.

· Place the pork loin on the middle rack and shut the door – and hear this part!! The oven has to STAY SHUT for the next 2 hours! Roast at 350 for one hour, then turn the oven off, making sure to leave the door shut – don’t check on it, and leave it in the hot oven for hour.

· Come back to this blog post and thank me profusely.

4. Oven Baked Sausage and Potatoes: Okay, so truth be told, this isn’t actually my recipe, it’s my sister’s. But she makes this OFTEN and I check the fridge for leftovers every time I’m at her house. Super yum, super easy, and it kind of turns into one of those deals where you just start throwing whatever is in your fridge into the pan. Ya know, that deal.


· 1 (16oz) Smoked sausage, sliced

· 8-10 red potatoes, quartered

· One small sweet onion, chopped

· Rosemary

· 1.5 teaspoon of garlic

· 1.5 cup of chicken stock

· 1 tablespoon of olive oil

· 2 tablespoons of butter, melted

· 1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard

· 1.5 teaspoon paprika

· Salt and pepper


· Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

· In a small bowl whisk together chicken stock, butter, oil, mustard, paprika and garlic. Set aside.

· Spray a large baking pan with cooking spray.

· Put the sausage slices, onions, and potatoes into a large bowl. Drizzle with olive oil mixture and season with salt and pepper. Toss together and pour on to the baking tray.

· Place into the preheated oven and roast for 45 minutes to an hour, stirring half way through, until the potatoes are golden brown and tender.

· Invite me over for leftovers.

5. Tomato Soup and Grown-Up-Grilled Cheese: Because who can turn this down?! My mouth seriously starts watering when I think about the greatness that is The Pioneer Woman’s Sherried Tomato Soup. And when you couple that with grown-up-grilled-cheeses, well, you just can’t help but be happy. My kids love this as well, because I’ll lay out everything from different cheeses and meats to fruit and greens and it really can be fun. It’s super similar to the idea of the taco bar … but … different.

Let’s start with the soup.

I found this soup years ago from the Pioneer Woman’s blog and I’ve been making it for cozy nights at home every since. Thanks P-Dub!


· 6 tablespoons of melted butter

· 1 whole medium onion, diced

· 1 bottle (46 ounce) tomato juice

· 2 cans (14 ounce) diced tomatoes

· 1 tablespoon (up to 3 tablespoons) chicken base

· 3 tablespoons (up to 6 tablespoons) sugar

· 1 pinch salt

· Black pepper to taste

· 1 cup cooking sherry

· 1 – 1 ½ cup heavy cream

· Chopped fresh parsley

· Chopped fresh basil


· Saute` onions in butter until translucent.

· Then add canned tomatoes, tomato juice, chicken base, sugar, pinch of salt, black pepper and stir.

· Bring to a near boil, then turn off heat.

· Add in sherry and cream stir.

· Add in parsley and basil to taste.

Okay, now when your husband says "what? we're having grilled cheese for dinner??", you show him all the topping options you have and he will love it lots. Have I led you wrong yet? No. No, I have not.

The secret to a great grilled cheese? Spreading mayo on the outside of the bread. JUST TRUST ME WITH THE MAYO, PEOPLE.

Here are some Grown-Up Grilled Cheeses we love around these parts:

1. Apple and White Cheddar Cheese ... I spread a little of strawberry jam on this one for a sweet treat.

2. Pizza style is our family fav. Spread each side with pizza sauce and pile high with pepperoni, prosciutto and basil if you're in to that sort of thing (I so hope you are).

3. Turkey,Avocado, Bacon and a Fried Egg is my all time favorite one. I place each piece of buttered bread on the skillet with the mayo and cheese ... once it gets good and "grilled" I pile it high with turkey, arugula, bacon, and avocado ... then I top it with a fried egg. This is not first date night food- it is oh-so-messy. But OH so delicious.

4. Ham and Cheese is super simple but super yum!

5. Margarita style: Sliced thin roma tomatoes, basil, mozzarella cheese and then I'll drizzle some balsamic vinegar on the top. Mouth squirt!!

Happy Cooking!!



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