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5 Easy Dinners You Can Make At Home (VIDEO)

I have stated before that I’m a man on a (food) mission.  There is a misconception out there that convenience and pre-packaged foods are okay and much quicker to cook.  But that’s simply not the case.

We have staples in our household that I revert to cooking for the mere fact that I lack the time to create something huge every night.  I reserve the major, full-course meals for the times when Sunday hits and we have the ability to sit at 6pm and eat.  But during the week . . . sorry, folks.  I just can’t get home in time to make that happen.  With the commute, I’m lucky to get home by six, let alone seven.

So here’s my secret cadre of meals.  Some I just revert to…but not all my meals in the end.  Use them if you like, a couple I’ve even committed to video you’ll find linked here.


Creative Commons/ZenicStriker

Creative Commons/ZenicStriker

It’s pretty simple.  A pound of Lean ground beef or turkey, browned with a diced clove of garlic; then add 1 onion for 3-5 minutes; 2 medium carrots, sliced, add that another 3-5 min; then add a 1/2 cup mushrooms; and lastly . . . a can of petite diced tomatoes and 1/2 teaspoon each of basil and oregano and you’re golden.  Cover at low heat for 20 minutes.  While you do that, cook your pasta – I use Penne or Farfalle – it holds the sauce better.

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[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PZLIgAXU148″ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PZLIgAXU148[/youtube]

Yep, you got it.  Homemade, too, right down to the crust.  In a hurry you can buy one of those pre-made ones, but it’s not that hard.  You need yeast, water, sugar, olive oil and flour for the crust.  Sauce – a can of tomato paste with Italian seasoning, garlic powder and onion powder.  Then add your toppings.  It’s about the same amount of time as your bought pizza and you know what you’ve put on it!

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Creative Commons/alirjd

Creative Commons/alirjd

Comfort food.  This is really something I’ll start the night before.  I brown stew meat, a pound of it.  I’ll cut up two to three carrots, 4 potatoes, 2 stalks of celery and add those to a crock pot.  Add to that a box/can of beef broth or – if you’re cheap like me, use 4 cups of water with bullion cubes.  Add to that either a can of diced tomatoes or maybe a small can tomato sauce.  I usually use some fresh thyme or rosemary from my back yard but you can add what you want.   I generally put a cup or two of red wine to it as well.  Next morning, I set it to cook for 8-10 hours, add a 1/2 cup of instant potatoes to thicken it and I’m golden.

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Creative Commons/Apreche

Creative Commons/Apreche

We don’t do red meat every night, and this is pretty easy, and I do it overnight again.  Get a pack of chicken tenders, thawed.  I put a pint of buttermilk in a bowl, add a bit of paprika and stir.  Put the chicken in there and leave.  Eventually overnight the buttermilk replaces the water in the chicken and adds a great texture and moisture.  When I get home, I mix a cup of Italian seasoned bread crumbs with 1/2 or more cup parmesan.  Take the chicken, coat in the breadcrumb mixture and put on a greased pan or lined in parchment.  Bake about 12 minutes at 500 degrees (yep, 500!).  I usually add some fettucine with a bought sauce or leftover bolognese or spaghetti sauce to this.  Is quick and easy and the kids love it!

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Gotta admit, it’s less cajun and more just spicy, but it’s my own concoction and the kids love it.  Taking a cue from the old “colorful is better” mantra, I usually use one red and one green bell pepper, sliced.  Add a medium onion, diced.  Cook until tender then remove from the pan.  Cut up a package of chicken breast and put in the pan.  I usually coat with either a blackening or cajun seasoning to add flavor to the chicken and brown that.  Remove, but leave the drippings.  Add 1-2 tbps of either butter or olive oil and same amount of flour.  Add a tablespoon chili powder, a tablespoon of paprika, 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper and 1/4 teaspoon of cumin.  Stir until it makes a rue . . . not too thick, if it is, add butter or oil to lessen.  When ready, add 1-2 cups white wine.  Reduce.  Then add about 3/4 cup of 1% or skim milk.  Wait for it to thicken and then add the chicken and veggies back to the pan and coat with the sauce.  Toss with cooked fettucine noodles.  Done…this is a bit more work, but the kids love it.

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So there you go…the secret to home meals, and that’s a full week.  Now, I do more than that, but it’s only one complicated meal.  I live off my crock pot and pre-planning.  But I look at everything I do and how much weight myself and the kids have lost and I feel I’ve done something right.

So what about you?  Could you cook your own food or avoid the pre-packaged foods?  I don’t completely avoid them, in today’s world, raising four kids alone, I can’t avoid them.  But I cook more dinners and desserts from scratch.  Can you?  Let’s face it, if I can . . . you can too!

More from GEM:

Tandem Tantrums: How (And Why) To Let Your Child Run The Food Show


Dave Manoucheri framed headshot

Dave Manoucheri is a writer and journalist based in Sacramento, California.  A father of four, two daughters and twin sons, his blog, Our Story Begins is a chronicle of their daily life after the loss of his wife, Andrea, in March of 2011. Follow him on Twitter @InvProducerMan.