Tuesday, March 5, 2013

My Top 15 Working Mama Meals

I was recently asked by a friend to suggest some good "working mama" weeknight meals.  This is a pretty common request that I get, so I decided to gather up some of my favorite easy weeknight meals.  These recipes are great for working mamas, work-at-home mamas, working people, students, or really any hungry people who don't have tons of time to devote to making dinner.  I love getting this question because it means that parents are coming home from work and cooking dinner for their families.  It's such a healthy and important part of family structure and child development in general, and doesn't have to be a big production.   Serve these with fresh/frozen veggies and/or fruit and call it a day.  You don't need to plan 5 course meals every night - save those for special occasions or on the weekends when you have more time.

When deciding which recipes to include, I decided to split them up into slow cooker meals, quick 'n easy, and plan ahead favorites.  These are all the different types of weeknight meals I make, but everyone's different, depending on how much prep time you have and when it is.  If you have a lot of time in the evening, you can plan ahead for the next day and/or take longer to cook dinner.  If most of your free time is in the morning, the slow cooker may be your weeknight BFF.  Most likely, you use some combination of the two.  Either way, here's how this working mama makes 'em:

Slow Cooker

1.  Robin's Chicken Chili to Die For - This chili makes the list not only because it really is "to die for" but also because it is so easy.  Aside from boiling the chicken (which can be done ahead and even frozen to have on hand), everything is just poured into the slow cooker (NO CHOPPING REQUIRED!).  Oftentimes, I will cook the chicken the night before and pour everything into the slow cooker and keep it in the fridge until the next morning.  Then all I have to do is plug it in and let the SC do the work while I go push some drugs (if you don't know this about me already, relax... I'm a pharmacist, it's legal "drug pushing"). 

2.  Mango Chicken Curry - Another flavorful, delicious dish, this is one of our family's favorites.  It has lots of flavor, makes plenty of leftovers (a working mama's must-have!), and requires nothing more than a little chopping and stirring.  The chicken and veggies can even be chopped up the night before to cut down morning prep time even more.  Don't be afraid of curry, friends!  Annalyn's loved it since she was 6-7 mos old!

7-month old Peanut flashback *tear*

3.  Chicken Tikka Masala - A lightened up version, this Indian dish has amazing flavor and is healthier than it's take-out version.  Just because it's a weeknight, doesn't mean you can't eat something exciting!

4.  Italian Beef - This recipe is a favorite on my side of the family.  It's super simple, feeds a lot of people, and the leftovers freeze/reheat well.  From weekdays to holidays, this versatile dish offers a lot of flavor for very little work.

5.  Cherry Pork - This may be the oldest of my working mama meals, dating back to the days of being newlywed college students (long before this mama was a mama).  I can't even remember how this came to be, but somewhere I saw/heard/decided it would be a good idea to dump a can of cherry pie filling over pork chops and slow cook them all day.  And I have to say, I was right.  It's like dinner and dessert all in one!

Quick 'n Easy

6.  Buffalo Chicken Pita Pizzas - The epitome of weeknight ease, this is one of the yummiest and simple recipes I make.  I will often cook this for lunch on my days off for just Peanut and me because it's soooo easy. 5 ingredients, 15 minutes, and dinner is done!  Toss together a quick salad to get some veggies in there and you have a healthy meal in no time.  Not a fan of buffalo sauce?  No problem - mix and match pizza toppings as you wish.  Make it a family affair by setting out various toppings and letting the kids make their own little pizzas.

7.  Robin's Sausage & Peppers - Another delicious recipe from my neighbor and working mama turned work-at-home mama idol.  This is one of her family's favorite go-to meals that can be thrown together quickly.  With 5 ingredients and about 20 minutes, you can have this beautiful dish on the table for everyone to enjoy. 

8.  Great Grandma's Sloppy Joes or Buffalo Joes -  Who doesn't love a sloppy joe sandwich?  These are two of my favorite versions starting with my Great Grandma Hanke's recipe that is beyond simple (the sauce is ketchup, water, and flour - that's it!) but so much better than that canned stuff.  It can be made quickly on the stove, or thrown in a slow cooker for parties and pot lucks.  Everything about it is perfect. 

Then there's the other end of the spectrum, my Buffalo Joes (buffalo chicken sloppy joes), which contain a few more ingredients, including chopped carrots and celery that made even my hubby skeptical.  It might sound strange, but think buffalo wing meets sloppy joe (it may be the best combination since Dorrito meets taco, but that's just my opinion).

9. Sweet & Sour Turkey Meatballs - You could come to my house just about any day and request these meatballs and chances are, I could make them.  I rely that heavily on this dish as a last minute go-to that I keep a couple packages of meatballs in the fridge or freezer at all times.  The sauce is made from just a few easy pantry-friendly ingredients and the flavor is so sweet/tangy/thymey that you will just want to crawl inside one of these bad boys and eat your way back out!  I usually use precooked turkey meatballs that can be found in the meat department at the grocery store, but I've also used frozen meatballs in a pinch.  They can be made after work on the stove, or thrown in the slow cooker (straight from the freezer even!) before work.  Take your pick!

10.  Ciabatta Chicken Sandwich with Avocado & Salsa Verde - Simple ingredients, easy prep, outstanding flavor combinations.  What else do I need to say about this one?

11.  Broccoli & Cheese Chicken Casserole - Yet again, this recipe comes from my dear friend, Robin.  Typing this list is making me think I need to sneak next door and raid some more of her recipes... hmmm.  This recipe is super kid-friendly and very versatile.  It can be made using any 3 cans of soup (the cream of varieties).  This particular version is our favorite and is made with 2 cans cream of chicken and 1 can broccoli & cheese soup.  Toss in a few other easy ingredients, top with cheese and crushed crackers/cornflakes and bake for about an hour.

12.  Baked Dijon Dill Chicken - Here's a dish that's low-calorie but high-flavor.  It's easy to prepare, and cooks in about 30 minutes.  The presentation is pretty and the chicken cooks perfectly in the little foil pouches in the oven.

A little planning... Mama's semi-planned ahead favorites

13.  Low-Fat Greek Chicken Salad - This chicken salad is so scrumptious that you'd never guess how low-fat it is compared to regular chicken salad.  The secret is the Greek yogurt and just a little bit of low-fat miracle whip.  Oh, and the feta.  And the kalamata olives.  Ok, it's all just delicious!  Please put this on your next shopping list.  You can thank me later.  The reason this dish is in my plan ahead section is that start to finish it kinda takes awhile.  For that reason, I recommend either making a big batch over the weekend, so you have a few lunches/dinners for the week, or preparing part of it the night before or morning of (like boiling the chicken, chopping the celery, etc.).  Once that part is done, it's just a matter of tossing it together and filling up a pita (or spreading on bread or crackers).

14.  Paula Deen's Taco Soup - The ingredient part of this recipe is super simple - mostly canned beans, tomatoes, corn, etc.  The spices come from taco and ranch seasoning packets - also simple.  The only somewhat labor-intensive part is browning the ground beef and chopping the onions, both of which I recommend doing ahead of time since the soup does have to simmer for about an hour.  By planning part of the meal ahead, you save that prep time so the soup can start simmering sooner and dinner gets to the table sooner.  Another option would be to make up a bunch of taco meat (seasoning and all) to have on hand in the freezer for recipes like this (and the next one!) as well as the obvious, tacos/nachos/etc.  If you do it that way, just leave out the taco seasoning packet in this recipe.

15.  Taco Salad - Yet another reason to hoard taco meat in the freezer!  This taco salad recipe is super quick to toss together if you already have the meat prepared.  And even if you don't, it really doesn't take too long to make taco meat, right?  Totally worth it either way!

The phrase "working mother" is redundant. 
~Jane Sellman

Hope you and your family enjoy these yummy meals,
made for and by working mamas like me!


  1. I LOVE so many of these!! I must have missed some posts, because a few of these I've never seen! Thank you!

  2. You're welcome! Hopefully it will help, let me know how it goes :)