I tend to overcomplicate things. While researching a recipe using bread I thought, “Well, why not just make the bread myself?” That’s all fine and good. Things with homemade bread taste better. But while I daydreamed about the smell of dough in the oven, a pile of laundry sat in my bedroom, dishes from two meals ago filled my sink, I had yet to shower, and I watched my one-year-old running by with a diaper about to explode. I don’t have time for homemade bread—but I bookmarked the recipe for another day. Maybe tomorrow. Or next week. Or when my kids drive off to college. For now, I need to simplify.
In the spirit of simplicity, I thought I’d share what I do most nights for meals. I’ve slowly learned to get more realistic about dinner. Then when I can make the space, I add in a new dish or try an interesting ingredient. But many nights, our menu consists of a green veggie, a starch, and a protein. Tomorrow, we’re doing baked chicken drumsticks, green beans, and corn. Another day, we did baked salmon, rice, and roasted asparagus. Sometimes I’ll follow a new recipe or make a stew or soup on the stove or in the slow cooker. But the formula still stands: beef stew, mashed potatoes, peas (technically a legume, but whatever).
Also, 9 times out of 10, whatever vegetable I make is roasted with olive oil, salt, and pepper. That’s it. Keep it simple. In the recipe below, I added a little maple syrup—’cause every once in awhile you gotta’ go wild.
This formula makes it easy to mix and match, and I can gradually introduce new foods to my kiddos. If we’re going to have brussels sprouts, a food not exactly known for being kid-friendly, I’ll make sure the other two parts of the meal are relatively well-liked (although, kids are quite fickle, so you never can know for sure). They have to try at least one bite of the new food. If they don’t like it at least they’re not leaving the meal hungry, and I’m not making a whole separate dinner for them. If I’ve got time for that, I’d rather go back to making the homemade bread.
Everyone has their own methods for feeding their families, and I’m still learning as we go. For now, this seems to work for us more often than not.
How about you? Do you meal plan? What tips and tricks have you found helpful as you’re getting dinner on the table? I’d love to hear in the comments below!
Maple Roasted Sweet Potatoes + Brussels Sprouts
Yields 4-6 servings
2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into ¾”-1” pieces
2 pounds brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved (large ones quartered)
2-3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 Tablespoons maple syrup*
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus another pinch
Freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Spread the sweet potatoes out onto two large rimmed baking sheets. (If you crowd it onto one baking sheet, the vegetables won’t brown as well.) Drizzle with two tablespoons of olive oil and the maple syrup. Sprinkle with salt. Toss the sweet potatoes to make sure they’re evenly coated with the olive oil, syrup, and salt.
Bake for 16-18 minutes. Remove from the oven and use a spatula to toss the potatoes. Add the brussels sprouts, dividing them between the two baking sheets. If the vegetables look a little dry, drizzle on an extra tablespoon or so of olive oil. Add a pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper. Toss to coat and return the pans to the oven.
Bake an additional 20-25 minutes, until the vegetables are tender and browned to your liking. (For extra browning, you can also put them under the broiler for a minute or two at the end.)
Serve alongside your favorite protein such as pulled pork or crispy chicken thighs.
*This gives a very slight maple flavor, but in this recipe it’s intentionally subtle since sweet potatoes are already so sweet. If you want, you can increase the maple syrup by a tablespoon or so. You can also leave the maple syrup out entirely if you want to avoid added sweetener.
Note: These vegetables also taste AMAZING with an over easy egg on top in the morning! It’s a great way to get some veggies in for breakfast!