4 Ways I Cheat..(Sometimes); Quick, Easy Dinner Ideas

Let’s face it, ladies and gents – sometimes you just don’t have enough hours in the day to get everything done. Or you come home from work and go, “Oh god, what do I make for dinner?” Or, if you’re a student like I am, there are just some days when homework trumps everything else and you either have to a) come up with something quick at home or b) order takeout.

But, if you’re like me, you try to be good and watch what you eat. I am not always the most successful at this, but for the most part, I’ve got a good diet plan that I stick to and have a good grapple on portions between myself and the Ryan.

So what do you do? Below I will show you four of my go-to quick, easy and not-that-bad-for-you (yes, I obsessively read food labels) marinades or simmer sauces to make a delicious meal in half an hour or less.


My first g0-to dinner cheat is this Thai Kitchen Red Curry Simmer Sauce. It’s quick, easy, tasty, and contains a nice list of ingredients that you can actually read and pronounce. It’s approximately a cup and a half of sauce per jar, and at 90 calories per half cup (so 3 servings per jar), it is definitely nothing to sneeze at if you’re the calorie-counting type. You can easily toss a breast or two of chicken into this sauce along with veggies, and served over rice, you’ve got a whole meal in about 20 minutes. Depending on how much chicken you add and how much sauce everyone likes, I’d estimate you could serve up to four people with one jar. The best part is that each jar is a little less than $4 (at least in my stores), so it works out nicely for a low cost meal.


The next three cheats I have a love hate relationship with. I am a huge advocate of no HFCS (high fructose corn syrup) in foods, and I try to make it a point not to eat anything with HFCS in it. That being said, the following three marinades do contain HFCS, but they are 10-30 calories per serving and taste DELICIOUS. If I make a dish with them once every other week, I can deal – especially since these marinades only take 30 minutes to sink in. Of course, if you let them sit longer, they taste even better. And sure, each “serving” is one tablespoon, but let’s be honest – how much of that marinade will actually get into your chicken (or steak, or pork), and how much of it will you toss out? The goods, to me, outweigh the icky HFCS – especially since they are literally one of the only things I have in my house that even contain it. And especially since the Ryan counts his calories (and I do too, since I cook for us both). Lawry’s makes tons of marinades, and one of the best things I have found about them is that grocery stores very often have them on sale for X amount for $Y dollars…so you can stock up when they’re cheap(er) and utilize them when you need them. Here, I am sharing my top three favorites:

My first go-to, especially for chicken, is their herb and garlic marinade with lemon juice. This marinade is savory, garlicy, and just all around yummy. It has a nice, sweet tang to it, and I promise you will enjoy every bite. I normally serve with rice or fresh, steamed veggies, but your sides and possibilities are endless, really. And you don’t have to use chicken, of course, I just find that I like chicken the best in this marinade. One thing I will caution – I find that if you leave your meat too long, the citrus will start to “cook” it – so be careful.

My next favorite is the Sesame Ginger marinade. It contains mandarin juice, so instead of 10, it is 30 calories per serving – but it is soooo delicious. It’s a quick way to give your dinner a bit of an Asian flare and sweeten up any meat you desire. My favorite things to marinade in it are pork and chicken. The Ryan likes chicken more in it, I like pork more, so we alternate. 🙂 Serve with broccoli and rice or over some Asian noodles and have a quick, 30 minute Asian night without the cost of takeout (and without all that oil!).

My final, and probably most favorite marinade, is their Teriyaki marinade with pineapple juice. This marinade is 20 calories per serving, and is just delicious. In my opinion, steak is the best meat to marinade in this, as it comes out tender, juicy, flavorful, and if you broil your steak, you’ll get a bit of a delicious caramelization, which I just love. The Ryan likes to throw rosemary on his steak because he’s weird, but I prefer it just the way it is on a nice medium rare piece of yummy beef. I’m sure elk and buffalo would be just as delicious in this, and I would love to give it a try. *sigh* If only I still lived in Colorado. But I digress. I generally serve my steak with a few roasted pieces of potato (or a small, baked one), and some asparagus or mixed veggies. It makes for a rich, satisfying meal, and you can sop up all the yummy juices with your side dishes. Who doesn’t love to do that?


So, on that Monday night when work has been insane or you come home late with the kids from soccer practice, or you have homework to do, these 20-30 minute ideas can provide a full, hearty and flavorful meal with very little effort leaving you more time to take care of all of your other responsibilities, or just more time to spend with your family. Bon appetite!


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