A few weeks ago I challenged myself to do a week’s worth of skillet meals. I did accomplish the goal, much to my family’s displeasure, and learned some important lessons. Here are my reflections on that week and one skillet meal recipe that will definitely make the permanent keeper list for our family.
So here’s the upside of what I learned - skillet meals are a fabulous addition to your mealtime bag of tricks. When choosing our menu for the week, I intentionally chose recipes that met these criteria:
Cooked and mixed in one dish or pan (it seemed like cheating or counterproductive to have to mix in one dish then cook in another - not really one pot, if you ask me!)
Complete meals - dishes that included veggies, protein and starch all in one
As I searched for recipes to use, I found that a lot of these kinds of recipes are very noodle heavy. While I did want a starch in the dish (And I love pasta, personally), I worked to find recipes that included a variety of starches, and even one low-carb one that didn’t have a starch (the biggest disaster of the week). I also tried to use a variety of proteins to keep it all fresh. I used skillets, baking sheets and pots to even vary the cooking vessel and method.
Alas, the bottom line is that eating one pot meals all week long did end up being monotonous in spite of my best efforts to keep it lively. Imagine, if you will, living on Hamburger Helper. I like Hamburger Helper, but it’s never been a life goal to make it my sole means of sustenance. Variety truly is the spice of life and we were all feeling the pain by the end of the week. We were a little "one-potted out" by the last meal of the week. Let’s be honest - there is no room for mashed potatoes and gravy in a life of one pot wonders! And that, my friends, is no life for me.
So the ultimate take-aways I learned are these:
Find 2 or 3 one pot/pan meals that your family enjoys. Keep the ingredients on hand to pull one off in a pinch or add them to your meal plan for nights you know might be chaotic.
2. Choose your recipes wisely - not all one pot recipes are created equally. A lot of them use lots of processed and canned items, some have you cook pasta separately and add at the end. Some sound fast, but you have to cook them for an hour or more. Read the whole recipe to make sure it’s going to meet your needs and your time frame.
3. Find ways to get the family involved. These are quick meals and easy for kids to learn and help with prepping. I've found that the more kids are involved, the more likely they are to try new things.
4. DO NOT try to live on one-pot wonders alone. Please, don't try. Sometimes a lot of dishes are totally worth the end product.
Winners for us were :
🍽Taco Rice Skillet - We topped ours with lettuce and served it with tortilla chips.
🍽One Pot Chicken and Orzo with Spinach - I called this one Chicken Florentine and added some cream towards the end, just because cream is yummy.
🍽One Pot Beef Stroganoff - This one reminded me of a childhood favorite and was fast and so good. I used thinly sliced Minute Steak instead of ground beef.
One of our favorites is this Skillet Lasagna below. I’ll include shopping links if you want to pick up our Prairie Center Meats seasoning blends or our somewhat-famous Italian Sausage to make this at home. Part of why I liked this one was the use of lasagna noodles. It feels very hearty. You can also use 10 ounces of another pasta. We used goat milk ricotta from a local farm, Madd House Hill in Paola, KS. It's not always available, but is worth it if you can find it!
Adapted from America's Test Kitchen
3 cloves minced garlic
1 medium onion, diced
1 28-ounce can petite diced tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper (optional)
2 teaspoons Italian Seasoning
10 curly edged lasagna noodles, broken into 2 inch lengths
1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
1 ounce shredded parmesan
1 cup ricotta
3/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
Pour the tomatoes into a 4 cup liquid measuring bowl. Add water to make a total of 4 cups. Heat a 12-inch non-stick skillet and add the Italian Sausage, Ground Pork or Beef. Cook the meat 3-5 minutes then add the diced onion and cook until meat in completely cooked and onions are soft. Add the garlic, Italian Seasoning, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes, if using. Cook about a minute. Place noodles all over the top of the meat mixture but do not stir. Pour the tomatoes, their juice and the water along with the tomato sauce over the noodles and meat. Cover and bring to simmer, stirring occasionally until the pasta is tender, about 20 minutes.
Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in the mozzarella and half the parmesan. Dot with spoons of ricotta and then sprinkle on the rest of parmesan. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving. You can garnish with torn fresh basil leaves if you have any available.