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Family-Friendly Winter Dinner Ideas for Busy Weeknights

Are you searching for winter dinner ideas that are simple to make and perfect for hectic weeknights? We understand. There is nothing better than digging into hearty soups, comforting casseroles, and other filling delights when the weather is blustery. The good news is that even on wintry weeknights when busy schedules are the norm, you can still make family-friendly recipes that satisfy. Read on as we reveal some of our favorite winter dinner ideas that the whole family will love.

Cheddar, Beef, and Potato Casserole

If you are a fan of Shepherd’s Pie, you are going to adore Martha Stewart Living’s “Cheddar, Beef, and Potato Casserole.” The editors embraced it because they were also looking for “an ultra-comforting, family-friendly dinner recipe.” This thoroughly satisfying meal takes the classic Shepherd’s Pie idea and replaces the traditional mashed potato with a crispy hash brown topping that is too enticing to resist. On the inside, you have a “savory mixture of sautéed onions, ground beef, and mushrooms” as well as “mixed vegetables and cheddar cheese.” The bake takes approximately 40 minutes, and you will want to finish it in the broiler for a final five minutes to crisp up the topping, according to the Magazine. Don’t be surprised if this becomes one of your go-to recipes for years to come. 

Irish Beef, Cabbage, and Potato Soup

While this may sound more like a St. Patrick’s Day recipe than a winter dinner idea, trust us – you don’t want to wait. Real Simple raves about adding this soup to your weeknight rotation because “[this] hearty Irish fare tastes especially good on chilly winter nights” and “[from] start to finish the soup takes approximately an hour and a half.” Browning the meat and simmering the beef with the potatoes and the other fixings are the most time-consuming element of this delicious recipe, while active prep is relatively short. And as the Magazine suggests: “The payoff will be clear when your entire family asks for seconds.” 

Quick Pork Goulash

Goulash is another classic dish that is getting a reimagining from the food editors at Martha Stewart Living. In this case, they found a way to make this Hungarian classic in under one hour – which is impressive for goulash with this much flavor. The key to this quick winter dinner is the cut of the meat. As the Magazine explains: “By opting for quick-cooking tenderloin instead of the more common shoulder roast, the pork becomes melt-in-your-mouth tender in a fraction of the time.” They recommend serving this satiating dish over buttered egg noodles, but mashed potatoes, rice, bread, or elbow pasta are also thoroughly pleasing pairings with this rich goulash.

Vegetarian One-Pot Pasta with Broccoli and Lemon 

One of Martha Stewart Living’s favorite winter dinner ideas is a one-pot pasta dish that takes less than 30 minutes from start to serve. As the Magazine advises: “This vegetarian pasta dish is easy, delicious, and something everyone will love.” While the recipe is vegetarian as is, it can easily be made vegan by either eliminating the Parmesan topping or switching to grated vegan cheese. This recipe is a great way to combine a healthy eating plan with comfort food.  Plus, clean-up is a snap.

Pea and Lettuce Soup With Ham and Cheese Tartines

Pea soup is a winter staple, and when you combine it with ham and cheese tartines, you have a quick way to make a delicious dinner in about 25 minutes. Plus, as Real Simple points out, it’s a great way “to use that head of romaine lettuce before it spoils” in the refrigerator. It may seem strange that romaine is a secret ingredient in this bright green soup recipe, but it’s true. And while the tartines may look complicated, the most critical elements are well-made ciabatta rolls and a broiler to help you perfectly melt that cheese. 

Boarding House Meatloaf

Just the notion of meatloaf can make one think of childhood and warm, comfort food. It’s no surprise that one of Southern Living’s most popular winter dinner ideas is the “Easy Boarding House Meatloaf.” The Magazine describes this dish as “fresh, filling, and oh-so-easy to make;” just what you want on a cold night. While the base of this meatloaf (lean ground beef, bell peppers, and onions) is filled with flavor, it’s the homemade tangy sauce in this recipe that makes it sing. And, as the Magazine reveals: “With only 10 minutes of hands-on time, the Boarding House Meatloaf is the perfect recipe when you’re rushed to make dinner on a hectic weeknight.” 

Chickpea and Quinoa Tortilla Soup

This tortilla soup is an excellent choice whenever the temperatures start to dip. Real Simple loves this idea because “[the] vegetarian soup features good-for-you ingredients like quinoa and chickpeas, has big, bold flavors, and comes together in just 25 minutes.” You’ll also love the wide variety of toppings that you can add to the soup before serving, including things like avocado, cheese, and tortilla chips. And, of course, you can never go wrong with a dollop of sour cream.

Cowboy Casserole

If you love tater tots (or your kids do), you will want to add Southern Living’s “Cowboy Casserole” to your weeknight dinner lineup because “the layer of crunchy tater tots that line the top of this casserole is its claim to fame.” The base of the family-friendly casserole is the ground beef that is flavored with taco seasoning. This recipe gets high marks for taking everyday ingredients in the cupboard, such as black beans, pinto beans, onions, tomatoes, and garlic, and turning them into an almost magical dish that is intensely satisfying. And, of course, the tater tots drizzled with shredded cheese are the perfect topper.  

Blackened Chicken with Broccoli Slaw

Chicken tenders are often a hit with busy families, and Rachael Ray’s In Season agrees that these tasty treats are too tempting to skip this winter. The Magazine recommends seasoning skillet-blackened chicken tenders with Cajun seasoning and oil, as well as serving them with broccoli slaw. It’s a simple dinner idea that takes only minutes to prepare, cook, and serve. As the Magazine cheers, “this meal is perfect for busy weeknights and hungry kids!” 

Skillet Mac and Cheese with Crispy Breadcrumbs

Speaking of skillet dishes that the whole family will enjoy, Southern Living raves about this “Skillet Mac and Cheese with Crispy Breadcrumbs” recipe. According to the Magazine, “the skillet is the secret to the slightly crispy sides of this mac and cheese.” Of course, this is not your ordinary mac and cheese. This recipe became one of the Magazine’s favorite winter dinner ideas, in part, because it includes a sumptuous blend of “cheddar, Velveeta, and whole-milk ricotta, and a generous amount of mayonnaise, which gives it a creamy texture and a slight tanginess.” It’s topped with buttery breadcrumbs, which are added to the skillet in the last 10 minutes of the bake. We can practically taste the gooey goodness and delectable crunch of this vegetarian dish already. Yum!