Easy (and Kid-Friendly!), Beef Weeknight Meals

Photo: The Nest
Photo: The Nest

Are you a working mom who wants some easy meals under your belt?  Are you a stay-at-home mom who doesn’t have a bunch of time (or hands!) available to make dinner?  No matter your situation, we all want to have some easy meals at our disposal. Here are some meal ideas for you that are centered around hamburger. (See my other post on meal ideas involving chicken.)  Since many of these use browned beef, you could easily brown all the hamburger at the same time, reserving some for later use. Mess up 1 pan and get many meals out of it!

Meal Idea #1: Simple Macaroni and Beef with Cheese

Slightly Adapted from Michael Ruhlman 

Servings: 4-6 (easily)

Tip: This is very easy to pull together or to make on the weekend and then pop in the oven when ready to bake. If you do bake it straight from the frig, you’ll want to increase the baking time since it isn’t starting from room temperature. Check the source for instructions on freezing — this is very freezer friendly!

Ingredients:
1 large onion, diced
1 tablespoon canola oil
salt to taste
optional seasonings: black pepper, oregano, cumin, coriander, chopped garlic, hot smoked paprika, chilli powder—whatever you’re in the mood for
28 ounces can tomatoes, petite diced or crushed
2 pounds lean ground beef
1 box macaroni
1 cup each grated cheddar and mozzarella cheeses

Directions:
1. Cook the onions with the oil and a little salt.

2. Add the beef and cook it, breaking it up as you do. Add the seasonings that you’ve chosen.

3. Add the tomatoes, bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat to low and cook for an hour.

4. Cook the macaroni in boiling water till it’s half done. Drain it and add it to the tomatoes.

5. Stir it into the sauce. Taste it. Add more salt and other seasonings as needed, and cover.

6. When it’s cooled and the pasta has absorbed the tomato juices, transfer it to a 9×13 baking dish and cover it with foil.

7. Bake in a 400 degree oven till it’s piping hot (about 45 minutes if it’s cold to room temperature). Just before you’re ready to eat, remove the foil, cover macaroni with the cheese and broil till it looks beautiful.

Meal Idea #2: Baked Cream Cheese Spaghetti

Source: Plain Chicken 

Ingredients:
12 oz spaghetti
1 (28 ounce) jars prepared spaghetti sauce
1 lb lean ground beef
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1 clove garlic, minced (or 1/2 tsp minced)
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 F degrees.

2. In a skillet, brown the ground beef until cooked through; drain fat and stir in spaghetti sauce. Set aside.

3. Cook spaghetti according to directions on packet. Drain and place cooked spaghetti in bowl.

4. Add cream cheese, Italian Seasoning and minced garlic to spaghetti. Stir until cream cheese is melted and the spaghetti is thoroughly coated.

5. Lightly grease a 9×13 pan. Spread a small amount of meat sauce in the bottom of the dish.

6. Put spaghetti on top of sauce and top with remaining meat sauce. Sprinkle parmesan cheese on top.

7. Bake for 30 minutes, until bubbly.

Meal Idea #3: French Bread Pizza

Source: The Frugal Girl 

Tip: This is a recipe that isn’t really a recipe. It’s just a way of thinking of making pizza a little outside of the box. Pizza doesn’t have to be on pizza dough. You can make pizzas on top of other types of bread – including french bread, hamburger buns, hoagie buns or english muffins. In this way, it can be very easy to put different toppings on each person’s pizza.

Ingredients:
French bread loaves
Prepared tomato sauce
Shredded mozzarella cheese
Pizza toppings like ground hamburger, pepperoni, green peppers, onion, mushroom

Directions:
1. Cut the French bread loaves in half lengthwise. Place on cookie sheet. Sometimes to add more toppings, I remove some of the bread inside to hollow it out a little bit. Don’t remove too much, otherwise it will get soggy.

2. Spread them with pizza sauce.

3. Sprinkle the pizzas with mozzarella cheese.

4. And add whatever toppings you like.

5. Bake in a preheated 400 degree oven for 10-15 minutes, or until the crust is crispy and the cheese is melted.

Meal Idea #4: Oven Baked Meatball Subs

Source: Home Cooking Memories 

Tip: If you cooked the meatballs the night or weekend before, you could just microwave the meatballs and sauce the day you want to prepare the meal, saving time.

Ingredients:
Sandwich rolls (cut with one side intact)
Cooked Meatballs (your favorite recipe or frozen, pre-made meatballs)
Pasta Sauce (homemade or jarred)
Shredded Mozzarella Cheese

Directions:
1. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

2. Place your frozen cooked meatballs or homemade cooked meatballs in a large pot.
3. Cover with your pasta sauce. Gently fold the meatballs with the sauce.

4. Heat the meatballs and sauce on low-medium, stirring occasionally, until the meatballs are heated thoroughly.

5. Fill a roll with as many meatballs as you can fit (usually 4-5 meatballs, depends on size of meatballs and the size of the roll). Top with more pasta sauce from your pot.

6. Place filled sandwich rolls closely on baking sheet. Top each sandwich with shredded mozzarella cheese. You can put into a 9×13 pan if you need a smaller pan.

7. Bake until cheese is melted, hot, and bubbly.

Meal Idea #5: Taco Soup

Tip: This one is great for the crockpot! But it doesn’t take too long to heat up, so I tend to make it on the weekend, let it simmer for just a couple of hours in the crockpot, then reheat it on the week night that I want it.

Ingredients:
1 lb ground beef
1 onion, chopped
1 pkg taco seasonings
1 pkg dry Ranch seasonings
2 large cans diced tomatoes, undrained
1 can Rotel tomatoes, undrained
1 can each: black beans, pinto beans, whole kernel corn.
(optional) sour cream, Frito chips, cheese (I like Fritos!)

Directions:
1. Brown meat and onion. Drain. Add seasonings.

2. Drain beans and corn. Add to meat along with tomatoes.

3. Simmer until well blended and hot.

4. Add a bit of cheddar cheese, sour cream or Fritos when serving.

What are your favorite, easy weeknight meals?