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3 fast, easy, filling recipes for weeknight family dinners

Family-friendly school-night dinners that are quick and easy to get on the table. They don't come in a box, and they're not pizza!

Hearty meals in the slow cooker are a favorite for fall.


Back-to-school season cuts into kitchen time as school and activities fill the weeknight calendar. But school-night dinners can still be easy, communal and stirred up at home with these uncomplicated recipes that use fresh Northwest ingredients to full effect. Three go-to ideas for weeknight dinners that are family-friendly, easy to do ahead, and might just save your sanity this September.


Cuban Pulled Pork

This tender, garlicky pork is the perfect filling for tacos, sandwiches or grain bowl. Use an Instant Pot for a quicker preparation, or stew it in a slow cooker in the morning and have dinner waiting for you when you get home. This recipe makes enough to serve a family of four twice, and freezes well.

3-4 lbs boneless pork shoulder, cut into 3 chunks

1 tablespoon each salt and pepper

1 tablespoon oregano

1 tablespoon cumin

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon chopped garlic

Juice and zest of 1 orange

Juice and zest of 1 lime

Season pork with salt and pepper, and rub with oregano and cumin.

If using an Instant Pot, set sauté function to high, add olive oil, and brown pork for around 10 minutes. Add garlic, juices and zest, cover and cook on high pressure for 80 minutes. Let pressure release naturally.

If using a crockpot, brown pork in a skillet, then add to slow-cooker along with garlic, juices and zest. Cook on low for 8 hours.

Using two forks, shred the pork, adding as much of the pork juice as preferred. Serve in tacos, burritos or sandwiches.


Mum’s Chicken Pesto Pies

In England, it’s slightly more typical to use the green tops of carrots in cooking. This practice is catching on locally as superfoods such as kale and beet greens take center-aisle billing.

Thanks to store-made rotisserie chicken and frozen puff pastry, these individual pies, much like calzones, come together in a flash. A perfectly portable dinner, they can just as easily be eaten on the go or at soccer practice. Store-bought pesto can be substituted, but this version is delicious, nutritious and reduces food waste.  Makes 8 pies (but freezes well if you want to make a double batch).

Green tops from 1 bunch of carrots (around 2 cups), roughly chopped

¼ cup roughly chopped nuts (almond, pine nuts, pecans, anything goes)

½ cup basil

½ cup olive oil

Salt and pepper

2 cups shredded cooked chicken

All-purpose flour, for rolling

1 package frozen puff pastry, thawed


1 egg, beaten

Heat oven to 400°.

Pulse carrot tops, nuts and basil in a food processor until mixture has formed a rough paste, then slowly drizzle in olive oil and blend until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.

Place chicken in a mixing bowl with one cup of the pesto and mix well.

Flour your surface, and unfold the two pastry sheets. Cut each into four pieces and roll each into a 7-to-8-inch square. Divide the filling between the bottom halves of the squares, leaving a border for sealing. Brush the edges with a little water, then fold and press to seal. Brush tops of the pies with the beaten egg and place in the oven. Bake for around 30 minutes until golden brown and cooked through.


One Pot Miso Chicken with Rice

Miso paste, typically sold in the refrigerated deli section, is full of healthy vitamins, minerals, and probiotics and adds a rich, savory flavor to dishes. This entire meal cooks together in your rice cooker (because we all know busy parents have no time for extra dishes). Serves 4 with leftovers.

3 tablespoons soy sauce

2 tablespoons oyster sauce

2 tablespoons miso paste

1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon sesame oil

4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1” chunks

1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger

2 cups jasmine rice, rinsed and drained

2½ cups chicken stock

1 bunch scallions, trimmed and cut into 2” lengths

¼ cup chopped cilantro

Combine the first five ingredients in a bowl and whisk until combined. Add chicken and ginger and mix well.

Add rice and stock to rice cooker, cover with chicken mixture, then top with scallions. Cook until cycle is complete. If the chicken isn’t quite done, reset cycle and cook for 5 minutes longer. Fluff rice, mixing through the chicken, and top with cilantro.


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