Lately I’ve been making lists of my family’s favourite meals, as a reference for me when I’m planning the coming days. And I’m good at starting lists, but I’m also good at losing them, so this time I’ve stuck the list firmly on the inside of a kitchen cupboard door!
Actually, I’ve got two lists – one is a list of light dinner meals, the other is a list of “hearty” dinner meals. And many of the meals work for other times of day, too – at our house, breakfast or lunch may just as well be soup, for instance. (Actually, did you know that it was only after the Second World War that the sugary, refined coffee and croissant became a standard breakfast? Prior to that, nourishing meat-broth-and-vegetable soups were common French breakfast fare!)
Anyway, you have probably come to this post looking for some light dinner recipe ideas for your meal tonight, so I won’t keep you waiting.
Here are my top five favourite light dinner meals, with quick preparation instructions to help you get dinner on as easily as possible. 🙂
(One thing I love about light meals is that they are usually quick and easy to make, too. None of these recipes take longer than 15 minutes to make.)
Light dinner recipe idea 1: Eggs on toast with your choice of variations
Preparation/cooking time: 5-10 minutes
I felt silly putting this on my list of light dinner meals, because it’s so simple that is barely warrants a mention on paper (er… I mean, on blog?? :D). However, if I had a dollar for the number of times I’ve launched into a flurry of preparation for a recipe I’ve just found which “surely won’t take long” (ending up taking way longer than expected, of course!), and served it up an hour later than I’d planned, to have my family tell me “eggs on toast would have been just fine!”… well, I’d be rich, of course. So here it is, to remind me just as much as you!
- If you want to serve eggs with a side, then set bacon on to fry, or heat up the baked beans or relish or whatever now while you cook the eggs
- Take 1-3 eggs per person, depending on each person and their appetite at the time
- Put a frying pan on the stove and heat either a pat of butter of an inch of water
- Slice bread and pop in the toaster – don’t toast bread yet though
- When the butter or water gets bubbling, crack eggs gently into the pan
- Use an egg flip to gently loosen the eggs from the bottom of the pan after a minute or so
- Depending on how fast your toaster is, put toast down now
- Depending on how you like your egg yolks, cook them to halfway “done” where they are in the pan, then flip them gently over to seal the tops (unless you like runny sunny-side-up eggs, in which case don’t flip them at all)
- Butter the toast
- Don’t let the eggs sit in the pan here to go all hard – once tops are sealed, lift eggs out and place them on the buttered toast, or place them on a plate if you’re still waiting for the toast
- Serve up the sides next to the eggs on toast
- Eat with freshly ground pepper and unrefined sea salt or Himalayan salt for a delicious quick and easy meal!
Light dinner recipe idea 2: Omelette with random stuff you have in your fridge
Preparation/cooking time: 5-10 minutes
I won’t get off the egg train yet because eggs are such a versatile, nutritious and FAST food. Once again, omelette is easy and delicious to make, and I forget that it even exists half the time. And it’s such a good way to use up lonely little bits of leftovers that might otherwise get thrown out because they aren’t big enough to make a meal of themselves. Yeah omelette is awesome!
- Heat a frying pan on the stove with a non-stingy pat of butter in it. (Remember, butter contains lots of the fat-soluble vitamins A and D – essential for your immune system and your eyesight!)
- Slice some bread and pop in the toaster
- Take 1-3 eggs per person, depending on how hungry everyone is and how much other stuff you plan to cook into your omelette
- Whisk the eggs up together in a bowl with a fork and add a splash of water. I’m sorry I can’t be more precise (it isn’t my nature unfortunately!), but a splash will get you through most of the time. Unless you’re cooking up a veritable mountain of omelettes, then one kinda splash of water will be enough. If you make the mix too thin with water then your omelette will fall apart in the pan and will be hard to flip and serve
- When the butter is bubbling, pour some of the egg mix into the middle of the pan. Don’t make it too thin because it will be too tricky to flip. Move the pan around a bit so the mixture makes a nice circle to the edges of the pan
- Grab your leftovers or random stuff (eg cooked broccoli, cold pasta, raw or cooked capsicum/peppers, bolognaise sauce, raw mushrooms, cooked bacon, etc) and chop them up if necessary. Sprinkle the bits onto one half of the omelette
- Sprinkle some grated or sliced cheese on the same half of omelette
- Get your egg flip and gently loosen the undecorated side of the omelette. Shuffle the egg flip around the edges and then slide it further under as you get it loose. Helps not to let the pan get too hot because if it’s too hot then the omelette sticks more
- Put toast down in the toaster
- Once you have it loose, then flip it quickly and casually (emphasis on the “casually”, especially if anyone happens to be watching 😉 ) onto the top of the decorated side. Now you have a half-moon-shaped omelette. Loosen under this and move it to the middle of the pan, flip it over if you want (if you like it a little more golden) and then get it out of the pan with the egg flip. If your egg flip is on the small side, then before you get the omelette out, cut it in half down the middle so you get two quarter-circle pieces. These are a lot easier to get out of the pan, I find
- Butter toast if you wish and place omelette on the toast
- Serve with tomato sauce, or a relish, or green leafys and a squidge of lemon juice – and plenty of freshly ground black pepper
Light dinner recipe idea 3: Nourishing and healthy platter
Including hearty bread (such as sourdough) with cold cut meats, gherkins or pickles, and good-quality cheese and yellow butter (preferably grassfed)
Preparation time: 5-10 minutes
- Take a serving platter or board, and place a stack of hearty bread slices in the middle.
- Place a small dish (or more if your table is large) with a generous pat of butter on it on the serving platter.
- Slice leftover roast and arrange on the platter, or put out good quality cold-cut deli meats.
- Place a block or two of soft or hard cheese on the platter.
- Open a jar of gherkins and/or pickles, and place in dishes or bowls on the table.
- Slice a few salad vegetables such as vine-ripened tomatoes smelling of summer, or cucumbers…
- Maybe place a dish or two of pitted or stuffed olives out.
- Open jars of hot and mild mustard and place on the table.
- Pour glasses of water and add a slice of lemon if you’re feeling like some fun.
- Give everybody a board or plate, a butter knife and a sharp knife, and let them go for it!
Light dinner recipe idea 4: Tuna salad, give or take what you have or haven’t got
Preparation time: 5 minutes
Zero cooking is required for this recipe, and it’s very handy when you are clean out of fresh ingredients full stop. Although I don’t like to admit this, I usually have about one day per week where I don’t have any vegetables left to speak of. But I do usually have a stick or two of celery lying around, and an apple in the fruit bowl, so here’s one of my favourite standby light dinner recipe ideas which can be made mostly from pantry staples.
- Find the most grizzled, stoic old sea captain who’s been out of work for a while but still keeps his boat at a wharf near you, and charter a voyage over the stormy seas to where the yellowfin tuna frolic and play…
- Alternatively, grab a ~425g can of tuna from your pantry cupboard.
- Drain tuna and drop into a big bowl and break up chunks with a fork.
- Open a can of sweetcorn kernels or 1-2 C freshly cooked corn kernels, rinse and drain and empty into the bowl.
- Chop up 1-2 big sticks of celery, keeping in mind that more celery make the salad more crunchy to chew.
- Peel and dice 1 apple, and add to the salad, for a fresh summery taste.
- You can also add cold rice or cold pasta from the fridge.
- If you like, add a can of white or kidney beans, rinsed and drained. (Ideally, you would have soaked the beans and then cooked them yourself to reduce phytic acid and other antinutrients found in beans, but let’s face it, sometimes you just need to cut a few corners and eat something in a hurry, so I’ll admit to using canned beans now and then!)
- You can also toast up cubes of stale bread from the bread box, with a little butter, to make croutons. But I don’t bother usually.
- For the dressing, I like to use plain mayonnaise. In the past I have also used cold-pressed olive oil, or light sour cream. You could also try yoghurt but I haven’t done it myself? Whatever you use, for a salad containing roughly 1 ~425g can of tuna, 1 can of corn kernels, 2 sticks of celery and an apple, add about 4 tablespoons of mayonaise. Less obviously makes a dryer salad. If you add any of the other stuff like beans, pasta, rice or croutons, then you will need more dressing.
- Serve it up! This salad works well on toast or on fresh rye or sourdough bread. You can also just eat it by itself, which works especially well if you’ve added pasta or rice or croutons, and beans.
Light dinner recipe idea 5: Easy chicken, corn, carrot and noodle soup
Preparation/cooking time: 15 minutes
Sometimes you need light dinner meals that are piping hot. A salad is nice in summer, but in winter sometimes you want something both light and hot, which isn’t always easy. Except for that wonderful thing, soup. It’s quick, it’s easy and it’s nutritious. Here’s my favourite wintertime light dinner meal – a trusty standby soup, that children and adults alike will happily eat. Of course, it works just as well in summer, too.
- Take 1 icecream container of chicken broth, or equiv. cans of chicken broth
- Pick meat off a BBQ chicken and set aside enough meat for the soup; refrigerate the rest (alternatively, get out some leftover chicken that you already had in the fridge)
- Put on high to boil in a large saucepan
- Peel and chop 3-4 carrots into small cubes and place in boiling stock
- Add a small/medium packet of spaghetti noodles or other pasta shapes
- Open a can of sweetcorn kernels, rinse and drain (don’t pour in yet…)
- When pasta and carrot pieces are cooked through, turn the stovetop heat off, then add the corn.
- Serve with fresh chopped flat-leaf parsley, freshly ground black pepper and sea salt to taste.
I hope you found some ideas there. My cupboard-door list of light dinner meals is ever growing, so I’ll post again soon with more recipes. What are your favourite light dinner meals? Do you keep a list of these kinds of meals, or do you just wing it?