By Guest Blogger Jenny Stauffer

This month, I have decided to share some of our family’s favorite dinner recipes. Some of them are more suited for company, but most of them are recipes that are in our regular rotation of meals. We are so busy this time of year, it’s great to fall back on those easy favorites that are relatively quick and easy to prepare. Some of these recipes may even be in your collection of favorites!

Crusty Chicken

This is a recipe from a dear friend’s mom. It began as “Crusty Chicken Legs”, as in chicken drumettes, but I really prefer skinless chicken. So I adapted this by using chicken tenders. My husband and kids love these! Any method you choose will delicious-just keep an eye of them so that they are brown and crispy.

1-2 lbs of chicken, your choice
½ cup butter, melted
2 tsp. Lawrey’s salt
2 c. instant potato flakes

Preheat oven to 375. Add 1 tsp. of Lawrey’s to butter. Spread flakes in a shallow bowl. Dip chicken in butter, then roll and press into flakes until well coated. Place on a 9×13 pan (sprayed with Pam or lined with foil and Pam) and sprinkle chicken with remaining salt. Bake for about 30 min on each side or until crispy.

Lil Cheddar Meatloaves

Okay, I am a little shy to include this one, because I may be the only person my age to enjoy meatloaf. It reminds too many people of things like “aspic” or other concoctions that were created in the 1950’s, I think. But I do love meatloaf, and I believe this one is especially good. I like that oatmeal is the filler, and plenty of milk and cheddar add some calcium to the meal. I serve these with lots of home-cooked vegetables. Usually that could be green beans or pinto beans, slaw, squash, rice, potatoes or even Au Gratin Potatoes from the box!

1/2 cup cheddar cheese
1 egg (can use egg white)
¾ cup milk (seems like a lot, but keeps it moist)
½ cup quick-cooking oats
½ cup chopped onion (use less and/or dice finely so your children won’t point out)
1 tsp salt (I use less)
1 lb lean beef
2/3c ketchup
½ cup brown sugar
1 ½ tsp mustard

Beat egg and milk. Stir in cheese, oats, onion, and salt. Add beef, mix well. Shape into 8 little loaves and place in a Pam-sprayed 9×13 baking dish.

Combine ketchup through mustard in a measuring cup for ease. Spoon mixture over loaves. Bake 350 for 45 minutes, uncovered.

Savory Chicken Squares

These are gooood and children love them. I have made these for new moms and they seem to enjoy them and if other children are in the home, they love them, too. I like to make a strawberry saladwith poppyseed dressing salad to go with this and/or a bean salad. Marinated asparagus also goes well. This makes 4 but is easily doubled.

1 8oz pkg cream cheese
2T melted butter
2 c cooked , cubed chicken
¼ tsp salt and pepper
1 T grated onion (again, so kids don’t notice)
2T milk
½ c chopped celery
1 can crescent rolls

Blend cheese and butter until smooth (with a blender).Add chicken, milk, seasonings, milk and celery.Mix well with a spoon.Separate rolls into 4 rectangles.Spoon ½ cup mixture into center of each rectangle. Pull 4 corners of dough to center and seal. Bake 350 for 30-45 minutes. The dough needs to cook through, so keep an eye on it carefully!

Shrimp and Grits Casserole

So, if your kids don’t eat shrimp (mine don’t), this may not be a family-friendly recipe, BUT it is so great to have for a meal with company, dinner at the beach, and I got pretty good reviews from Molly’s baptism luncheon, where I prepared this ahead of time and reheated it that morning. You really can suit it to adapt your tastes. I think Gouda or goat cheese would be a fun change, as well. The eggs ensure that the grits are fluffy and not so dense.

Also remember that when preparing food for a large group of friends (supper club, baptism, family dinner, new mom meal) cost must be a factor. The only expense you will have here have are the shrimp (which is so often on sale) and condiments. All in all, it is a fool-proof dinner and you can fill in with simple side, like a salad and bread.

1 lb shrimp, cooked and peeled
31/4 cup water
1 cup of regular grits, uncooked
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
¼ cup milk

2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 and 1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar, (and you bet I use more!)

Bring water and salt to a boil. Stir in grits. Cover and reduce heat. Simmer 10 min and remove from heat. Combine eggs and milk (I measure out milk in a cup and add egg to reduce dirty dishes) and slowly and gradually stir into grits (you do not want to scramble the eggs!). Stir in the shrimp, garlic and 1 cup of cheese. **Here I add salt, pepper, and some butter to flavor the grits. I also like to add some crumbled bacon here. You may need more than you think, as grits are the main ingredient and they need to be well-seasoned.

Spoon into a lightly buttered 11×7 dish. Sprinkle with remaining cheese, plus more as needed. Bake 350 for 30 min. Let stand 5 minutes.

**I add bowls of green onions, bacon, diced tomatoes to serve on top. I think chopped Andouille sausage would work, too.

Taco Salad

Here is my favorite again! Mexican.This is my standby for serving taco salad. Once you make the ground beef or turkey, you can adapt the taco part of the equation to your family’s needs. Soft taco, hard taco, nachos, etc. I think this is a generic way of serving taco salad but the kids love it and we do, too! I think the creamy French dressing and the Doritos are what we like as a change of pace.

1 lb of lean ground beef or turkey
1 pkg taco seasoning mix
Lettuce, shredded (iceberg is best)

I can kidney beans, drained
Ripe avocado, chopped (or set aside for said family member!)
8 oz sweet French dressing
½ cup taco sauce

Shredded sharp cheddar

***most importantly……Dorito chips, crushed. Baked or original!

Brown meat and add taco mix.Originally, the recipe calls to chill the meat. Then it says to combine all ingredients but the cheese and chips. When ready to serve, add chips and cheese.

However, I prepare the meat with the mix and add as a salad right then. I microwave it to heat it if desired. Can add sour cream, as well.

What is your favorite dinner to prepare family-style?Or your go-to quick dinner? I have more and more of these. What kind of recipes would you like to see more of? (And remember, baking is not really my favorite!) Do you like family-oriented meals, fresh meals with ethnic ingredients, or a combination of both? Let me know!