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the 5 most common dinner mistakes (and how to avoid them)

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Do you struggle sometimes with getting dinner on the table?

You’re not alone!

Recently, I did a survey of Stonesoup readers. One of the biggest problems that kept coming up was finding the time, motivation and energy to prepare dinner. Especially after a long day of work, when you’re tired and hungry.

So today I thought we’d delve into the most common mistakes people make when it comes to dinners and, of course, some simple tricks avoid them.

the 5 most common dinner mistakes (+ how to avoid them)

1. Not thinking there’s enough time.
It can be easy to fall into the trap of feeling like you need at least half an hour, or longer to get dinner ready. But it doesn’t have to be like that.

As I discovered when I was writing my book, ‘5 Ingredients 10 Minutes’, dinner can be made in 10 minutes, and even for some recipes as little as 5 minutes. You just need to find ideas and recipes that focus on fast techniques and keeping everything as simple as possible. There are plenty of ideas over in the 50 healthy 10 minute meals post on Stonesoup.

2. Not having the right ingredients in the house.
There are 2 parts to this. First, not having a well stocked pantry. The second is choosing recipes that call for things you just don’t have.

To avoid the former you just need to get some sort of pantry system happening, which we discussed last week.

Then you need to either choose recipes that allow for lots of ‘variations’ like the ones here on Stonesoup. Or you can learn to master the art of adaptation and cooking without recipes, which we’ll be covering step-by-step in the upcoming Solve Your Dinner Dilemma class at the Stonesoup Virtual Cookery School.

3. Getting stuck in a rut.
Boredom and repetition will always make dinners more frustrating than fun. The easiest way to overcome this mistake is to ‘outsource’ your dinner inspiration and planning.

4. Seeing it as a chore.
If you’re someone who loves getting home in the evenings and spending a little time relaxing and unwinding from your busy day while you prepare your evening meal, congratulations! You’ve avoided this common mistake.

If, you’re not in the happy-dinner-cookers camp. That’s OK.

Maybe it’s time to re-frame how you think about preparing dinner? How can you turn dinner time around and start seeing it as time for you to relax and enjoy yourself?

5. Making things more complicated than necessary.
It can be easy to fall into the trap of planning weeknight dinners that are just a little too ambitious. I certainly used to be guilty of this.

All you need is a collection of recipes or dishes that tick all the boxes of quick, simple and delicious. The good news is, you need look no further than Stonesoup! The majority of the recipes here are designed to be as quick and easy as possible without sacrificing deliciousness or healthiness.

cumulus spiced eggs

cumulus spiced eggs
serves 2

These eggs are a simplified version of a dish served at one of my favourite Melbourne restaurants, Cumulus Inc. They bake the eggs in individual cast iron pots but I’ve found cooking on the stove top with a lid on so the top of the eggs steam gives just as good results.

I like to use an ‘arriabata’ tomato sauce which has in-built chilli spice. But you could just add your own fresh chilli.

1 jar tomato pasta sauce (about 1 1/2 cups)
1-2 teaspoons ground coriander
4 handfuls baby spinach leaves
4 eggs
small handful soft goats cheese

1. Heat a little oil in a large frying pan. Add sauce and spice and bring to a simmer.

2. Add baby spinach and stir for about a minute, until the sauce has come back up to a simmer.

3. Make 4 indents in the sauce. Crack an egg into each indent.

4. Cover with a lid and gently simmer for 3-4 minutes or until the egg whites are set and the yolks still runny.

5. Season. Crumble over the goats cheese.

VARIATIONS

dairy-free – serve sprinkled with roast sliced almonds Or be like Cumulus Inc and serve with dukkah.

different spices – try ground cumin, smoked paprika, dried chilli or a mixture. Curry powder would work for a more Indian vibe.

egg-free – you could cook chicken thigh fillets like this. Will take about 10 minutes, depending on the size.

vegan – Wilt the spinach into the sauce with the spices. Divide sauce between two plates. Top with chunks of cold avocado and sprinkle over dukkah or roast sliced almonds.

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video version of the recipe

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With love
Jules x

ps. What’s your biggest dinner dilemma? I’d love to hear about it. Share your dinner woes in the comments below.

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{ 23 comments… add one }

  • Phoebe 24 July, 2012, 6:24 pm

    How weird. I had eggs and spinach in the fridge (and not much else). So I jumped on here, thinking “Jules will have something interesting I can throw together quickly”… and there it was as your latest post! Spooky! I don’t even have a jar of tomato pasta sauce, but I’ve got diced tomatoes so I’m going to innovate! ;)

    • jules 31 July, 2012, 9:20 am

      You know what they say about great minds Phoebe!

  • Jenny @ BAKE 24 July, 2012, 6:44 pm

    I think I suffer from all of those points! can’t wait to see your ebook!

    • jules 31 July, 2012, 9:20 am

      Hope you find it helpful Jenny!

  • Korina 25 July, 2012, 6:45 am

    This was lovely! I made it this evening for a nice, light dinner since it’s a bit of a heat wave here in the UK at the moment. Really great with a cool glass of wine and some crusty bread.

    • jules 31 July, 2012, 9:17 am

      So glad you enjoyed Korina
      It works well as a winter supper too!
      Enjoy the heat
      Jx

  • Olivia 25 July, 2012, 7:49 am

    Looks delish! Will give it a shot next week.

    I actually waked in to Cumulus this week and sat down. I needed lunch while I waited for my husband who was having his wisdom teeth out. But I felt sooooo guilty about having such a beautiful lunch while he was suffering that I walked out again and went somewhere less nice! Ha!

    • jules 31 July, 2012, 9:17 am

      Wow Olivia
      You must get the prize for being a stellar wife!
      Hope you both get to go to cumulus soon
      Jx

  • Tracy 25 July, 2012, 8:32 am

    I adore your recipes, and this was AMAZING! I can not believe how ridiculously simple it was and mine turned out just like the photos. I also had mine with crusty bread. Sooooooo good! Thank you!

    • jules 31 July, 2012, 9:16 am

      So glad you enjoyed it Tracy!

  • Brooke 25 July, 2012, 9:49 pm

    This looks great! Going to try it later in the week!
    My biggest dinner woe is finding something healthy and quick like this that I can also give to my 2 year old. He is a good eater but any vegetable of a reasonable size he will toss aside :( I’d love some Julespiration of dinner ideas for my WHOLE family x

    • jules 31 July, 2012, 9:13 am

      Sorry Brooke!
      I’m not really experienced at feeding 2 year olds…
      Maybe one day

  • JohannaGGG 26 July, 2012, 1:31 pm

    I can be guilty of overstretching myself – but last night when I had already made pretzels, instead of making the big stew I had intended, I made your pea and pesto soup – brilliant idea – I adapted (that is one of my strengths) with a few tweaks but it really sped up dinner when I was tired. Thanks! (The stew was made later and is ready for tonight’s dinner – another way of organising dinner for me.)

    And re your comment in no 4 “If you’re someone who loves getting home in the evenings and spending a little time relaxing and unwinding from your busy day while you prepare your evening meal, congratulations! ” I love being in the kitchen but there are nights I am so tired that it becomes a chore – but again see my above comment about going for easy when I ran out of time!

    • jules 31 July, 2012, 9:10 am

      Hi Johanna!
      Love the idea of making your stew for the next night after you had the ‘quick and easy’ dinner.
      And so glad you enjoyed the soup
      Jx

  • R.M. Koske 26 July, 2012, 10:58 pm

    Hm. You know, #4 really speaks to me. It’s long been my biggest frustration with food and cooking blogs that they’re massively populated by people who love to cook. As far as I can tell sometimes, not only don’t I love to cook, I don’t even like to eat as much as the food people I see in these places. Meals are all-too-frequently something I get through so I can get on with other things that I actually want to spend time on. (Fixing that is something I am working on – it entails resolving my depression, improving my cooking, finding good dinner companions and improving my mealtime habits. Not trivial.)

    But re-framing how I think about the process of cooking? I never thought of that. I think I might be able to do that.

    Thanks so much for suggesting it. It won’t be a quick change, but I do think it will really help improve my situation.

    • jules 31 July, 2012, 9:08 am

      Hi RM!
      Thanks for your honesty.
      I’m sure you’ll be able to make a difference, if you do give the re-framing a try.
      And it may not take as long or be as difficult as you’d think.
      All the best
      Jules

  • tom@morethanpepper 29 July, 2012, 5:05 am

    I am definitely number 4

    • jules 31 July, 2012, 9:02 am

      It’s OK to be a Number 4 Tom!
      The thing is it’s in your power to change it if you really want to.

  • Jenny 29 July, 2012, 9:34 am

    This looks lovely, an easy but very tasty breakfast.

    • jules 31 July, 2012, 9:01 am

      Jenny!
      It’s one of those dishes that works well for breakfast or dinner

  • Anna 31 July, 2012, 10:17 am

    My younger brother makes a dish like this called Chakchouka — he’s a bachelor so he’s made a point to learn to cook about four dishes that “please the ladies” — but now that I know how easy it is, I’ll have to rib him a bit about it. ;)

    He adds a bit more to the sauce (I think chickpeas often make an appearance) so it’s extra hearty and filling. Good for winter!

    • jules 13 August, 2012, 7:53 am

      Love that your brother is all about ‘pleasing the ladies’ with his cooking Anna
      He could teach my bro a thing or two!

  • M 21 September, 2012, 2:54 am

    Tried this last night for a ‘single-girl’ dinner and it was amazing! Cannot tell you how many times your blog has saved me from a dinner of carrot sticks and peanut butter.

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