Easy Family Recipes for When You're 'In a Rut'

Many evenings, I find myself knee-deep in third-grade homework - or on the sidelines of a soccer game - at the exact time I should be preparing dinner at home. In a last-minute scramble to save the family supper, I often end up swapping my plan to try a new recipe for an old one I know by heart. It's an okay save … until it lands me in a full-fledged recipe rut. And there's nothing worse than that.

I have found that the best way to break out of the rut is to stock my kitchen for new recipes that are just as quick and easy as the old favorites. Then, I like to add a little extra challenge to keep dinner prep from feeling like a chore by seeking out fresh dinner ideas, each with a different member of my family in mind. Interesting takes on familiar ingredients that delight everyone at the table are a sure way for me to spark new kitchen inspiration.

" ... the sure way for me to spark new kitchen inspiration."

Taking that into consideration, here are my most-recent recipe finds to re-energize our everyday meals.

An Easy Skillet Recipe My Kids Love Here's one of those gems that is better for my kids than they realize. From their point of view, it's just a burrito without the wrap. From my perspective, it's a well-balanced plate of protein, carbs and veggies. I usually try to serve this simple skillet chicken recipe at the beginning of the week to help fuel the rest of it. It comes together quickly, and it's an easy sell with a dollop of sour cream and sprinkle of cheddar on top.

A Chicken & Pasta Recipe My Spouse Loves After 10 years of marriage, introducing this Tuscan-inspired chicken recipe into our family's dinner rotation was one of the most romantic things I ever could have done for my husband. He is a lover of cream sauces, so this savory masterpiece really lights him up. Plus, it's dotted with unexpected pearls of cannellini beans that take it to another level altogether.

I also happen to dig this quick recipe -but more for the layers of flavor and the lightness of the sauce. Milk and canned soup (not cream) make for a rich texture that is not too heavy. Plus, it combines beautifully with simply seared chicken and sliced mushrooms. Tossed into a pound of al dente fettuccini, and served with some hunks of crusty bread, it tastes like a love note from me to my husband (and kids).

An Italian Recipe I Love This meaty meal is a gift to me! By Thursday, I typically find myself surveying an open fridge, praying that something speaks to me. Simplicity is what I'm seeking, and minimal cleanup is even better. This easy one-pan recipe saves the day. The fact alone that the recipe starts with sweet Italian sausage makes my Italian heart happy.

I set the dinner table around the skillet and let everybody serve himself or herself. I eat it like a stew with crispy Texas toast for dipping, while my husband and boys eat it more like an Italian sloppy Joe on sturdy hoagie rolls - a fast favorite any way you eat it.

An Indulgent Mac & Cheese Recipe Everyone Loves Whether it is a recipe rut, or the kind that comes from a week of routine, this comforting macaroni and cheese recipe will blast through any semblance of a rut. I pull it out on Friday nights to celebrate the week that was, with bacon and melty cheese. The hardest part of the prep is boiling the pasta. (That's not hard at all.) The hardest part of the meal is deciding who gets the last scoop. (That's very hard, as it turns out).

Just like every other parent, my weeks are a whirlwind of thoughtfully scheduled projects, events, carpools and meals. And my favorite time of any day is when my family gathers around the dinner table. All the above are subject to twist and change at any moment - no matter how very deliberate I was in planning them. Delicious and effortless dinnertime recipes are key to keeping my family and me moving forward in a rut-free fashion.