No-brainers, family favorites, weeknight staples, winner-winner-easy-dinner: Whatever you call them in your house, every home cook has to have them — those go-to recipes that you know every person in the family loves to eat and, magically, are made in 40 minutes or less.

("Why 40 minutes, darling Lindsey?" you may be thinking … because in my decade of family cooking, I've never found a 30-minute recipe, to really take 30 minutes, especially when kids are involved and there are 50 pressing questions that need to be answered between chopping, boiling and opening boxes: "Mommy, what would you do if I hit you with a laser beam of fire?" The answer? Keep cooking.)

In our house, we call them "go-to's" and they usually involve one large skillet, some kind of cheese, a ground turkey mixture, and a side of instant rice or egg noodles, which cook incredibly fast. We love tacos, and sloppy joes, or this cheeseburger pasta dish. On days I'm not eating meat, I love this simple, yet flavorful, Cauliflower and Chickpea Masala. And this one-pot beef stroganoff comes together quickly with the help of ground beef.

These go-to's are necessary tools in my kitchen arsenal. On my best Sunday night, I've got a meal plan for the week in place and enough groceries to make it happen. On my worst, I'm looking at stale bread and that can of dusty SpaghettiOs in the back of the pantry wondering if expiration dates really mean anything these days.  (Pandemic mommy says grab the can opener and live on the edge a little!)

But when I'm trying to eat less pasta, and less cheese (*gasp* I know, I know) these skillet dinners can miss my nutritional benchmark. About two years ago, when I was diagnosed with high cholesterol and called my sister in a panic, she bought me "The Low Cholesterol Cookbook and Action Plan." I can't recommend this cookbook enough for anyone who's gotten told the unhelpful advice of "just eat more oatmeal." This not only has great, easy recipes, but also explains what cholesterol is and how the foods we eat can lower or raise it. I've cooked many things from it, but the one recipe I turn to more that twice a month is its Lemon Chicken with Spinach. It's bright, light and extremely tasty over a cup of brown rice. If you cut your chicken up small enough, it can, indeed, be ready in 30 minutes; that is, of course, if you don't get hit with any laser beams of fire in the process.


Serving: 4


1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 large yellow onion, chopped

4 garlic cloves, minced

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 3/4-inch pieces

1 1/2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce

freshly ground black pepper, to taste

6 cups loosely packed fresh spinach

1 tablespoon lemon zest

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 tablespoon dried basil (or, 1 to 2 cups fresh basil chopped)

salt to taste

Optional for serving: Brown rice


In large skillet over medium heat, sauté onion in oil until softened. Add the garlic, cook for about 30 seconds until fragrant.

Add the chicken, increase the heat to medium-high and cook until all sides are browned on the chicken pieces (about 5 minutes). Stir in soy sauce and pepper; cook for about 3 minutes more until the chicken is completely cooked through.  

Stir in the spinach, a few handfuls at a time, letting the heat of the pan wilt the spinach. Stir in lemon zest, lemon juice and basil. Cook for 1 minute. Taste, adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Serve over brown rice.