Simple Sides for Busy Nights

by jerseygirl on December 17, 2011 · 6 comments

I am not a frozen dinner type of girl. I can probably count the times my family has had frozen dinners on two hands. But sometimes my kids just beg for them. Weird right? I think I might have been the same way as a kid.

Growing up, I never had frozen dinners either. But once in a while it was a fun treat. I remember staying at my grandparents house and being able to pick out a frozen dinner at the grocery store. In those days, they were called TV dinners and you ate them on pull out trays. They usually consisted of meatloaf or mac and cheese. I loved the little chocolate cake that they came with. My grandmother and I would come home and heat up the TV dinners. We would both sit in front of the TV watching game shows all night. This was a treat on one of the nights my grandfather was at college. Yes, he took college classes all the time and until he was 81 years old. They were great memories.

So now when my children beg for frozen dinners I let them indulge once in a while. My son loves the kiddo type meals that are pretty similar to the ones I ate as a kid. His favorite is mac and cheese. But my daughter’s taste is much more sophisticated.  She does not settle for kiddo TV dinners. She wants restaurant type food. So when Buitoni asked if I would like to try a frozen dinner or two, we jumped at the chance. They have several new selections and the Chicken and Mushroom Risotto was right up my daughter’s alley.  I love risotto too but making it can be very time consuming. This risotto could be heated up in minutes. It was much more than your ordinary frozen dinner. This was as good as take out from the corner Italian restaurant.

Since there was no major cooking on our frozen dinner night I decided to whip up some sides. These are easy side dishes that don’t require recipes. They just require some refrigerator and pantry ingredients and a little imagination.

First I made a layered zucchini gratin. This easy dish consists of sliced zucchini tossed with salt, pepper and olive oil. I layered it in a pie plate with some Parmesan cheese and flavored bread crumbs. I baked it for 25 minutes at 350 degrees. It was light, delicious and paired perfectly with the Buitoni Risotto .

Next up is my salad. I eat a salad almost every day. It is a bit harder to do in the winter but even then a salad is one of our sides at dinner most nights. This salad had heirloom cherry tomatoes, arugula and feta cheese. I tossed it with some red wine vinegar and olive oil. It was simply seasoned with salt, pepper, onion powder and garlic powder. Pretty simple, huh?  The colors of the tomatoes really brightened up dinner on a dreary, rainy night.

If you need more side dish ideas, here are some others that are very easy to make:

Roasted Ratatouille

Marinated Cranberry Beans

Pantry Salad

Balsamic Roasted Brussels sprouts with Butternut Squash and Bacon

The possibilities of side dishes are endless! So one night when you come home from a rough day, warm up a nice frozen dinner, whip up a side or two and relax. Just don’t forget the wine!

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Debbie December 17, 2011 at 8:37 am

I also remember having TV dinners on occasion at my grandparents growing up! It was some kind of Italian Swanson's dinner and I remember it had spinach in it that I loved!

Joanne December 17, 2011 at 11:25 am

I really liked the Buitoni frozen meals as well! The only frozen meal we ever ate when I was growing up were chicken pot pies and I definitely had a few lean cuisines in college.

Love the sides that you paired these with!

That Girl December 17, 2011 at 4:45 pm

There is something incredibly appealing about frozen dinners when you're a kid.

Jackie December 18, 2011 at 10:40 pm

I love the Buitoni Frozen meals. They have saved me on a busy night more time than I can count and my family loves them.

The Japanese Redneck December 19, 2011 at 1:22 pm

Frozen pizza is about all I can get the hubby to eat.

This does look like a good meal.

jennifurla January 5, 2012 at 3:48 pm

we just started having a side salad with each protein meal we have.

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