6 Easy Weeknight Dinners to Get You Out of a Dinnertime Rut

6 Easy Weeknight Dinners to Get You Out of a Dinnertime Rut

I am a meal planning devotee and have been detailing out our family’s weekly meals for more than a decade, but even with that kind of planning, it’s tough to avoid getting into a dinner rut — cooking a variation on the same thing week after week. For us, that looks like some combination of Taco Tuesday, a caesar salad, grilled chicken, and a pasta dish. 

The positive side to that kind of repetition is that the cooking became second nature and we got very efficient, but ultimately we were burnt out. We were tired of tacos, and the kids couldn’t stomach another chicken dish. It was boring.

Fortunately, AI has come to the rescue. I turned my creative thinking over to Ollie and simply told it what we liked and didn’t like. Ollie has surprised me with easy weeknight dinners that felt both familiar and fresh. Within minutes, I had a meal plan done and a week of meals we are all excited to try. 

Here’s what we’re cooking this week (along with real pictures straight from our kitchen!).

Sunday: Chickpea Curry with Naan 

Easy weeknight meals: chickpea curry with naan

Ollie initially recommended this recipe to me a few weeks ago, and we all loved it so much that we saved it. This week, when I told Ollie that I wanted to mix in two of my favorite recipes along with four new dishes, it suggested this one. Yum.

Ingredients (serves 6):

  • 4 tablespoons oil
  • 2 large onions, diced
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated ginger
  • 2 tablespoons curry powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground turmeric
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional for heat)
  • 2 cans (14 oz each) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 2 cans (14 oz each) crushed tomatoes
  • 2 cans (13.5 oz each) coconut milk
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • Fresh cilantro leaves, roughly chopped, for garnish
  • 8 naan breads, for serving


  • Heat oil in a medium pot over medium heat. Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and golden, about 5 minutes.
  • Add garlic, ginger, curry powder, turmeric, cumin, and cayenne. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 30 seconds until fragrant.
  • Stir in the chickpeas, crushed tomatoes, and coconut milk. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer.
  • Cook for 20-25 minutes, or until the curry is slightly thickened.
  • Season with salt and pepper. Garnish with chopped cilantro.
  • Serve hot with warm naan on the side.

Monday: Stir-fried Garlic Ginger Chicken with Bell Peppers and Zucchini 

Easy weeknight dinners: Stir-fried garlic ginger chicken with bell peppers and zucchini


  • 2 lbs chicken breast, thinly sliced
  • 4 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 Tbsp minced ginger
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 bell peppers (a mix of colors preferred), sliced into thin strips
  • 4 medium zucchinis, diced
  • 2 Tbsp vegetable oil (divided)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 Tbsp oyster sauce
  • 1 Tbsp hoisin sauce
  • 2 Tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 Tbsp cornstarch
  • Optional: sesame seeds or green onions (sliced) for garnish


  1. Prepare the Chicken Marinade: In a bowl, combine the sliced chicken with 4 Tbsp soy sauce, minced ginger, and minced garlic. Mix well to ensure the chicken is thoroughly coated. Cover and let it marinate in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes, or up to 2 hours for more flavor.
  2. Prepare the Sauce: In a small bowl, whisk together 4 Tbsp soy sauce, oyster sauce, hoisin sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil, and cornstarch. Ensure there are no lumps from the cornstarch. Set aside.
  3. Cook the Vegetables: Heat 1 Tbsp of vegetable oil in a large wok or skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sliced bell peppers and diced zucchinis. Stir-fry for about 5 minutes, or until they are tender but still crisp. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper to taste. Once cooked, transfer the vegetables to a plate and set aside.
  4. Cook the Chicken: In the same wok or skillet, heat the remaining 1 Tbsp of vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Add the marinated chicken (discard any excess marinade) to the pan. Stir-fry for 5-7 minutes, or until the chicken is fully cooked and no longer pink. If the skillet seems dry, you may add a splash of water or broth to deglaze the pan and get those delicious brown bits off the bottom.
  5. Combine and Finish: Return the cooked vegetables to the pan with the chicken. Pour the prepared sauce over the chicken and vegetables. Stir well to combine. Cook for an additional 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly, until the sauce has thickened and everything is heated through.
  6. Garnish and Serve: Optionally, sprinkle sesame seeds and sliced green onions over the top for garnish. Serve hot with steamed rice or noodles.

Tuesday: Slow Cooker Chicken Tacos

We just can’t avoid Taco Tuesday in our house. One of our daughters is obsessed and looks forward to it each week. Like many of you, we have some recipes in our house that we just love and don’t want to miss. This is one of them. It’s from the Williams-Sonoma Quick Slow Cooking Cookbook and is a quick way to make delicious tacos without much effort. The recipe can be found here. (Hint: we like to double the amount of lime juice used to give it a little more flavor.) 

Fortunately, Ollie gets to know my favorite recipes and mixes them in with new dishes so we have one resource for all of our meals. I just described this to Ollie and it instantly saved it to my Cookbook and periodically recommends it for my weekly meals. I was even able to tell Ollie I double the lime juice so it builds it directly into the recipe! 

Wednesday: Grilled Chicken with Mango Salsa and Coconut Rice 


  • 6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 ripe mangoes, peeled and diced
  • 2 red bell peppers, seeded and diced
  • 2 red onions, peeled and diced
  • A handful of fresh cilantro, chopped (about 1/4 cup)
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • 3 cups basmati rice, rinsed until water runs clear
  • 3 cups coconut milk
  • 1 cup water
  • Salt and pepper, to taste


  1. Cook the chicken: Preheat your grill to medium-high heat. Rub each chicken breast with olive oil and season generously with salt and pepper. Grill the chicken for 6-7 minutes per side, or until the internal temperature reaches 165°F and the juices run clear. The exact time may vary based on the thickness of the chicken. Once done, remove the chicken from the grill and let it rest for a few minutes. This helps retain the juices inside the chicken. 
  2. Make the Mango Salsa: In a medium bowl, combine the diced mangoes, red bell peppers, red onions, and chopped cilantro. Squeeze the juice of 2 limes over the top and sprinkle with a pinch of salt. Gently toss to combine all the ingredients. Adjust seasoning if necessary. Set aside for at least 10 minutes to allow the flavors to meld together.
  3. Cook the Coconut Rice: In a medium pot, combine the rinsed basmati rice, coconut milk, water, and salt. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to low. Cover and simmer for 18-20 minutes, or until the rice is tender and the liquids are absorbed. Remove the pot from the heat and let it rest, covered, for 5 minutes. Fluff the rice gently with a fork before serving.
  4. Assemble and Serve: Slice the rested grilled chicken breasts for easier serving. Serve the grilled chicken over a bed of coconut rice, and generously top with the mango salsa.

Thursday: Spicy Penne Alla Vodka 

Easy weeknight dinners: Spicy penne with vodka sauce

Ingredients (serves 6):

  • 2 lbs penne pasta
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 large onions, finely diced
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes (adjust to taste for spiciness)
  • 48 oz (6 cups) tomato sauce
  • 1 cup vodka
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • Fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped or torn (for garnish)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste


Cook the Penne: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the penne pasta and cook according to the package instructions until al dente. Drain the pasta and set aside, reserving 1 cup of pasta water for later use.

Prepare the Vodka Sauce: In a large skillet or saucepan, heat 2 Tbsp of olive oil over medium heat. 

  • Add the diced onions to the pan and sauté until translucent and slightly golden, about 5-7 minutes. 
  • Add the minced garlic and red pepper flakes to the onions. Sauté for an additional 1-2 minutes until fragrant. 
  • Pour in the tomato sauce and vodka. 
  • Stir to combine and bring the mixture to a simmer. 
  • Allow the sauce to simmer for 10-15 minutes, or until the alcohol smell has evaporated and the sauce has thickened slightly. 
  • Reduce the heat to low and stir in the heavy cream. Mix well to incorporate the cream into the sauce. 
  • Season with salt and black pepper to taste. 
  • Simmer the sauce for another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. If the sauce is too thick, add a bit of the reserved pasta water to reach your desired consistency.

Combine Pasta and Sauce: Add the cooked penne pasta to the sauce and toss to ensure the pasta is evenly coated. If the pasta seems dry, add a bit more pasta water until you’re happy with the consistency.

Finish and Serve: Once the pasta is heated through and coated with the sauce, remove the skillet from the heat. Stir in half of the grated Parmesan cheese. Serve the spicy penne alla vodka hot. Garnish each serving with a sprinkle of the remaining Parmesan cheese and freshly chopped basil.

Friday: Spicy Shrimp and Avocado Zoodle Bowl

Ingredients (serves 6):

  • 2 lbs shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1-2 tsp red pepper flakes (adjust according to spice preference)
  • 6 medium zucchinis
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil (for cooking)
  • 3 ripe avocados, sliced
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Optional garnishes: chopped cilantro, sesame seeds, additional red pepper flakes


  1. Marinate the Shrimp: In a large bowl, combine the minced garlic, 2 Tbsp olive oil, red pepper flakes, and a pinch of salt. Mix well. Add the shrimp to the marinade, making sure each piece is well coated. Cover and let rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to marinate.
  2. Prepare the Zoodles: Using a spiralizer, transform the zucchinis into noodles, creating “zoodles.” If you don’t have a spiralizer, you can use a vegetable peeler to create long, thin strips. Place the zoodles on paper towels to absorb any excess moisture.
  3. Cook the Shrimp: Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the marinated shrimp in a single layer, avoiding crowding the pan. You may need to do this in batches. Cook the shrimp for 2-3 minutes on each side until they turn pink and opaque. Remove from the skillet and set aside.
  4. Sauté the Zoodles: In the same skillet, add another 2 Tbsp of olive oil. Once hot, add the zoodles and sauté for 3-4 minutes until just tender. Avoid overcooking to prevent the zoodles from becoming mushy. Season lightly with salt, remembering that the shrimp and marinade already contain salt.
  5. Assemble the Bowl: Divide the sautéed zoodles among the serving bowls. Top with the cooked shrimp. Add the sliced avocados evenly to each bowl. Squeeze fresh lemon juice over each bowl, to taste. Finish with a sprinkle of freshly cracked black pepper, and if desired, add more red pepper flakes, chopped cilantro, or sesame seeds for extra flavor and decoration.

Ollie Gives You Easy Weeknight Dinners

Ollie’s mission is to help you feed your family healthy meals without having to think about it. Here’s a little of what you can expect from Ollie: 

  • Recipe Customization: Swap ingredients, tailor portion sizes, and adjust seasonings. Ollie can instantly update recipes to your specific taste or needs.
  • Instant Meal Plans: Before you can even think of it, Ollie will generate a meal plan based on your family’s preferences complete with a ready-to-go grocery list so you can cross this job off your list. 
  • Real-life flexibility: Ollie knows that you may not want to cook five new meals a week. More often than not, you want to cook something familiar and easy to please. Ollie adjusts its meal plans to your schedule and incorporates your tried-and-true meals into the weekly schedule so you have a plan that you can really use.
Ollie-your AI assistant for weeknight meals

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