When it comes to convenience, Darlene Markel has dinner in the bag. The Sublimity, Oregon cook measures dry noodles and a mixture of spices into separate plastic bags, then stores them in a paper bag with canned stewed tomatoes. This "pantry kit" gives her family a head start on a hearty meal. "Since I work late occasionally," she says, "they just have to brown ground beef, and soon dinner is simmering."
"This is one of those recipes you always come back to," says Jean Glacken from Elkton, Maryland. A flavorful tomato sauce and mildly spiced meatballs make a hearty sandwich filling, or they can be served over pasta. "I broil the meatballs first to quickly brown them," Jean notes.
Vegetables and herbs fresh from my garden make this one of our favorite soups. This recipe makes a lot, so it's perfect for large gatherings or to freeze in smaller containers for fast meals.—Virginia Bauer, Botkins, Ohio
Shepherd's Pie takes a testy twist with this version. Between the fluffy mashed potato topping and the savory ground beef base is a bed of tender, green asparagus. Even my kids ask for big helpings.
—Steve Rowland, Fredericksburg, Virginia
Flavored with Italian sausage and dotted with tender meatballs, the savory from-scratch sauce made this dish one of my mom's most-requested. We five kids were always thrilled to hear it was on the menu.
-Grace Yaskovic, Branchville, New Jersey
This casserole tastes like a taco salad and is a breeze to assemble. I crush tortilla chips to form a bottom layer, then spread on refried beans, a spicy meat mixture and cheese. —Rhonda McKee, Greensburg, Kansas
Convenient prebaked crust makes this tasty taco pizza as easy as can be. It's a great recipe, especially if you have teenagers. I keep the ingredients on hand so that we can whip up this filling meal anytime. —Mary Cass, Baltimore, Maryland
For an old-fashioned stick-to-your-ribs meal, try this economical entree that's just 89¢ a helping. "As a newlywed, I was so grateful to my mom for sharing this easy recipe," notes Sandy McKenzie of Braham, Minnesota. "My husband enjoys this no matter how often I serve it."