Easy But Flavorful Weeknight Dinners That Unleash The Power Of Your Refrigerator Staples

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Sometimes, being a real-life adult can be difficult. Every day, our to-do lists keep getting longer and longer: take the dog to the vet, pick up cleaning supplies at the store, remember to file your work project on time, order an engagement gift for your college friend. There’s a lot to keep up with.

It’s no wonder that we sometimes forget to take time to take care of ourselves, especially when it comes to our weeknight meals. For me personally, cooking can often seem like a chore I just don’t feel like doing. After a long day at work — and what seems like an even longer commute back home — it's easier to pull out my phone and order from my favorite local takeout spot than it is to shop for and prepare my own dinners.

But it doesn’t have to be! With a little bit of practice, cooking can be a fun and relaxing process. I first started flexing my cooking muscle after college, when I realized how much eating out was cutting into my post-grad budget. Cooking can also be an opportunity to get creative. By challenging yourself to use what you already have, you’ll quickly learn that whipping up a meal after work can become more of an adventure than a task.

To help you get cooking with what you already have in your fridge, Bustle has partnered with Hidden Valley. Their new line of dressings, Hidden Valley Simply Ranch Dressing, feature all the ranch taste you love, without any artificial preservatives, flavors or colorings. Plus, they can be incorporated into a lot of really easy, tasty dinner-time dishes that you can, for the most part, make with things you probably already have in your fridge, or can pick up quickly through the express checkout lane at the grocery store. Just check out all the delicious dinners I made this past week:

Monday

Hidden Valley

Mood: Famished. I usually take an exercise class on Mondays, so I get home late and need something that’s quick and on the lighter side, so I can continue to feel good about the workout I just did.

Where I ate: Probably standing at my kitchen counter, while I talk on the phone with my sister and tell her about my weekend.

What I ate: Grilled salmon salad with corn salsa and Hidden Valley Simply Ranch Chili Lime. My dinner will take less than a half hour to prep and includes the deliciousness of corn, red pepper, and a whole avocado. The Chili Lime flavor is a bold addition that makes this salad anything but boring.

Tuesday

Mood: Rushed. I have a project I need to work on tonight to meet a client deadline this week.

Where I ate: BBQ Ranch Chicken Tacos. It is Tuesday, after all. My roommate and I have been experimenting with new taco flavors each week, and I already know this one will be a definite hit. I put some chicken breasts in the BBQ sauce to marinate this morning, so the flavor is spectacular.

What I ate: We usually just lay our taco toppings on our kitchen counter to create taco buffet! I load up my tacos with all my favorites (lettuce, tomatoes, all the cheese). For some extra flavor, I added some avocado and some Hidden Valley Simply Ranch Chili Lime before sitting down at the desk in my bedroom. Time to work!

Wednesday

Hidden Valley

Mood: How is it only Wednesday?! I’m ready for the weekend, now.

Where I ate: On my couch, with my bestie, while we catch up on our favorite dating reality show.

What I ate: Grilled chicken and Cucumber Basil pitas. Since we’re not eating at any sort of table, I want to keep it simple — and neat. These light yet satisfying pitas are the perfect hand-held snack, especially when paired with chips and salsa.

Thursday

Hidden Valley

Mood: Excited! I’m making dinner for the new guy I’ve been seeing. Although I’m fairly confident in my kitchen skills, cooking for someone new always makes me a bit nervous.

Where I ate: At my kitchen table, with a bottle of wine and some classy music playing in the background.

What I ate: Slow-Broiled Ranch Salmon. When it comes to dinner dates, salmon is perfect because it seems like a fancy, complicated dish,but is actually super easy to make.

Friday

Hidden Valley

Mood: Competitive. I'm part of a monthly game night, and tonight is my turn to host. We’re planning on playing Pictionary and Charades, so things are bound to get a little heated.

Where I ate: Wherever I can grab a bite in between acting out scenes from our favorite movies.

What I ate: Ranched-Up Hummus Dip. Game night is all about the snacks. This dip only takes 10 minutes to prepare, but I can already tell my friends are going to ask me for the recipe!

This article is sponsored by Hidden Valley.