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Five Common Mistakes to Avoid When Making Dinner

15/08/2014 13:37 BST | Updated 14/10/2014 10:12 BST

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Do you struggle sometimes with getting dinner on the table? You're not alone!

I often ask people what their top roadblocks are to eating a healthy meal each night. The answers I hear the most include finding the time, motivation and energy to prepare dinner. Especially after a long day of work, when you're tired and hungry, this is when dinners go to the wayside.

Across the board, there are five common mistakes people make when it comes to dinners, but there are simple tricks you can use to avoid these blunders.

Here are the 5 most common dinner mistakes that happen time and again:

1. Not thinking there's enough time.

It can be easy to fall into the trap of feeling like you need at least half an hour or longer to get dinner ready. But it doesn't have to be like that.

As I discovered when I was writing my book, 5 Ingredients 10 Minutes, dinner can be made in 10 minutes, and even for some recipes as little as 5 minutes. You just need to find ideas and recipes that focus on fast techniques and keeping everything as simple as possible.

2. Not having the right ingredients in the house.

There are two parts to this. First, not having a well-stocked pantry. The second is choosing recipes that call for things you just don't have. To avoid the former you just need to get some sort of pantry system happening. Then you need to either choose recipes that allow for lots of 'variations' such as the one below. Or you could learn to master the art of adaptation and cooking without recipes.

3. Getting stuck in a rut.

Boredom and repetition will always make dinners more frustrating than fun. The easiest way to overcome this mistake is to 'outsource' your dinner inspiration and planning.

4. Seeing it as a chore.

If you're someone who loves getting home in the evenings and spending a little time relaxing and unwinding from your busy day while you prepare your evening meal, congratulations! You've avoided this common mistake.

If, you're not in the happy-dinner-cookers camp, that's okay. Maybe it's time to re-frame how you think about preparing dinner? How can you turn dinner time around and start seeing it as time for you to relax and enjoy yourself?

5. Making things more complicated than necessary.

It can be easy to fall into the trap of planning weeknight dinners that are just a little too ambitious. Instead, go after a collection of recipes or dishes that tick all the boxes of quick, simple and delicious. The one below is a simplified version of a dish served at one of my favourite Melbourne restaurants, Cumulus Inc. I like to use an arriabata tomato sauce which has built-in kick.

Spiced Eggs Recipe

serves 2

1 jar tomato pasta sauce (about 1 1/2 cups)

1-2 teaspoons ground coriander

4 handfuls baby spinach leaves

4 eggs

small handful soft goats cheese

1. Heat a little oil in a large frying pan. Add sauce and spice and bring to a simmer.

2. Add baby spinach and stir for about a minute, until the sauce has come back up to a simmer.

3. Make 4 indents in the sauce. Crack an egg into each indent.

4. Cover with a lid and gently simmer for 3-4 minutes or until the egg whites are set and the yolks still runny.

5. Season. Crumble over the goats cheese.

VARIATIONS

dairy-free - serve sprinkled with roast sliced almonds.

different spices - try ground cumin, smoked paprika, dried chili or a mixture. Curry powder would work for a more Indian vibe.

egg-free - you could cook chicken thigh fillets like this. Will take about 10 minutes, depending on the size.

vegan - Wilt the spinach into the sauce with the spices. Divide sauce between two plates. Top with chunks of cold avocado and sprinkle over roast sliced almonds.