You know that moment when you walk into the kitchen and think, "Okay, gotta feed the family dinner." And the kids are screaming with hunger in the other room and there's a great, big cartoon thought balloon above your head. AND IT'S EMPTY?
Yeah, I hate that, too.
It's like those days when you open your closet and think, "I have nothing to wear!" even though there are clearly clothes there. You open your refrigerator, see food-like substances, but unfortunately some assembly is required. That's why we need ideas for quick, simple family meals! Well hang in there, moms, help is on the way.
I mentioned Debbie Koenig's new book, Parents Need to Eat, Too, a few weeks ago in a post about healthier "processed" foods. Debbie's book is mostly a cookbook, but it's also a guide to feeding yourself well. It has pantry lists and suggestions galore. And one of the most helpful sections is a list of quick dinner tips from other parents in the family dinner trenches! Here are a few.
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- Buy pre-cut fresh vegetables -- not the pre-seasoned/pre-sauced kind, just plain vegetables that have been diced up already for you. This can save you prep time. Or -- I dice up veggies when you have time over the weekend and store them for meals throughout the week.
- "Keep eggs on hand, and you'll always have the foundation of a quick, healthy meal." Debbie suggests omelets, scrambled eggs, frittatas. Which brings us to the next idea ...
- Breakfast for dinner. "If it's been a really busy day and I didn't prepare something ahead of time, I resort to Breakfast for Dinner," says Jesse Z. of Los Angeles, California. I have to say, this is always a hit at our place, too.
- Pre-cook ground meat. "On a weekend I'll brown five or six pounds of ground beef -- no seasonings, and drained to remove all the excess fat. Then I freeze half- or one-pound portions to use at a later date," says Karen K. of Maplewood, New Jersey. You can do the same with chicken cutlets -- portion and freeze for later use.
- Plan ahead. I keep meaning to do this! Monica W. of St. Louis, Missouri says she plans her meals on Sundays and put them up on the calendar. And she also sticks to the same type of dishes each week: "Monday is usually Mexican food night, Friday is usually fish, Wednesday is typically soup or chili."
- And of course, there's the biggest time-saver of all, the slow-cooker. Take a look at all the slow-cooker recipes we have here on The Stir! First thing in the morning, add the ingredients. Head off to work, come home, and dinner is waiting.
Debbie has a whole section of "un-recipes" -- super easy recipes for beginner cooks that you can use many different ways. I think my favorites are the "Pesto Variations." You can use pesto as a pasta sauce -- but also as a sandwich spread, a dip, a sauce for chicken, on pizza. Here's just one of Debbie's pesto recipes.
Parsley Pistachio Pesto
- 2 cups flat-leaf parsley leaves
- 1/2 cup grated Pecorino or Parmesan cheese
- 1/4 cup shelled pistachios
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
- Olive oil
- Salt and pepper
1. Put everything except the oil, salt, and pepper into a food processor. Process until it's a finely-chopped, dry-looking paste.
2. With the processor running, pour the oil slowly through the feed tub until you're happy with the consistency. I like mine to be pretty thick, almost like cream cheese, but if you prefer yours more like heavy cream, that's good too -- just add more oil. Season with salt and pepper.
What are your favorite quick dinner ideas?
Hungry? Need dinner ideas? Just love anything and everything food and recipes? Then you'll totally want to follow us on Pinterest! Our virtual pin boards on Kid Friendly Recipes , Sweet Treats and Easter 2012 are pure eye candy. Yum!
Image via Debbie Koenig