5 Slacker Mom Shortcuts to a Super Fast Dinner8:13 PM
Well, hello! Yes, it has been a little quiet here this spring as I’ve been busy here and here. Not to mention schlepping the boys to and from school, karate, soccer, theater, piano, hip hop, and playdates. Bouncing from one thing to another, only to find ourselves getting home at 6:30 PM and realizing we still haven’t eaten dinner. And talking to fellow moms and dads, we’re not the only ones doing this crazy after school/work juggle.
So how do you avoid the fast food default and get something hot and wholesome on the table super fast? Yes, there are slow-cooker recipes and make-ahead meals. But some of us are not as organized as we'd like to be (ahem). Well friend, I am happy to share my favorite short cuts to getting dinner on the table in 20 minutes or less:
1. Pesto Pasta with Green Veggies
My kids go absolutely crazy for this dish. Inspired by ChopChop’s Pesto Pasta with Green Veggies recipe, I can throw this dish together in 15 minutes as long as I have prepared pesto in the house. I prefer CIBO Naturals Basil Pesto or Trader Joe’s Genova Pesto, both found in the refrigerator section. 1. Boil a pot of water. While waiting for the pasta to boil, prep your veggies (we like chopped broccoli florets and trimmed green beans). 2. Cook pasta. 3. Add veggies to pasta water with 2 minutes remaining on the pasta. 4. Drain and return to the pot. 5. Add pesto and toss until everything is coated. Serve with grated Parmesan cheese.
We always pick up a package of Trader Joe’s Whole Wheat Tortillas and Shredded Mexican Cheese since quesadillas often make the school lunch or dinner rotation. Why? Quesadillas come together in 5 minutes! 1. Heat nonstick pan over medium heat. 2. Place one tortilla on heated pan. 3. Cover with cheese and any veggie of your choice. We always have a package of frozen corn in the freezer, so we often will just add a handful of frozen corn kernels with the cheese. 4. Top with a second Tortilla and when cheese has melted and bottom tortilla is toasty, flip. 5. Continue cooking over medium heat until tortilla is toasted. Slice and serve with favorite toppings (salsa, avocado, sour cream, etc.)
3. Chicken Sausage & Polenta
My love for Trader Joe’s has no end! The boys go crazy for their Sweet Apple and Maple Syrup sausage. These puppies can be grilled, baked or broiled in 8-10 minutes. While that’s cooking, whip up a batch of quick cooking polenta and simple side salad. Dinner is done in 10 minutes.
4. TJs Simmer Sauces
Yes, another TJs convenience item we keep stocked in our pantry – Trader Joe’s Simmer Sauces. Of course it’s no substitute for the real thing (or even good Indian takeout). But in a pinch, this has saved many dinners. 1. Prepare some basmati or jasmine rice. At our house, it’s as simple as firing up the rice cooker. 2. While that’s doing its thing, I’ll grab whatever veggies I have in the crisper. The trio that goes best with the Masala Simmer Sauce IMO: onions, carrots, and cauliflower. Sauté onions with a tablespoon of canola oil in sauté pan over medium-high heat until soft. 3. Add carrots and cauliflower and cook for an additional 3-4 minutes. Add simmer sauce plus water to pan and simmer for 15 minutes. 4. I like adding some chickpeas, so I do that at the last few minutes before serving over rice. Easy supper in less than 30 minutes.
5. Rao’s and Ravioli
Okay, this go-to meal is one I feel like a total cheater for making. But after a long day and I’m looking at a long night of homework help and my own work still to tackle, Ravioli is total comfort food. We usually have a package of frozen ravioli from BJs and a jar of Rao’s Marina Sauce on hand. If I’m going to use jarred tomato sauce, I want it to be as close to homemade with real ingredients. Rao’s is a little pricier than most, but between you and me, this stuff tastes better than if I had been slaving over the stove all day Sunday. True story.
So there you have it. 5 quick meals. Sure it means calling on some convenience foods. But it's so much better than ordering takeout or frozen pizza.
(photo credits: Serious Eats, The Palate Post, 365 Days of My Style Blog, Trader Joe's)