It’s my job to make sure supper is made for my family seven days a week. On occasion my husband will help out by barbecuing something for supper, but even then, the planning of that meal and figuring out what side dishes will go with the barbecued portion of the meal usually falls to me.
Most days I work from home, so the planning and execution of dinner isn’t too difficult to manage. It’s those days when I’m working at the college, heading out the classroom door at 4:00 on my way to pick up my son from daycare by 4:30, and hoping to have dinner on the table by 5:30 when my husband gets home from work that are the real challenge. Phew. It tired me out just writing that sentence!
Fortunately, I have a few tricks up my sleeve in the dinner department. There are a few meals that I like to have ready to go for those hectic days when it seems like everything has to be done and ready all at once. I rely on my crock pot a lot on the really busy days, but it’s not always necessary to use the slow cooker to make a good, quick, meal that will satisfy a carpenter’s appetite.
Here are five meals that are my favorite to cook when I know I’m going to be pressed for time to make dinner for my family.
Chili: My son Nate is a picky eater, but one food that he has always loved is chili. This baffles me, but I don’t question it because chili is one of few dishes that all three of us can sit down and eat together. My crock post chili recipe is very easy and can be put into the crock pot in the evening and turned on first thing in the morning before heading out the door. There are so many chili variations out there. Pick one, practice it on the weekend, and make it work for you through the week.
Spaghetti and Meatballs: Is there any family who does not rely on spaghetti and meatballs once in awhile when in a pinch? I buy large jars of sauce and leave frozen meatballs to simmer in that sauce in the crock pot during the day. Then all I have to do when I get home is cook the spaghetti noodles and open the wine.
“Clean out the Fridge” Chopped Salad: For this meal, a little bit of planning is needed. The night before a busy day, I comb through the contents of my fridge for any tidbits that would make a garden salad into a deluxe, dinner-sized salad. I chop lettuce, carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes, celery and any other vegetable I find and store this in the fridge in a sealed container. Leftover roasted chicken, pork tenderloin or even cubes of leftover steak are wonderful additions that tend to please the meat-eater of the house (my husband). I also like to add things ingredients such as chick peas, black beans, dried cranberries or small chunks of cheese. When I get home from work, all I have to do is toss everything together and choose a dressing.
Buffalo Chicken Sandwiches: Because we have a preschooler at home, we eat chicken fingers fairly often. Graham and I don’t care for them plain, so we toss ours in Buffalo wing sauce and throw them on a crusty bun with a slice of tomato, lettuce and a squirt of Caesar salad dressing. Sometimes I’ll serve it with raw veggies and dip, but sometimes I’ll just serve it with fries. The prep time on this meal is low and the enjoyment factor is high.
Pulled Pork, Burrito-Style: This combination of foods is a new one to me, as my cousin’s wife just shared it with me last week. She told me to throw some pork chops or pork tenderloin in the crock pot with a pouch of taco seasoning, a jar of salsa, a can of black beans, an onion, some garlic powder and any other ingredient I’d like such as chopped green peppers or corn, then cook on low for at least eight hours. Then I shred the pork and stir everything all together, then serve on warm tortillas. I tried out her recommendation the day after she suggested it and the meal immediately became a new favourite of ours.
What is your go-to meal for busy weeknights when you’re on the clock?