On average, American women with children under age 18 spend about an hour on food preparation and clean up every day, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. That’s an hour less time spent chatting with the kids or catching up with their spouse or even just relaxing and re-energizing. Instead of spending an hour on dinner and cleanup, why not cut it to 20 minutes, or less? Replace the cleaning, mixing, and chopping, with time at the dinner table, savoring your food and catching up with the family.
Here are some great easy weeknight dinners ideas:
Slow cooker soups and stews: Really, the slow cooker is a godsend for any busy mom. You can get creative with your slow cooker by coupling a meaty dish with your favorite jam, making an apricot pork dish (hyperlink: http://www.foodonthetable.com/recipes/355007-slow-cooker-apricot-pork), for example. You can also cook a rotisserie chicken or lime and cilantro chicken in your crock pot for a tender, succulent and juicy chicken dinner dish. Load up your slow cooker in the morning, and come home to a fully prepared meal, just waiting to be devoured.
Grilled panini: Grill your sandwich with turkey, spinach, basil, and sun-dried tomato, and drizzle the sandwich with garlic olive oil for a Mediterranean dish that’s both filling and fast. All it takes is about 10 minutes for the contents of the panini to warm up and for the bread to brown. Cleanup is made easy, too: all you have to do is clean the panini residue of your panini grill or pan!
Quick and painless pizzas: All you need is single-serving pizza dough (which you can defrost ahead), tomatoes, pesto or olive paste, cheese (unless you want delicious white pizza), and salami to make mini-pizzas that each family member will love. You can even use pocketless pita bread to make these single-serving treats. You can even make extra pizzas and freeze for another easy weeknight dinner.
Beef salsa: Cook beef ahead of time or defrost leftover beef from another day to make a filling southwest salsa. Mix beef with quartered cherry tomatoes, black beans, shredded carrots, green chile salsa, red onion, and cilantro to a dinner that will take you 10 minutes to assemble. Just throw your beef salsa into taco shells and garnish with lettuce. You can also try this salsa with salmon, if you prefer fish.
Burgers: Use your George Foreman grill or panini press to quickly grill up burgers for a dinner that should take you under 15 minutes. Broil hamburger buns with a bit of butter and garnish with ketchup and lettuce for the quintessential, American dinner.
Hearty salads: Get some more greens on the table by quickly tossing up a hearty, dinner salad. You can prepare a taco salad with beef or make a summer salad with grilled chicken breast. If you like to make your dressing from scratch, make the dressing ahead of time to cut down on cook time. Chicken, spinach, and raspberry salads are especially delicious in the warm, summer months.
Fruit salads for dessert: You don’t have to serve a decadent dessert. For weeknights, prepare a delicious, sweet fruit salad, which can last for a few days if you make it in bulk. Make your fruit salad using fruits that are in season and at their peak ripeness to get maximum flavor. You can even add 3/4 cup of marshmallow cream, coconut shavings, and whipped cream to really take a plain fruit salad into dessert territory. Make a fruit dip using marshmallow cream and orange juice. If you’re not a fan of marshmallow, simply serve your fruit salad with a couple of scoops of vanilla bean ice cream. Sometimes less really is more.
Now that you have some quick and painless recipe ideas at your disposal, time yourself to see how fast you can get dinner on the table. The less time cooking and cleaning, the more time you have to spend your way.
Linguini, vermicelli, spaghetti, penne, and tortellini: however you eat it, pasta is comforting, delicious, and extremely easy to make. That’s why pasta is the perfect base for any mom on the run who wants to whip up dinner with the boil of a pot. There are plenty of pasta recipes that make dinnertime a leisurely event. Simply turn on the burner, salt and boil some water, then check out these quick and easy dinners and tips to cooking up your favorite pasta dishes.
Great Pasta Dinner Ideas
Spaghetti with Sausage: Simply remove the casings of Italian sausage, break it up in a heated pan over medium heat, brown it with 1 diced onion onions first, then 1 sliced red bell peppers 3 minutes later, and 2 diced tomatoes 5 minutes later. Drain the spaghetti and combine all the ingredients with a little grated Parmesan cheese. You’ll have an easy, flavorful dish that will delight everyone from kiddos to serious foodies.
Pasta Primavera: This is one of those easy healthy dinners. Get a pound of any kind of pasta you like boiling in salted water. In a heated sauté pan brown 1 diced onion, 1 sliced red or green bell pepper and season with salt and pepper. After about 5 minutes or until they are tender add 1 or 2 quartered and sliced zucchinis and about a minute later toss in a 15 oz. can of stewed tomatoes with ½ tsp. of dried or fresh basil. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer while you get the pasta drained. Combine ingredients and top with grated Parmesan cheese and serve! To make this one of those easy chicken dinners, add chunks of chicken breast in the pan before the vegetables.
Easy Macaroni and Cheese: This is one of those easy dinners for kids, they’ll love this timeless, comfort food. Boil 12 oz. or ¾ of a bag of elbow pasta in salted water, but this time only cook the pasta for half time since you’ll be baking it later. Preheat oven to 400F. In a big bowl whisk 1 c. sour cream, 2 Tbs. Dijon mustard and salt and pepper, add the pasta and coat. Pour mixture into a baking dish and bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and take ¼ c. of sour cream and 8 oz. of grated cheddar cheese and fold into the pasta mixture and bake for another 15-20 minutes. Viola and now you have a creamy, cheesy delight that is sure to please all! Alternative veggie to add would be broccoli florets and/or a chopped onion.
Easy Pasta Dinner Tips
Use plenty of water and make sure it’s come to a full, rolling boil before adding the pasta.
Add salt and a touch of oil to the water, which will enhance the flavors of the pasta.
Cover your pot to make the water boil faster and then again once you’ve added the spaghetti or pasta to make sure it comes back to a boil as quickly as possible.
Many people rinse the gluey starches off of the pasta while draining the water. Don’t rinse! Your sauce will cling to the pasta much better if you don’t rinse off the starchy exterior.
When cooking your pasta, think about how long it will take for you to eat it. If you’re eating it in a few days, over cook it slightly.
When pasta sits in the refrigerator it gets a little harder, so over cook if it’s going straight into the fridge so that, when you do get to your dish, it will be soft and delightful.
Pasta cooks faster than rice and potatoes and with so many different kinds of pasta types and styles out there, you can enjoy quite a variety of quick and easy dinners. Pasta dishes satisfy appetites, save well for leftovers and can provide you with more easy dinners than you could try to create in nearly an entire year. The best part is that you don’t have to stick to the recipe, if you have extra or different protein and veggies, just add or substitute for you own special creation.
Turns out that hosting a dinner party is a lot more stressful than we all thought. A recent survey by After Eight found that 57% of people find entertaining friends for a meal more nerve-racking than commuting to work, while 25% of people said it was more stressful than a job interview. The greatest fear of hosts and hostesses? A dish will go wrong. While we may all get stressed out before the guests come over, dinner parties can still prove to be enjoyable and memorable evenings. And, even though you may feel like pulling off an exotic and delicious dish requires a feat of magic, there are some impressive dishes that can make you look like a culinary genius without herculean effort:
Lamb Chops with Basil Butter: Basil butter (or any kind of mixed butter, like honey butter or cinnamon butter) is an impressive condiment that’s easy as pie. All you do is combine butter, chopped basil leaves, lemon juice, and salt, then refrigerate for 2 hours. That’s it! Make the lamb chops in a heavy pan over high heat with vegetable oil (they should take about 2-3 minutes per side). Serve with basil butter and warm rolls. Total prep time? Only about 15 minutes. Trust us, the guests will love this dish.
Deep Fried Feta Cheese with Cranberry Puree: Fried cheeses are another finger food that the crowd goes wild for. Goat cheese also tastes great fried. Deep fried feta makes a great appetizer for any dinner party, especially when paired with a fruity sauce, like a cranberry sauce. All you have to do is cut the cheese into half inch chunks, bread them, then deep fry until golden.
Stuffed Chicken Breasts: Stuffed chicken breasts make for an entree that people adore, and they only take about 40 minutes. You can use pretty much anything to stuff chicken breasts but ingredients that work well are kale, spinach, garlic, pine nuts, raisins, or porcini, dried tomatoes, olives, and bread crumbs. Get creative and use ingredients that inspire you.
Shrimp Bruschetta with Lemon Fennel: Any bruschetta dish is beautiful, yet laughably easy to make. Serve as appetizers or “tapas” if you’re having a more unconventional dinner party. Try a lemon shrimp bruschetta, made with toasted bread (which can be browned on a griddle) dabbed with garlic. Fennel should be boiled for about 2-3 minutes until tender, then tossed with lemon, olive oil, and whatever other seasonings you can think up.
Scallops with Brussels Sprouts: Season scallops with salt and pepper, and cook until lightly browned (about 1-2 minutes on each side). Then, simply serve softened sprouts with orange slivers and lemon juice along side your scallops and you have an undeniably healthy, 10 minute meal for your guests to enjoy.
Next time you feel a little stressed about your next dinner party, just try and make some of these dishes and you’ll impress all of your guests with little to no effort. Who knew being the hostess with the mostess was so easy!