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.