Six o' clock in my home is the witching hour. The kids are hungry, mom is cranky and dinner needs to be done. Fast.Drive-through may have never looked so good.Relax. You can get through a dinner in short order - in fact, meatless meal prep - chopping produce aside - can tend to go more quickly, as you don't have to worry about meat being cooked thoroughly.
Here are four easy meals that you can whip up to feed a hungry crowd of kids:
Pasta with ricotta: I read this in a cookbook about a year ago, and it's a standby for our kids on hectic nights. Cook 8 oz. pasta according to directions, drain and toss with 1 c. of ricotta cheese and a bit of butter. I'll mix it up with herbs, peas, whatever I have on hand.
Quesadillas: This is the ultimate in fast-food in our house. I keep tortillas and cheese on hand just for this. Sprinkle cheese between two tortilla shells, melt in the microwave for a minute, and serve with salsa for hungry toddlers.
Spaghetti marinara: Yes, you can grab a jar from the pantry, but fresh is best. And in late summer, when farmers are practically begging you to take their tomato stash, I score by buying the "ugly" tomatoes cheaper, make huge pots of spaghetti sauce from scratch, and freeze to reheat and enjoy year-round. I usually serve this with whole-grain or protein-enriched pasta.
Veggie stir-fry: I know the idea of preparation (cutting, washing) a bunch of veggies to eat sounds like a deal-breaking. Here's the trade-off. Because of the high heat and smaller pieces, stir-fried veggies cook extremely quickly. Plus, you don't have to worry about whether the veggies are completely cooked through (crunchy is OK), and you have the added benefit of allowing them to munch on the raw deal while you're prepping.
Having an "appetizer" of raw vegetables, crackers, etc., is not a bad thing. Take yesterday, for instance. My preschooler and I were trying a recipe, and I set aside some extra cheese and cauliflower for munching as she went. It curbed the hungries while food was cooking, and admittedly kept her a bit occupied when Mom had two pots going on the stove.
Originally published at the Green Phone Booth, April 2010