But Happy Meals are so much easier…
You work until 5pm, fight traffic on the interstate & pick your children up from after-care just in time to dodge the ridiculous $5/min late charge. Your kids are cranky & you are ready to just throw in the towel and wave the white flag. The last thing you want to do is come home & start making dinner. It’s MUCH easier to hit up a drive thru. I’ve been there & I have waved the white flag. But our kids deserve better.
Here are some things that I’ve tried to incorporate into my kitchen so I can always make dinner in 15 minutes.
Frozen Vegetables can be steam-cooked in the microwave…. often within 5 minutes. Some produce departments are starting to offer fresh cut veggies in steam/microwave-ready bags. I prefer these, but they do cost more. And you gotta give yourself some credit. Serving your children frozen or canned vegetables is better than serving them no vegetables at all! If you want to stick with fresh vegetables, I love the Garden Cut Grill Ready line – No prep needed! All you need is a grill pan & your fresh veggies can be perfectly cooked in about 10 minutes (if you don’t have a grill pan, a skillet would work). And I always serve the vegetables first! It’ll keep your children occupied while you finish up the other components of the dinner (eliminate the nuisance of them hunting for a snack in the pantry while you are slaving away & hustling to get a fully-balanced meal on the table). AND – it helps to set the precedent that vegetables are not optional. They are the 1st course & the most important course. Make the vegetables your priority when you start cooking dinner.
Proteins can be prepared quickly & conveniently by planning ahead, but I’m awful at planning ahead. If you can just get yourself to defrost your meat, poultry or fish the night before, that helps A LOT. A thawed boneless skinless chicken breast can be cooked in 15 minutes – start it on the skillet. Brown the chicken in some olive oil on both sides for about 2 minutes each & then move the skillet to a 350 degree oven for about 10 minutes. Yes. Bake them in the skillet. You don’t have time wash a skillet & a pan! If you cannot remember to defrost your meats, at least remember to buy some canned or bagged tuna. You can make a tuna patty in about 4 minutes. Mix the tuna with an egg & some breadcrumbs or crushed crackers. You can season the patties with some seasoned salt. Cook it in the skillet with a small amount of oil or just use a non-stick spray. Serve it with ketchup. Your kids (and Jessica Simpson) will never know it’s fish
Don’t get hung up on serving these. A good starchy side should be more of a treat than a staple at your dinner table. If your kids are anything like mine- or the rest of the kids in the United States- they are getting their fair share of carbohydrates everyday. Plus, if your vegetable is corn or potato, that counts as a starch. If you (or your meat & potato eating husband) wants to have a hot starch with dinner, the Idahoan instant mashed potatoes received the Chef’s Choice award & they cook up in just 4 minutes in your microwave. But more often than not, I will just serve a slice of good bread from my local bakery or a Hawaiian Roll.
Fruits make the perfect dessert. We love yogurt parfaits at my house! Keep some frozen fruit on hand for the nights you are caught off guard & have no fresh fruits. Allow your kids to put some frozen berries in their parfait cup, fill it with yogurt & the kids can top it off with granola, animal crackers, sprinkles, honey… whatever you gotta do to get them to think it’s a decadent dessert. This is also a great way to use up brown bananas. Banana slices + yogurt = delicious treat!
My upcoming recipes will focus on my 4 aspects of the balanced 15 minute meal. A mom is like an arsenal. We need lots of defense tactics/tools for all the challenges that we face everyday. Our battles against our own kids & spouses in the kitchen are no exception. Let’s get ready to win this war, ladies!
xoxo Produce Mom