Parents are busier than ever. In addition to most families being two-income families, children seem to be involved in more activities. It’s enough to make that fast food drive through look really good. How else are you supposed to feed kids quickly? The answer rests in a bit of planning and some good old-fashioned help.
Here are seven quick meal ideas for busy parents:
#1 Roast chicken — Really, that takes hours right? It can. However, you can slice that chicken down the middle and roast it in half the time. You can also buy a pre-roasted chicken at the supermarket. OR you can cook it on the weekend and simply reheat it when you’re ready to serve it. The great thing about a roast chicken is that leftovers can be used to make chicken salad for lunch. You can also use the leftovers to make tacos or a casserole the next night.
#2 Lasagna — This one is definitely a make-ahead meal. However, lasagna always tastes better reheated and it can provide enough food for two dinners. When mealtime arrives, simply warm up the lasagna and prepare a quick salad. You have a well-rounded meal packed with nutrients. Use whole grain lasagna noodles for more fiber.
#3 Rice cooker meals — Did you know you can steam rice, chicken and cut-up vegetables all at the same time? It’s true. Use your rice cooker to make a tasty meal. In fact, there’s an entire cookbook written by Roger Ebert of movie critic fame on how to make meals in your rice cooker.
#4 Use your crock pot — You can cook a chicken in your crock pot. You can also use it to make casseroles, stews and all sorts of tasty meals. If you’re pressed for time in the morning, then prepare everything the night before. Add the items to the crock pot in the morning and set it to cook while you’re away at work. When you come home, your dinner is ready and waiting for you and your family to enjoy.
#5 Burgers — When you buy the ground beef, turkey or even buffalo at your store, take it home and press it into patties. Freeze the patties. When it’s time for dinner, all you have to do is pop the frozen patties on the grill. They cook about 5-7 minutes a side depending on how well you like them to be cooked. While the burgers are cooking you can make a veggie side dish like Brussels sprouts, cole slaw or just a nice mixed greens salad. Dinner in less than ten minutes. Serve the burgers on whole grain buns for more fiber.
#6 Tacos — Most kids love tacos and you can make them pretty quickly. You can also get the family in on the preparation. Children can grate the cheese. Or you can buy it pre-shredded. Reheat beans in the microwave. Brown the hamburger or turkey burger on the stove. Chop a few veggies and you’re ready to go.
#7 Fish — You might be surprised how quickly fish cooks. In fact, most fish fillets take just a few minutes to be cooked through. Tilapia is a child-friendly fish. Serve fillets with lemon, tartar sauce or bread them. Add a side of sautéed or steamed green beans and a quick salad and you have a very healthy meal. Note: You can make your salads at home or buy those quick and easy bag salads.
Plan your meals for the week and shop according to your list. Try to incorporate a few make-ahead items. Use your crock pot and rice steamers to make meals while you’re busy doing other things. Take advantage of prepared foods when it makes sense.
It’s not always easy to feed a family when you’re pressed for time. A little planning and preparation can make it a whole lot easier.
Selwyn Richards is an award-winning master chef. He is also the President and Executive Chef at The Art of Catering Inc. and is the author of “The Art of Cooking: Soul of The Caribbean”. Chef Selwyn can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (905) 619-1059.