Summer is here, and you have hungry kids clamoring for dinner. When you arrive home after work you want nothing more than to sit down and put your feet up. Famished children demanding meals seldom allow much time for relaxation. You might be able to carve a few moments for yourself by using a few of these ideas to fix a quick dinner.
Make Beef Chili or Vegetarian Haystacks
Chili is a quick meal that nearly everyone enjoys. This recipe takes about 15 minutes to make in a pot on your range top. If your outdoor patio is an extended living area, consider cooking this meal on the stove portion of your outdoor oven and grill. You will need a small onion and some olive oil to use browning it in a medium-sized pot. Some people do not enjoy dicing onions, you may think about purchasing frozen diced onions for added convenience and quicker prep time.
After five minutes, add one pound of ground beef to your softened, clear onions and use your spatula to crumble it. Toss in a tablespoon of cinnamon and use salt and pepper to taste. Your meat should brown within five minutes, and then you will add a six ounce can of tomato paste, a 14-ounce can of crushed tomatoes and a 15-ounce can of red kidney beans. Mix all ingredients until heated. Before serving, place corn chips in the bottom of each bowl, then add the chili and top with shredded cheddar cheese. Make a vegetarian version by omitting the ground beef and adding one or two cans of pinto beans.
Prepare Pasta Salad or Quick Veggie Pasta
This is one of the quick, filling meals and it’s wonderful when prepared the night before. It tastes even better once the flavors have a chance to blend. Choose a half to one pound of curly pasta such as Fusilli or rotini and cook according to directions in a pot on your stovetop. While it cools, rough-chop a cup or two of fresh broccoli. Place it in a bowl large enough to hold your finished meal. If your garden has produced dill and basil snip and chop at least a tablespoon of each herb in with your broccoli and add a cup of fresh or frozen peas.
Add some color with a half cup or more of red or yellow bell pepper and a quarter cup of chopped red onion. Crunch is nice, a quarter cup of celery will serve nicely. Make a sauce with equal portions of red wine vinegar and fresh lemon juice. A dollop or two of dill Dijon mustard adds a slight bite. Mix in olive oil until you have the consistency of salad dressing, then add your choice of herbs with salt and pepper to taste. Mix your sauce with the vegetables and add the pasta. Serve immediately or let it chill until the next day.
Prepare the same ingredients for hot meals using copper cookware, but do not let the pasta cool. Add the ingredients listed above and mix with a cup of mozzarella in your copper pot. Sprinkle a half cup of Romano and a half cup of mozzarella on top and serve. Substitute goat cheese for Romano if preferred. This is a perfect meal to serve in your outdoor dining area under a pergola.
Serve Soup on an Upward Scale
Inspired by Epicurious, this recipe for Cannellini Bean and Tomato Soup has a great flavor, so your kids will not realize they are eating gourmet food. Start with two cans of cannellini beans and a 28-ounce can of crushed tomatoes and add three cups of prepared vegetable broth and a bay leaf to a large soup pot. Dice one fennel bulb and 4 garlic cloves and sauté in olive oil before adding 1 tablespoon of sherry vinegar. Chop the stems off one pound of Swiss chard and tear the leaves into pieces. Add all ingredients to your soup simmering on the stove. Stir until evenly heated, remove the bay leaf and serve.
These five versions of quick, easy meals should satisfy you and your children. Introduce interesting ingredients early to prepare your kids for a wide variety of foods and spices.