How many times a week does 5 p.m. creep up on you and you’ve got to pull off dinner for the family in a flash, and you haven’t been shopping since last week?
Trust me, you’re not the only one. The key is having a well stocked freezer and pantry, which ensures it gets you out of the bind – and have the kids lick their plates clean. Whatever the day of the week, my advice is to put together a meal from the bottom up. Here’s how:
Start with protein: Well made sausages (butcher quality), meatballs, eggs, tinned fish, beans, cheese and seafood all make fast additions to any meal.
Next is your carbohydrate: Noodles, rice, more substantial veggies like sweet potato (baked or fries).
Finish off with veggies: Cucumber, carrot sticks or sugar snap peas on the side or a combination of frozen veggies you have stashed in the freezer.
It’s no easy task planning activities, school runs and making time for family. With these kid friendly pantry staples, you’ll be able to ditch the guilt of not having pre-planned all meals and have the little ones enjoying a healthy dinner instead:
Kids generally love noodles of different shapes. Some love kid or animal like shapes, others like long and lean vermicelli or spaghetti. Always have noodles and pasta sauce tucked away in the pantry. Grate on some cheese on top of their 15-minute dinner and presto you’ve got a family that think you are a superstar. Don’t forget sliced veggies on the side.
Boil the kettle, and pour water over vermicelli noodles while you defrost a package of frozen shrimp. Quickly stir some peppers, zucchini and corn round the frying pan and add shrimp just as the peppers are wilting. Add your favourite peanut sauce or tamari and serve with drained noodles in big bowls. An instant take-out quality meal.
Risotto can be a fast and simple meal. Gone are the days of being chained to the stove stirring in ladle after ladle of stock. Bake 1 cup arborio or risotto rice with 2 1/2 cups stock along with a handful of re-hydrated mushrooms (and fresh, if you have on hand) with garlic and finely chopped onions. Covered and cook in the oven for 45 minutes at 375°F and you are on your way to dinner and lunch the next day. Finish off with 1/3 cup pecorino or parmesan cheese and a knob of butter, and dinner is done.
Around our house, sausages from our natural butcher are a consistent saviour of a meal, as they can be cooked from frozen. Serve with sweet potato fries and a side of frozen corn. Make sure you cook some extras as the kids might fancy it for lunch the next day.
A typical quiche would require a pastry shell. Instead a crust-less quiche or frittata-type dinner makes use of half a dozen eggs, 2/3 cup milk and any veggies that you have on hand. Leftovers and frozen vegetables make great fillings here too. Chicken, ham, broccoli, corn, green beans and peppers are staples in my super fast quiche. Bake at 375°F in a 9-inch pie plate for about 30 minutes and again, you’ve pulled off a nutritious dinner. Don’t forget the side of salsa or pickles hiding in the back of the fridge.
As you shop in your usual aisles in the supermarket, take a left or right where you don’t tend to go to find some new pantry staples for your next rushed evening. Tacos or rice paper wraps could be the next trend in your house. Being rushed happens to us all, so stock that pantry to make the best of it.