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Every parent knows the feeling… You’ve just finished up a particularly long day at work, picked up the kids from school and are returning home only to have them ask, “What’s for dinner?” The thought of spending even thirty minutes preparing and cooking a meal for your family is exhausting, and you know that it’s just not going to happen (Sorry, Rachel Ray!). Normally, at this point, you’d call for pizza or microwave some frozen chicken nuggets for the kids. You would then proceed to eat a piece of leftover turkey over the sink. Sometimes there really are moments that call for a pizza, but listed here are some healthier dinner solutions that are just as simple for crazy weeknights.
Monday (crockpot cooking): If you’re at Trader Joe’s on Sunday and know it’s going to be a long week, pick up a 4 lb beef chuck roast, a 16oz can of beef stock, some baby carrots, some red small red potatoes, pre-diced onions (or dice one yourself), and fresh rosemary. Before work on Monday, simply toss all of these ingredients into a large crockpot. (Searing the meat first will provide a nicer color and richer flavor, but you will still get a melt-in-your-mouth roast without it). Season it well with salt and pepper, turn the heat on to low and forget about it for 8-10 hours. After less than five minutes of prep time, a delicious and healthy dinner will be ready when you get home from work!
Tuesday (no-cook assembling): I call this a French market dinner, because in Provence it is quite common to go to a farmer’s market for lunch/supper, pick up a fresh baguette, some cheese and perhaps some seasonal fruit, and eat it without any preparation. Stop by a grocery store on your way home from work (or simply use what you have already). Grab a crusty loaf of bread, some deli meat/cheese, and some fresh cherry tomatoes and/or grapes. Assemble these on a large plate and watch your family happily devour the no cooking-required meal!
Wednesday (pantry finds): You know you’ve got cans of food you bought the last time there was a snow storm… Time to clean them out! – Grab whatever looks good in your pantry: a pre-cooked bag of rice, can of beans, can of tomatoes, can of greens… The kitchen is your oyster! Simply toss these ingredients into a pan and saute them up into a stir-fry, seasoning with salt, pepper, and whatever else you like as-needed. In just five minutes, you’ll have dinner for your family and a less-cluttered pantry!
Thursday (freezer finds): Freezer leftovers are a gem, because they can often be stretched to create entirely new dishes… Like tacos! Whatever you have in your freezer, be it leftover chicken, beef, veggie stir-fry, etc, microwave it, and then pull it apart into small, bite-size pieces (if needed). For some extra healthy taco goodness, heat up a frozen veggie and serve with “tortillas” of choice – taco shells, tortillas, rice or lettuce wraps… whatever you have on hand. These also pair well with any leftover cheese or salsa you may have already in your kitchen!
Friday (healthier take-out): Sometimes you just have to order a pizza! On nights when you’re trying to find something a little less indulgent on Seamless/GrubHub, try this: ask for steamed chicken/shrimp and broccoli with brown rice from a Chinese restaurant, no sauce. Most places that offer some kind of steamed dish on their menu will accommodate this! When it’s delivered, add oil and seasoning of your choosing. For an appetizer, go for the miso soup or steamed edemame. I have seen children eat edemame like candy, and it’s certainly a healthier option than eating mozzarella sticks or french fries!
Do you have a question for Katie, or something you’d like to share with the River School community on the blog? Feel free to email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.