Parents spend hours watching their favorite Food Network chefs preparing lip-smacking meals. For date night, they might take their spouses to see films like “Chef” or “The Hundred-Foot Journey,” tales where food is the main storytelling course.
It’s no mistake that gourmet dishes have been described as romantic, succulent–even an aphrodisiac.
When those same parents face their kids at supper time, all they want to do is cook the easiest meal possible.
Time is rarely on a mom or dad’s side, oh, yes it isn’t. So having a four simple meals in your back pocket makes life that much easier.
Try the following four meals when you’re pressed for time, but must give you children a hot, filling dinner. They’re quick, tasty and will save you enough minutes to spend on more pressing matters, like Rachael Ray reruns.
1. Mac & Cheese (from scratch, no less)
It’s tempting to go with a packaged version, but the real deal is similarly easy to prep. Cook some small, pipe-like pasta as directed. Remove the pasta and strain. In the same still hot pot, add milk or cream plus a blend of cheddar and Parmesan cheeses. Put the pasta back in the pot and stir until the noodles are covered. Take that, Kraft!
2. Homemade pizza
Sure, you can try your grandmother’s pizza crust recipe, knead the dough by hand and crush your own tomatoes. There’s a time and place for that, and it’s typically after your kids turn 16. For now, pick up some Boboli-style crusts (whole wheat is healthier), a jar of pizza sauce and some quality mozzarella cheese. Bake the crust in a preheated oven (365 degrees) for about 12 minutes, then take the crust out and slather it with the sauce. Sprinkle the cheese on top and throw it back in the oven for another 10 or so minutes. If you have extra time to get fancy, throw on a dash of oregano, Parmesan cheese, extra virgin olive oil, and a dozen pepperoni slices. Bake for about 10 more minutes or until desired crispness.
3. Cheese Quesadillas
All you really need is cheddar cheese and a tortilla here, but you can add more ingredients as your child’s taste buds allow. Lay out a tortilla and sprinkle half of it with the cheese. Fold the tortilla in half and cook. If speed matters blast it with 30 seconds of microwave heat. Or, use a nonstick pan and heat it over the stove, turning the quesadilla after about two minutes per side or when slightly brown. Use a pizza cutter to turn the quesadilla into four equal slices, like your kids see at the local restaurant, and serve with a mild salsa. Feel free to add whatever’s handy if your refrigerator – green onions, chopped red peppers, leftover grilled chicken, black beans, thinly sliced carrots or cilantro – as time permits.
4. Pesto Pasta and Grilled Chicken
Cook your favorite rigatoni-style pasta as the instructions suggest. Then, put some store-bought pesto into a metal bowl (about a heaping tablespoon’s worth) and stir in the cooked pasta until the noodles are coated. Add some diced grilled chicken for protein and you’ve got a filling meal with very little effort.
Photo credit: Steven Guzzardi via Flickr
Read Previous: 4 Solid Life Lessons ‘Star Wars’ Can Teach Your Kids