Simple School Night Ideas
Now that school is back in session, children have to be in bed at an earlier hour, washed, brushed and fed! The lazy days of summer when a later dinner hour simply meant they could play longer has abruptly disappeared and the pressure is on to get into the school year routine.
Don't fall into the dinner-hour trap. Remember you (and your family) are least pleasant between the hours of 5 and 7 p.m. because everyone's tired and hungry.
If you are an organized, structured person, you can easily plan a week's meals and often prepare them over the weekend. I was that way once...for a brief shining moment. I think it lasted one week.
If you are like most of us, you fly by the seat of your pants, and even taking something out of the freezer before you go to work can become an impossible memory hurdle. I find I often think about what to have for dinner on my way home from work. This, unfortunately, leads to hurried stops at the store and this way of shopping is more expensive in the long run!
So train yourself to take something out every morning or even the night before and leave it to defrost in the fridge.
If you have the time on the weekends, making a couple of one-dish meals is a really good idea. It's also a good way to compromise with your kids. We like to train our children to learn to eat anything they might be served.
Try and make meals that will work as leftovers. Souffles don't do well the second time around nor do sauces. A roast chicken, however, can have the bones picked and become chicken salad or curried chicken with little effort.
It is also wise to save the gourmet meals for the weekends when you have plenty of time to luxuriate in their preparation. Weeknight meals should stay simple and nutritious and preferably, light.
For the kids, a meal or two during the week that includes pasta is a sure pleaser. How about Egg Noodles with Chives, Italian Stuffed Shells, Fried Rice With Garlic or Burritos, Tacos and Fajitas. These are kid-friendly meals that appeal to adults as well and can be made in fewer than 20 minutes.
One secret to harried cook-friendly meals: Don't choose recipes that need something breaded, battered or chilled. Look for simple preparation and little prep work (unless it's peeling or chopping and your kids can help). Salads are easy, nutritious supplements to most any meal that kids can make and buying take and bake breads is also a great way to add to a meal.
On those inevitable days when nothing is going smoothly, a couple of steaks, some crusty bread and a salad will be just the thing to help relax and calm you. Take the sitting down and eating time to listen to your family, learn about each other and just plain enjoy one another. We seem to have so little time these days that mealtimes are one of the few and best opportunities we have to stay in touch.
For the most part, simplicity is the key to good eating. Keeping your menus simple will afford your family good tastes, good nutrition and change the usual whine into an enthusiastic: "What's for dinner!"