We all know how tempting it is to just go to your local brewpub or order pizza. Weeknights can be rough. If the adults all work and the kids have school and afterschool activities, it can be difficult to fit in a decent family dinner. And as the kids get older, just getting everyone in the dining room at once can be a challenge.
But in my house, we are committed to everyone sitting down together and having dinner as often as possible. With our 9-year-old, we make sure that each night she’s at our house, we have a family dinner with conversation and all. With the older girls, we try to do family dinners at least a couple of times a month. (It helps that my kids love my cooking!)
But midweek, when you’re exhausted and need to put dinner on the table for a 9-year-old, you’re not making that hour long risotto she loves so much. So what do you make that is healthy and yet interesting? Full disclosure here, I work from home most days, so honestly, I could do more extravagant dishes. But I’m a workaholic, so my time is as limited as is her little palate. We still manage meals that are hearty, healthy and yummy.
I’ve often written about of roasted vegetables. These are a god-send as a side dish. I can throw brocolli, cauliflower or brussel sprouts into the oven at 450 degrees an hour before we want dinner and continue working. No matter what you put with this side dish, it works. Maybe I just make a nice Trader Joe’s frozen gnocchi. Maybe we toss some refrigerated tortellini or ravioli with some pesto sauce. Voila! You have a nice healthy meal.
When not limited to the restrictions of a 9-year-old vegetarian, we still can manage a good, hearty weeknight meal. Pan fry some pork chops. Pork chops are so easy and quick to cook that they are easy to do on a weeknight. In the last few years, I discovered that most people, including me, overcook pork. You need like four minutes per side. You get great, juicy meat that goes with anything! You can also broil steaks at four minutes per side and get that perfectly cooked meaty goodness we all pay a fortune for at restaurants.
Fettucini alfredo is another favorite for out little vegetarian. It sounds intimidating, but it’s so easy. If you have heavy cream, butter and some parmesan, ramano, asiago or a combo of the three, the sauce takes 6-10 minutes to make. Throw this on some store bought and boiled pasta (any shape will do, but fettucine is the classic), and you have a filling and delicious meal.
And if you like pesto, making your own is super simple and amazingly superior to those you buy at the store. You need a bunch of basil, some pine nuts, olive oil, parmesan, lemon juice, and a blender. It literally takes less time to make the sauce than it takes to boil the pasta, and it tastes amazing. Pesto Sauce
I’ll do an entirely separate blog on preparing amazing dishes for leftovers for the week, but that is also one of my favorite solutions to both weeknight dinners and lunches throughout the work week. (Granted, this one is not so great for nights we have the “I don’t like leftovers” princess with us, but this is an advantage to our lovely blended co-parenting family life!)
We started cooking more varieties of food at home for many reasons, including wanting to reduce our overall budget and to get more hearty and nutritious food into our pickiest little eater. We’ve discovered that we all eat better overall as a result. While ordering in or going out sounds easy, we’ve discovered that it’s easier than you think to make good food at home, and you get to control many of the nutritional factors in the meals.