Been there, right? Dinner should’ve been on the table 30 minutes ago. Kids are asking for snacks because, well, dinner should be over by now, and you’re basically starving them (or at least they’re acting like it). You’re fine because you’re snacking on carrots and hummus, listening to a podcast and trying to decide on which new amazing dinner you want to make. Maybe it’s that veggie pot pie bake thing or a new roasted veggie and tofu sheet pan dinner. Oh the kids will just LOVE both of those (you obviously have short-term memory loss because the peanut noodles you made last night were a complete bomb and everyone begged for Cheerios instead).
But shoot, if you don’t get dinner on the table in less than 6 minutes, they’ll be going to bed late and taking time away from your precious ME time that must start at 9:00 sharp. SO. You need to switch gears, figure out something fast. It’s an emergency. Dinner 911.
Chez Reilly–the Healthy-ish Headquarters–where all meals are dietitian-approved while at the same time sometimes include Wonderbread (have you seen the Whole Grain White? I mean it’s calcium-fortified and has fiber…), we have 3 Emergency Dinners. Not only are they fast to make, but they’re fast to clean up. And the ONLY reason we don’t make these on a 3-day rotation is the fear that they’ll one day become tiresome and then what the heck will you serve when you walk in from lacrosse practice at 7:45 and literally have ZERO options. Presenting, in order of most loved to even more loved….
- NACHOS. Boom. FIVE STARS. This is like a 3-minute one. Chips go on a plate (in our house 2 of those plates of chips get weighed so we can count carbs). Next goes shredded cheese of choice (we love thin strips of Chao brand, but just use what you’ve got). Next up is either a handful of black beans (rinsed) out of a can, or a hunk of refried beans tossed on top. Now you warm the plate in the microwave for 1 minute or in a 350-degree oven for 5 minutes (bonus with the oven option that you can fit several plates in at once… just don’t forget to let them cool before dropping them on the table). Top with salsa or chopped tomatoes, guacamole (obviously store-bought if we’re in Emergency Dinner territory) or chopped avocado and a dash of salt. Repeat for remaining plates in the microwave, or put them all in the oven at once after building the chips-cheese-bean nacho miracle mass, then topping with salsa and avocado once they’re out. You’re welcome.
- QUESADILLAS, CHERRY TOMATOES, APPLE SLICES. Finger food, people. Finger food. All you need is tortillas, cheese or hummus, cherry tomatoes or another finger-food veggie like those mini peppers, baby carrots, or snap peas, and apple slices or another easy fruit like blueberries, grapes, or cantaloupe cubes. You don’t even need individual plates for this dinner. Just land a pile of quesadilla wedges, a bowl of veggies, and another bowl of fruit in the middle of the table and let them go at it. In fact, I’ve found that if you have picky eaters, this “survival of the fittest” dinner service style is the best thing to get your child to eat. Or cry and scream. But hopefully not that.
- VEGGIE BURGER, FROZEN VEGGIES, CHIPS. You probably have veggie burgers in the freezer or maybe even those “chick” patties. If you’re like me during one of my supermom phases, you have homemade, well-labeled with cutesy penmanship bean and rice burgers that you mass produced on a Sunday afternoon. These can be heated in the microwave or in a skillet and served as is. No need for a bun, but add condiments for dipping. For the veggie, just boil frozen green beans, mixed veggies, carrots, or peas and then drain and toss with salt and some butter-like deliciousness (we like Smart Balance). Then make it fun with a side of chips, pretzels, or crackers. It feels like you’re cheating, but this is a well-balanced, fast, and very kid-friendly combination of foodstuffs.
Have anything to add to this list of Emergency Meals? Share in the Comments below!
xo – Jen