The Easiest Dinner for Busy NightsCasey Mullins
Tuesdays. Tuesdays are our crazy nights. Cody plays basketball in a local league and Addie has her long gymnastics class two hours after she gets home from school and one hour before Vivi should be awake from her nap. By the time we make it home Vivi is grouchy, Addie is ravenous and Cody walks in sweaty and gross just in time for the 6 o’clock sads.
I don’t look forward to Tuesday nights.
When things go right, I have something in the slow cooker by 10 a.m. and a quick snack in the fridge to hold off the foraging beasts while Cody showers and I finish dinner. When things go wrong I start giving takeout, fast food and pizza the longing side eye. The sensible part of me knows cooking at home is way more economical and way better for everyone. I love planning and cooking meals, but I know there will always be Tuesdays (and Wednesdays, and Thursdays), which is why I always have super-easy and quick backup meals worked into my shopping list every week — meals I can prepare in under 20 minutes (or one episode of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse.)
The ideal easy dinner is one that won’t go to waste if I don’t have to rely on it that week, one I can easily add fresh ingredients to, and a meal everyone likes.
I think we can all agree that with just a few simple ingredients, a Mexican dinner is easily the most effortless dinner to pull off. Don’t have meat? Use beans! Out of beef? Use chicken! Don’t have tortillas? Use chips and make nachos! Don’t even have chips? Who cares? Pile it all into a bowl with some rice! Picky eaters? Separate each ingredient on the plate or make them into a salad! Some like it hot? Make the basics, and have a bottle of hot sauce on the table. Accommodating guests with food allergies or sensitivities? Taco bar! Hosting vegetarians? Grill or saute some spiced vegetables in place of meat!
We always have some form of meat in our freezer, shredded cheese in the bottom drawer, salsa, spices, some form of tortilla, and a random blend of various vegetables on hand, which means busting out a fresh meal before the closing credits on a 20-minute cartoon is a breeze.
Last night was taco night (with taco boats, to be more specific)! We filled Vivi’s taco with tomatoes and avocado, Addie passed on the tomato but doubled up on the avocado, while Cody passed on the avocado and made glorious concoctions of meat, tomatoes, salsa, and spicy cheese. Everyone ate, everyone ate well — and, best of all, no one complained. We had some grapes and watermelon on the side, and no one went to bed hungry! Bonus: Feeding all four of us cost less than $8.
Go family dinner.
Go taco night.
Find more of Casey’s writing on her blog moosh in indy or her Babble Voices site Shutterlovely. She’s also available on twitter, Facebook, Flickr and Instagram. If you can’t find her any of those places? Check the couch, she’s probably taking a nap.