Weeknights are just as hectic as weekdays, with families stretched between lessons, homework and meetings. How to squeeze in dinner, too? We’ve got 10 beat-the-clock supper ideas.
1. Broccoli and Cheddar Egg Strata This dish can be assembled the night before, and popped in the oven by a responsible older kid. It’s ready when parents arrive home, and would work nicely cut into cold slices for on-the-go nights. Round out the meal with pre-washed greens and whole wheat toast or English muffins.
2. Asian Noodle Stir-Fry Kids love noodles, and stir-fries are a great way to pack in veggies. This quick noodle dish works well with fresh or frozen veggies, and is endlessly adaptable with whatever you have in the fridge. Toss in leftover chicken, beef or shrimp, or cubed tofu for protein. Bump up the fibre by swapping out rice noodles for whole wheat or soba.
3. Super Soups Soups are an easy and hearty go-to for weeknight dinners. If you choose canned, keep an eye on sodium, and boost nutrition by adding a handful of frozen or fresh veggies. It’s easy to pull off a homemade version like this meatball pasta soup, which takes 10 minutes of prep, and 15 to simmer. Almost Instant Blender Tomato Soup is quick, easy and healthy. Pair with a veggie plate, crusty baguette, grilled cheese sandwich or simple salad.
4. Dumpling soup Frozen Asian dumplings cook quickly in low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth. Toss in a knob of sliced or grated fresh ginger, and sliced or grated carrots. Place a handful of baby spinach in a bowl and ladle over soup and dumplings. Top with sliced green onions, and serve with bagged Asian coleslaw or steamed sugar pea pods. For an easy dumpling dipping sauce, mix 2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce or tamari, 1 tablespoon sesame oil, 1 tablespoon rice vinegar, 1 clove minced garlic, and add chili oil and honey, or brown sugar, to taste.
5. Muffin Tin Meatloaf Individual meatloaves are perfect for weeknight meals — the small portions cook in a fraction of the time, and kids love mini-meals. Use your own meatloaf recipe, but instead of a full loaf, press small amounts into oiled muffin tins for single-portion mini-loaves. Bake at 375°F (190°C) for 20 to 25 minutes. Serve with Baked Sweet Potato Fries, and steamed carrots or broccoli.
6. Grab-n-go Meals kids can hold are perfect for nights when everyone is on the move. Samosas, empanadas and whole grain pita or tortilla wraps are good to go, and work well hot or cold. You can make ’em yourself, or find them in the freezer section (keep an eye on sodium and fat). Try fillings like leftover taco beef, avocado and tomatoes; steamed squash, black beans, and cooked quinoa, drizzled with dressing; or DIY Divan with chopped broccoli, cooked chicken and shredded mozzarella. Heat in the oven, a panini press, or on the stovetop over medium heat, with a weighted skillet on top (flip after 4 minutes). Wrap in foil or parchment paper to catch drips.
7. Breakfast for dinner Breakfast foods seem less of a chore to prepare at night, and there isn’t a kid alive who doesn’t love the day turned upside down. Scramble eggs with sautéed veggies and shredded cheese. Make eggy sandwiches, with or without bacon (even the microwaved version), on whole-grain bread. Even pancakes or waffles are a cinch to make when you’re not bleary-eyed. Save a bit of time by making batter ahead — it will keep in the fridge for up to five days. Oven-baked bacon cuts down on fuss and stovetop cleanup: Place bacon in a single layer on a grid-mesh rack over a cookie sheet and bake at 350°F (180°C) for 15 to 20 minutes. Serve with fresh fruit.
8. Meatball madness Homemade meatballs are quick, and lower in sodium than the frozen supermarket version. Mix ground turkey with an egg, bread crumbs, skim milk and minced onion, and roll into 1-inch balls. Place on a cookie sheet and bake at 350°F (180°C) for 20 minutes, or brown in a skillet over medium heat for 5 to 7 minutes. Perfect with a green salad, whole-grain rolls and fruit. Alternatively, toss in a heated sauce — sweet and sour, barbecue, or satay, and serve over brown rice or noodles with steamed veggies. We love this freeze-ahead Thai version, too.
9. Bean cassoulet Vegetarian meals can be a snap to pull together on a busy night. Use low-sodium canned beans to speed along this nearly-instant Tuscan-inspired bean cassoulet. Packed with fibre, it makes for hearty cold weather fare. Perfect with crusty rolls.
10. Pizza with a twist DIY pizzas on pita bread or frozen crust are easy fixes, but we like how this zucchini-boat version swaps the bready crust for a vegetable base. The whole meal takes about 20 minutes. To save time, prep filling ahead and top zucchini with the pizza mixture just before baking. Bonus: it’s super-economical, too.