If dinner is a hot mess at your house, this is for you.
Wouldn’t it be nice to have a fresh, home cooked meal that was also healthy and featured all the major food groups? Once upon a time, I cooked dinners like this. I carefully chopped fresh vegetables and even marinated meat 12 hours beforehand. I used new and interesting ingredients in recipes I found on Pinterest. Then I had three kids and went back to work full-time. Meal prepping would probably help, but I should mention the kids also live here on the weekends.
Necessity is the mother of invention, they say. It was necessary that we find some ways to cook dinner faster while still attempting something nutritious. I feel like I need to interject here and mention that my main two food groups are Mexican food and tailgate foods, so my dinners are never going to get a nutritional gold star. They are downright passable, though, for three children under the age of seven and two working parents.
Here are a few shortcuts I’ve found to cook almost any meal faster. They are tested (by me) to work even with a toddler hanging on your leg and two other kids fighting. I keep them in stock at all times.
I buy a rotisserie chicken every time I go to the grocery store. I shred it immediately and save it in the fridge or freezer. It can be used in pasta, casseroles, rice dishes, chicken pot pie, enchiladas, quesadillas, soups, salads. In my opinion, it’s the most versatile, time-saving ingredient you can buy.
3-4 minutes! No pots to clean! Just throw that bag right in the microwave and BAM. This is especially helpful in recipes where rice is just one of many ingredients, like chicken fried rice and casseroles, but also great for any dinner that includes rice.
I didn’t know this existed until I had already spent too many years of my life peeling, chopping, and sacrificing fingers for real garlic. I mean, this is real garlic too, but BETTER. 1/2 tsp equals one clove of garlic. You’re welcome.
Frozen Vegetable Blends
I know frozen veggies are not really a secret, but have you seen all the new veggie mixes available now?! This one (pictured above) is our current favorite. I add ground turkey to it and call it “deconstructed stuffed peppers.” These Trader Joe’s fire roasted peppers and onions are also a big favorite. We add them to tacos, enchiladas, and sheet pan meals. If you haven’t perused a frozen vegetable aisle in a minute, you need to. They’ve probably got your preferred blend of veggies and flavors all in a bag now. Most of them just need meat, and you’ve got a whole, healthy meal in ten minutes. Maybe just five if you use your rotisserie chicken. *wink, wink*
Refrigerated pulled pork is so convenient when you need meat in a meal but are pressed for time. It just needs a few minutes in the microwave, and it’s ready to go. These are not quite as good as pulled pork from a BBQ restaurant, but it works just fine. I like the sauceless pulled pork so I can add my own flavors to fit the meal. We like to use this in quesadillas, nachos, and BBQ sandwiches, but you could add this to almost any meal as the protein.