For the moment, let's focus on just being on the road at dinnertime and knowing the easiest way is likely not the best way. Sure drive-thru restaurants have made it a breeze to toss a collection of burgers, chicken finger and fries on the table and run, but is that the only way? Geez, I hope not.
As one who eats dinner alone most of the time, it would be fine for me to swing through a drive-thru on the way home and call it a day ... especially after working all day. Right? Hmmm ... for a while, perhaps, but eventually I personally would not enjoy that. Do you have to be a fabulous cook to make it work? No, not really. The bottom line is at the end of the day, filling up on fast food is a terrible way to end the day. So, short of just telling you (you are still with me, right) to prepare better for those workday mealtimes, I thought I'd give you some options for quick, easy, and healthy dinners for you and your family without any major time in front of the stove.
The first thing to think about is what you like to eat. And, how much time you want to spend preparing for your meals. If you're used to the drive-thru fare, perhaps it's best to start slowly. Personally, I find a simple few ingredients meals plenty to eat. OK, you want some samples, right? It would be helpful to have a functioning pantry, meaning having some staples on hand.
- Homemade Tacos - when you have a wee bit of time, cook some ground beef or turkey and just before it's finished, toss in some taco seasoning and mix with a can of vegetarian (low-fat) refried beans. When ready, grab a taco shell (hard or soft or chips), add the meat/bean mixture and sprinkle on some Cheddar cheese and pop in the microwave until heated through. Add some chopped lettuce and tomatoes and a dollop of avocado and/or sour cream and eat!
- Poor Man's Steak with green vegetable - take about a 1/4# per person and pat some ground chuck into an 8 x 8 baking pan for four servings (or if cooking for 2, a bread pan works nicely) ... top with a couple little dabs of butter and some garlic salt and broil the way you like to eat your steak. A side of broccoli or other green will complement the meat nicely.
- Spaghetti and Marinara Sauce - Put a pot of water on to boil while you change your clothes, help with homework, straighten up or whatever ... add pasta for two (or more if you plan to freeze the extra). Open a jar of high end spaghetti or marinara sauce and put enough for two in a small saucepan. Heat slowly while pasta is cooking. Set your timer to avoid overcooking pasta. When everything is almost finished, pop two pieces of bread into a toaster and toast. Spread with butter and a sprinkle of garlic salt. Side salad is optional, of course.
- Aunt Mary's Fillup - Fry 1# of good quality ground beef or turkey with some chopped onion. Layer a small amount of the meat/onion mix on the bottom of a small casserole. Add some cooked brown rice and and continue layering ending up with meat on top, then pour a large can of petite diced tomatoes over all. Dot with butter and bake for 30 minutes in a 350 degree oven. It may take a bit longer if you've taken the prepared casserole out of the refrigerator. This casserole is good with a side of green beans and is excellent fried in butter the next day.
- Good ol' Nathan's hot dogs (the best in the world, in my humble opinion) with a side of Bush's Original Baked Beans was on of my favorites. I don't too many hot dogs these days, but it will remain a favorite of mine. I always liked a piece of bread and butter with a sprinkle of garlic salt, too.
- Chicken Alfredo with Chicken and Broccoli - an easy fare especially if you've got the pasta already cooked. Pour a bit of olive oil in a frying pan and cook the chicken. When browned and cooked through, pour a jar of Alfredo sauce over it all and toss in some frozen broccoli. Cover and cook until broccoli is heated through and pour over some cooked pasta. If you have cooked pasta in your freezer, just place in a colander and run hot water over it. If you do not have any cooked pasta prepared, just boil some water and cook while you prepare the chicken. I like to add a can of diced tomatoes in, too ... just drain first so it's not too soupy.
- English Muffin Pizza - just add a bit of spaghetti sauce (or pizza sauce, if you have some) on an English muffin half, add whatever condiments you like (black olives, sliced onion, peppers, fresh tomatoes, fresh spinach, diced ham and top with cheese. Pop into a preheated oven (about 400 degrees) and while you're waiting toss a salad or fruit compote.
- Chili offers a variety of options. Make a batch and serve in a bowl, as a taco-type salad, over rice or pasta and save some in the freezer for the future. To make a quick batch of chili, just brown a pound of ground beef / turkey, toss in some chopped onion (optional). When the meat is almost done add somoe chili powder, cumin, and red pepper flakes, then, add a can or two of diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, a can of Ro-Tel tomatoes, and whatever beans you like. For a bit easier time, add a can of chili beans. If you put some chili in a large-mouthed Mason jar and put it in the frig, it will seal itself and last a bit longer than saving it in plastic.