It is 5:30 pm and my kids just finished up swim practice. They have been playing hard all afternoon and are now extremely hungry and ready for dinner. But have I planned anything?
The second we return home, they ravage the pantry, angry that I stop them from eating a snack so close to dinner time. I quickly say, “Hey guys, I know you’re hungry. Why don’t you go upstairs and take a quick shower while I make dinner really fast?” They look at each other, smile and agree.
Here is the secret to preparing a quick meal in the evenings: plan ahead. Sounds easy right? But how many of us actually do it? For some reason, I always thought that preparing food in advance and then leaving it in the refrigerator would ruin the food. I was wrong. Most foods can be prepped a day or hours in advance without a problem. And prepping as much food as possible ahead of time speeds up the cooking process and makes for a happy family at dinner time.
For this particular meal, I knew I had about 15-20 minutes while the kids bathed. I open the refrigerator. I grab sweet potatoes and okra that I had previously cut earlier in the day. I also pulled out the pork chops I had placed in tupperwear to marinade and the left over salad from the previous night.
I decide that the grill is the quickest way to cook everything, so I go outside and turn it on. Now all I need to do from here is place the cut okra in foil. I brush the okra with olive oil and sprinkle sea salt, crushed pepper and roasted garlic on top. I place the sweet potatoes in a foil bowl as well. I add grass-fed butter, brown sugar and cinnamon. (True, this isn’t the healthiest option. But it’s the only way my kids will eat sweet potatoes and who doesn’t like a little brown sugar and butter? Plus, they will eat the okra and salad.) While waiting for the grill to heat up to 400, I go ahead and plate the salad. Once the grill is heated, I put the vegetables on the bottom so they will cook quickly. The okra is better crispy so the heat is good for them. I put the pork chops on the top rack. Pork chops can be tricky for me and I didn’t want them to overcook and dry out.
My son hops down the steps and declares himself all clean and still extremely hungry. I request that he set the table with forks and napkins so we can eat sooner. He obliges as I pour the milk for the kids. Teamwork is a huge helper while trying to get food on the table as fast as possible. The more my kids can do to help out, the faster I can get them fed.
While my son set the table, I check the grill and everything looks wonderful. I flip the pork chops and let them finish grilling. The sweet potatoes are taking longer. Next time I will put them on the grill first. I remove the pork chops, then close the lid and turn up the heat. It took a few more minutes and everything was finished.
Best part, it took a total of 25 minutes from walking in the door until the kids were enjoying a home cooked meal. And I ended up with five clean plates as well! You can’t go wrong with everyone happy and full of food. Now let’s see if I can keep it up all summer.
Do you have a favorite quick meal or tips you’d like to add? Please share in comments.