If you’re like me, you are a mom who knows the wonderful evening “witching hour” all too well. You know the one – that treacherous sail through stormy seas when everyone in your household is hitting a complete and total melt down at the same time? No matter how much I try to stay ahead of the game, I don’t always win. If naps are too short or nonexistent, if someone is coming down with a cold or if our schedule is running behind, between 5 and 7 pm my kids are hungry, tired and beyond cranky. The challenge is always to get dinner on the table before everyone falls apart, which is why I love these 5 fast and healthy ideas that anyone can do, even if you work full-time.
1. Dust off your crock pot (or slow-cooker)! I love to toss some frozen meat in it with some veggies, spices, garlic, some broth and let it cook for several hours until dinner time. One of my favorites is adding a couple of frozen chicken breasts in my crock pot and top it with some marinated artichoke hearts, sun dried tomatoes, kalamata olives and a can of chopped tomatoes with a 1/2 cup of water or broth and let it cook on low for 6 hours or on high for 3 hours. I love to serve it over spaghetti squash, zucchini noodles or pasta. If you work full time, just set it before you leave and dinner will be ready when you get home.
2. Prep, prep, prep. I love one-pot meals especially stir-frys, but the prep time can be time consuming, which is why I prepare everything when Mirella goes down for her afternoon nap (and Keenan goes down for his hour of quiet time). Once everything is chopped and ready, it only takes a few minutes to cook once it’s dinner time. One dish that my family loves is sauteing green beans or zucchini with a little garlic and olive oil, and tossing in some sun dried tomatoes and sliced pre-cooked Italian nitrite-free chicken sausage. Once it’s done, I sprinkle some feta cheese on top and it’s good to go.
3. Maximize your oven. I have fallen in love with my oven’s delay start function! I love that I can place anything in it, especially a tray of various veggies, set the time, temperature and it will automatically start when we are gone. Since we play outside or go for bike rides most afternoons, I love to place my dinner in the oven and have it start while we are gone. It frees me up to devote more time with Keenan and Mirella without worrying about making dinner. One of my family’s favorites is tossing broccoli, red bell peppers, red onions, and mushrooms (of course, all chopped) with garlic, olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper in a large bowl. Once mixed, I place them on a baking sheet to roast in the oven for 30 minutes on 425 degrees. While I set my oven for the veggies to roast, I cook some barley (or quinoa) and let it sit on the stove. When we come in for dinner, I just heat up some pre-cooked sausages, slice them and toss with the veggies, barley, a splash of balsamic vinegar in a large bowl. I serve it in bowls with a sprinkle of feta cheese for a warm barley salad.
4. Re-purpose your leftovers. If I left it up to Keenan, he would not eat a single leftover, unless it was “ribs, chicken legs or Mexican food!” Since he is not a fan of leftovers, I love to re-purpose them by adding them to make a new meal, such as using leftover chicken for a massaged kale Greek salad, cauliflower rice, spaghetti squash pasta bake, or even homemade pizza (and Keenan never knows!).
5. The more the merrier. If I have more time to prep or cook dinner one night, I try to buy extra veggies and meat to make enough for a couple of nights. Even though Keenan is not a “fan of leftovers,” as he says, it makes dinner time so much easier on the nights that I train clients. I just reheat the leftovers and dinner is ready!
What is your go-to meal when you need to get dinner on the table quickly?
What are your tips for making the “witching hour” go smoothly?