Dinners in a Dash

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With baseball, soccer, softball, track, and play practice (in addition to school and homework) on my kids' spring schedule, there are some nights it is hard to find 5 minutes to eat dinner, let alone for me to make a meal between carpools! While I would love to serve my family a full sit-down meal with all the fixin's every evening, most nights the kids are shoveling dinner into their mouths while they are struggling to pull on their soccer socks or searching for their uniform in the dryer.

For nights like these, I usually go to one of my 5-minute meals. Yes, I could go to the nearest drive-thru, but even that takes more than 5 minutes. I know, these may not be the most nutritious meals, but when I am short on time, they will do.

Tip #1: Try to have several of these components on hand at all times, because you never know when you will be short on time. Many of the meats listed below can last in your refrigerator or freezer for weeks, so always check the expiration dates before you buy, and choose the latest one. When I bought ham lately, the first one I picked up expired in 2 days, so I dug in the back and found one that was good for 6 weeks!

Tip #2: Think about dinner foods as three different categories: protein, veggies/fruits, and starch. Pick one from each.  

Tip #3: Try to use various preparation methods simultaneously -- think about using the microwave, stove, and countertop at the same time. Toaster is also an option. You can also include the oven, but with preheating and cook times, you will usually be at least 15 minutes. If you have three things that need the microwave, you will spend a lot of time waiting to put the next item in, and the first thing will be cold before you are all done. You can have two things that need microwaving, being sure to heat the one that needs the most time to cool down first.

So, combining tips #2 and #3, a meal might look like this: heat-and-eat ribs (microwave), bagged salad with added cucumbers and craisins (countertop), and toast (toaster) with butter and a light sprinkling of dried oregano and parmesan cheese. All in 5 minutes. Bam!

Here are a few suggestions:

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PROTEINS

  • heat-and-eat ribs (cut into single ribs, place in dish, cover, and microwave for about 3 minutes
  • ham (place in dish, brush with ham glaze or pour a can of sliced peaches on top, cover, and microwave about 3 minutes)
  • Trader Joe's or Jack Daniels' pulled pork (heat in microwave 3 minutes, serve on buns)
  • Trader Joe's brisket (heat in microwave about 3 minutes)
  • meatball sandwich (heat frozen meatballs for about 1 minute, pour on pasta sauce, heat again, place in sub roll)
  • can of pork and beans (heat, and serve with toast "fingers" -- a childhood favorite of mine, though I have yet to serve it to my kids)
  • eggs (fry up a quick egg on the stove, or crack an egg in a coffee mug, cover with a plate, and heat in microwave for 1 minute)
  • sausage (refrigerated sausages, like the apple chicken sausage, need a few minutes on the stove; frozen sausages need about a minute in the microwave)
  • kielbasa (slice and heat on stove for a few minutes)
  • Amy's frozen burritos (a few minutes in the microwave)
  • hot dogs (place in a dish of water and microwave)

VEGETABLES/FRUITS

  • frozen microwavable bagged vegetables (usually about 4 minutes in the microwave -- my kids' favorite is the edamame)
  • canned vegetables (heat on stovetop)
  • cranberry sauce
  • applesauce
  • bagged salad
  • cut-up carrots/celery/peppers/mushrooms with ranch dressing or hummus
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STARCH

  • sweet potato (scrub, poke holes with fork, microwave until soft -- about 4 min for small potato; can also heat up canned sweet potatoes, and mash them)
  • potato (heat same as sweet potato; top with butter/cheese/sour cream/bacon bits, etc.)
  • toast with butter, and sprinkled with parmesan and oregano
  • stuffing
  • corn (put the corn with husk on in the microwave, microwave for 3 minutes for one ear, 5 minutes for 3 ears)
  • microwave bagged rice (90 seconds in microwave -- comes in plain and flavors; shelf-bags or frozen)
  • microwave mac and cheese (the single serving cups work great as a side dish for the whole family)

That's it for now! I've got to go -- I only have 5 minutes to make dinner before the kids' baseball and softball games start!