Coming Home from a Long Day at the Office… to Cook?
One of the biggest challenges working moms experience is the dilemma of what to cook for dinner. It can be exhausting to experience a particularly long or grueling day at work and then come home and find everyone hungry and demanding your attention. What’s worse than this situation is when you have no idea what to cook, or when it seems like driving out again to pick up fast food or pizza is the only option. Worry no more about this situation! By planning out your menus ahead of time, you can save time. Here are five easy menu ideas for working moms.
1. The Pasta/Salad Solution
Pasta is super-easy to make. So is salad. You can be really simple and combine whole wheat pasta with a jar of pasta sauce, and use salad out of a bag for a healthy dinner in about ten to fifteen minutes (yes, faster than ordering pizza).
If you want to be a little more creative, you can make this recipe - which takes about 20 minutes.
Start by boiling your pasta water. It can do its thing while you prepare the sauce. Next, using one tablespoon of olive oil, saute one chopped onion with 2-4 cloves of garlic (how much garlic you use will depend upon how much you and your family enjoy garlic). Sprinkle a pinch (1/8th teaspoon) of sugar over the onion and garlic to help it caramelize and bring out the flavors.
While the onions are caramelizing, prepare your protein. You have a few options here (get creative!) You can use a packet of tofu or a can of black beans for a vegetarian meal, a pound of boneless-skinnless chicken breast, a pound of ground turkey, beef, or bison, or you can use my personal favorite - andouille sausage sliced into 1/2 inch rounds.
Once your onions have caramelized, add your protein to the pan, followed by fresh-ground pepper, italian seasoning, and a sprinkle of salt. Once browned, add a half teaspoon of worschester sauce and 1/2 cup of red wine (I use port wine). Add your favorite jar of pasta suace. Next. chop up a red pepper, a green bell pepper, and 4 scallions and add them to the mix. Let it simmer while your pasta cooks.
To make the bagged salad more exciting, you can chop up tomatoes and cucumbers (and any other favorite vegetables you like) and add them to the mix. The pasta/salad solution will have food on the table in less than thirty minutes, and it’s super easy - the first meal I learned to create.
2. The Stir-Fry Solution
Creating a stir-fry is a great quick and healthy option for dinner. You can use up lots of veggies, and you can be creative. To start, you’ll want to decide whether you want your stir fry over rice or if you want it mixed with noodles. Rice takes a bit longer - up to 45 minutes, so you should start your rice when you get home. Rice is made using two parts water to one part rice. I typically add a splash of olive oil to the mix so that the rice doesn’t stick.
Now comes the fun part - putting together the stir-fry. Start with onions and garlic. Then add vegetables and a protein. I’ve made tofu and egg stir-fries with broccoli and carrots (possibly the fastest of the bunch) in under ten minutes for this part. If you need inspiration, think about the things that are in your favorite Asian dish. Sometimes I’ve created stirfries with leftover veggies that need to be used up, mixing and mashing different things together.
You don’t need fancy sauces, just creativity. Use one oil (I suggest olive oil), one vinegar or wine, and 2-3 seasonings for a simple dish.
3. Rice and Beans
Beans and rice is a staple dish for easy menus for working moms. There are a few ways you can do this. Here are some ideas:
1. Canned baked beans with sausage added over rice.
2. Canned black beans with bell peppers, onions, and either ham or turkey deli-cut meat added over rice.
3. Canned chilli over rice (or over couscous) with a little cheese.
4. Homemade red beans over rice - simply start the beans in a slow cooker before you leave for work. Saute some onions and celery together, add sausage to the mix, some seasonings, and red kidney beans to the slow cooker and let it do the hard work while you’re out and about.
5. Homemade chili over rice (or bread, or couscous) - one bag of pinto beans, a can of tomato paste, sauteed onions, bell pepper, ground turkey or beef go into your slow cooker.
4. The Slow-Cooked Solution
A slow cooker, if you haven’t noticed, is an outstanding addition for your kitchen if you’re a working mom in need of easy menu ideas. Take some boneless skinless chicken breasts (or a whole chicken, or a beef or pork roast) and put it into your slow-cooker in the morning. Add some onions, vegetables, and potatoes (if you’re not doing rice). A delicious meal will be awaiting your return.
5. The Breakfast for Dinner Solution
Finally, if you like eggs, they are surprisingly easy to cook. An omelette requires a frying pan. Take 3 eggs for each omelette, add a splash of milk, beat the eggs. Heat 1/2 tablespoon butter or margarine in a pan. Add salt and pepper as desired. When the eggs cook, add your fillings. Classic omelette fillings include cheese, ham or turkey, tomatoes, green onions, bell peppers, but you can really add whatever you like - have leftover taco meat? It makes an awesome omelette with a little salsa and some avocado.
Scrambled eggs, egg sandwiches, and breakfast burritos are all super-easy and super-quick to make for dinner.