Weeknight dinners are my most frequent and daunting challenge. We try to eat as a family but it doesn't always work. I always swore I would not be one of those moms who cooked separate meals for the kids and the grownups, but here I am, doing just that, more often than I care to admit. The kids are not adventurous. They eat things that are separate. (Mac & cheese might be the only "combo".) Pasta is not covered in anything. Chicken nuggets are not dipped. Not even a little ketchup for the fish sticks most of the time. Compared to a lot of kids, my kids are good eaters, but it is still exasperating to me, the one who loves sushi and appreciates a well-constructed one-dish meal.
Whether we eat as a family, within 20 minutes of walking in the door, or the grownups eat after kids are in bed (8pm, when I can barely keep my eyes open), quick and easy is critical. My main man and nearby neighbor, Trader Joe, is a master at helping me accomplish this task. Tonight it was spaghetti and meatballs. The pasta took the most time.
Another quick meal that makes people think I worked a lot harder involves TJ's frozen chicken breasts, a jar of TJ's curry sauce (they are all good), TJ's frozen brown rice (I actually prefer Whole Foods' version but only because of packaging that enables better portion control) and TJ's garlic naan. I might cut up an onion and throw in a few other veggies. That's another under 20 minute dinner, but one the kids will not touch. And please don't tell my MIL or SIL this is how curry happens in our house, except on rare occasions when I have time to make as they taught me.
A whole family favorite is TJ's mandarin orange chicken. Oliver will dip things in this sauce. I add the brown rice again and broccoli (usually florets in a bag from TJ's). Voila. Orange chicken and broccoli in under 20 minutes. Kids keep it all separate but the adults mix it up and hope someday the kids will catch on.
I would love to cook everything from scratch. I would not have built my kitchen as I did if I didn't love to cook. But these days, my brain is too fried to do anything that even requires reading a recipe.
What's your favorite really fast, no brain required dinner? Bonus points if it's something my kids will eat.