Feeding the Family – FAST

Tennis season has arrived, or whatever summer sport you may happen to enjoy. Many of you may also have children who participate in baseball, soccer, swimming and/or flag football, all of which seem to start at 6 p.m. On nights like these, you may have an urgent need to get the family fed —fast!

Though a safe fallback might be Mac ‘N Cheese, frozen pizza or take-out, there are healthier alternatives that aren’t much more time-consuming. After all, with busy summer schedules, you need the fuel to perform!

Here are a few ideas to speed things up when you’re on a tight schedule.

Plan ahead.  Even if you’re not a big planner, it’s good to mark your calendar for those nights packed with activities. Think about what you can make for dinner – beforehand.

Prep ahead. Chop vegetables and carry out other easy meal prep – before the busy night arrives, maybe even at the start of the week. Then you have an ample supply of sides to steam, bake or broil at the last minute.

Make it ahead. Though double duty is required, you can make two dinners in one evening and have the second dish when you need the speed. Some great ideas for make-ahead meals include spaghetti, spaghetti casserole,  quiche, frittatas, and chicken divan.

Marinate and rub. One of easiest and tastiest ways to prepare chicken, pork or beef is to marinate it. And if you forget to combine ingredients before you leave for work, a dry or wet rub is another great option after you get home.

Stir Fry it. Stir fries can be combined in an instant, especially if you prep ahead. With a little garlic, ginger and soy sauce – you’ve got a meal fit for a king. Add some curry paste and coconut milk, and you’ve turned it into Thai.

Bean it! Canned and frozen beans are a great source of protein, fiber and vitamins – and can be prepared quickly and easily. Easy meals include bean burritos, red beans and rice and Southern favorite, hoppin’ john (black-eyed peas over rice).

Slow cook it. It’s hard to beat a slow cooked, worry-free meal that fills the home with a wonderful aroma all day. If it’s too hot for a soup, then try cooking chicken, garbanzo beans, black beans or my favorite, pork verde.

Don’t cook it. You can also quickly throw together a delicious salad and add some canned tuna or white beans on top for extra protein. If the kids don’t like it, then try wrapping it up in a tortilla to disguise what’s inside.

Drink It. If all else fails and you don’t have time to make dinner before the activities occur, then make protein shakes to sustain yourself and the little ones till everyone can eat – later.

Melinda Hinson