Dinner can be a crazy, hectic time, especially for families. And getting food on the table quickly is often a challenge for busy families who arrive home from activities when everyone is hungry and ready to eat.
The MOMS (Moms Offering Moms Support) Club of Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake has plenty of collective wisdom about how to accomplish this. Here are some of their tips for speedy dinners.
u Prepare the meat ahead of time. Club member Heather Schwartz of Burnt Hills likes to grill a bunch of chicken, sausage and pork chops on the weekends, enough to last through the week. “Then all you have to do is a vegetable and a salad,” she said.
Vice President of Membership Erin Delnick of Glenville has to leave the house for work 30 minutes after her husband comes home. To make dinner easier, she cooks a lot of chicken on Sunday, enough for three different meals such as stir fry, quesadillas and tacos. “I’ll have onions and peppers already cut up in the freezer,” she said.
u Cook more than you need for one night. The club’s co-president, Kirsten Ford of Scotia, plans meals two to three weeks in advance. She always includes meals that she can make in batches that are about three times what her family would eat at one meal and then freezes the rest.
Delnick prepares big batches of ziti that will provide leftover meals for other nights.
Stacy Herbage of Burnt Hills, the club’s other co-president, makes and freezes big batches of chili and soups that she defrosts the night before she wants to serve them.
Cooking more than she needs for one meal lets Herbage’s meals do double duty. She’ll take the leftovers and turn them into a different meal. For example, she turns leftover pulled pork or roast chicken into enchiladas. Grilled sausage and peppers as well as meatballs become ingredients for a lasagna. Chili one night goes on nachos the next. She turns pot roast leftovers into sandwiches with the addition of roasted red peppers and pesto on good bread.
• Have a staple of quickies. “Breakfast for dinner is a huge favorite in my house,” Ford said. It’s also quick. Another is pizza. A trick that Delnick uses with pizza and quesadillas is to have her kids help her prepare them. It takes their minds off waiting for dinner to be ready.
Stir fry is another quick meal. Ford cooks up kielbasa and then adds pasta, pesto and a few vegetables, such as peas, sugar peas, green beans, peppers or cauliflower. “It takes about 15 minutes from start to finish,” she said.
Delnick purchases pre-seasoned fish from the supermarket that can be cooked in the oven in 15 to 20 minutes.
• Cook dinner in the morning. The crock pot is a great tool. Ingredients go in in the morning and are ready to eat at dinner time.
The Burnt Hill club, with 26 members, is part of MOMS, an international nonprofit organization for mothers.
Pumpkin Macaroni and Cheese
Recipe from Kirsten Ford of Burnt Hills.
This freezes well. Ford makes a double batch and freezes in both small disposable foil pans (enough for just the family of four) so she has a quick one night dinner, and she puts some into larger foil pans in case she wants to have a leftover type dinner or she has company.
“I pull it out of the freezer and pop it in the oven and I'm done,” Ford said. “The kids don’t know there is cauliflower or pumpkin in it! I love that they literally eat a plate that’s just full of vegetables!”
1 12-ounce box uncooked elbow macaroni (she likes to use a veggie pasta to increase the nutritional value)
2 cups cauliflower (frozen or fresh)
1⁄4 cup unsalted butter
1⁄4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups milk
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
1⁄4 teaspoon pepper
1⁄4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1⁄4 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
1 cup canned pumpkin puree
11⁄2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup Gruyere cheese
1⁄2 cup of bread crumbs
Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook macaroni as directed on package. Add cauliflower to the pasta water halfway through the cooking time. While macaroni is cooking, melt butter in a medium saucepan over low heat. Stir in flour and cook while stirring, 1 minute. Remove from heat and stir in milk. Place back onto heat and bring to a simmer. Simmer and stir 1 minute until thickened. Stir in salt, pepper, nutmeg, garlic powder, mustard and pumpkin puree. Add the cheese then cook, stirring occasionally, until cheese is melted.
Drain macaroni. Add macaroni/cauliflower into cheese sauce and stir until coated. Pour into a baking dish. Sprinkle the top with breadcrumbs. Bake uncovered 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown on top.
The following recipes are from Stacy Herbage of Burnt Hills:
1⁄4 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon grated lime rind
21⁄2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
11⁄2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1⁄2 teaspoon dried oregano
1⁄2 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 (14.25 ounce) can low salt beef broth
1 (1-pound) flank steak
1 pound chicken
2 red bell peppers, cut into wedges
2 green peppers, cut into wedges
1 large onion cut into wedges
Add to mix tortillas, salsa, sour cream, cilantro, Mexican cheese blend, beans, rice.
Prepare marinade by combining first 10 ingredients.
Trim fat from steak and score a diamond pattern on both sides. Combine 11⁄2 cups marinade, steak and chicken in one zip bag. Refrigerate 4 hours or overnight, turning occasionally. Do the same for the peppers and onions in a separate bag from meat.
Prepare grill. Remove the meat and discard the marinade. Remove veggies and reserve marinade in a sauce pan. Place steak, chicken and veggies on grill rack coated in cooking spray. (She also cooks the veggies in a sauté pan on the stove.) Cook 8 minutes or until desired degree of doneness.
Wrap tortillas in foil tightly, place packet on grill for the last 2 minutes of grilling time.
Bring reserved marinade to a boil on stove. Cut meats diagonally across the grain into thin slices. Place all meat and veggies on a serving platter and pour marinade over top.
Arrange your tortillas how you like with all your favorite fixings and enjoy!
Quesadillas with the Leftovers
The following day for lunch or dinner enjoy some left-over quesadillas by dicing up the left-over peppers, onion and meat of your choice.
Take a large pan on the stove and place a tortilla in it, leaving stove on medium high heat.
Add Mexican cheese to tortilla and wait until cheese starts to melt. Add peppers, onion and meat and place another tortilla onto the top. Using a large spatula flip the tortilla over and leave in pan a few seconds until bottom start to brown. Glide out of pan onto a cutting board, cut into 8 triangles and serve with your favorite toppings. Enjoy!