I’ve been there, sister: it’s 5pm and you suddenly realize these kids in your house need to be fed. What can you throw together for dinner in under an hour that won’t take the last little amount of energy you have for the day?
Like I said; I’ve been there. But I keep three specific pieces of equipment in my kitchen that helps me through these last minute panic sessions. And I think you’ll love them, too!
My 3 Top Ways to Get Dinner on the Table in Under an Hour (and keep your weeknight sanity intact!)
1. Oh, bless the wonderful Instant Pot
I know this isn’t yet a staple device in everyone’s homes, but I feel as though it will be eventually.
The Instant Pot is amazing for busy parents, although there is a slight learning curve. It can look super intimidating right out of the box; bear no mind. At first, the only button you’ll need is “pressure cook”- and you’ll be using that button for all sorts of wonderful meals.
One of my favorite things about the Instant Pot, the thing that continues to blow my mind every time I use it, is that you can place a frozen chicken breast, a cup of dried beans, some liquids and seasonings inside and secure the lid, and you can have dinner in under an hour that literally tastes like it’s been simmering on the stove all day.
The Instant Pot cooks food with a combination of steam and pressure, and its capacity for cooking meat from frozen is something I will always love it for. It makes dinner in under an hour a cinch to pull off.
The other day we wanted a spaghetti bolognese, but I forgot to pull ground beef out of the freezer. It went into the Instant Pot for 15 minutes, cooked it from frozen, and I added it to the sauce. I mean, the future is here, guys. And it’s a countertop kitchen device made in Canada and shipped to me from Amazon.
This is the (affiliate!) link on Amazon to the Instant Pot I have at home. I like my particular model because we use it to make homemade yogurt. If you don’t need all the bells and whistles and want to try a smaller one, I’ve heard good things about this smaller size.
2. Easy sheet pan meals.
- Hot oven (I usually go around 400*F)
- Sturdy pan (read: heavy) with a low lip
- Combo of protein-vegetable-starch all tossed in similar seasoning; usually, a dry rub of some sort but sauces work, too
With a sheet pan meal, you can get creative, or you can be lazy.
One of my favorite lazy dinner in under an hour recipes, the one that I usually fall back on those nights of daddy-isn’t-home-so-we’re-fending-dinner-for-ourselves: coat some chicken breasts with egg wash and panko breadcrumbs (they’re crispier!) and bake at 400*F for 12ish minutes alongside broccoli florets tossed in olive oil and salt.
Don’t forget to line the pan with aluminum foil to cut down on your time spent cleaning!
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3. Buy the prepared ingredients.
Don’t get me wrong- I’m not talking processed food here (although that has its place, too) When I say prepared ingredients I mean this: let your grocery store do some of the prep work for you.
Buy the pre-cut celery and carrots. The rotisserie chicken. The frozen chopped fruit chunks. Herb paste.
These ingredients are still good for you, it helps cuts down on your prep time in the kitchen, and they’re usually made with minimally or no processed ingredients. Think of it as you cutting corners, guilt-free. Many nights, making dinner in under an hour means, for me, grabbing the pre-chopped cauliflower florets and pre-breaded chicken cutlets from the deli on the way home from work so I can throw them straight into the oven when I get home. Done.
Because listen, mama. Cooking does not need to look like you hunched over your cutting board every night.
And you deserve a bit of a break, even on the nights you don’t call for pizza delivery.