Here’s the thing about dinner: it happens every.night. Sure, when you’re in college or when you are single (or even when you’re a newlywed), you can get away with cereal or cold pizza for dinner on a regular basis. But once kids enter the picture, the dinner dynamic changes – at least it did for me.
I wanted two things: (1) to make dinnertime a place where my family came together to re-connect after a busy day; and (2) to provide my family with a healthful, tasty meal that would nourish and comfort them. I really do like to show my love to family (and friends) through cooking. So what’s the issue? Let me share with you my:
Top 5 Dinner Challenges:
- Time. This is the biggie. For the most part, I walk into the house at about 6:15 p.m. My kids have already been out of school for 3 or 4 hours at that point and are starved. Sure, they eat an after school snack (or two), but by this point in the evening, they are craving a meal. And I have about 30 minutes to deliver in the face of homework, bathtime and bedtime.
- Ingredients. I try to plan out my meals ahead of time. This is the only way I can function! Otherwise, I end up staring into an empty fridge or pantry and puzzling myself with a way to come up with a dish made with a lemon, some sour cream and leftover soup. I need to have my meal components ready to go.
- Nutrition. I’ve said this before: part of my strategy in minimizing the Mommy Guilt that I feel from working outside of the house all day is to give my family a meal that is nutritious. I have this obbsessive idea that – if all else fails – and I wasn’t at the 11am Math Open House – at least I gave you your veggies, doggonit.
- Ideas. There are 365 days in the year. I need to come up with dinner ideas for at least 3/4 of those days. How many times can we eat spaghetti or tacos? HELP.
- Pleasing the Critics. And last, but not least, my family has to like what I make. And I want them to. Id’ like for my dinners to be delicious as well as nutritious so that everyone’s happy.
Enter ReadySetEat.com. Since I was introduced to this site and invited to be on the Shared Tastes Panel, I’ve found myself consulting it on many a weeknight (and not just because I am a ConAgra Foods Blog Ambassador). The site has taken into account many of the challenges that moms face as the Chief Meals Officer of their families and makes it so easy to find a recipe that suits their needs for that day. I can go to the site, select the main ingredient that I have on hand (i.e. Chicken, Beef, Pasta/Rice, Meatless, Pork, Fish) and then select how much time I have to prepare the meal. The site will consider your needs and serve up options that fit. No brain wrestling needed!
Week before last, I made the Lemon Garlic Chicken from Ready Set Eat. I was expecting a quick, decent chicken dish – but I got so much more! The recipe was ridiculously easy to follow and I had all of the ingredients on hand (actually, I substituted Panko breadcrumbs for the Italian-Style breadcrumbs and threw in some Italian seasoning). The result was fantastic. My entire family devoured it and even I was shocked at how flavorful it was. I served it with a salad and green beans. Nutritious, delicious dinner in 30 minutes = mission accomplished!
And, if you’re looking for entertaining ideas, the site is a great resource as well. With the summer season upon us, you might consider adding these crowd pleasers to your party menus:
Sloppy Joe Cornbread Bake. Sloppy Joes are convenient and easy and easy to make whether you’re cooking for two or ten. Plus this bake is a twist on the family favorite that can be made in 30 minutes and uses just 6 ingredients.
Southwest Pasta Salad. With just 7 ingredients you can have another dish ready in less than 30 minutes that everyone will enjoy.
And this one from Reddi-Wip:
Strawberry Shortcake is the quintessential summertime dessert and here’s a new recipe that takes just a couple of minutes and uses Reddi-wip as an ingredient, not just a topping, allowing you to stir in the cream as you go.
It’s a Giveaway! Pay a visit to the Ready Set Eat site and leave a comment telling me what recipe you think would make a great addition to your Memorial Day menu. I’d also love to hear what your top weeknight dinner challenge is. On Friday, June 3 at midnight I’ll select a winner at random for this week’s ConAgra Foods goody bag giveaway filled with treats for your kitchen.
This post is part of a month-long series sponsored by ConAgra Foods. While the content is brand-inspired, all opinions are my own!