When you get home from work, the last thing you want to do is slave in the kitchen all night. Creating quick and satisfying meals for your family will keep everyone happy and give you more time to enjoy together. Check out these easy-to-make meals that don't lack in flavor.
Spaghetti and Meatballs
This Italian classic is easy to make and will fill your family up. Use whole wheat pasta for a healthier spin or, for a gluten-free dish, substitute rice pasta. Angel hair pasta takes only about three minutes to cook al dente, and its whole wheat counterpart takes about six. Rice noodles also are a quick fix with a cooking time of just a couple of minutes.
Macaroni and Cheese
Macaroni and cheese is a favorite meal for kids and adults alike. For a fancier variety, use fontina cheese rather than cheddar. Add some broccoli to get in some greens. This easy dish should take only 20 minutes from start to finish.
Everyone loves burgers! Top them with your favorite sauteed veggies and cheese, and garnish with lettuce and tomato. If you don't have a grill, cook them on the stove or in the oven. Medium-well burgers take about four minutes to cook; for well-done patties, add another minute or so. Watch the time closely, because while you can always throw an undercooked burger back on the grill, overcooked burgers will be dry.
Choose between hard or soft tacos, chicken, beef, pork or shrimp and top with vegetables and cheese for a tasty Mexican meal. With hard-shell or soft-flour tortillas, all you have to cook is the meat. And that's just a quick -- under 10 minutes -- saute in the frying pan. If you're using ground meat, break it up with a spatula as you brown it. Spoon it into your tortilla, add lettuce, tomato and cheese plus a dollop of salsa or splash of hot sauce for a kick.
Pick up some cold cuts from your local grocery, boil some 10-minute eggs, and whip up a quick salad that the whole family will like. Chef salads are usually made with ham, turkey, chicken, roast beef or any combination. Cucumbers, tomatoes and lettuces also are staples in this dish.
It can take an hour to bake pork chops in the oven, so try frying them in a little olive oil in a cast iron frying pan on medium high to high heat for about 10 minutes to save some time. Add steamed vegetables and you have a well-balanced meal for the family. Don't overcook the chops because they will dry out and get tough.
Combine vegetables, a protein and your favorite stir-fry sauce for a tasty meal in minutes. Add some egg noodles, which cook in three to six minutes, to complete the dish.
Barbecue Chicken with Baked Potato and Corn
Add some flavor to your grilled chicken breasts by slavering them in barbecue sauce before throwing them on the grill or baking them in the oven. Poke some holes in the potatoes with a fork and microwave them for a few minutes on each side to save time in the oven. Butterfly-cut chicken breasts to get the cooking time under 20 minutes.
Fajitas don't have to be a meal saved for dining out. Buy a kit from the grocery store or season your own meat and vegetables to make a meal your family won't soon forget. Depending on the meat you choose, it should take only about 10 minutes to cook the ingredients. Serve on a hot skillet for that authentic dining experience.
Kids love grilled cheese sandwiches. Make an adult version by adding tomatoes, mushrooms or avocado, and substitute fontina for the kids' American or cheddar cheese. Just slather a little butter or margarine on the bread and pan fry for a minute or so on each side until you see golden brown.
Chicken Noodle Soup
Throw leftover chicken into a crock pot with some broth, vegetables and noodles for a meal that is ready when you get home from work. Unless you have a fancy crock pot with a timer, just set it on low when you leave the house and turn it off or to "Keep Warm" when you walk through the door.
Grilled Shish Kebabs
Soak bamboo skewers for about 20 minutes in water before creating vegetable and meat shish kebabs. Best done on the grill, where they take only about 10 minutes, kebabs can be cooked in the oven. This fun meal is complete with a side of rice.
Stuffed Bell Peppers
Give vegetables some kid appeal by stuffing bell peppers with seasoned ground beef, tomato sauce, rice and cheese. Sneak in some finely chopped onions and tomatoes if you want. Cook the bell peppers in preheated tomato sauce for 25 minutes at 350 degrees F.
Buy ready-made dough or crusts, add tomato sauce, olive oil or pesto, and toppings for a meal that the entire family will enjoy. Make the kids part of the process by letting them top their own pizzas. Depending on the dough or crust, it will take 15 to 20 minutes to bake your pizzas at 350 degrees F.
Omelet and Fruit
Breakfast for dinner! Everyone can choose what they want to put in their omelet to create a custom, but quick, meal for each family member. Start by sauteing your vegetables and meat, add more oil if needed and pour in your beaten eggs. When the egg on top starts to bubble and dry out a bit, flip it over. Cook for a couple of minutes on the other side, add cheese and fold over. The art of making an omelet takes so practice so don't get discouraged. You can always turn your omelet into a scramble if necessary.