When you come home late after a long day at work, cooking an elaborate dinner is probably the last thing you want to do. Fortunately, plenty of healthy dishes require little or no preparation and help you get dinner on the table in less than 30 minutes. When conjuring up fast meals to prepare when you're too tired, the key is simplicity. Save your fancy, more involved meals for a night when you're not so beat.
Cooking pasta can be as complex or simple as you want it to be. While many traditional Italian sauces require at least a half a day of slow cooking, there's no shame in whipping up a pasta dish in 15 minutes if you have hungry kids. Keep your recipe as simple as possible. Buy good quality dry pasta, such as ziti, tortellini, fettuccini or spaghetti, and boil until soft. Add some fresh sautéed veggies to a can of tomatoes for an easy sauce, or just top your pasta with some extra virgin olive oil, salt and oregano.
Grilled Chicken Breast
Cook chicken breasts easily with a little salt, pepper, oil and lemon, or just sprinkle ranch dressing mix over chicken breasts for a quick and flavorful dish. Chicken is high in protein and goes well with just about any vegetable or starchy side dish. Throw your chicken on the grill or into a frying pan on the stovetop to get started, flipping it every so often to brown it evenly. Chicken is safely done when it reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, so use a meat thermometer to get it done just right. Serve chicken with a healthy green vegetable, such as broccoli or green beans, and a side of baked potato, all of which are easy to prepare and can cook while the chicken is getting done.
Sandwiches are an easy sell, especially if you already know what kind of sandwiches your family members like. Keep ingredients like whole-wheat bread, cheese, tomatoes, lettuce, deli meats and mayonnaise on hand for those nights when you really don't feel like cooking. Chances are your family will appreciate the chance to eat a typical lunch food for dinner. Accompany the sandwiches with some canned tomato soup and cut-up veggies with a creamy dip.
The temptation to order pizza when you're too tired to cook can be great, but making your own pizza is easier than it sounds. All you need is some ready-made pizza dough, which is available at almost any grocery store, and your toppings. Marinara sauce and grated mozzarella cheese are all you need for cheese pizza, but for extra zest, include caramelized onions, olives, pineapple and broccoli. If there are meat lovers in the family, use pre-sliced pepperoni. Pizza cooks quickly in the oven, so keep a close eye on it to prevent burning.
When done right, omelets are real crowd-pleasers that don't require much preparation and won't break the bank. You need a good non-stick pan or you'll spend more time scraping egg off the pan than you do cooking the eggs. Sautéed green peppers, onions and mushrooms are traditional fillings, and you can top off the omelets with grated sharp cheddar. But don't be afraid to go in your own direction, such as filling your omelets with stewed apples, then topping them with berries and a dollop of yogurt.