When it's 5 p.m. and you haven't even had time to think about dinner yet, let alone prepare a meal from scratch, you don't have to rely on cold cereal or fast food. Many oven cooked meals require little preparation and use only one or two dishes. Simply toss the ingredients together and throw them in the oven for a fast, wholesome meal that will nourish your family.
Moms love casseroles because they can feed a table full of hungry kids with minimal prep time and use minimal dishes. Look for casserole recipes that don't require you to precook any of the ingredients, like noodle casseroles or soup-based casseroles that call for canned and frozen ingredients. For rice-based dishes like broccoli-rice casserole, buy pouches of precooked rice. Serving casseroles can also be a great way to sneak extra veggies into your family's diet -- just layer an extra cup or two of raw greens, broccoli or peas into the dish before popping it in the oven.
Baking your own pizza sounds intimidating, but you can have a fresh pie in and out of the oven faster than the time it takes to get delivery from your local pizzeria. Purchase a prepared pizza dough from the store or see if a local Italian bakery sells dough by the pound. If you buy frozen dough, don't forget to leave it out to thaw for a few hours before dinner time. Let kids help add toppings to their pizza, like jarred tomato sauce, shredded cheese, pepperoni and veggies. After 10 to 20 minutes in an oven set to 450 degrees Fahrenheit, your piping hot homemade pizza pie will be ready to slice, serve and devour.
A dinnertime staple, baked chicken takes just five to ten minutes to prepare. Try rubbing chicken breasts or thighs with butter or olive oil, herbs and spices before baking. Let the meat cook for 45 minutes to an hour, flipping the chicken after the first 35 minutes. As your meal cooks, take advantage of the time to catch up on chores or spend time with your family. Turn easy baked chicken into a balanced meal by tossing a bagged salad with flavorful dressing and slicing fresh fruit for dessert.
Make lasagna as easy and quick as other casseroles by using frozen, cooked lasagna noodles. Brown ground beef or turkey in a skillet with onions, canned diced tomatoes and herbs before pouring it into a casserole dish over a layer of noodles. Top with a few different kinds of cheese and more noodles and bake for about 20 minutes. For a variation, try Mexican lasagna using flour tortillas instead of noodles and black beans, chicken, corn and cheddar cheese for the filling. Serve lasagna with a simple side salad for a nutritious dinner kids will love.