I always seem to forget what "got us by" the previous year. Plus, now that we've got a little guy who eats dinners right alongside us, it's a tad more challenging to come up with meals that he'll partake in, as well. There was a time that Dave and I could live on salads almost every night for dinner, but that won't cut it with the munchkin and his super-human appetite along for the ride.
So, here are a few ideas. Feel free to add more in the comments!
- Low-key sandwiches. In the winter, it's a quasi-weekly "soup and sandwich" night (which my husband inevitably turns into a "salad and soup" or "salad and sandwich" night...); in the summer, it's a "sandwich night" (with something as normal-yet-unhealthy as chips on the side, or something healthier like carrots or cooked veggies -- which is more for the toddler than anything). This is also what my mom used to call a smorgasbord night. Just grab some hoagie/sub/whateveryouwannacallthem rolls, set up a station of veggies, meat, cheese, and condiments, and go wild. Hey, it's better than Subway!
- Another variation on the "smorgasbord" is the "let's see what's in the fridge" meal (probably closer to what a smorgasbord really is). BTW, I feel like the Swedish chef every time I say "smorgasbord." K. So, this is something my sister and I used to do when we ate "picnics" on a blanket on the living room floor. It entails finding cold cuts, cheese to cut up, pickles, olives (if you're into those; I am, but Dave isn't, so it's useless buying them), crackers, carrot sticks (any veggies, really) and dip, granola bars, apples with peanut butter...seriously, anything in the pantry or fridge that could be considered a finger food. It's not necessarily the healthiest thing ever (well, actually, it CAN be, depending on what you have), but it'll work for those "so hot my brain won't work" nights.
- Paninis. Sure, this is a variation on "grilled" (especially if you put something grilled on it) AND "low-key sandwiches", but they're still kind of their own thing. You make the sandwich (including SOME sort of cheese...it's gotta get melty!), then throw it on the grill pan (less messy and less work than a regular grill, honestly), and you're done. You can use no-nitrate cold cuts (or don't, no judging) or leftover grilled chicken; whatev. If you've got a picky eater on your hands (like, I doubt Hadman would eat a balsamic carmelized onion mushroom panini...just a hunch), just make him a grilled cheese and call it a day. Don't stress, guys.
- Pasta. I know it sounds heavy, but seriously -- (lightly cooked) veggies + pasta + pasta water + grated cheese + lemon juice (optional) and seasoning = dinner. Bam.
- Wraps, like sandwiches, are a great light option for those sweltering evenings. They can turn a boring sandwich into more of a restaurant-like experience. Just think of what you'd like to order and see if you can recreate it at home! And don't worry if you don't wrap it up perfectly; it's the taste that counts. (And toothpicks help!)
- Stir-fry. Again, it sounds heavy, but when you don't go heavy (like teriyaki) and aim more for veggies (and maybe chicken) on some rice, you'd be surprised. Especially if you keep it bright and light with some citrus. Yum...I think I'll make that tonight. :-) I did. Don't forget to use soy sauce...instead of Worcestershire.
- Quesadillas. You can make this as complicated, traditional, or simple as you'd like. Here's a recipe for a black bean quesadilla I made awhile back, but you could easily just make a simple chicken or beef quesadilla, or push the envelope with something more "daring" (as daring as food can be, I guess) like a breakfast version with sausage or a buffalo chicken version -- which my husband would go nuts over. Oh, and you can probably tell that if there's melted cheese on something, it ups the chance of our little guy's eating it. Clearly.
- Speaking of breakfast, this is a go-to anytime of the year for me: breakfast for dinner. Whether it's pancakes, french toast, omelets or simply eggs/toast/hash browns, this is a quick, relatively light way to get some food down your family's gullet.
And if all else fails, make a couple of grown-up salads will grilled meat and give your munchkin some of his own grilled meat, some heated-up frozen veggies, and a cheese stick (or, our son's latest FAVORITE, pineapple) and call it a day. It's hot, after all. Don't knock yourself out.