6 days left -- ready or not Christmas is almost here!
'Tis the season for juggling ALL the regular life things (work, errands, shlepping kids to activities, fitting in a workout) AND ALL the holiday stuff (decorating, baking, Christmas cards, parties).
AND, with your "to do" list longer than ever, you still have to figure out what to cook for dinner.
When life is busy, it's SO dang tempting to say "screw cooking dinner" and order pizza or head through the drive-thru instead.
Who has time to add "cooking dinner" to the list?
It may truly feel like there's absolutely no way you can make time to plan and cook dinner.
BUT YOU CAN!
How do I know you can do it?
Because I've been where you are.
There are days where my "to do" list only grows longer......and longer.
There are absolutely days where plans are completely tossed because carpool falls through, or someone gets sick, or an appointment needs to get rescheduled.
But the one thing that never changes -- making time to cook dinner.
These are the 3 steps I always follow to make prepping, planning and cooking dinner easy........even when I don't have a lot of time.
Here are 3 easy steps to help you meal plan when you're short on time.
STEP 1: STOCK YOUR PANTRY, FRIDGE AND FREEZER WITH FOOD THAT MAKES EASY, TASTY MEALS
This may seem like a "no brainer" but here's a little challenge for you. Go take a peek in your pantry.
Yep, right now.
What did you find? Lots of half eaten chip bags? Cereal you bought, but no one is eating? Mayo? Mustard? Random jar of pickles?
What about your fridge? And your freezer?
Did you find some wilted vegetables? Marinara sauce? Frozen peas? Frozen ground beef you bought on sale?
Now imagine what it would feel like if you could turn what you already have into a super tasty dinner?
A can of black beans + a can of fire roasted tomatoes + chicken broth + rotisserie chicken becomes chicken tortilla soup.
A can of coconut milk + red curry paste + onion + garlic + ginger + shrimp + rice turns into shrimp curry.
That marinara sauce and frozen beef transforms into delicious meatballs.
Yes, you can absolutely add MORE to these dinners --- like your favorite spices, extra vegetables or different grain -- but these dinners can be on the table in less than 30 minutes with items you already have.
IF you prepare and stock up. For ideas on what you should always have on hand, download The Perfectly Stocked Kitchen Checklist.
You can still have chips (I ALWAYS have tortilla), but you should also have staples that can be turned into dinner.
STEP 2: FOCUS ON JUST 3 INGREDIENTS
Now that your kitchen is all stocked up, it's time to plan for dinner tonight.
Pick 3 ingredients -- a protein, vegetable and grain.
You can always build onto those ingredients with spices. But it's important to find a good starting point. And picking just 3 ingredients keeps it super simple and easy.
So what 3 ingredients are you going to pick tonight? Let's get the conversation started in the comments!
STEP 3: PICK THE COOKING METHOD THAT WORKS FOR THE TIME YOU HAVE
Working with ingredients you already have AND choosing the cooking method that works best for the time you have makes cooking dinner so much easier and less stressful.
Let's say you've picked chicken as your protein, and you need it ready in 30 minutes, you'll want to use boneless chicken because it will cook faster.
If you only have chicken breasts, place them between two large pieces of saran wrap, and pound them thin.
Thin chicken breasts are perfect for chicken piccata. Sauté the chicken in butter and lemon juice. Add in some capers and parsley at the very end and VOILÀ......dinner is ready!
Don't want to mess with a pan on the stove?
Cook your chicken in an Instant Pot, or Crockpot.
Have more time to cook?
Put chicken on a sheet pan, sprinkle with salt, pepper, drizzle with olive oil and bake at 400 for 20-30 minutes. If the chicken has bones, it will take closer to 45 minutes.
YES, these are SUPER basic instructions, but there are a GREAT starting point. Add whatever spices you like (I'm currently obsessed with za'atar and aleppo pepper), or extra garlic, or an extra squeeze of lime juice.
These 3 easy steps are a starting point that can make cooking dinner WAY less stressful and overwhelming.
And basic and simple is the best way to start on your path to menu planning.
Now, you didn't think I'd give you the steps without a kick a$$ recipe, did ya?
This BBQ chicken pizza is EXACTLY what you can make if you follow these steps.
It's made with basic ingredients you should always have on hand: rotisserie chicken, pizza dough (Trader Joe's is, hands down, my favorite -- and freezes beeeeeautifully!), and cheese.
You can go CRAZY and add veggies (red peppers and artichoke hearts would be super tasty), or leave as is. This recipe is meant to adapt to what you have on hand in your perfectly stocked kitchen.
And you can cook it quickly in your oven, there's practically no clean up needed, AND your stove stays nice and clean.
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Barbecue Chicken Pizza
Serves: 2-4 Total Time: 30 minutes
- Olive oil for brushing
- Your favorite pizza dough (I like Trader Joe's)
- 1/2 cup (4 fl. oz./125 ml) barbecue sauce
- 1 cup (4 oz./125 g) shredded mozzarella cheese
- 1 cup (6 oz./180 g) shredded cooked chicken
- 1/4 small red onion, thinly sliced
- 1 jalapeño chile, thinly sliced (optional)
- 1/4 cup (2 oz./60 g) crumbled cotija cheese
- Fresh cilantro leaves for garnish
- Prepare a hot fire in a grill. Turn the center burner to medium-low heat or arrange the coals so the center of the grill is at medium-low heat and the edges are at high heat. Lightly brush a steel grill pizza pan with olive oil.2
- Transfer dough to the prepared pizza pan. Spread the sauce evenly on the dough, leaving a 1/2-inch (12-mm) border uncovered. Sprinkle with the mozzarella cheese. Top with the chicken, onion and jalapeños.
- Place the pizza pan in the center of the grill and cover the grill. Bake until the crust is crisp and well browned and the cheese is melted, 5 to 6 minutes. Transfer the pizza to a cutting board and top with the cotija cheese and cilantro leaves. Cut into slices and serve immediately.