8 Make-Ahead Dinners for Busy School Nights

The end of summer is fast approaching. Those endless stretchy days and unenforced bedtimes are soon to be a thing of the past. Often with school’s start comes the tidal wave of afterschool activities, and the attendant shuttling and traffic and general impediments to getting dinner on the table before 9 pm.

We’ve collected some of our favorite recipes to get dinner on the table fast – from the make-ahead, to the barely-takes-time to make. Best yet: all these recipes are healthy, tasty and kid-approved.

  1. salad trioFresh Salad Trio. While best at the peak of summer, when the tomatoes and corn are super-sweet and delicious, these salads can be made year-round. These salads beg to be made ahead of time – the dressings soak into the veggies, making them more flavorful as the days goes by. Enjoy them as a light dinner with some bread or toast, or serve as an easy make-ahead side.
  2. Cauliflower-Crust Pizza. Yup, you can make pizza crust out of cauliflower. This take on the classic pizza is so cheesy and delicious your kids will never notice the missing grains. Make and bake the crust ahead of time, then add your choice of toppings when you’re ready to bake.
  3. pasta with peasPasta with Peas, Parmesan and Mint. This unique spin on pesto pasta can be on the table in 30 minutes from start to finish. It’s also a dinner you can feel good about, with a healthy dose of peas. And a dinner your kids will devour without even realizing they’re eating their veggies. Cut more time out of your evening routine by preparing the pea “pesto” ahead of time. Add some pre-grilled chicken for a heartier meal.
  4. Baked Sweet Potatoes with Crispy Kale and Feta. What list of recipes would be complete without kale? This light, healthy dinner or heavy side dish is loaded with vitamins, minerals and taste. You can omit the feta for the kids if the taste is too strong – all the more for you!
  5. one pot chickenOne-Pot Chicken and Broccoli. Oh crock pot. How we love thee. This crock pot meal has minimal cleanup (one pot!) and amazing flavor. The addition of coconut milk gives it a sweet and slightly exotic flavor, but not so much that your kids will balk. This meal has the added bonus of being super healthy, with brown rice, antioxidant-rich broccoli and lean chicken.
  6. Red Lentil Soup. Make a double batch of this hearty, healthy and vegan soup on a weekend. It freezes perfectly, and will give you a go-to for those nights when you only have the time and energy to reheat. Add some chicken sausage for a heartier bowl.
  7. quicheCustomize Your Quiche. Often overlooked, quiche is a great go-to for busy weekday nights. The recipe here calls for asparagus, broccoli and ham, but you can throw in whatever veggies you’d like, and bacon or sausage can easily be substituted for the ham or omitted all together to make it vegetarian. It’s a great thing to cook when you aren’t sure what to make and have eggs, veggies and cheese on hand. You can also make the quiche ahead of time and keep in the fridge for a day or two.
  8. Pronto Pizzeria’s Meatballs. Make these meatballs ahead and keep them in the freezer for a quick protein addition to your favorite pasta or sandwich. You’ll also get plenty of bonus points from the kids for this savory, flavorful recipe.

Ali Wilkinson
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Ali Wilkinson

Online Editor at PDX Parent
Ali Wilkinson is the Online Editor for PDX Parent, and is one of the founders of PDX Kids Calendar. She loves exploring Portland with her three small children, especially when the explorations lead outdoors, to music or to ice cream. You can read more from Ali at www.runknitlove.com.
Ali Wilkinson
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