It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year: So How Will I Have Time to Make Dinner?!

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December, in so many ways, is magical. There are pretty lights, great parties and plenty of excuses to have a festive cocktail. It's also the time of year I have to remember to take my meds at the beginning of the day. (Kidding! Sort of.) I'm broke (or about to be), busy, and craving healthy food and family time. But with a little planning and a few favorite recipes, I can enjoy the season and feed my family well.

I count on easy standards to get me through this time, saving the experiments for January when the parties are over and I have plenty of time to pad around my kitchen in yoga pants and sock feet.

Right now, I want hearty meals that can be prepared on the fly, in between school performances, parties, work, holiday shopping, baking for friends and teachers, music recitals, visits from near and far, and massages. (What? The massages are kind of a necessary thing, at least, that's my story and I'm sticking to it. Happy holidays to me!)

For the next few weeks, I'll be relying heavily on a few of my favorite things...

  • 1 Rice dish! Always a hit, and I have cooked rice in the freezer right this second. You want rice dish? I can have it ready in seven minutes.
  • 2 Eggplant Mush Pizza. Just five minutes ago, I pulled out a container of eggplant topping from the freezer. Tonight, I'll need just five minutes to assemble our dinner.
  • 3 Girl Scout Stew. This one will have a twist. Thanks to a recent hunting trip, I'll make it with ground venison instead of beef or turkey. Yum!
  • 4 Pat-in-the-Pan Crust Quiche. This one is so easy, there are endless variations, and I rarely have to make an extra trip to the store to put a couple of quiches together. Bonus: The leftovers, if there are any, are perfect for breakfast!
  • 6 My Favorite Beans and Greens recipe from Better Homes and Gardens. This is a good one, because it doesn't use much meat. We can stay healthy while still enjoying a nourishing meal.
  • 7 Soup, soup, soup. I always have homemade stock in the freezer and can make soup in a few minutes, whether I take out my stick blender to make a cream soup or add it to the slow cooker with other ingredients, so I can walk in to a home-cooked meal at the end of the day.

I do have a little time for more elaborate dishes. Last night, I made venison pie with pastry I made in the food processor. (Have you made pâte brisée in a food processor? So easy, it will change your life.)

Don't get me wrong. We'll definitely be picking up sushi from the grocery store and a pizza here and there, but most of those recipes are easier and quicker than driving to the store. They are also easy to clean up, so we can throw everything in the dishwasher and enjoy each other.

What are your easiest meals? What do you make when you want something homemade but you don't have time to fuss over an elaborate meal?

(Image credits: Anne Wolfe Postic)