After a long day, who wants to spend a lot of time in the kitchen, especially in the heat of summer? With these quick dishes and smart prep ideas, you can free up your evenings for the important stuff — like relaxing.
Simple and Fresh
These oven-free dishes are ready in a snap.
- Make a Mexican-inspired Bean & Corn Taco Salad by tossing corn, and rinsed and drained canned black beans in a large bowl with diced fresh tomatoes, shredded lettuce and cheese, and crumbled tortilla chips.
- To assemble Tuna & Broccoli Slaw in Lettuce Cups, mix canned tuna with cilantro and ready-made broccoli slaw, then toss with a dressing of rice vinegar, sesame oil, honey and grated ginger. Serve wrapped inside Boston lettuce leaves.
- For a hearty White Bean, Plum & Kale Salad, toss sliced hard-boiled eggs, shredded kale, drained and rinsed canned white beans, and juicy quartered pitted plums with a simple red wine vinaigrette.
- Light yet satisfying Shrimp Salad Rice Wrapper Rolls are easy to prepare. Simply wrap shrimp, shredded vegetables and mango, rice noodles and fresh mint leaves in rice paper rounds or lettuce leaves. Optional addition: Serve with dipping bowls of your favourite peanut sauce.
- Summery No-Cook Prosciutto & Arugula Pizza is even quicker than delivery: Just top naan with pesto, arugula, prosciutto and grated Parmesan cheese.
Fired Up and Fast
Take advantage of grilling season with these quick meals.
- To make fragrant Chili & Lime Grilled Chicken, marinate boneless, skinless chicken breasts and thighs in a mixture of lime juice and zest, diced jalapeño, oil, salt and pepper. Grill and serve alongside fresh corn on the cob.
- Grilled Pork Chops & Green Mango Salad is simple to prepare. The meat is seasoned with just olive oil, salt and pepper, while a green mango shredded on a grater makes a fresh base for an Asian-inspired dressing.
- Grilled Sausage with Garlic Bread & Quick Bean Salad is hearty without being heavy, and the salad can easily be prepped a day in advance.
- For scrumptious Greek-Style Grilled Salmon Packets, top salmon fillets with lemon slices and a herbed olive-feta mixture, and then wrap inside collard leaves and grill. Serve with warm grilled pita and creamy tzatziki sauce.
- Give your Grilled Ham & Halloumi Ploughman’s Platter the barbecue treatment: Thick slices of halloumi cheese, rustic country bread and ready-to-eat ham steak all shine when grilled. Serve with dressed arugula or salad greens and your favourite pickles, mustard and chutney.
For the quick dishes above or any regular weeknight meal, a little prep work will shave precious minutes off your cooking time.
- Marinate meat and fish in the fridge the evening or morning before so the flavours have infused by the time you’re ready to cook.
- Switch canned beans for dried. Boil up big batches, and then separate them into smaller portions in freezer bags, ready to defrost meal by meal. Bonus: You’ll save cash, too!
- Put dressing ingredients into Mason jars in advance and keep refrigerated. You just need to shake to combine when you’re ready to dress your salad.
- Pre-shred or pre-slice meal ingredients the evening before. Tip: Refrigerate them in clear glass containers so you can easily locate what you need.
- Start thicker cuts of meat in the slow cooker before leaving for work — they’ll just need a quick sear on the grill.
10-Minute Table Makeover
Even casual weeknight meals can be beautiful — it doesn’t take long! Try one, two or all of the ideas below to add a little summer-weekend feel to the everyday.
- Colourful melamine glasses and plates add a festive touch to meals.
- Place garden blooms on the table, using Mason jars as vases and adding strands of ivy or fern fronds — or even fresh herbs — for pretty seasonal centrepieces.
- A runner of moss topped with stones, acorns and pine cones from the garden (a fun scavenger hunt for the kids!) makes for a Scandinavian-style tablescape.
- Use wooden chopping boards as platters for a rustic look.
- If you’re dining beyond dusk, place tea light candles in dainty teacups for soft, twinkly light. Or run a string of fairy lights down the centre of the table, concealing the wire beneath greenery and large blooms.
- Add berries or freshly cut citrus slices to the water jug.
- Keep napkins from blowing away by weighing them down with smooth, clean pebbles.
- Fold pretty dish towels in two to use as placemats.
Meat Safety Basics
Here’s a quick refresher for safer grilling.
- Make the meat department your last stop at the grocery store. Double-bag purchases so juices don’t leak and put them straight into the fridge or freezer when you get home.
- Thaw and marinate meat in the fridge, not at room temperature.
- Keep raw meat on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator, and store it away from foods such as salads and cheeses to avoid contamination.
- Wash your hands well before and after handling raw meat.
- Don’t go by appearances — check the internal temperature of grilled meat with a thermometer. Health Canada says beef should be at least 63°C (145ºF), pork 71°C (160ºF), chicken pieces 74°C (165ºF) and whole chicken 85°C (185ºF)