Welcome to summer, where the sunshine keeps everyone outside until the last minute, it’s too hot to turn on the stove at dinner time, and everybody wants a quick meal so they can get back to playing. None of these things makes feeding a family easy in the hottest months, so it’s helpful to have some make-ahead meal ideas stashed away so you can cook dinner before the kids go to bed the night before, or maybe even over the weekend before work gets in the way.
Here’s a few of our favorite dinners that don’t require more than a few minutes to get out on the table.
1. Grilled Pizza
Making frozen pizzas is an excellent kid-friendly kitchen task that will have you completely ready for when it’s time for a last-minute dinner. Once these par-baked, custom-sized pizzas are frozen and stacked, it’s just a few minutes straight from the freezer to the grill (or oven, if you must) for everyone’s favorite dinner.
2. Summer Vegetable Gratin
Assemble the bounty of your summer garden or farmers market into a pan the night before and you’ll just have to slip the pan into the oven to bake when it’s dinner time. The stacked onions, squash, zucchini, and tomato bring beautiful, healthful colors to the table, and the breadcrumb and cheese topping gives it great texture.
3. Stuffed Peppers
Stuffed peppers are such a fun meal, with a little of everything: the vegetable outside, carbs inside, and cheesy top. But between the cooking and assembly, they can be a bit of a drag to make right before dinner. But by prepping these the night before, you can just get them right into the oven from the fridge and bake them a few extra minutes.
4. Roasted Pepper and Tuna Pasta Salad
One of the best things about hearty tuna pasta salads — like this one — is that they only get better if they sit for a day: the pasta absorbs some of the dressing, and the flavors all have a chance to meld. Not to mention, it’s a nice, cool, no-cooking treat for hot summer evenings.
5. Zucchini Roll-Ups
Ready to add assembling a finger food to your dinner table fun? Prep this recipe the next time you’re grilling, and you’ll have a convenient, interactive meal later that week. You grill the zucchini and put together the cheese mixture which will last a few days in the fridge until you’re ready. Then you can put out the cheese, and the zucchini strips, and let everyone make their own roll-ups.
6. Easy Gazpacho
Gazpacho is the easiest quintessential summer meal. The chilled soup comes together with just a tiny bit of work, no heat involved, and it works great to make ahead because, like so many things, the flavors intensify overnight if allowed to mellow in the fridge.
7. Tomato and Feta Galette
Think of a galette as a fancy way to say “we’re having pie for dinner.” And a pie that we made earlier this week at that: it will store well in a fridge for a few days after you bake it, so it can be either taken out and let come to room temperature or re-warmed in the oven to be ready for dinner.
8. Pesto Chicken Salad Sandwiches
The best pesto chicken salad starts with the best pesto. And once you mix this one up with the chicken, you can keep it in your fridge for a few days until it’s time for dinner. Set it out with some buns to make a quick, simple sandwich dinner.
9. Lemon Quinoa with Currants, Dill, and Zucchini
This grain salad works perfectly to make ahead and serve for dinner the next night and uses the pairing of hearty, nutty quinoa and gentle summer vegetables to stay bright and exciting through to the next day. If you have any leftover protein — chicken, shrimp, salmon, whatever — you can also sprinkle that on top for a slightly heartier version.
10. Lemongrass Grilled Chicken
Grill up a big batch of this simple chicken recipe and then serve it as you wish throughout the week. It works well shoved in a sandwich, over a salad, or on top of a grain bowl. You can marinate the chicken up to a day ahead of time, and it should last in the fridge for about four days, until you’re ready for a quick meal.
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