Quick and easy after-school meals that are child’s play

Four delicious meals with easy prep which take no longer than 40 minutes to cook

Chicken Curry in a Hurry: the perfect after-school meal

Chicken Curry in a Hurry: the perfect after-school meal

 

I find the dreaded after-school frenzy can be one of the most stressful times of the day.

The kids are exhausted, sometimes even emotionally drained from a full day of school activities. It can be overwhelming for a parent having a huge checklist looming that has to be ticked off each day: after-school activities, homework, dinner, then bedtime, which has a whole other checklist of its own!

Fitting in at least 30 minutes of chill-out time every day can be a life-saver, giving the kids the freedom to have a breather when they come in the door just to play or unwind. Another major de-stresser is having a few simple, easy meals up your sleeve that the kids can actually help you make, dishes that you can prepare together after the kids have had that all-important breather.

I know it may sound crazy having kids in the kitchen in the midst of all that after-school mayhem, but they do love to help and thrive on responsibility. There are so many age-appropriate jobs in the kitchen, even from an early age. Also, it can be great bonding time. I find this the best time for little chats with Lily Mae (5).

Having a simple meal plan organised for the week, especially for the first few weeks back to school, really can lighten the load.

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So here are some meals with easy prep that take no longer than 40 minutes to cook from fridge to fork.

1. Pizza Pasta

Serves 4
- You will need a saucepan and an ovenproof dish. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees, gas mark 4.
- Cook 200g of fusilli pasta according to the packet instructions.
- While the pasta is cooking, crush one garlic clove, dice one red pepper and slice 200g of chorizo.
- When the pasta is cooked, drain and add in the red pepper, chorizo and garlic to the pot, and season lightly with salt and pepper.
- Pour in 200g of passata and a tablespoon each of red pesto and dried oregano. Mix thoroughly then transfer to an oven-proof dish.
- Finish with a scattering of mature white cheddar on top.
- Place on the bottom shelf of the oven and cook for 30 minutes.

2. Healthy Pot Noodles

Serves 4
- You will need a saucepan and a wok.
- Cook 140g of medium egg noodles according to the packet instructions.
- When they are cooked, drain and toss in a little olive oil to prevent them from sticking together. Cover the noodles and leave to one side.
- Meanwhile, add a tablespoon of olive oil to your wok and place over a medium heat.
- Dice four chicken breasts and add to the wok, cooking for 15 minutes.
- Add 1 crushed garlic clove, 15g of frozen peas, 15g of sweetcorn, and season with salt and pepper.
- Stir fry for another 10 minutes then pour in a chicken stock cube dissolved in 30ml of water, along with a splash of soy sauce.
- Toss in the cooked egg noodles and serve in little pots.

3. Chicken Curry in a Hurry

Serves 4
- You will need a large, heavy-based saucepan.
- Dice four chicken breasts, crush one garlic clove, slice one medium white onion and two stalks of celery.
- Pour a glug of olive oil into your heavy-based saucepan and saute the onion, garlic and celery for a few minutes until softened.
- Add the chicken and cook for another 10 minutes.
- Sprinkle in a heaped tablespoon of plain flour and stir.
- Slowly add in a pint of hot chicken stock, quarter pint by quarter pint, giving a good stir until the mixture looks thick with no lumps.
- Finish by sprinkling in a heaped tablespoon of mild curry powder, a teaspoon of turmeric and a teaspoon of dried ginger.
- Turn the heat down low and simmer for 20 minutes.

4. Quesadillas

Serves 2, depending on how hungry you are!
- You will need a small saucepan and a large frying pan.
- Start by making your salsa: Dice one red onion, one green pepper, one red pepper and crush one garlic clove.
- Throw into the saucepan over a medium heat with a glug of olive oil and saute for about six minutes until the onion has become a little caramelised.
- Pour in a 200g tin of chopped tomatoes and season with a little salt and pepper.
- Sprinkle in a ½ teaspoon each of cumin, oregano and brown sugar, then finish with a squeeze of fresh lime juice.
- In a frying pan big enough to hold a flat tortilla wrap, heat a glug of olive oil then fry one side of your tortilla wrap until crispy. Take out and leave to one side.
- Repeat with a second wrap then top with 2 tablespoons of salsa, spreading it out making sure the wrap is evenly covered.
- Sprinkle with grated white cheddar cheese then top with the first cooked wrap, crispy side up.
- Cook until the cheese is melted and oozing.
- Cut into quarters like a pizza and serve with a dollop of sour cream.

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