8 Make-Ahead Summer Dinners That Will Satisfy All Your Cravings

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There are four small kids at my table every night. And at the end of a busy summer day, nothing hits the spot like a dinner that’s already made. These are the time- (and sanity-) saving hits we rely on all summer long.

Sheet-Pan Hits

Sheet-Pan Honey Mustard Chicken with Potatoes & Broccoli

There are two ways to prep this one ahead of time: Cut down on cooking time by marinating the chicken and chopping the veggies in advance, or take it a step further by assembling all the ingredients on a sheet pan before covering with foil and refrigerating until you’re ready to roast.

Roasted Sausage, Sweet Potatoes and Granny Smith Apples

Slice all the ingredients, layering everything on a large baking sheet, and simply cover with plastic wrap. Your instant dinner will move from the fridge to the oven to the table with only the effort it takes to put your hand inside an oven mitt.

Vegetarian Options

Enchilada Casserole with Quinoa and Black Beans

All the rich and smoky flavors of gooey enchiladas with a lighter, veggies-only spin! Serve as is or alongside a stack of warm tortillas.

Summer Vegetable Chili

Full of mushrooms, beans, tomatoes and corn, this lighter version of chili, featured in Food Network Magazine, works perfectly for warm evenings ahead.

Cold Dishes

Kid-Friendly Pasta Salad

The Pioneer Woman’s make-ahead pasta salad, already brimming with grape tomatoes, cheddar cheese and the fun-shaped pasta of your choice, becomes an entree when you add juicy bites of rotisserie chicken.

Couscous with Shrimp, Feta and Cucumbers

All you need is hot water to produce the light and fluffy couscous base for this otherwise no-cook dinner my kids love. Got eaters who are picky? Serve their toppings (shrimp, feta and cucumbers) on the side. #easypeasy

Warm and Fresh

Broccoli with Bow Ties

The key to serving Ina Garten’s perfectly lemony pasta in a flash is making the whole thing ahead of time and storing it in a stovetop-friendly pan. (I like to use the pasta pot I boiled the water in.) Pop it from the fridge to a warm burner set on low for a perfect summer meal in minutes.

Salami-Mozzarella Calzone

I have a friend who routinely makes this for families with new babies, including mine! That’s how make-ahead friendly this calzone, featured in Food Network Magazine, really is. Just assemble the whole thing, then wrap it in plastic to tuck away in your fridge until it’s time to pop it in the oven.

Charity Curley Mathews is the mom of four small kids who eat dinner every single night. She’s also the founder of Foodlets.com, a site full of family experiments in food and parenting. They’re testing all the best fresh and simple family recipes and reporting back on the winners that might work for you, too.