HERE’S A WEEK OF HEALTHY DINNERS TO GET YOU OUT OF THE KITCHEN FAST.
By Rebecca Turner, MS, RD, CSSD, LD
More than a decade of research has shown that spending time gathered around the dinner table is a valuable way to strengthen family bonds. And, children who eat meals with their family tend to get more fruits and vegetables, less saturated fat, and weigh less. Plus, the more often kids eat dinner with their families; the less likely they are to smoke, drink or use drugs. Yet, how can families fit it all into their crazy, busy reality?
Providing quick and healthy meals is a monumental challenge. Busy moms and dads often don’t believe they have the luxury of preparing home-cooked meals, and the prospect of slaving in a hot kitchen is an added deterrent. Try these simple and nutritious dinners that don’t require much time or energy slaving over a hot stove.
make ahead MONDAY
Set your Monday up for success with this slow-cooker recipe for Sweet Chili Chicken.
1 bottle sweet chili sauce
1 – 8 oz. can chunk pineapple in juice
4-6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 cups red, yellow or orange bell peppers, sliced
2 cups of snow peas
2 cups of broccoli florets
INSTRUCTIONS: 1. Place chicken in slow cooker (fresh or frozen). 2. Pour chili sauce and pine-apple with juice over the chicken. 3. Cook on high for 4-6 hours or low for 6-7 hours. (frozen chicken will take longer to cook). 4. About 45 minutes before serving cut chicken into ¾ inch slices and then stir it back into the sauce. 5. Place your choice of vegetables on top of the chicken mixture. 6. Continue cooking in slow cooker on high until vegetables are tender crisp. 7. Serve over brown rice.
Give taco night a new twist and make these super simple, yet bold and delicious black bean and corn quesadillas. Serve with blue corn chips and guacamole.
1 cup Mexican corn, rinsed and drained
1/3 cup salsa
2 tsp. taco seasoning (low-sodium)
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1 cup shredded cheese, 2%
8-6” tortillas (or whole-wheat wraps)
INSTRUCTIONS: 1. In a medium bowl, mix together beans, corn, salsa, taco seasoning and cilantro. 2. Preheat a large skillet over medium low heat, sprayed with cooking spray. 3. Place one tortilla in the skillet, and scoop 1/2 cup of the filling onto the tortilla. 4. Sprinkle 1/4 cup of cheese, and place second tortilla on top of the cheese. 5. Press down on top tortilla lightly with the back of your spatula. 6. When the bottom tortilla begins to brown, flip the quesadilla over until cheese melts. Repeat with additional tortillas. 7. Cut into wedges and serve with plain Greek yogurt and guacamole.
All you need is one pan and your oven to make a nutritious meal in minutes.
1 packet Italian dressing mix
¼ cup olive oil
1 teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
24-ounce package of baby red potatoes, diced
8 ounces frozen cut green beans, thawed
1 (12 ounce) package fully-cooked Italian chicken sausage sliced into ½-inch thick rounds (*deer sausage works well, too)
INSTRUCTIONS: 1. Preheat oven to 400o F. 2. Line a baking sheet with foil and spritz with cooking spray. 3. Place diced potatoes in a large zip-top bag. 4. In a small bowl, whisk together Italian dressing mix, olive oil, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. 5. Pour mixture in with the potatoes, and toss until all the potatoes are coated (saving bag). 6. Remove seasoned potatoes and spread onto prepared baking sheet. 7. Bake for 15-20 minutes, tossing potatoes halfway through. 8. Remove baking sheet of potatoes from oven. 9. Add sliced sausage to the zip-top and toss in seasonings, then add to sheet pan. 10. Bake for approximately 15 minutes more; during the final 5 minutes of cooking time toss the green beans to coat in seasonings, add to the rest of the ingredients on the sheet pan, and return to the oven to finish. 11. The meal is ready when the green beans are tender and the potatoes are crispy on the outside.
Midweek most families need to hit the market for milk or odds-and-ends. Take a moment and go by the grocer’s prepared food section and build your own healthy, ready-to-serve dinner.
Purchase a rotisserie chicken, plus two vegetable sides such as mashed potatoes and asparagus to create an instant balanced dinner meal. Limit fried foods, mac and cheese, and mayo-based salads like pasta or potato. Add color and nutrients with an additional side of fresh sliced tomatoes.
End the week with a healthier pizza and movie night. Flatbread makes homemade pizza with endless topping potential. Don’t know where to start? Try this Margherita pizza.
3 pieces of sliced fresh mozzarella cheese
1 tomato, sliced as thin as possible
5-6 leaves basil
1 tsp dry garlic powder
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. Balsamic vinegar
Salt & pepper to taste
INSTRUCTIONS: 1. Preheat oven to 350 F. 2. Mix garlic powder with oil. 3. Lightly brush the flatbread with garlic oil mixture. 4. Place flatbread in oven for 5 minutes to crisp up. 5. Remove from oven and place the slices of cheese on top of the flatbread, sprinkle with salt & pepper. 6. Place thinly sliced tomatoes on top and repeat with a sprinkling of salt & pepper. 7. Place back in the oven for another 5 minutes. Watch the bread, if its gets too dark remove it. 8. Meanwhile mix the remaining oil & garlic with the balsamic vinegar, stirring until smooth. 9. Chop the basil leaves. 10. Once flatbread pizza is baked and the edges are golden in color, remove from the oven, drizzle with balsamic vinegar mixture and, sprinkle with basil leaves. 11. Slice, serve and enjoy.
Enjoy a taste of the Gulf with this recipe for easy to prepare, easy to cook, easy to clean up- backyard foil packets featuring Mississippi Gulf shrimp.
1 lb. fresh asparagus, trimmed, cut in half
1/2 cup water 3 cups cooked long-grain brown rice
3/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup drained oil-packed, sun-dried tomatoes, finely chopped
1/3 cup zesty Italian dressing Zest and juice from 1 lemon
1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
1 lb. uncooked large shrimp (peeled and deveined)
INSTRUCTIONS: 1. Heat grill to medium-high heat. 2. Place asparagus in medium bowl. Add rice, cheese and tomatoes; mix lightly. 3. Whisk dressing, lemon zest, juice and mustard until blended. Reserve 2 tbsp. dressing mixture. 4. Add remaining to asparagus mixture; mix lightly. 5. Spoon mixture onto 6 large sheets of heavy-duty foil with sides slightly rolled up; top with shrimp and reserved dressing. Fold foil to make 6 packets. 6. Grill 10 to 12 minutes (shrimp should be pink and rice mixture is heated through). 7. Cut slits in foil to release steam before opening packets.
Take the stress out of Sunday dinner and Monday breakfast with a breakfast casserole.
1 tablespoon oil
8-10 mushrooms, sliced
2 teaspoons minced garlic
½ red onion, diced
2 bell peppers, diced
2 cups packed baby spinach, roughly chopped
20 ounces shredded (sweet) potatoes, thawed
⅓ cup half and half or milk, fat-free
salt and pepper
1 cup shredded cheese, 2%
INSTRUCTIONS: 1. Position a rack in the center of your oven and preheat oven to 375 F. 2. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large skillet at medium. 3. Add the mushrooms and sauté until they start to brown. 4. Add a small pinch of salt along with the onions and garlic and let cook for 2 minutes. 5. Remove skillet contents to a plate. 6. Spray the skillet with nonstick spray and sauté the peppers for 1 minute. 7. Add in the baby spinach and allow it to wilt. 8. Remove the skillet from heat and set aside. 9. Generously coat a 9” x13” baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. 10. Spread shredded potatoes in the bottom of the dish evenly. 11. Add the veggies (both the mushrooms and the pepper mixtures) over the potatoes, set aside. 12. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, half and half, and salt and pepper. 13. Pour the egg mixture over the prepared veggies. Sprinkle with the cheese. 14. Bake the casserole uncovered for approximately 45 minutes, until the cheese melts, and the top is light golden brown. 15. Allow the casserole to cool for 10 minutes before slicing and serving. 16. Great served with a side of fresh fruit.
Rebecca Turner, MS, RD, CSSD, LD, is the author of Mind Over Fork, as well as a guest columnist, radio host, television presenter, media spokesperson, consultant and a certified specialist is sports dietetics (CSSD) with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.