(Family Features) When busy mornings give way to a hectic workday followed by homework and after-school activities, a fresh, simple meal is often the only option. Before you hit the drive-thru or settle for an equally unhealthy alternative, check out these delicious dishes you can prepare and serve without the hassle.
Find more ideas to make your busy weeknights easy at Culinary.net.
Savory and Scrumptious
Take a nutritious dish to the family table that still brings a flavorful bite. This savory lasagna recipe boasts meaty eggplant, fresh zucchini and lycopene-rich tomatoes. Whole-wheat noodles pack fiber and natural plant compounds, called phytochemicals. Find more better-for-you recipe ideas at AICR.org.
Roasted Vegetable Lasagna
Reprinted with permission from the American Institute for Cancer Research.
- 2 eggplants (about 3 pounds), quartered lengthwise
- 6 medium zucchini (about 3 pounds)
- canola oil cooking spray
- 1 pound whole-wheat lasagna noodles
- 15 ounces low-fat ricotta or low-fat cottage cheese
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 3 cups low-fat mozzarella cheese
- 4 cups low-sodium tomato sauce, divided
- Heat oven to 450° F. Grease 13-by-9-by-2-inch baking pan; set aside.
- Slice eggplant and zucchini in 1/2-inch slices. Layer on two baking sheets and coat both sides of vegetables with cooking spray. Roast 20 minutes. Toss vegetables and continue roasting until well browned and soft, about 20 minutes more. Transfer vegetables to large bowl.
- Reduce oven temperature to 375° F.
- Cook lasagna noodles according to package directions. Separate noodles and let cool slightly.
- In medium bowl, mix together cheese, eggs, Parmesan, nutmeg and garlic powder.
- To assemble: Spread thin layer of sauce over bottom of prepared pan. Cover with layer of pasta (noodle strips slightly overlapping). Spread with one-third of ricotta mixture.
- Sprinkle 1/4 of the mozzarella over ricotta. Spoon 1/3 of roasted vegetables on top. Top with 1/2 cup tomato sauce and continue assembly as directed until there are four layers of pasta and three layers of filling. Spread remaining sauce on top and sprinkle with remaining mozzarella.
- Cover pan with aluminum foil and bake 30 minutes. Uncover and continue baking until golden and bubbly, about 15 minutes more. Let stand 15 minutes before serving.
Quick, Flavorful Meal Idea
It’s not always easy to make healthy food choices. When time is of the essence, look for delicious recipe ingredients that are convenient and easy to prepare while also offering great taste and health benefits.
In fact, 40 percent of American consumers said shorter cooking times are especially important when buying grocery items such as rice, grains and pasta, according to research from Statista, and 83 percent said taste is an important factor when purchasing food.
Ready in 10 minutes with flavor infused in every grain, Uncle Ben’s Flavor Infusions rice is ideal for those looking for quick and healthy meal options. With its one-step cooking process, it makes it easy for families to cook with their kids and quickly get dinner on the table. The resealable pouches ensure freshness for multiple uses, and any of the five flavors can be combined with fresh vegetables, proteins and herbs for a simple meal that’s ready in less than 20 minutes.
Simple recipe options using Flavor Infusions, such as Easy Thai Chicken Satay and Rice Salad, are quick meals the entire family can enjoy, even when short on time. Find more meal ideas at UncleBens.com.
Easy Thai Chicken Satay and Rice Salad
- 1/4 cup canned, unsweetened coconut milk
- 1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
- 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 2 teaspoons red curry paste
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
- 1-2 tablespoons hot water
- 1 cup Uncle Ben’s Flavor Infusions Roasted Chicken
- 1 1/2 cups shredded rotisserie chicken
- 1 cup shredded carrots
- 1 cup sliced pea pods
- 1 cup sliced red pepper
- 1 avocado, pitted and sliced
- 4-6 red radishes, thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoons chopped peanuts
- 2 tablespoons chopped green onions
- To make dressing: In small glass bowl, stir together coconut milk, peanut butter, rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, red curry paste, cayenne pepper and hot water; set aside.
- Cook rice according to package instructions. Makes about 3 1/2 cups.
- In center of individual plates, place about 1 cup rice. Arrange chicken, carrots, pea pods, red pepper, avocado, radishes, peanuts and green onions around rice then drizzle with dressing.
Fish with a Twist
Add a little variety to your dinnertime protein with a smart, heart-healthy option like fish. Fillets cook quickly and a slightly sweet white fish like farm-raised catfish has a mild enough flavor to entice picky young eaters. White fish is also quite versatile; it can take on other flavors such as this citrusy topping with ease. Find more family-friendly fish recipes at USCatfish.com.
Catfish Quesadilla with Cilantro-Lime Sour Cream
Recipe courtesy of The Catfish Institute
- 4 U.S. Farm-Raised Catfish Fillets, grilled or baked
- 2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- salt, to taste
- freshly ground pepper, to taste
- smoked paprika or chili powder
- 1 small red bell pepper, diced
- 1/2 red onion, diced
- 3/4 cup whole corn kernels
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
- 4 flour or wheat tortillas (10 inches each)
- 1 can (16 ounces) refried black beans
- 2 cups grated pepper jack cheese
Cilantro-Lime Sour Cream:
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
- 1/2 lime, juiced
- lime zest
- salt, to taste
- Lightly brush fish with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Season with salt, pepper and smoked paprika or chili powder. Prepare fish on grill or bake until done. Place in refrigerator to cool. When cool, cut into bite-size pieces.
- In large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high heat. Saute red pepper and onion until soft, about 5 minutes. Add corn, red pepper flakes, cumin and salt and pepper, to taste. Toss to incorporate and saute 3 minutes. Transfer to bowl and add cilantro.
- Heat pan large enough to hold flat tortilla to medium heat. Lightly brush pan with remaining olive oil.
- Spread tortilla on work surface. On half of each tortilla, spread refried beans and vegetables; top with fish.
- Place in heated pan and sprinkle 1/2 cup cheese on other half of tortilla. Heat until cheese is melted and tortilla is lightly crispy. Fold cheese side over vegetable side and remove to plate.
- Using serrated knife, cut each tortilla into four pieces. Serve with Cilantro-Lime Sour Cream.
- To make Cilantro-Lime Sour Cream: In small bowl, mix all ingredients until combined.
Photo courtesy of Getty Images (Roasted Vegetable Lasagna and Catfish Quesadilla with Cilantro-Lime Sour Cream)
Photo courtesy of Uncle Ben’s (Easy Thai Chicken Satay and Rice Salad)
(Family Features) Dinner can be a daunting task for any family with multiple mouths to feed. Factor in complex schedules and individual tastes, and a family meal can become a stressful thought for home cooks.
However, with proper meal planning and preparation, those stressful evenings can become a thing of the past. Consider these steps to becoming a better meal prepper:
If you’re new to meal prepping, don’t bog yourself down trying to come up with ideas and ingredients multiple days in advance. Start by planning just one or two days ahead then consider lengthening your prep phases as you get more comfortable.
Avoid overbuying by heading to the grocery store with a plan in mind or, even better, a specific list. While perusing the aisles, look for the Produce for Kids logo next to healthy, family-friendly items to help make nutritionally sound choices.
Go with What You Know
Rather than teaching yourself to meal prep while trying to learn new recipes at the same time, stick to the basics. Create dishes you’ve made in the past while you get into the habit of meal prepping.
Make It a Family Event
Recruit some help from your kids by enlisting them with some easier kitchen tasks. It can be a learning and bonding experience to make recipes like Easy One-Dish Chicken and Veggie Bake or Sweet Potato and Black Bean Quesadilla.
Plan for In-Season Produce
Certain fruits and veggies are stocked (and taste better) at certain times of year. Be sure to create shopping lists with these timeframes in mind.
To find family meal tips and more than 400 registered dietitian- and family-approved recipes, visit produceforkids.com.
Easy One-Dish Chicken and Veggie Bake
Recipe courtesy of Produce for Kids
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 50 minutes
- 1 pound chicken breast, cut in fourths
- 12 small red potatoes, quartered
- 12 ounces green beans
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon herbs de Provence
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon pepper
- Heat oven to 350 F.
- Place chicken, potatoes and green beans in rows in 13-by-9-inch baking dish with chicken in middle. Drizzle with olive oil and season with garlic, herbs de Provence, salt and pepper.
- Bake 50 minutes, or until chicken reaches internal temperature of 165 F and potatoes are tender.
Nutritional information per serving: 554 calories; 8 g fat; 65 mg cholesterol; 87 g carbohydrates; 11 g fiber; 37 g protein; 9 g sugar; 82 mg calcium; 5 mg iron; 282 mg sodium.
Sweet Potato and Black Bean Quesadilla
Recipe courtesy of Produce for Kids
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes
- 1 large sweet potato
- 1 can low-sodium black beans, drained and rinsed
- 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
- 1 tablespoon low-sodium taco seasoning
- 8 whole-wheat tortillas
- 1 cup low-fat shredded Monterey Jack cheese
- Use fork to prick sweet potato. Microwave 5 minutes on high. Let cool slightly.
- Cut potato in half lengthwise and scoop flesh into large bowl. Mash until smooth.
- Combine beans, cilantro and seasoning with sweet potato; mix well.
- Heat skillet over medium heat. Spread sweet potato mixture evenly on one side of tortilla, sprinkle with cheese and place second tortilla on top. Cook 3-4 minutes, or until cheese is melted. Flip and cook 2-3 minutes more.
- Repeat with remaining tortillas and mixture. Cut each into quarters.
Nutritional information per serving: 293 calories; 9.34 g total fat; 34.82 g carbohydrates; 10.39 g fiber; 17.04 g protein; 2.33 g total sugars; 237 mg calcium; 2.65 mg iron; 146 mg sodium.
Source: Produce for Kids