Easy, Delicious Weeknight Dinners for Busy Families

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Some nights, it’s just hard to keep going past that drive-through window or your favorite take-out restaurant. You’re tired and hungry, and you have no ideas for dinner at home — none at all. Having a few healthy and easy weeknight dinner recipes on file boosts your willpower and helps you drive right on home, where you can put a delicious meal on the table in no time – and much less expensively.

Take-Home Taste, At-Home Cooking

Do you love fried rice from your neighborhood Asian restaurant? What if you could make your own that was just as tasty and much more nutritious? This is a simple meal that you can turn out quickly, especially if you use leftovers to build it.

Start by cooking some quinoa in low-sodium chicken broth, using the package instructions for quantities and timing. If you don’t have stock on hand, you can still prepare the quinoa in water; the broth gives it more depth of flavor, but you’re going to be adding so many other flavors that it will still work just fine.

While the quinoa cooks, chop an onion and any leftover meat you have on hand, along with a clove or two of garlic. Tofu works well too, or you can skip the meat and go with just vegetables, because the quinoa has a ton of protein. If you don’t have leftovers handy, dice chicken or turkey into 1-inch cubes. Grate a carrot or two and prepare any other vegetables you want in your “rice” dish.

When the quinoa is done (or very nearly so), heat some coconut or olive oil in a wok or skillet. Toss in the onions and the garlic. Sweat them until they begin to turn translucent; don’t brown them, though. Add the meat, carrots, a handful of frozen peas, and any other vegetables you’ve chosen. When everything is heated well, add the quinoa and mix it all together, stirring it occasionally until everything is hot.

In the meantime, pour two beaten eggs into a skillet and cook them until they’re firm. Cut them into ribbons and toss them with the fried “rice.” Add a splash of low-sodium soy sauce, and dinner is ready.

Pasta Perfection

This dish takes just a little longer, but you can still have dinner on the table in under an hour. Serve this healthy chicken and ham version of lasagna with a tossed salad and a fruit dessert. Double the recipe and put half in the freezer for an even easier second night’s meal.

Start by simmering 1/2 pound of boneless and skinless chicken breasts or thighs, cut into 1/2-inch, bite-sized pieces, in 1 cup of low-sodium, fat-free chicken broth for about 10 minutes. Remove the chicken, and with the broth still over the heat, stir in 1 1/2 cups of skim milk and 2 tablespoons of flour, along with a pinch of salt and pepper. Simmer it at a slow boil until it thickens and then stir in 1/2 cup of grated Parmesan cheese — the good stuff, not the imitation. While it’s melting and thickening, chop 4 ounces of deli ham.

When the cheese has melted, spread one-third of the sauce in the bottom of a square baking dish. Add two no-cook whole-wheat noodles, then top that with one-third of the chicken and one-third of the ham. Continue to add layers ending with noodles, then sauce and 1/4 cup of grated Parmesan.

Cover your lasagna with foil and bake it at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, while you make the salad. Remove the foil and pop the dish back into the oven for about 10 minutes, until it’s melty and bubbly and golden brown.

Healthy Desserts That Taste Decadent

For a quick and simple fruit dessert that tastes like it came from a fine dining establishment, slice 2 cups strawberries and sprinkle them with a tablespoon of sugar and a tablespoon of good balsamic vinegar. Let them macerate for a few minutes and then serve them with a small dollop of whipped cream or spooned over vanilla bean frozen yogurt.

For a fancier presentation, Hasselback-style baked apples are both pretty and delicious. Peel and core four Macintosh apples. Cut the apples in half and then cut 1/8-inch wide slices across each half, being careful to not cut all the way through to the board, so that the slices stay together, and place them in a baking dish.

Mix 2 tablespoons of brown sugar (the brown sugar substitute blend made for baking is also yummy in this dessert), 2 tablespoons of melted butter, and 1 teaspoon of cinnamon. Brush the mixture over the apples, making sure to brush each slice on both sides. Cover the apples with foil and bake them at 400 degrees for 20 minutes. Let them cool for 10 minutes while you prepare the topping.

Stir together 4 tablespoons of brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 4 tablespoons of old-fashioned oats, 2 tablespoons of flour, 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt, and 2 tablespoons of melted butter. Press the mixture onto the apples, again making sure that it goes in between every slice. Broil the apples for 2 minutes before serving them still warm from the oven.

With these suggestions, quick and easy meals can still be both healthy and delicious!