Thursday, April 17, 2014

30+ Quick Dinner Ideas

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I was recently asked by a friend for easy quick portable family dinner ideas for busy nights. Whether you have soccer, baseball, homework or just get home from work with no time to cook, this is a common  dilemma. As a nutritionist with lots of dinner-cooking experience (cooking dinner was my daily responsibility since the age of 12 - and yes, I have failed since my kids can barely make their own cereal), I have a list of my favorite go-to dinners. Some of these are quick dinner ideas, some can be whipped up in minutes, others will require a few minutes advanced prep so you can be ready at game-time:

Pasta ideas:
  • Pasta with turkey meatballs (Make a big batch of pasta and freeze in small baggies for heating up just before game-time, then mix with warmed up frozen turkey meatballs and sauce and pack in food jars)
  • Pasta with meat sauce: brown ground turkey or beef and add to tomato sauce, serve over pasta.
  • Pasta with chicken and broccoli: saute thin strips of chicken until cooked, add broccoli and serve with pasta. You can buy pre-cooked frozen grilled chicken strips at Trader Joe's and make this in minutes.
  • Pasta salad: Mix pasta with chopped hard-boiled egg, canned tuna, cut-up veggies, a drop of mayo and some italian salad dressing. Serve cool.
  • Pasta carbonara: Cook pasta, Combine 2 eggs, 1/2 cup parmesan cheese and saute into pasta.
Slow cooker ideas (takes a little advance planning, but how nice it is to arrive home to a fully made meal!):
  • Grilled chicken Caesar salad: use frozen grilled chicken strips, parmesan cheese, and bottled Caesar dressing
  • Cobb salad: rolled up cold cuts, crumbled blue cheese and a hard-boiled egg
  • Antipasto salad: sliced cold cuts, cheese, pickled vegetables and olives
  • Taco salad: taco filling, cheese and chopped tomatoes
  • Caprese salad: tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, basil and/or spinach
  • Cold cut wrap sandwich with veggies
  • English muffin / egg and cheese sandwich
  • Frozen waffle/pancakes with nut butter sandwich
  • Burritos with rice, beans and frozen grilled chicken strips
  • Veggie burgers/ turkey burgers served on a roll or English muffin  (I just bought these great pre-made chicken burgers that we are all loving)
  • Quesadillas (broil open-faced tortillas topped with shredded cheese, beans or chicken as desired. When cheese is melted, fold over and cut into triangles)
  • Grilled cheese sandwich
If you have a little more time, try these 30 minute dinners:
  • Tacos: Brown ground turkey, add salsa, black beans and taco seasoning (I use McCormick brand). Serve with shredded lettuce, chopped tomatoes and cheese
  • Stir-fried chicken and vegetables: Saute thinly sliced chicken until cooked, add vegetables, soy sauce and minced ginger and garlic and cook until vegetables are tender (serve with warmed up frozen rice)
  • Baked breaded chicken (either homemade or Bell & Evans) and vegetables
  • Turkey sausage with peppers and potatoes (chop the potatoes, drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper and cook for 5 minutes in the microwave then add to cooked sausage and peppers for speed)
  • Pasta e fagiole (saute turkey sausage and add white beans, chopped spinach or kale and chicken broth, cook until tender and serve with pre-cooked noodles)
  • Curried lentils with spinach or kale, served with rice
  • Beans (black, pink or red) flavored with tomato sauce and taco seasoning, served with rice
  • Macaroni and cheese: cook noodles in evaporated milk and water, thicken with corn-starch and add a pinch of dry mustard and shredded cheese
  • Broiled fish or fish tacos (served with shredded vegetables, fish taco sauce (sour cream, mayo, lime juice and taco seasoning) and tortillas)
  • Ground beef stroganoff: Brown ground beef and add white wine, mushrooms and plain yogurt, serve with noodles
Happy eating!

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