Recipes to Help You Return to 'Regular' Meals

A daily meal theme can help make meal planning efficient especially if you get overwhelmed with all the food and recipe possibilities. If variety is important to you it’s easy to create it within the weekly routine.  The following is an example of themes that can be followed weekly.  Make a schedule of meal themes that suit you and your family.  I have also shared places I rely on for tasty, reliable and healthy recipes as well as a few personal favorites.

Sunday Dinner- Start a family tradition

This tradition can be anything from a meat and potatoes sit down meal, to a brunch, or a soup and sandwich supper.

I like to go to the NHLBI’s website for simple, tasty recipes that have tips for getting the whole family involved with food prep.  Visit https://healthyeating.nhlbi.nih.gov to use their Deliciously Healthy Family Meals cookbook

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Slow Cooker Three Squash and Three Bean Chili

Ingredients:

  • 1 Can of Kidney beans, no salt added
  • 1 Can of Cannellini beans, no salt added
  • 1 Can of Pinto beans, no salt added
  • 2-3 cups Acorn squash
  • 2-3 cups Pumpkin
  • 2-3 cups Butternut squash
  • 1 Tbls olive oil
  • 1 large onion
  • 1 red pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 Tbls chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon diced jalapeños, from a can
  • 1 ½ cup vegetable broth
  • 2 cans stewed tomatoes, no salt added
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon cracked pepper
  • Cooking spray, olive oil flavor
Directions:
  1. Cut acorn and pumpkin squashes in half and de-seed them. Place them on a cookie sheet sprayed with cooking spray, halved side down. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Let them cool for 5-10 minutes and then scrape out the insides, cutting into large pieces, they may be slightly mushy chunks.
  2. While the first two squashes are baking, peel, cut and de-seed the butternut squash, cutting it into medium chunks. Alternately, it is easy to buy Butternut squash already cut up in the grocery section of your local grocery store to save some prep time.
  3. Place olive oil in a skillet and add the onion and garlic. Cook until the onion is translucent and the garlic is starting to brown. ( If you have an All-Clad Slow Cooker you can do the browning directly in the pot on the stove, saving a step.)
  4. Add all squashes and onion mixture into the slow cooker along with all other ingredients.
  5. Cook on low for 6 hours.

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Pass the Pasta Mondays

Pair a pasta-based main dish with a fresh green salad (it’s okay if the salad comes out of a bag) and fruit for dessert. 

I like Holly Clegg’s cookbooks, quick and delicious pasta recipes as well as her blog The Healthy Cooking blog at https://thehealthycookingblog.com/ or https://thehealthycookingblog.com/quick-family-dinner-ideas-2-2/

One of Holly’s recipes:

Tuscan Chicken Pasta

This is one of those quick chicken pasta recipes you can double to feed more people!  Toss with pasta of your choice!

Ingredients: 

  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 2 Roma tomatoes chopped
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon capers drained
  • 2 tablespoons sliced black or Kalamata olives
  • 1/2 can artichoke heart quarters drained, 14-ounce
  • 1/3 cup white wine or white cooking wine
  • 2 cups baby spinach
  • grated Parmesan cheese optional

Instructions:

  1. Between two sheets of plastic wrap or wax paper, pound each chicken breast until about 1/4-inch thick. Season to taste.
  2. In large nonstick skillet coated with nonstick cooking spray, cook chicken breasts on both sides until done, about 5-7 minutes. Remove from skillet to plate..
  3. In same nonstick skillet, heat olive oil and cook onion until tender, about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, garlic, capers, olives, and artichokes and cook until tomatoes are soft, about 5 minutes. Next, add wine, stirring, and cook until bubbling. Add spinach, cooking until wilted. Return chicken to skillet and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, if desired.  Toss with pasta of your choice.

Nutritional Info:

Per Serving: Calories 406 Calories from fat 37% Fat 17g Saturated Fat 3g Cholesterol 99mg Sodium 533mg Carbohydrate 15g Dietary Fiber 4g Sugars 4g Protein 43g Dietary Exchanges: 3 vegetable, 5 lean meat, 1/2 fats

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Spaghetti Squash Spaghetti

From: https://recipes.heart.org/en/recipes/

This Simple Cooking with Heart, creative Italian recipe has an interesting vegetable that the kids will think is fun to make and eat. 4 Servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 spaghetti squash (3 pounds)
  • non-stick Cooking spray
  • 1 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 clove fresh garlic (minced) OR1 tsp. jarred, minced garlic
  • 1/2 small onion (chopped)
  • 1 cup tomatoes (diced) Or 8 oz. canned, no-salt-added, diced tomatoes
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. dried, salt-free herbs, Italian blend
  • 1/8 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 16 oz. canned, no salt added tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup small "bite size" fresh mozzarella balls (can substitute fresh mozzarella), cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped, or, torn basil OR1 tsp. dried basil

Directions: 

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F.
  2. Cut spaghetti squash in half. On a baking sheet coated with cooking spray, place halves of squash face down and bake for 1 hour or until tender.
  3. Heat oil in medium saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic and onion and cook until soft, about 5-7 minutes. Add diced tomatoes, pepper, herbs and red pepper flakes. Cook until liquid is evaporated, about 2-3 minutes. Add tomato sauce and reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 10 minutes.
  4. Let squash sit at room temperature until just cool enough to handle. Take a fork and scrap flesh from outside working in, creating “spaghetti noodles”.
  5. Add squash "noodles" to sauce and remove from heat. Toss with mozzarella balls and fresh basil and serve.

Quick Tips:

Tip: Scraping the spaghetti squash to make “noodles” and tossing all the ingredients together are safe and fun steps to involve kids in this recipe.

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Tex-Mex Tuesdays

Tacos, Quesadillas, and one of my favorites - Taco Lasagna. 

Quick Quesadillas: The possibilities are endless

  1. Oil and heat a skillet
  2. Add a whole grain tortilla
  3. Fill half with ingredients including veggies (raw or sautéed), shredded cheese and finely chopped or thinly sliced lean protein like steak, fish or poultry meat.  Cooked beans and eggs work very well too.
  4. Fold in half - now it’s half-moon shaped
  5. Cook both sides until golden or light brown and heated through.

Note:  Preparing quesadillas is a great way to use up all the little tidbits in your frig.

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Baja-Style Salmon Tacos 

Recipe Source: Deliciously Healthy Dinners

Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
Yields: 4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 12 oz. salmon filet, cut into 4 portions (3 oz. each)
  • 4 (8-inch) whole-wheat tortillas

For taco filling:

  • 1 C green cabbage (about 1/4 head), rinsed and shredded
  • 1 tsp lime juice
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1/2 C red onion, thinly sliced (or substitute white onion)
  • 1 medium Jalapeno chili pepper, rinsed and split lengthwise- remove seeds and white membrane, and mince (about 2 Tbsp); for less spice, use green pepper
  • 1 tsp fresh cilantro, minced (or substitute 1/2 tsp ground coriander)

For marinade:

  • 1/2 Tbsp corn oil or vegetable oil
  • 1 Tbsp lime juice
  • 2 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Directions: 

  1. Preheat grill or oven broiler (with the rack 3 inches from heat source) on high temperature.
  2. Prepare taco filling by combining all ingredients. Let stand for 10-15 minutes to blend the flavors.
  3. To prepare the marinade, combine the oil, lime juice, chili powder, cumin, coriander, and salt in a bowl. 
  4. Place salmon fillets in a flat dish with sides. Pour marinade evenly over fillets. 
  5. Place salmon fillets on grill or broiler. Cook for 3-4 minutes on each side, until fish flakes easily with a fork in the thickest part (minimum internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit). REmove from the heat and set aside for 2-3 minutes. Cut into strips.
  6. To make each taco, fill one tortilla with 3/4 cup filling and one salmon fillet.

Tip: Try serving with a tomato cucumber salad drizzled with light vinaigrette.

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Stir things up on Wednesdays

No recipe needed!  Serve your creation over brown rice or another whole grain.

How to Stir Fry:
Stir-frying is quickly cooking small, uniform pieces of food in a little hot oil in a wok or large skillet over medium-high heat.  It a fast way to cook fresh food and it helps the veggies keep their color, crunch and nutrients.

  • Oil: Peanut oil is an ideal choice because of its’ high smoke point; soybean or canola oil works too.  You need a tablespoon of oil for 1 to 2 servings.
  • Meat: Choose tender, quick cooking meats, seafood or tofu; pork loin, chicken breast, sirloin steak or shrimp.  Use 2 ounces per serving.
  • Fresh Vegetables: Use 1 to 2 cups of vegetables per serving. For a quick fix, use a 16 ounce bag of frozen stir-fry vegetables.
  • Other vegetables: Asian canned vegetables can replace some fresh vegetables but be sure to drain them very well before using.
  • Garlic or other aromatics:  Use a ½ teaspoon of minced garlic per serving.  (Optional)
  • Sauce: Only 1 – 2 Tablespoons are necessary per serving.  Use ready-to-use sauces or make your own.
  • Garnishes:  Green onions, nuts

Directions:

  1. Have all ingredients ready to go.
  2. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a skillet over medium-high heat until the oil shimmers.
  3. Add garlic and cook for 15 seconds.
  4. Add vegetables. Cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon or high heat spatula for 2 to 4 minutes until the vegetables are crisp tender.  Remove vegetables from the pan.
  5. Add 1 tablespoon oil to skillet and add meat to the pan.  Cook and stir until the meat is cooked through.
  6. Push meat to the side and add sauce to the center of the skillet. 
  7. Cook and stir until the sauce is bubbly.
  8. Return all vegetables to the skillet.  Cook everything about 1 minute until the meat and vegetables are coated with the sauce and heated through.
  9. Serve over rice and sprinkle individual servings with garnish. (optional)

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Try One-Pan Meals on Thursdays

. . . .also known as sheet pan dinners. I have tried a number of these meals and love them. These meals make it simple to include plenty of veggies. My favorite is a quick and simple recipe that Hy-Vee shared.

Sweet Potato and Egg Oven Bake

Serves 5 and takes 40 minutes to prepare.

Ingredients:

  • 1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 12 ounces  Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves  garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder -(I like chipotle)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1-15 ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • ½ cup corn kernels
  • red pepper, cut into 5 rings
  • 5 large eggs
  • Cilantro leaves, for garnish

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F; spray 15X10 inch jelly roll pan with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside.
  2. Place sweet potatoes and Brussels sprouts on prepared pan. 
  3. Add olive oil, garlic and chili powder to vegetables; toss to coat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and roast in oven for 15 minutes.
  4. Remove pan from oven. Add black beans and corn. 
  5. Use a large spoon to create five spaces in vegetables to place a red pepper ring in each space.
  6. Gently crack an egg into each pepper ring, keeping the yolk intact.
  7. Return pan to oven and bake for 10 - 12 minutes until eggs are cooked.
  8. Remove from oven and garnish with cilantro.

Check out this Iowa State University Extension and Outreach article for inspiration to get started with sheet pan cooking.   https://blogs.extension.iastate.edu/answerline/2018/02/05/sheet-pan-cooking/

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Fishy Fridays - Get in the fish habit. 

Fish is actually very quick to fix.  A healthy habit to work on is eating a fish meal twice weekly. Need great recipes? 

A recipe book that I often go to is American Heart Association Quick & Easy Cookbook. 

Baked Cod Packets with Broccoli and Squash

Packing your fish and vegetables in parchment or foil may look complicated, but it is actually incredibly easy and will steam the contents to enhance the flavors of this savory dish. You can adapt this recipe according to which vegetables are in season and to whichever fish fits your budget.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups sliced summer squash, such as zucchini or yellow squash
  • 3 cups small broccoli florets
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 4 teaspoons olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 4-ounce cod fillets
  • 4 teaspoons dried thyme
  • Juice of one lemon

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400° F. Cut parchment paper or foil into four 12-inch squares and arrange them on a work surface. Fold each piece in half to form a crease down the middle.
  2. Divide squash between the squares, arranging it just to the right of each crease. Top squash with broccoli and garlic, then drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  3. Arrange one fillet on top of each pile of vegetables. Top each fillet with one teaspoon of dried thyme.
  4. Drizzle lemon juice over fillets, then wrap up each square of paper or foil to form a sealed pouch.
  5. Transfer pouches to a baking sheet and bake until the fish is cooked through, about 20 minutes. Set aside to let cool for 3 to 4 minutes, then cut pouches open and serve immediately.

Approximate Nutrition Analysis per packet: 184 cal, 7 g fat, 40 mg chol, 40 mg sodium, 8 g carbs, 3 g fiber, 22 g protein.

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Perfect Pizza for Saturday

You can create pizza quick and easy yourself - no need to order carry out.  Here is a quick and easy recipe for pizza sauce.  Use flat, naan or pita bread or English muffin halves for crust.

15- Minute Homemade Pizza Sauce

Ingredients:

  • 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic (or 2 cloves minced)
  • 2 Tablespoons chicken broth
  • 4 large fresh tomatoes, blanched, peeled and diced
  • 6 ounces tomato paste
  • 1 Tablespoon honey
  • 1 Tablespoon Italian Seasoning (or 1 teaspoon each oregano, basil & thyme)
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Heat oil in a medium saucepan on medium-high heat and cook the garlic for one minute.
  2. Add broth and tomatoes simmer until liquid has reduced by half.
  3. Add remaining ingredients and heat through.