A few tips for successful weeknight meals..

With the fall officially here, schedules are getting busier, and this often means cooking meals falls by the wayside.  But with a little bit of creativity and planning ahead, you can still fit in a simple home cooked meal in a matter of minutes.

Keeping a few key ingredients on hand is always helpful, as is spending a couple of hours on the weekend prepping for the week ahead.  Keeping boxes of pre-made chicken broth, cans of beans, dried pasta, and quick cooking grains like quinoa or basmati rice is very helpful.  I even found some organic brown basmati rice at Trader Joe’s recently that only takes 15 minutes to cook.  Another great idea is to prep your vegetables right after you get home from the market on Saturday; wash and chop that big bunch of kale, peel and cut up that bunch of carrots, shuck the corn.  Having these vegetables ready to cook makes them so much more appealing on a hurried weeknight.

Thinking about the week ahead is also helpful in planning meals.  Will you and your family be home every night for dinner?  Will you need to pack up a meal for a child’s sports event one evening?  If you know this ahead of time you can be ready with ingredients to make sandwiches to take along, instead of having to take-out.

One thing I love to do is roast a chicken on the weekend.  It makes a great meal for that night and then you have leftover chicken meat that can be made into chicken soup, chicken salad, topping for a green salad, or chopped and frozen for another night.  You can also use the bones to make homemade broth, which is packed with minerals and nutrition to keep you healthy through the winter.

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If you plan your meals ahead of time, make a list of all the ingredients you need.  Then you can make one shopping trip and be prepared for the week.  There are also many online services that provide weekly meal plans and shopping lists for a nominal subscription fee.  Many now give the option of vegetarian, gluten free, or even Paleo meal plans too.

Here are a few of my favorite quick, delicious, and healthy meal ideas.  (Items in BOLD can be found at the market!) :

  • Taco bar: Brown up some GROUND BEEF or turkey and add some Mexican spices.  Serve with warm taco shells and your toppings of choice such as shredded cheese, salsa, LETTUCE, TOMATO, CORN, low-fat sour cream, and sliced avocado or guacamole in separate dishes so everyone can make their own.  Serve with a simple veggie side like SPINACH salad or sautéed ZUCCHINI.

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  • Breakfast for dinner: Scramble up some FARM FRESH EGGS, serve with a few slices of BACON, some WHOLE GRAIN TOAST, and some steamed BROCCOLI. Or better yet, check out my friends recipe for green eggs and ham http://tribecanutrition.com/2012/03/happy-st-patricks-day/. Perfect for Irish Day this weekend!
  • Quick chicken noodle soup: chop up GARLIC, ONIONS, CARROTS, AND CELERY.  Sauté with a little olive oil until soft, add homemade chicken broth or boxed broth.  Bring to a boil and add noodles of your choice.  When the noodles are almost done, add chopped leftover roast CHICKEN and some seasonings.  Serve with CRUSTY BREAD and GREEN SALAD.

My recipe this week was for broccoli and cheese smashed potatoes.  I didn’t alter it that much so I am just going to give you the link here.  I have to say that I used lowfat milk instead of whole milk to lower the fat content a little and it came out a little too milky…so just sayin, it tasted wonderful but looked like chowder.  Not my best market dish, but at least still tasty.  So if you make these with lowfat milk too just add less milk and increase if you need.

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