The lazy days of summer have disappeared. Those days have gone by so quickly and here we are back into the busy after school activities routine! Soccer, tee ball, baseball, dance, gymnastics, violin…no matter what we or our children are involved in, the usual time for these activities seems to fall right in the middle of dinner time.
Dinner doesn’t have to be eaten between 5-6 p.m., though. An early dinner, right after school, can work better on busy nights. Instead of eating an after school snack, serve dinner. Or make smoothies which are quick to drink and easy to digest and have dinner after the activity. Bottom line, eat when it makes sense and don’t be ruled by tradition.
Many recipes can be doubled and freeze well. Making dinner for one night with a spare to freeze will save you time not only because you won’t have to cook on a busy night, but you also won’t have many dishes to wash late in the evening.
Slow Cookers can not only be used for cooking but also for keeping foods warm, so when you walk in the door, dinner is ready.
Here are some of my favorite ideas for quick and healthy meals for busy evenings.
Shrimp and Tomato Piccata
- 1 1/2 pounds fresh or frozen medium shrimp
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 8 ounces fresh thin string beans, trimmed
- 3 medium tomatoes, cut into wedges
- 1 teaspoon finely shredded lemon peel
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon capers, drained
- 4 oz. dried linguine
Cook the pasta al dente. Drain.
Thaw shrimp, if frozen. Peel shrimp if they have shells and devein, leaving tails intact, if desired. Rinse shrimp; pat dry with paper towels. Set aside.
In a 12-inch skillet heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add garlic and green beans to the skillet; cook and stir for 3 minutes.
Add shrimp; cook and stir about 3 minutes or until shrimp are opaque. Add tomatoes; cook for 1 minute more.
For the sauce:
In a small bowl whisk together the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, the lemon peel, lemon juice and capers. Pour shrimp mixture over the hot cooked pasta. Drizzle sauce over the shrimp and vegetables. Serve.
Beef Sirloin Tips with Pepper Sauce
- 1 ½ pounds beef sirloin tip steak
- 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika or regular paprika
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- One 12 ounce jar red and yellow sweet peppers and onions
- 1/2 cup homemade or store-bought spaghetti sauce
- 1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley
- Quick cooking polenta or couscous
Trim meat and cut into 1- to 1-1/2-inch chunks; sprinkle with paprika.
In a 12-inch skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add meat and brown on all sides. Remove from skillet; keep warm.
Add the jar of peppers and onions with the liquid and the tomato sauce to the skillet. Cook, uncovered, 5 to 10 minutes, stirring frequently until sauce is slightly thickened.
Return meat to the skillet; heat through. Sprinkle with parsley. Serve with quick cooking polenta or couscous or mashed potatoes.
Greens, Cannellini Beans and Italian Sausage
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 12 ounces Italian sausage links, cut lengthwise into long slices
- 1 medium onion, cut into thin wedges (1/2 cup)
- One 15 ounce can cannellini (white kidney) beans, rinsed and drained
- 2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- One 14 1/2 ounce can reduced-sodium chicken broth
- 12 cups chopped kale or your favorite greens
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
In a very large skillet heat oil over medium heat. Add sausage and cook and until browned. Add onion and cook for 6-8 minutes until the onions are tender.
Remove mixture from the skillet to a bowl and cover with foil to keep warm.
Add beans, thyme and garlic to the skillet. Stir and heat through. Add broth. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Boil gently, uncovered, 3 to 4 minutes.
Gradually add kale, stirring until wilted before adding more. Cook and stir for 8 to 10 minutes or until all of the greens are slightly wilted and tender.
Add sausage mixture and vinegar to the skillet; heat through. Serve with crusty Italian bread.
Crispy Fish Fillets with Apple-Celery Slaw
- 2 lemons, halved
- 1/3 cup mayonnaise
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 3 stalks celery, thinly sliced
- 1 Granny Smith apple, thinly sliced
- 1 cup shredded red cabbage
- 1 pound of your favorite fish fillets
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/3 cup yellow cornmeal
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Cut one lemon half into 4 wedges; set aside. Juice the remaining lemon half into a large bowl. Add the mayonnaise and honey and mix well. Remove 2 tablespoons of the mixture and set aside.
For the slaw:
Stir celery, apple and cabbage into the remaining mayonnaise mixture in the bowl and refrigerate while you prepare the fish.
For the fish:
Sprinkle fish fillets with salt and brush with the reserved 2 tablespoons of mayonnaise mixture. In a shallow dish combine cornmeal and chili powder; coat fish in the cornmeal mixture.
In a 12-inch skillet heat oil over medium heat. Cook fish in hot oil 3 to 4 minutes per side or until golden and fish flakes easily when tested with a fork.
Serve fish with slaw and the lemon wedges.
Sautéed Chicken Breasts with Simple Wine Sauce
- 4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves, (about 1 lb total)
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 3 tablespoons flour
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 cup finely chopped shallots
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth or chicken stock
- 1 tablespoon snipped fresh chives
- Sautéed Seasonal Vegetables
Sprinkle the chicken breasts with the salt and pepper. Place flour in a shallow dish; dip chicken in flour, turning and pressing to coat all sides of the chicken.
Preheat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil to the skillet; swirl to lightly coat the skillet. Add chicken breasts, smooth sides down and cook about 5 minutes or until the chicken is golden brown.
Turn chicken over; cook for 4 to 5 minutes more or until chicken is no longer pink (165 degrees F). Transfer chicken to a warm serving platter; set aside.
For the sauce:
Add the shallots to the hot skillet; cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Carefully add wine; cook about 1 minute stirring to scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of skillet.
Add chicken broth to the skillet; bring to a boil and cook for 3 to 4 minutes or until liquid is reduced by half. Stir in chives. Return chicken to the skillet; heat through.
Serve the chicken and wine sauce with the veggies on the side.
For the veggies:
In a second skillet heat 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 minced garlic clove. Add about 2 cups of sliced seasonal vegetables (zucchini, peppers, asparagus, etc.). Saute just until barely tender and sprinkle with your favorite herb, salt and pepper to taste.