Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Tag Archives: Quick Dinners

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Some days are so busy that there doesn’t seem to be much time left at the end of the day to prepare dinner. If you keep the ingredients for some quick cooking recipes on hand, you will be able to put a healthy meal on the table without a lot of preparation or long cooking times. So much better for the family than fast food. Stock your pantry with quick cooking rice, couscous, thin spaghetti and orzo. Broths and canned tomatoes are very useful, as are dried seasonings. Keep packages of thin chicken cutlets, lean ground beef, salmon and pizza dough in the freezer and you have the ingredients for an easy meal.

Chicken Cutlets in Lemon Sauce

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Serve with Zucchini and Quick Cooking Brown Rice. This is an easy meal for two and the recipe can easily be doubled.

2 servings

Ingredients

  • Two 6  ounce skinless, boneless chicken breasts, pounded thin
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • Salt and fresh pepper
  • 3 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley
  • 2 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

Directions

Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Place the flour in a bowl and the beaten in another bowl.

Heat the oil and one tablespoon of butter in a large non stick pan over medium heat.

Lightly flour chicken, then dip in the egg and add to the hot pan. Saute chicken 2-3 minutes on each side. When cooked, transfer onto a plate.

Place the chicken broth in the bowl with the remaining flour and whisk. Add to the pan along with the lemon juice, parsley and remaining butter and simmer on low heat for about 2 minutes so it reduces slightly and thickens. Turn off the heat. Return the chicken to the pan to combine with the sauce and serve.

Salmon & Broccoli with Herb Sauce

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4 servings

Ingredients

  • Two 8-oz thick-cut boneless, skinless wild 
salmon fillets
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper, plus additional, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup clam broth or fish stock, divided
  • 1 leek, thinly sliced crosswise, white and pale green parts only
  • 1 head broccoli, cut into thin spears
  • Juice of 1 lemon, divided
  • 6 oz plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh oregano
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint leaves
  • Sea salt, to taste

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Pat salmon dry with paper towels and season with pepper. In a large ovenproof sauté pan with a cover, heat oil on medium-high. Add salmon and sear for 3 minutes per side, until lightly golden. Transfer salmon to a plate and keep warm.

Reduce the heat to medium and add 1/4 cup clam broth to the pan. Add leek and cook for 2 minutes, stirring, until liquid evaporates and leeks soften. Add remaining 3/4 cup broth and broccoli; 
mix well.

Return salmon to center of the pan, nestling the fish between leeks and broccoli. Drizzle half of the lemon juice over salmon; cover the pan and transfer to the oven. Cook for 12 to 14 minutes, until salmon and broccoli are tender. Remove pan from the oven and, using a slotted spoon, transfer salmon and vegetables to a platter; cover with foil to keep warm. Reserve 1/2 cup of the pan juices.

Prepare lemon-herb sauce:

In a small bowl, combine yogurt, tarragon, mint, remaining half of lemon juice and reserved 1/2 cup pan juices; mix well. (Add more lemon juice or pan juices as needed to reach desired consistency.) Season with salt and additional pepper.

To serve, cut the salmon fillets in half and plate each with lemon-herb sauce and leek-broccoli mixture.

Spaghetti with Italian Sausage & Spinach

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4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 links fresh Italian sausage (about 8 oz), casings removed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 8 oz  thin spaghetti
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper (chili) flakes, 
or to taste
  • 6 oz spinach leaves 
(about 6 packed cups)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 oz Parmesan 
cheese, grated

Directions

Mist a large pot or saucepan with olive oil cooking spray and heat to medium-high. Add sausage and cook, stirring and crumbling with a spatula, until no longer pink, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside.

To the same pot, add 
2 cups water and the milk and bring to a boil on medium-high. (TIP: Watch carefully and stir from time to time, 
as milk has a tendency to boil over.)

Add spaghetti and pepper flakes. When the liquid returns to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer, stirring frequently, until the spaghetti is just short of al dente, 11 to 14 minutes.

Stir in spinach and simmer, uncovered, until spinach is wilted, most of the liquid is absorbed and the spaghetti is al dente, 2 to 
4 minutes.

Add lemon zest, black pepper and sausage and stir until heated through, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Divide among plates and top evenly with cheese.

Beef Kebabs with Tahini Sauce

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Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons tahini paste
  • Olive oil cooking spray
  • 8 oz  lean ground sirloin
  • 1 small clove garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons very finely minced white onion
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt, divided
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt-free garlic and herb seasoning blend
  • 1/2 cup couscous
  • 1/4 cup packed chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 large Roma tomato, cut into 8 wedges

Directions

Two 12-inch skewers (If using wooden skewers, soak in warm water for at least 20 minutes 
before using.)

Line a baking sheet with foil and arrange an ovenproof 
wire rack over the top. Mist rack with cooking spray.

(NOTE: If you don’t have an ovenproof wire rack, simply bake your kebabs directly on a baking sheet.)

Prepare tahini sauce:

In a small bowl, stir yogurt, lemon juice and tahini until well combined. (If the tahini is hard or lumpy, microwave for 
20 to 30 seconds, or until smooth.)  Set aside while the kebabs cook.

Arrange an oven rack 5 to 6 inches from the top heat source and preheat the broiler to high. Line a baking sheet with foil and arrange an ovenproof 
wire rack over the top. Mist rack with cooking spray.

Prepare couscous:

In a small saucepan, bring 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons water to a boil. Stir in seasoning blend, remaining black pepper, salt and couscous. Cover and remove from the heat. Let sit, covered, for 5 to 7 minutes. 
Fluff with a fork and stir in parsley

Prepare kebabs:

Arrange an oven rack 5 to 6 inches from the top heat source and preheat the broiler to high.

In a large bowl combine sirloin, garlic, onion, cumin, coriander, ¼ teaspoon each black pepper, 
salt and cayenne. Stir gently until thoroughly combined.

Divide mixture into 4 equal portions. Shape each portion into a narrow, oblong 2- to 3-inch-long patty. Mold 2 patties around 
1 skewer about 1 inch apart (see photo). Repeat with remaining 2 patties and skewer.

Transfer to the prepared rack and broil until tops are lightly browned, 3 to 4 minutes. Turn and broil until 
lightly browned and cooked through, 3 to 4 more minutes.

Divide couscous between two serving plates and top each serving with 1 beef skewer. Serve with tahini sauce and tomato wedges, dividing evenly.

Quick Tomato Soup

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8 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
  • One 28-ounce can crushed Italian tomatoes
  • One 14-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes, with juice
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 1/2 cup half-and-half
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste

Directions

Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat and add onion and celery; cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 4 minutes. Add garlic and thyme cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 10 seconds.

Stir in canned tomatoes and broth; bring to a low boil over high heat. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes.

Puree the soup in the pot using an immersion blender or in batches in a blender. (Use caution when pureeing hot liquids.)

Stir in half-and-half, salt and pepper. Serve with the wrap or a grilled cheese sandwich.

Spinach and Feta Cheese Wraps

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2 wraps

Ingredients

  • 4 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons.prepared basil pesto
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1-1/2 cups chopped fresh baby spinach leaves
  • 1/2 cup crumbled Feta Cheese
  • 2 (2 oz.) whole-wheat flat breads
  • 1/2 cup jarred roasted red peppers, drained and thinly sliced

Directions

In a 10-inch skillet heat olive oil over medium heat. Beat eggs and pesto together with a fork in a medium bowl. Pour into the skillet. As eggs start to set, lift the edges with a spatula, allowing uncooked eggs to flow to the bottom of the skillet. Cook until the eggs are set but still moist. Sprinkle with feta; cover the pan and heat 1 minute longer. Cut omelet in half.

Immediately, place half of the omelet on one flat bread. Top with half the spinach leaves and half the roasted red peppers and roll up tightly. Wrap in parchment and let rest about 10 minutes so the vegetables can warm up. Repeat with the second flat bread and the remaining ingredients. Serve with a bowl of soup.


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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.

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Shrimp and Tomato Piccata

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 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

Directions

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.

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Beef Sirloin Tips with Pepper Sauce

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 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

Directions

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.

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Greens, Cannellini Beans and Italian Sausage

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 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

Directions

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.

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Crispy Fish Fillets with Apple-Celery Slaw

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 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

Directions

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.

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Sautéed Chicken Breasts with Simple Wine Sauce

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 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

Directions

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.


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It seems that summer went by so quickly. And here we are on the verge of Halloween.

This is the time of year when kids are getting back into the swing of classes and homework and parents are gearing up for busy evenings filled with after-school activities. These quick weeknight meals will help you fit dinner into the family’s schedule every night. With a little creative planning and a handy list of go-to meals, you can make quick meals for busy nights. You’ll avoid fast food, eat well and spend less!

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Lemony Chicken

Serve with cooked rice and steamed broccoli florets.

Ingredients

  • 6 medium boneless skinless chicken breast halves (1-1/2 pounds)
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoons pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 lemons, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • Hot cooked rice
  • Broccoli florets

Directions

Place each chicken breast between two pieces of plastic wrap. Pound lightly into a rectangle about 1/4 to 1/8 inch thick. Remove plastic wrap.

In a shallow bowl, combine the flour, salt, pepper, oregano and garlic powder. Coat chicken breasts with flour mixture, pressing it into the chicken.

In a 12-inch skillet cook half the chicken breasts in 1 tablespoon and 1 tablespoon oil butter over medium-high heat for about 3 minutes on each side or until brown and no longer pink. Remove chicken from skillet. Repeat with remaining butter, oil and chicken. Remove to the plate with the browned chicken.

Add lemon slices to the skillet; cook for 2 to 3 minutes or until lightly browned, turning once. Return all of the chicken to the skillet, overlapping chicken breasts slightly. Drizzle lemon juice over the chicken breasts. Cook for 2 minutes more to heat through. Serve chicken, lemon slices and pan juices over hot cooked rice. Makes 6 servings.

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Fresh Tomato Topped Pork

Ingredients

  • 4 boneless pork loin chops, 3/4-inches thick
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large red onion, quartered and sliced (2 cups)
  • 2 tomatoes, cut into thin wedges
  • 2 tablespoons Balsamic vinegar
  • Mashed Potatoes, recipe below
  • Peas

Directions

Prepare mashed potatoes according to recipe below.

Season chops with salt and pepper.

In 12-inch skillet heat oil over medium-high heat. Add pork chops; cook 3 minutes. Turn pork over, add onion. Cook 10 minutes more or until chops are cooked through (160F), and stirring onion occasionally. Transfer chops to serving plates leaving onion in the pan.

Add tomatoes and vinegar to onion; cook and stir 1 minute more. Pour sauce over pork chops.

Serve with mashed potatoes and peas. Makes 4 servings.

Mashed Potatoes

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds russet or Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and quartered
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup milk
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add potatoes and cook until tender but still firm, about 15 minutes; drain. Return drained pot to the heat and heat butter and milk until butter is melted. Return potatoes to the drained pot with the milk/butter mixture.

Using a potato masher or an immersion blender, slowly blend milk mixture and potatoes until smooth and creamy. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

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Tortellini Primavera

Serve with a green salad and whole-grain baguette.

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 14 1/2-ounce can vegetable broth or reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1 cup shredded Italian fontina cheese or 3/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, plus extra for the pasta
  • 16-ounce bag of your favorite frozen mixed vegetables
  • 16-ounce package frozen cheese tortellini

Directions

Put a large pot of water on to boil.

Whisk broth and flour in a small bowl.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and cook, stirring, until just beginning to brown, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the broth mixture to the pan, bring to a boil and cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 3 minutes.

Remove from the heat and stir in cheese, Italian seasoning and salt.

Add salt and tortellini to the boiling water; return the water to a boil. after 3 minutes add the frozen vegetables and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook until the vegetables and tortellini are tender, 2-3 minutes. Drain; add to the skillet with the sauce and stir to coat. Serve with additional grated cheese.

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Ham and Spinach Frittata

Serve with some fresh Italian bread and the red leaf lettuce salad.

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 2 small russet potatoes (about 3/4 pound), peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 small onion, thinly sliced
  • 9 large eggs
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1 10-ounce package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed of excess liquid
  • 4 ounces Cheddar, grated (1 cup)
  • 4 ounces thinly sliced deli ham, cut into 2-inch pieces

Salad

  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 head red leaf lettuce, torn into bite-size pieces (6 cups)

Directions

Heat oven to 400° F. Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large ovenproof nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the potatoes and onion and cook, turning occasionally, until the potatoes are tender, 12 to 15 minutes.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Mix in the spinach, Cheddar and ham.

Add the egg mixture to the skillet, stir once, and transfer the skillet to the oven. Cook until the eggs are set, 12 to 14 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together the vinegar, mustard, the remaining tablespoon of oil, and ¼ teaspoon each salt and pepper. Add the lettuce and toss to coat. Serve alongside the frittata.

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Salmon Burgers

Serve with frozen sweet potato fries heated in the oven and Easy Cucumber Salad.

Ingredients

  • 16 oz canned salmon, drained (or leftover cooked salmon)
  • 3/4 cup panko (Japanese-style bread crumbs)
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons snipped parsley
  • 2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 recipe Lemon Mayonnaise, recipe below
  • Sandwich buns and leaf lettuce
  • Easy Cucumber Salad, recipe below

Directions

In a mixing bowl combine panko, green onions, parsley, ginger, garlic, eggs, soy sauce and lemon juice. Stir in salmon.

Line a tray with parchment paper or foil. Divide salmon into four (2/3-cup) mounds on the tray. Shape into 1-inch-thick patties. Cover with plastic wrap; refrigerate 30 minutes while you prepare the other dinner ingredients.

Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add salmon patties. Cook 4 to 5 minutes per side or until cooked through (160 degrees F). Serve with Mayonnaise topping on buns with lettuce.

Lemon Mayonnaise

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons red onion, minced
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice

Directions

In a bowl stir together mayonnaise, red onion, and lime juice. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

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Easy Cucumber Salad

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon white sugar, honey or agave syrup
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 English seedless cucumber, peeled and sliced

Directions

Whisk together the vinegar, parsley, dill, garlic, sugar and salt in a bowl; stir well. Add the cucumber and stir to coat.


Enjoying a meal together on a weeknight is a goal for many families. But adults often find themselves pressed for time on weeknights and that time crunch can make it difficult to enjoy a home cooked meal.

Time is not the only thing getting in the way of family meals: school activities, long commutes or late hours at the office, etc., can make it difficult for a family to sit down together. The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse notes that family dinners are one of the most effective ways for parents to engage in the lives of their children. Studies have also shown that families who eat together tend to eat healthier, as parents can effectively monitor their kids’ diets, including whether or not their youngsters are getting enough fruits and vegetables, when they are dining together.

While it may not be feasible for parents and kids to scale back their busy schedules, there are steps parents can take to make weeknight meal preparation quicker. By shortening the time it takes to make meals on weeknights, families might be able to sit down to dinner together more often.

* Plan ahead. The most effective way to make more time for family meals is to plan ahead. Planning meals on the fly encourages everyone to fend for themselves, making it difficult for families to enjoy nutritious meals they can eat together. Plan for the coming week’s meals on the weekend, when you can survey your pantry and make a trip to the grocery store, if needed. Planning ahead also allows you to prepare certain parts of a meal in advance, which will save you time on busy weeknights.

* Make cold meals. Dinner does not have be served hot and cold meals often take less time to prepare. Consider serving salad or sandwiches on those nights when you are especially pressed for time. When serving sandwiches, serve them on whole grain bread to add nutritional value to the meal.

* Turn breakfast into dinner. There are no laws regarding what qualifies as dinner and what does not, so families without much time on their hands on a weeknight can turn breakfast into dinner. Eggs are both quick and easy to prepare and they can be served alongside toast and grapefruit. When making omelets for dinner, add some spinach or another vegetable to make the meal more nutritious.

* Lean on seafood more often. Seafood can be healthy and delicious, but that’s not the only reason it’s an ally to time strapped families. Seafood doesn’t take much time to cook, even dishes that take more time than simpler dishes, like sauteed shrimp, will still take less than 30 minutes to complete. That’s significantly less time than meals where beef, pork or poultry is the main entree.

* Leftovers aren’t just for lunch. Leftovers are often relegated to lunch, but extras from a meal cooked over the weekend can be used as a quick go to meal on a hectic weeknight. If the family enjoyed the meal the first time around, there’s no reason they won’t enjoy it again.

*Have a collection of quick recipes you can fall back on. See recipes below for a place to start.

*To save on time, take a closer look at your family’s favorite recipes and consider what can be made ahead — whether in the stages of slicing and dicing, or cooking a step in advance, or making smart choices by stocking your freezer or pantry with useful ingredients. The combination of helpful hands and a few simple organizational shortcuts will shift your dinners from hectic to manageable.

*Many recipes can be prepared through certain stages and refrigerated. Dishes with multiple components like a sauce or topping, such as a stir-fry or pasta dish, can often be partially made, reserving the final stages of assembly and cooking for the last minute to ensure freshness. The majority of casseroles can be made completely in advance and refrigerated in their baking dishes.

*Keep a stock of canned beans, grains and dried pastas in your pantry and fill the freezer with boxes of pre-cut or partially cooked vegetables, like frozen spinach or chopped broccoli. Look for items with packages that have short lists of ingredients and ones that you recognize, keeping preservatives and additives low.

Even families with hectic schedules can employ a few tricks to make dining together more convenient.

Grilled Eggplant and Tomatoes with Parmesan Crumbs

I like to grill Italian sausage, prior to putting the eggplant on the grill, to round out this delicious Italian meal.

Servings: 10

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups coarse fresh bread crumbs
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped basil
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated
  • Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 3 pounds eggplant, sliced lengthwise 1/2 inch thick
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 10 tomatoes, sliced 1 inch thick

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Spread the bread crumbs on a large rimmed baking sheet and drizzle with 1 tablespoon of oil; toss well. Bake for 8 minutes, until the bread crumbs are crisp and golden brown.

Transfer the bread crumbs to a medium bowl and toss with the basil and cheese.

Light a grill. Brush the eggplant slices with oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill over moderate heat until charred and tender, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer the eggplant to a platter, fanning them out.

Brush the tomatoes with oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill over moderate heat until charred and hot, about 1 minute per side.

Arrange the tomato slices over the eggplant and drizzle with oil. Sprinkle the bread crumb mixture over the top and serve right away.

Grilled Salmon with Preserved Lemon and Green Olives

Preserved lemons are a Middle Eastern ingredient made from lemons that have been cured in lemon juice and salt. Look for them at specialty-food shops. Serve the salmon with broccoli rabe.

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 of a preserved lemon, pulp discarded and peel minced
  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • One 2-pound, center-cut salmon fillet with skin
  • Salt and freshly ground white pepper
  • 8 large green olives, such as Cerignola, halved and pitted

Directions:

Light a grill or heat a grill pan. In a bowl, mix the preserved lemon with the shallot, parsley and 1 tablespoon each of the oil and lemon juice. Using a knife, make 1-inch-deep slits in the salmon skin, 1 inch apart. Rub the preserved lemon mixture into the slits. Rub the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil all over the salmon, then drizzle the fish with the remaining 2 tablespoons of lemon juice; season with salt and white pepper.

Grill the salmon, skin side down, over moderate heat until the skin is lightly charred and crisp, 5 minutes. Turn the salmon and grill until just cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes longer. Transfer the fish to a platter, skin side up. Scatter the olives over the fish. Cut the salmon crosswise into 6 pieces and serve.

MAKE AHEAD The seasoned salmon can be refrigerated for up to 4 hours.

Quick Chickpea and Summer Vegetable Stew

This light, simple stew is a great way to use a bounty of fresh summer vegetables in an easy one-pan meal. Serve with good Italian bread.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 small carrots, cut into coins
  • 1 quart reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 can (15 oz.) chickpeas (garbanzos), drained and rinsed
  • 2 small zucchini, cut into coins
  • 1 small yellow squash, cut into coins
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 bunch (6 oz.) thin asparagus, trimmed, cut into 2-in. pieces
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh basil leaves

Directions:

Heat oil in a medium pot over medium heat. Cook onion until translucent but not browned, about 7 minutes. Add carrots and cook until slightly softened, 3 to 4 minutes.

Stir in broth, chickpeas, squashes, corn, salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 2 minutes, then stir in tomatoes and asparagus and cook until squashes are tender but not mushy, about 3 minutes more. Ladle into bowls and garnish with basil.

Hanger Steak with Garlic Onion Sauce

Serve slices of steak with a fresh green salad and your favorite summer vegetable.

Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients:

  • 2 hanger steaks (1 1/2 lbs. total)
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper, divided
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 1 cup chopped green onions
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup reduced-sodium beef broth
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar

Directions:

Sprinkle steaks with 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large frying pan over high heat. Add steaks and cook, turning once, until medium-rare, 10 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board; tent with foil.

Reduce heat to medium and add 1 tablespoon butter to the pan. Add green onions and garlic and stir until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Pour in broth, wine and vinegar and cook, stirring to release browned bits, until reduced by two-thirds. Remove from heat and stir in remaining butter. Season with remaining 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper and serve with sliced steak.

Chicken Cheesesteaks

Cheesy sandwiches get a kick from a bit of cayenne. If you prefer an even more robust flavor, spread the rolls with a mixture of Dijon mustard and chili paste instead of butter. Serve with pickles and sliced fresh vegetables, such as carrot and celery sticks.

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 boned, skinned chicken breast halves ( total 1 lb.) sliced
  • 1 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 1 cup sliced onion
  • 1 cup sliced green bell pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
  • 2 teaspoons butter
  • 4 submarine or French bread rolls, split
  • 4 romaine lettuce leaves
  • 1 cup shredded jack cheese

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Heat oil in a large frying pan over high heat. Add chicken, mushrooms, onion, bell pepper and seasonings and cook until chicken is browned and no longer pink inside, 6 minutes.

Spread 1/2 teaspoon butter inside each roll and toast rolls, opened up, in the oven on a baking sheet for about 4 minutes. Lay 1 lettuce leaf in each roll. Sprinkle cheese over lettuce, then divide chicken mixture among rolls.

 

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