Simple School Night Recipes
Local moms share some easy meal ideas to get everyone to the dinner table.
School is back in session and it’s a busy time for most families, mine included. Gathering everyone for dinner is a challenge, and figuring out what to feed them is sometimes even a bigger challenge. I am always looking for quick and healthy recipe ideas.
I thought I’d ask some friends how they get dinner on the table in the midst of the back to school frenzy and I got some great feedback. Here are some ideas from local moms like you and me.
Jill, a Cinnaminson mom with a baby at home and twins in elementary school, shared her Shrimp Rotini Bake recipe with me. Ingredients include medium cooked shrimp (Walmart, $5), rotini or ziti pasta, alfredo sauce and mozzarella cheese. Cook pasta about 2-3 minutes less than on directions, drain and put in lasagna pan. Add sauce, shrimp and cheese on top. Bake for about 30-35 minutes at 350 degrees. Jill says this recipe is “quick and easy—baking while you are helping with homework.” Add a salad and some bread for a complete meal.
Mary Ellen, a Burlington Township mom had some smart meal ideas to share with me. She says, “The crock pot always comes in handy now—vegetarian or meat filled chili, make some minute brown rice and a quick salad and you're good to go for a couple meals; beef stew or pot roast work great in the crock pot too; a couple chicken breasts, jar of salsa and packet of taco seasoning in the crock makes a Mexican chicken to use in tacos, enchiladas or even on nachos after shredding. Can you tell I love my crock pot! And there are always Costco’s rotisserie chickens—a million uses for them!"
My sister Jackie, a busy working mom with teenagers, likes to use her crock pot as well. Here are some of her favorite school night recipes.
Pulled Pork - Put trimmed pork loin roast in crock pot with approximately half of Lawry’s Steak and Chop Seasoning (will be spicy) and half a jar of Ragu Traditional sauce. Add chopped onion (to taste), some salt and pepper and 1-2 tablespoons of tomato paste. Put on for 6-8 hours. You can also use any piece of beef roast as well for same recipe. Make sandwiches on rolls; add to pasta; or make soft tacos with remainder.
Chicken - Place 3 pounds or more of boneless trimmed chicken breast in a crock pot with 2/3 to 1 full bottle of regular sized Italian dressing and cook for 6 hours. Shred chicken and add 1 pound of cooper cheese (from deli). Continue cooking in crock pot until cheese is bubbly and melted. Jackie says the chicken is “great on tortillas!”
My friend Jodi, a Medford mom, tells me cooking is not her thing but her husband is a great cook and he makes soups, chili, and turkey or chicken pot pies. He freezes them for baseball nights when they need something quick. Jodi does not like fast food and says, "I love this because it has the vegetable and protein all in one.”
There are lots of quick and easy recipes available online and magazines are highlighting back to school meals right now as well. Some of my favorite magazines for recipes are Family Fun, Good Housekeeping, and Family Circle. Some websites to check out include: Family.com, Delish and Chef Mom.
There are many ways to get dinner on the table and share a meal together. Family time is what matters most so if pizza finds its way to our tables sometimes, so be it. It’s the time together that makes the family meal. In fact, there are several organizations and groups dedicated to helping families find time to sit down for a meal. There are a few grassroots movements such as The Family Dinner Project and The Power of Family Meals geared toward bringing back traditional family dinners.
In 2001, the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University initiated Family Day, a day to eat dinner with your family. The mission of this national crusade is to “inform parents that the engagement fostered during frequent family dinners is an effective tool to help keep America’s kids substance free.” Their motto is “Dinner Makes a Difference”.
This year, Family Day is on Monday, Sept. 24. So, try one of the simple family meal ideas listed here and share dinner with your family. Make a nice dinner for your family and make a difference at the same time.