Friday, November 15, 2013

5:28 PM
Hard to go Wrong
In a two-working parent household pulling together dinner at the end of a long day can be a struggle. The following are my go-to mid-week meals that are quick to prepare (15 minutes max), healthy, and that my kids love.  The portions I serve are generous, and yet we always have leftovers for the kid's or our lunches.  I should also mention that even though I buy nothing in bulk (i.e., I shop almost exclusively at Trader Joes), and everything organic, each of these meals feeds a family of four big appetites (plus leftovers) for well under $20.

Black Bean Burritos
1 can black beans
1 can corn
2 cups frozen peas
1/2 bag frozen brown rice
Shredded cheese
Flour tortillas
Fruit / Steamed veggies

In a medium size pot mix together black beans, corn, rice and peas. Season to taste. While these are warming, sprinkle cheese on the tortillas and warm them separately in the oven, toaster oven or frying pan. Spoon bean mixture into warm, melted-cheesy tortilla, garnish with avocado and salsa as appropriate, roll and serve with fruit or steamed veggies. Prep time: 10 minutes, Serves: 6-7 large burritos.

The Trifecta
Green vegetable: broccoli, green beans, asparagus
Corn on the cob
Sweet potato
Non-veggie thing: pasta, lean protein, sausages, flatbread pizza

The secret to this colorful and balanced meal is to bake the sweet potato in advance. I usually bake about 10 medium sized sweet potatoes at some point during the weekend. Then I store them in the fridge in a Tupperware. To make a quick and hearty side dish for dinner, I just peel them, microwave them for 1 minute and mash them and the kids LOVE them. I usually then steam at least two types of veggies while I am making the non-veggie portion of the meal. Steaming is great because the veggies retain their color and flavor and don't get mushy. The key is to not overcook them!!! For the "main dish" I typically rely on a rotation of Trader Joe's pre-made pastas, flat breads, or pre-cooked chicken and sausages that I can heat up quickly and that create some variety. Prep time: 10 minutes, Serves: 4 with leftovers for lunches.

Tofu and Veggie Stirfry
1 firm tofu brick
1 head of broccoli
Most of a bag of baby carrots
Any other veggies you want to add
Handful of cashews
1 package of pre-cooked frozen brown rice
Brown sugar
Soy Sauce

Rinse and pat dry the tofu and cut into small cubes. Stirfry in large pan with olive oil. Sprinkle with brown sugar so the tofu caramelizes into a nice brown color. After a few minutes, add broccoli florets and carrots (and any other veggies you want). Add soy sauce for flavor. Cover to steam and stir occasionally until broccoli and carrots are tender, but not overcooked. Microwave the brown rice. Serve the stirfry over the brown rice, garnishing with the cashews. Prep time: 10-15 minutes, Serves: 4 with leftovers for lunches.

As for dessert - if the kids request it we usually offer them fruit or yogurt. On occasion we will give them a small scoop of ice cream, or the rare cookie. As a general practice in our house, nothing is forbidden, but things are allowed/encouraged only in proportion to their nutritional value. My kids have learned early that eating healthy food makes you feel good, and eating treats is fun but something to be enjoyed in small portions.

The other thing that I have learned is that persistence is key. We have been putting broccoli on my 2YO son's plate since he was a baby. He wouldn't touch it for over a year. Now he can't get enough.

If you have any go-to healthy meals, please share. We all could use a fresh perspective!

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