GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — You've had a long day at work and when you finally look at the clock, you realize it's already 5 p.m. -- do you know what you're having for dinner?
Today’s families often face obstacles when it comes to planning and preparing dinner. Work, after school activities, homework and other tasks make the typically weekday busy and full.
Mealtime, especially during the week, requires tasty solutions that can be prepared quickly from simple, nutritious ingredients on hand. If the dreaded “What’s for Dinner?” question has you scrambling for quick meal options, here are some tips for making family mealtime easy and healthy:
Find the time – Family mealtime provides many social, healthful and financial benefits so carve out time in your calendar for dinner. Write down weekly activities and plan easy dinner options around family member schedules.
Feature family favorites – Make a list of the quick recipes and easy prep menus that you know your family will enjoy and have the ingredients ready in your refrigerator, freezer or pantry. You’ll have your go-to meals on hand for those especially hectic days.
Buy versatile ingredients – Be prepared for busy nights by keeping quick cooking side dishes, easy-to-prepare fruits and veggies, and lean protein items on hand so you can create a fast, balanced meal for your family. These include instant brown rice, whole grain pasta, canned vegetables/beans, pre-cut veggies/fruit, prepared salads and versatile protein items like lean ground beef.
- Fill half your plate with fruits and veggies. They’re packed with vitamins, minerals and fiber, and most are low in calories. Fresh is great but add in canned and frozen varieties to minimize waste.
- Choose your protein wisely. For example, a 3-ounce serving of lean beef provides 10 essential nutrients in about 170 calories, including high-quality protein, zinc, iron and B-vitamins. These nutrients help ensure young children start life strong, building healthy bodies and brains.
Use cooking technology – Small appliances such as the Pressure Cooker, for example the Instant Pot, and Air Fryer can help you create fast, tasty meals with healthy ingredients, and cooking skills such as Chuck Knows Beef can provide answers on everything from recipes, to cuts and preparation tips. Chuck, powered by Google Artificial Intelligence, can be accessed through your computer, mobile phone, Amazon Alexa or Google Home Assistant.
Select one pan dinners and use convenient ingredients – During crazy busy weekdays, one pan dinners are a real lifesaver and canned, precooked or pre-chopped ingredients can save a lot of prep time.
Check out BeefItsWhatsForDinner.com as they have a collection of 30 minutes or less recipes. Here are 2 of my quick favorites:
No-Fuss Beef Lasagna
1 pound Ground Beef (93% lean or leaner)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 jar (26 to 30 ounces) spaghetti sauce
1 can (14-1/2 ounces) Italian-style diced tomatoes, un-drained
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
1 carton (15 ounces) ricotta cheese
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1 egg, slightly beaten
10 uncooked lasagna noodles
1-1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
- Heat oven to 375°F. Heat large nonstick skillet over medium heat until hot. Add Ground Beef; cook 8 to 10 minutes, breaking into small crumbles and stirring occasionally. Pour off drippings; season with salt. Stir in spaghetti sauce, tomatoes and red pepper.
- Combine ricotta cheese, Parmesan cheese and egg in medium bowl.
- Spread 2 cups beef sauce in bottom of 13 x 9-inch baking dish. Top with 4 noodles, arranged lengthwise in single layer; place fifth noodle crosswise at end of dish, breaking noodle to fit. Press noodles lightly into sauce. Spread all the ricotta mixture over noodles. Sprinkle with 1 cup mozzarella cheese; top with 1-1/2 cups beef sauce. Top with remaining noodles in single layer; press into sauce. Top with remaining beef sauce.
- Bake in 375°F oven 45 minutes or until noodles are tender. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese. Let stand 15 minutes.
Cook's Tip: Cooking times are for fresh or thoroughly thawed Ground Beef. Ground Beef should be cooked to an internal temperature of 160°F. Color is not a reliable indicator of Ground Beef doneness.
Nutrition information per serving: 445 Calories; 16 Calories from fat; 16g Total Fat (7.6 g Saturated Fat; 0.2 g Trans Fat.
Roast Beef and Veggie Wraps
Want to change up the traditional Roast Beef sandwich? Try it as a wrap with some broccoli slaw that parents and kids will both love. Makes 4 servings.
12 ounces cooked beef roast or deli roast beef, thinly sliced
2 cups shredded broccoli slaw
6 tablespoons reduced-fat or fat-free ranch dressing, divided
1/2 cup reduced-fat or fat-free cream cheese, softened
4 flour medium tortillas (8 to 10-inch diameter)
- Mix broccoli slaw and 1/4 cup ranch dressing in medium bowl; mix with 2 forks to coat evenly.
- Combine cream cheese and remaining 2 tablespoons ranch dressing in small bowl; mix well with rubber spatula.
- Place tortilla on cutting board or other flat surface. Spread about 2-1/2 tbsp cream cheese mixture on tortilla using a rubber spatula.
- Top cream cheese with 1/4 roast beef slices in an even layer.
- Place approximately 1/3 cup of broccoli mixture on roast beef. Using rubber spatula or back of a spoon, spread broccoli mixture in an even layer.
- Starting at the bottom edge, roll tortilla up tightly to enclose filling.
- Repeat steps 3 through 6 to make 3 remaining wraps.
- Adult help needed: Using a knife, cut wraps crosswise into 1-1/2-inch wide pieces or cut diagonally in half.
Nutrition information per serving, using beef bottom round: 511 Calories; 15g Total Fat.
DISCLOSURE: Shari is a member of the Beef Expert Bureau through the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, a contractor to the Beef Checkoff.
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