8 Quick and Simple Meals You Can Make with Your Family
By Andrea Schwartz, MEd, RD, LDN, CLC, CSCS, NSCA-CPT, Registered Dietitian
The best home cooking is often the simplest cooking—putting together whole ingredients with a little seasoning rather than creating complicated recipes with tons of ingredients. There’s nothing wrong with seasoning foods with extra-virgin olive oil, lemon, and a dash of salt, pepper, spices and dried or coarsely chopped fresh herbs. Toss everything into a pot, the oven or on the grill, and dinner is served.
For now, save the time-consuming recipes for special occasions (unless you’re an experienced cook). You’ll take the stress out of cooking family meals, while supporting your family’s health and helping them develop a taste for healthy, whole foods.
Here are some simple meal ideas to try:
Quesadillas: Fill whole-wheat or corn tortillas with grilled chicken, a sprinkle of cheese (like Monterrey Jack, Colby or cheddar), black beans, chopped tomatoes, sliced avocado and your favorite veggies like sautéed mushrooms or spinach. Bake in the oven until the cheese is melted.
Stuffed spaghetti squash: Cut the squash lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Roast it in the oven, and serve it filled with pesto, cannellini beans, and shaved parmesan.
Fish tacos: Pan-sear any white, flaky fish and serve it with soft or hard taco shells, black beans, lettuce, tomato, avocado or guacamole, and roasted vegetables like peppers, onions, or zucchini. For added fun, serve as a do-it-yourself buffet and let your family build their own.
Black-bean burritos: Rinse and drain canned, low- or no-sodium black beans, place in a pot and cover with water. Add spices of choice, such as garlic powder, oregano, salt, and pepper; bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer until water is almost all gone, stirring occasionally. Place the beans in a whole-wheat wrap and top with salsa, fresh cut tomatoes, cilantro, low-fat plain Greek yogurt in place of sour cream (or low-fat sour cream), cheese, and any other vegetables you like. Serve them with a fun “dipping” sauce and fresh baby spinach or a side salad.
Salmon burgers: Use canned salmon with a small amount of mayonnaise or beaten egg to form patties, then pan-sear and serve on whole-grain hamburger buns or bread. Serve with your favorite cooked vegetable or side salad.
Miso-marinated fish: Marinate fish for 30 minutes (or up to 24 hours) in a marinade made from equal parts mirin and miso with honey (to taste) and then broil. Serve with brown rice and sautéed spinach or roasted broccoli.
Quinoa salad: Toss cooked quinoa with your favorite roasted vegetables (zucchini, summer squash, eggplant, tomatoes, and mushrooms), green onions, dried cranberries, feta cheese, and season with olive oil, lemon, salt, and pepper. Serve it hot or cold, and make it in bulk to enjoy as leftovers. For added protein, top it with grilled chicken.
Korean tofu: Press extra-firm tofu between two plates for about 30 minutes to remove moisture, and pat it dry with a paper towel. Cut the tofu into cubes, toss in a little cornstarch, and pan-sear until golden brown. Serve with roasted eggplant and sweet potatoes and top with sauce made from three parts low-sodium soy sauce to one part sesame oil, that’s seasoned with garlic, cayenne pepper, ginger powder, and honey (to taste).
Now is the time to get creative with your meals using ingredients from your pantry and refrigerator. You can follow basic recipes but don’t be afraid to swap out ingredients for what you have on hand.
Updated April 22, 2020