Just picture this day: You go to the supermarket, place only the best foods in your cart, come home and create a delicious meal for your family. Then, everyone sits down at the table together to share a hot meal and heartfelt conversations.
While that scenario is but a dream for most of us, you can still enjoy that last and most important part – sitting together at the table over a meal and conversation – without spending your day food shopping or becoming an iron chef.
First, try to keep certain staples in your pantry, fridge and freezer to rely on when you don’t have the time or inclination to shop. You also don’t have to feel the pressure of being creative or traditional – there’s nothing wrong with meatloaf, pizza or breakfast for dinner.
Go for pre-packaged fresh ingredients, too. Although slicing, dicing and chopping salad ingredients is like therapy to me, there isn’t always time to take advantage of those techniques. Several companies sell salad in bags that are already assembled for you, and include add-ins like nuts, seeds, cheese and dressing. Some even come in a bowl along with plasticware so you don’t even have to wash the dishes. Check the labels to be sure you’re not getting lots of extra calories from fat or sugar (from dressings, crunchy noodles and so on).
Finally, keep in mind that it’s better to spend a little extra money, if need be, on ingredients that are conveniently cut up ahead of time rather than to buy the whole form of the fruit or veggie and then waste it because you didn’t have the time or desire to prepare it.
Now, just enlist others to help you with the prep steps and try one of these meals you can throw together in minutes – without any stress as a side dish:
1. Italian-Inspired “Turkey” Dinner
Buy a rotisserie chicken, frozen vegetables (squash and green beans keep things seasonal) and a box of pasta. Lightly saute the veggies in a little olive oil and garlic, add some chicken broth and cut the chicken into small pieces. Boil the pasta, drain it and add it to the vegetable and chicken mix. Done.
2. Seasonal Salad
Just top your favorite salad greens with some protein like shredded part-skim cheese, canned tuna or salmon, or canned, rinsed beans (rinsing ditches almost 40 percent of the sodium). Jazz up this dish further by adding some dried cranberries, sliced almonds and a squeeze of balsamic glaze to create a DIY salad bar at home.
3. Mini Meatloaves
Nothing fills the belly and warms the soul like a classic meatloaf recipe. To follow mine, which you can find at BetterThanDieting.com, combine 2 cups of chopped mixed vegetables with your favorite seasonings (garlic powder, onion, smoked paprika and chili powder work well), 1/2 cup panko, 1 egg and 1 pound of lean ground turkey. Coat the muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray, fill each cup three-quarters full and bake it at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 to 25 minutes. The recipe makes 20 muffins and can be served with oven-roasted potatoes and a salad or veggies.
4. Hawaiian Holiday Shrimp
Saute fresh or frozen shrimp, frozen veggies, shelled edamame, a few tablespoons of crushed pineapple, cut mango, chopped nuts and just a tablespoon of low-sodium soy sauce in 1/2 tablespoon sesame oil. Serve over cooked quinoa.
5. Deviled Egg Appetizer
Boil eggs in water for about five minutes. After running them under cold water, peel, wash and slice them in half length-wise. Pop out the yolks and mash them with a variety of chopped veggies, 1 teaspoon of grainy mustard and 1 tablespoon of light mayo(condiment quantities vary depending on the number of eggs you use). Stuff the mix into the egg whites and serve them with a big salad and multigrain pita chips.
6. Festive Pizza
‘Tis always the season for pizza. Buy pizza dough (preferably whole wheat) at a local pizza shop and heat a stone or cookie sheet in the oven ahead of time. For a Christmas-colored pie, combine baby spinach, sliced mushrooms, chopped fresh tomatoes, shredded mozzarella cheese and crushed garlic in a bowl. Remove the pan from the oven, spray with cooking spray, stretch the dough over the stone or pan and top it with the veggie mixture. Bake it in the oven at 425 degrees Fahrenheit until the cheese is bubbly and the crust is golden brown.