It's 5:00 on a weeknight. I force myself into the kitchen, pour a glass of wine and begin the arduous task of preparing dinner for my family. The thing is: I love to cook. Dinner party? I'll gladly spend an entire day--days even--preparing the perfect meal, but at the end of a long day, deciding on a meal to cook that is relatively simple to prepare, healthy and that will appeal to my children and my husband is challenging. I do, however, have a few healthy go-to dinners up my sleeve that I want to share with you!
In several of these recipes, the proteins can be interchanged which makes it all the easier, so that you can work with what you have on hand. I'll provide some tweaks that I make to the recipe and suggestions on how to accommodate picky eaters.
1. Garlic Butter shrimp, Quinoa & Asparagus
MODIFICATIONS: If you are in a rush or just too tired, skip toasting the pine nuts. It will still taste great. But, I do add one ingredient which is a game-changer: SUN-DRIED TOMATOES. Drain a jar and mix them in at the end. Delicious. You could also sprinkle goat cheese and/or lemon zest on the dish to take it up another notch. Try chicken or chickpeas in lieu of shrimp.
FOR PICKY EATERS: I make my children eat this dish because it is too damn good not to eat. The concessions I'll make is that before I mix the quinoa into the cooked shrimp and veggies at the end, I put a few scoops in a bowl and mash it with butter and salt. I serve the quinoa in a pile on their plate; the shrimp cut-up in a pile; the asparagus separate, etc.
2. Balsamic Brussels Sprouts and Chicken Quinoa Bowls
This recipe is the most time intensive of the lot, but once you get everything in the oven, the hardest part of done. It is an incredibly satisfying and healthy dish.
MODIFICATIONS: This recipe comes from Mira courtesy of the Cooking LSL blog. I've made the recipe as is, and it's great; however, you can switch out many of the ingredients. Don't like Brussels Sprouts? Roast broccoli instead. Run out of pumpkin seeds? Try pine nuts or any nut, in its place. Hate quinoa? Use rice or Bulgar wheat. If you use something similar in taste and texture it will turn out fine. As for the protein, I've done chickpeas or shrimp in lieu of chicken. Steak would probably pair well with this too. The one thing that I almost always change is the Balsamic Glaze. This is a convenience food that you can purchase at the store, but I generally make Balsamic Dressing (in food processor of high-powered blender, blend olive oil, balsamic vinegar and a garlic cloves) to use in its place to bypass all the sugar in the glaze.
FOR PICKY EATERS: Instead of making a "bowl" for my children, I separate all the food out on the place. I do this before combining all the ingredients to make the "bowl" from the recipe. Little pile of chicken, little pile of broccoli, little pile of quinoa (except I mix their quinoa with salt and butter), etc. Generally, I cut up some fruit and give them a piece of baguette as well.
3. Spaghetti Squash, Bacon, Spinach & Goat Cheese
You are probably thinking that squash--no matter the variety--never tastes like pasta. Well, this recipe comes close and gives that feeling you get when you devour a large bowl of pasta. Plus, this recipe doesn't call for spiralizer; it's called spaghetti squash for a reason! Courtesy of Christine Byrne over at Buzzkill. You can find it here.
MODIFICATIONS: I generally make this recipe as is; although in this--and almost any recipe--I double or triple the amount of greens.
FOR PICKY EATERS: I don't change much except that I will often add spaghetti sauce and parmesan to my children's "pasta".
4. simple Kale and black bean burritos
At our house, we have burritos at least one night per week, because children love them, and if made this way, they are healthy. This recipe by Kate (from Cookie + Kate) is simple and satisfying. You can find the recipe here.
MODIFICATIONS: One thing I'll tell you straight away is that I never use store-bought burritos. They are full of "fake" ingredients. A few years ago, I discovered Tortilla Land burritos. These are uncooked burritos and are sold at many grocery stores in the refrigerator section. You simply cook them on your skillet, no oil is required and take about 1 minute each. They are so easy to make and taste delicious; once you try one, you won't go back!
FOR PICKY EATERS: Mine love burritos but aren't as excited about the kale, so I use a little bit on their burritos. Generally, I also cut up red pepper and some fruit to accompany this meal.
5. IF all else fails: toast!
When provisions are low, or even when they're not, loaded toast is a satiating and often a low cost option. Here are two combinations that I regularly make. Be sure to use good quality bread!
Toast + cheese cheese or goat cheese + capers + lemon zest + arugula (or any green) + smoked salmon + pepper
The Breakfast for Dinner
Toast + butter + sauteed garlic kale (sautee kale in olive oil, garlic and salt & pepper) + avocado + runny egg (or scrambled eggs) / for meat lovers, add bacon
or try this recipe from Well Plated.