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Easiest Week of Dinners Ever

Use this blueprint so you can get healthy meals on the table during the most hectic times—like the first week of school.


The first week of school is full of excitement and chaos. Every year, I think, “Maybe this is the year my kids’ schools enter the electronic age.” But so far, no luck. Each September, my kids bring home a stack of paper an inch high. By the end of the week, I’ve written my phone number and insurance information so many times that my hand is sore.


But even with the forms and permission slips and checks, this is not the week to skimp on family dinnertime. Your kids will be bursting to tell you all of their news: what their teacher is like, who’s in their class and who came to school with a Mohawk. So here’s the solution: a week of simple, healthy dinners that will give your kids energy for the new school year and give you time to talk at the dinner table.


*Prep School


Follow these tips to make your week even easier.


1. Make the meatballs, sauce, Italian dressing and even the baked chicken on Sunday. A lot of your work will be done for your Monday through Thursday meals.


2. Buy the pasta sauce and Italian dressing pre-made. Also, you can use boil-in-the-bag whole-grain rice to speed things along. However, you will find that these recipes are so easy, you may never buy pre-made again!



*Shopping List



1 lb. russet potatoes

1-2 bunches asparagus

1 head romaine or 1 bag pre-cut lettuce

1 lb. cherry tomatoes

1 avocado

2 onions

1 bunch parsley

1 head garlic

1 lb. fresh spinach (optional)

2 pints fresh berries



1 dozen eggs

1 lb. shredded cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese

8 slices mozzarella cheese

1 large container vanilla yogurt

½ cup Parmesan cheese



2 chickens (roasters)

1 lb. ground beef

½ lb. sausage

5 slices salami

1 thick slice of ham



1 bag croutons

1 cup whole-grain rice

1 cup seasoned breadcrumbs

1 lb. whole wheat pasta

6 hoagie rolls

6 tortillas

1 loaf sliced bread or one roll biscuit dough



1 jar salsa or salsa verde




1 (35-ounce) can diced or stewed


1 can black beans

Olive oil







Vinegar (white wine or balsamic)

Cajun seasoning (such as Chef Paul’s Magic Seasoning or similar)







Baked Chicken with Potatoes and Asparagus


Perfect timing: Get hot food on the table easily with a delicious, roasted menu.


Serves 4-6 (for two dinners)

Prep time: 30 minutes

Cook time: 1 hour


Note: One chicken will be used for burritos later in the week. If making ahead, chill both chickens until ready to use.



2 chickens (roasters)

Olive oil





1.  Preheat oven to 350°F.

2. Place roasters in baking pan with edges. Coat them with olive oil and then sprinkle with thyme, salt and pepper.

3. Bake for about 1 hour. Then test chickens with a meat thermometer. Remove when the internal temperature reaches 165°F.

4. Remove from oven and chill one chicken to use for the burritos later in the week.



Roasted Potatoes


Serves 4-6

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 30 minutes


1 lb. russet potatoes

1 Tablespoon olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste


1. Dice potatoes to about ½ inch.

2. Blot them dry and then toss with olive oil, salt and pepper.

3. Place on a shallow baking sheet and put in oven ½ hour before the chickens are finished. Bake approximately a half-hour until golden brown.



Easy Italian Dressing and Marinade


Makes 1 1/3 cup

Prep time: 5 minutes


1 cup olive oil

⅓ cup vinegar (balsamic or white wine)

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon pepper

2 cloves garlic, crushed

½ teaspoon dried basil or four leaves, fresh and diced


Mix all ingredients well.



Roasted Asparagus



Makes 4-6 servings

Prep time: 2 minutes

Cook time: 30 minutes


1-2 bunches asparagus

1 cup Italian dressing


1. Marinate asparagus in Italian dressing for up to 3 hours.

2. Spread on baking dish and put in the oven with the chicken and potatoes (for the last half hour of cooking the chicken).





Kids’ Favorite by Request Night


Make-ahead tip: If you make the Pasta Sauce and Meatballs ahead of time, you’ll cut your cook and prep time to 10 minutes.


Meatballs and Spaghetti


Serves 4-6

Prep time: 20 minutes

Cook time: 30 minutes

1 lb. ground beef

½ lb. sausage

1 cup seasoned breadcrumbs

2 eggs

½ cup Parmesan cheese

¼ cup parsley

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon pepper

1/8 teaspoon oregano

½ teaspoon thyme

1 lb. whole wheat pas


1. Preheat oven to 375°F.

2. Combine ground beef, sausage, bread crumbs, eggs, cheese, parsley, salt, pepper, oregano and thyme in a bowl and smoosh together by hand.

3. Roll into balls about 1-2 inches thick.

4. Place on a broiling pan and cook for approximately half an hour until cooked through.



Super-Simple Pasta Sauce


Makes approx. 8 cups

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 15-20 minutes


½ cup olive oil

6 cloves garlic, crushed

2 (35-ounce) cans stewed or diced tomatoes

8 leaves fresh or ½ teaspoon dried basil

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon pepper

1 teaspoon sugar



1. Heat oil in medium saucepan and add garlic. Sauté 2-5 minutes until light brown.

2. Add all the other ingredients. Simmer for 10 minutes. Remove half the sauce to use for tomorrow’s meatball subs.

3. Add the meatballs and simmer for 5 minutes.

4. Prepare pasta according to package directions and serve with the meatballs and sauce.


Healthy tip:

Add shredded spinach to your pasta sauce for added vitamins and fiber, as well as taste.





Roll It Up Night

Easy, Cheesy Chicken Burritos



Note: Your kids might want to help you assemble the burritos for this hands-on dinner.


Serves 6

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 25 minutes

1 cup whole-grain rice

1 can black beans

1 teaspoon chili powder

1 chicken (roaster), cooked (from Monday night)

6 flour tortillas

1 lb. shredded cheddar or Monterrey Jack cheese

1 avocado

1 jar salsa or salsa verde


1. Make rice according to package directions or see tip at right.

2. Place black beans in a saucepan over medium heat. Add chili power. Heat until bubbling, about 7-10 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, chop the meat from ½ the chicken and microwave on high for 4 minutes until hot.

4. Put tortillas on a large, microwave-safe plate and cover with a damp paper towel. Heat for 2 minutes on high.

5. Assemble burritos by placing 1/3 cup rice, ¼ cup beans, 1/3 cup chicken and ¼ cup shredded cheese on each tortilla.

6. Top with avocado wedges and salsa and then fold.



Tip: Easy Brown Rice

In a heavy-bottomed pan, add 1 cup of whole-grain rice to 1 1/2 cups water and bring to a boil. Lower heat, cover and simmer for 35-40 minutes. Let sit, covered, for at least 20 minutes to allow the rice to absorb any moisture. You can make extra to freeze for future use.




Super  Sub/Hot Hoagie Night

Sub, hoagie, submarine, torpedo: A favorite sandwich by any name.

Super Meatball Subs with Italian Salad



Serves 6

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 10 minutes


Reserved pasta sauce from Tuesday night (or one jar prepared sauce)

3-4 meatballs per sub (from Tuesday night)

6 hoagie rolls

14 slices mozzarella cheese


1. Heat pasta sauce in saucepan over medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

2. For each sub, heat 3-4 meatballs in microwave.

3. Toast the hoagie rolls by placing them on a cookie sheet under the broiler for 1 minute per side. Watch them carefully so they don’t burn!

4. Put one slice of mozzarella on each side of each roll and broil again until cheese starts to bubble, about 1-2 minutes.

5. Cut meatballs in half and arrange on hoagie roll. Cover with sauce and serve.



Italian Salad



1 head romaine lettuce or 1 bag pre-cut lettuce

5 slices salami

2 slices mozzarella cheese

1 lb. cherry tomatoes

½ cup Italian dressing from Monday night

1 bag croutons


1. If using head lettuce, wash and chop into large pieces.

2. Slice the salami and 2 cheese slices into strips.

3. Add cherry tomatoes.

4. Toss with Italian dressing.

5. Add croutons before serving.




It’s Breakfast for Dinner!


Friday is finally here. You’ve made it! So put on your pjs and settle into a relaxing night at home. Have breakfast for dinner, and talk about the week past.


Ham, Egg and Cheese Scramble

Note: You can make tonight’s recipe in 15 minutes.



Serves 6-8

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 15 minutes

½ onion, diced

1 teaspoon and 1 Tablespoon olive oil

8-10 eggs

Cajun seasoning

1 (½-inch-thick) slice of ham, diced

1 cup cheddar or Monterrey Jack Cheese, diced

Biscuits or toast



1. Dice the onion into small pieces.

2. Place in pan over low heat with 1 teaspoon olive oil.

3. Sauté onions while you prepare the rest of the dish. (You could skip this step and your kids wouldn’t notice, but it will give your eggs a much richer flavor.)

4. Beat eggs and Cajun seasoning with a hand mixer in a medium bowl and set aside. 5. Dice the ham.

6. When the onions are soft, add the ham and sauté 3 minutes until ham begins to brown.

7. Remove ham and onions from pan and put them on a plate.

8. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to the pan and scramble eggs.

9. Before eggs harden, add cheese and then the ham-and-onion mixture. Stir in well and remove from heat.

10. Serve with toast or biscuits (baked according to package directions).



Yogurt Sundaes


Serves 6-8

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 15 minutes


1 large tub vanilla yogurt or plain yogurt

plus 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1-2 baskets fresh berries (blueberries, raspberries, blackberries and/or strawberries)

1 Tablespoon honey


1. Put ½ cup vanilla yogurt in each dish.

2. Sprinkle with berries and drizzle with honey.



Fun Idea: Family Q & A


It’s the end of a big week. Write the following questions on a 3×5 card and put them in a hat, bag or basket. Have each child pick one. Go around the table and let the child answer their question; every child at the table can answer it, too.


• Who were you happy to see in your class this year?

• Was there anyone you were unhappy to see in your class this year?

• What is your favorite thing about your new teacher?

• Are there any students in your class who are new to the school this year?

• Name one thing you’ll be able to do this year that you couldn’t do last year.

• What is one thing you want to work on this school year?



Written by Bridgett Hurley • Photography by Brandy Bond



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