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10 Quick Fixes for Healthy Weekday Dinners

Posted September 19, 2014

With cooler evenings and busier schedules, it seems like the whole family is hungrier than ever at suppertime these days. How can you get everyone fed, healthy, and happy -- fast -- without wearing yourself out? Be prepared and creative with these ten quick, easy shortcuts.

1. When you have a little downtime, sauté large batches of onions and garlic in a minimal amount of oil. Cool and freeze in flat, shallow containers so you can break off a piece easily. Adds fast flavor to purchased soup, tomato sauce, omelets, or just about any main course.

2. Speaking of soup, many home cooks think of it as a slow food, requiring lengthy simmering on a back burner. Truth is, though, that a filling main course soup can be assembled in half an hour or less. Use prepared stock as a starter, to be enriched with fresh or leftover diced meat and vegetables, according to what you have in the fridge. Toss in a handful or two of raw pasta. Bring to boil, cover, and simmer for 20-30 minutes.

3. Make friends with your oven. A roaster filled with sliced fresh vegetables can bake alongside a panful of chops, for a satisfying supper with a minimum of fuss and efficient use of electrical energy. TIP: While you have the oven on, throw in a couple of scrubbed whole beets in a mini baking pan. The roast beets will become the fixings for a simple yet unusually delicious salad tomorrow night.

4. Save time but still make sure your family gets their vitamins. Wash a heap of salad fixings all in one shot to be used up over several days. Wrap romaine lettuce leaves in a damp towel to keep them crisp in the refrigerator.

5. Remember that frozen vegetables are a much better option than none at all and in fact may have a higher nutritional value than fresh. Boston electricians advise that you must store frozen produce at temperatures below 0 degrees F until you are ready to use it.

6. Yes, you can cook frozen fish without defrosting first. In fact, this is a safer -- and, in my experience, tastier -- method for small whole fish, steaks, and fillets than thawing at room temperature. Drizzle with a little oil (preferably olive), then panfry, bake, or broil. You'll need to add a few minutes to the total cooking time.

7. Repackage fresh meat or seafood as soon as you bring it home from the store, before stashing it in your freezer. A few ready portions of skinless, boneless chicken breast or burgers you have preformed (make 'em thin!) can be a sanity saver on a busy night. These may also be cooked from a frozen state -- I can attest to the successful results.

8. Alternatively, cook up a big batch of ground "beef." Combine beef with ground turkey in a 50/50 ratio for a heart-friendlier mix. Add in minced veggies like bell peppers and/or carrots and sauté till browned all the way through. Freeze in supper-size quantities, as fast fixings for spaghetti sauce, cottage pie, or tacos.

9. Discover whole grain couscous. Just add hot water or broth and let it sit for 5 minutes. Voila! An instant complex carb! Serve as a base for a saucy main like tofu paprika, or stir in sliced green onions, cucumber and tomato chunks, pesto, and a generous sprinkle of feta to create a hearty salad.

10. Whole wheat pitas are another great basic that make what is essentially a sandwich seem more like dinner. Stuff with cold cuts, leftover rotisserie chicken, or for a vegan alternative, fried Portobello mushroom slices, humus and fine-chopped salad.

Laura Firszt writes for networx.com.

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