7 Recipes for a Week of Family Dinners

Chow on 03.25.11
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I know what it's like to be a busy mom and have a seemingly endless list of things to do. Making dinner can be a stressful, time consuming activity. The kids are whining that they are hungry, the cat is throwing up a hairball on the kitchen floor, your husband just called to say he's running late and you open the refrigerator to find...nothing to eat. Most of us would reach into the freezer and pop something in the microwave, or get out the take-out menus. Of course, the problem with this scenario, is that your kids aren't getting a nutritious meal and they quickly get habituated to the taste of the extra salt, fat and sugar in these kinds of foods.

We can help you with that.  Each week I'll give you links to recipes for 7 weeknight dinners that you can make with a minimum of time and effort, and a maximum of taste and nutrition. The key to this is a bit of organization and planning. Take a bit of time to decide what you are going to make for the week, write a shopping list and get the shopping done all at once so that you have everything on hand when you need it. No more mid-afternoon panic when you start to think about what you are going to feed the kids when you get home, no more after work shopping when you are hungry and more likely to buy packaged food.

You can also get a jump on the week by taking a weekend afternoon and cooking a few things that can be reheated during the week, or making a big batch of spaghetti sauce that you can put in the freezer in dinner sized portions. If you are going to be spending a bit of time in the kitchen, get the kids to help out. Depending on their ages, they can measure and stir and maybe even do some supervised slicing.

If you have a child who likes spaghetti, but doesn't like "things" in their sauce, this easy tomato sauce recipe is for you. If they don't like lumps in it either, you can use a blender, or an immersion blender to puree it. Make it on the weekend and use it during the week.

Here is another weekend recipe for Maple Baked Beans. You don't actually have to do very much to get these in the oven, and then you have hours free to play with the kids, or whatever, while the beans are busy baking. And it makes your house smell wonderful.

Here is a tasty Fried Herb Chicken recipe with peanut butter (or tahini) as the secret ingredient.

One thing that my kids always loved to eat was something we called "Chinese beef". This recipe for Dan Dan Noodles is the same thing but a bit more sophisticated than what I used to make. Just leave out the chilies and the Sichuan pepper so it won't be too hot for the children.

Once you have the tomato sauce, you can use it instead of canned tomatoes in this chickpea tomato pasta sauce. I love this recipe and it's an easy way to get some fibre into the kids. It's also easy on the wallet.

These Jamaican Patties are also something you can make on the weekend when you have the time to make the pastry. They reheat really well, and you could even freeze them. These are vegan, but you could add a bit of ground beef or ground pork if you like. They'll be a hit when the kids realize they can eat dinner with their hands.

Most kids love pizza, and it tastes even better when it's homemade. You can buy pizza dough (which you can freeze) to save time, but you can also make them on individual flat breads. And hey, you can use the tomato sauce. This also allows your kids to customize their own pizza. And no one has to argue about anchovies.