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10 Dinners Your Family Will Actually Eat So You Don't Have to Play Short-Order Cook

Working Mother logo Working Mother 3/7/2019 Katie Farrell

These crowd-pleasing meals mean you can make one easy thing and be done for the night.

Pleasing picky eaters can be stressful. Often it means moms essentially become a short-order cook, making several different meals each night. To save you the stress, we're sharing our 10 favorite recipes from Dashing Dish, a food guide by Katie Farrell that incorporates meal planning, clean-eating recipes, product recommendations and more—all for the goal of a healthier living. Your kids will love these tasty (but healthy!) takes on kitchen classics.

1. Three Cheese Chicken Pasta Bake

a pizza sitting on top of a pan on a table: Serves 12 © Courtesy of Dashing Dish Serves 12
Not many people associate 'pasta bake' or 'three cheese' with the term 'healthy,' but this dish is all that and more. It's easy to prepare and perfect for weeknight family dinners and weekend entertaining alike.

Ingredients:

2 cups dry high fiber penne pasta or whole wheat penne pasta

1 cup plain low-fat Greek yogurt

1 cup spaghetti sauce

1 cup low fat cottage cheese

1 tsp garlic powder

1 1/2 cup chicken breasts, cooked and chopped or shredded

1 whole egg + 1 egg white, beaten

1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

1/4 cup mozzarella cheese, grated

1 Tbsp dried parsley

1/2 tsp salt

Optional: 1/2 cup diced tomatoes and/or 1/2 cup sautéed spinach

Topping:

1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

3/4 cup mozzarella cheese, grated

Optional: Additional parsley for topping

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9x13 baking pan with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside. Fill a medium pot with water and bring to a boil.

  2. Lower heat to medium-high and add pasta in salted boiling water and cook until tender (about 7-10 minutes). Drain and set aside.

  3. In a large bowl, stir together yogurt, sauce, cottage cheese, garlic, eggs, Parmesan and mozzarella cheese and parsley. Add chicken and pasta to sauce and toss to combine.

  4. Pour pasta mixture into the baking dish and spread evenly. Top evenly with cheese topping. Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until the cheese is melted, (I broiled mine on low for the last few minutes to get the cheese nice and bubbly!).

2. Cheddar Ranch Burgers

a close up of food: Serves 4 © Courtesy of Dashing Dish Serves 4
Did you ever think it was possible to enjoy a burger, much less a cheddar burger, with clean eating ranch dressing? It's possible with this recipe. I have worked hard to perfect the ranch dressing and let me tell you ... you will never buy the bottled stuff again! These burgers are so juicy and are packed with flavor in each and every bite, even with lean meat.

Ingredients:

1 lb ground chicken, or lean ground turkey or beef

1/2 cup reduced fat or 2% cheddar cheese (or Colby jack), shredded

1 green onion, thinly sliced (or 2 Tbsp sweet onion, finely diced)

Ranch Seasoning:

2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

2 Tbsp parsley (dried)

1 1/2 Tbsp onion powder

1 Tbsp garlic powder

1-2 pkts Stevia (or 1 1/2-2 tsp sweetener)

1/8 cup finely chopped fresh dill (or 1 Tbsp dried)

Ranch Dip:

1 Low-fat Greek yogurt or avocado, mashed

2-4 Tbsp unsweetened almond milk or low-fat milk

The estimated total time to make this recipe is 15-20 minutes.

  1. To Make the Ranch Dressing: In a small bowl, stir together the ingredients for the ranch seasoning. Add 1/4 cup of the ranch seasoning to a small bowl (save the rest for the burgers), and mix with Greek yogurt (or mashed avocado). Add just enough milk to thin out the dressing to your liking. Store covered in the fridge until ready to serve.

  2. To Make the Burgers: Add ground meat, cheese, onions and the leftover ranch seasoning together in a large bowl. Mix until combined and form meat into four patties. (Note: I like to make these in advance and place them on a plate, cover and chill in the fridge for a few hours. I always find this helps prevent lean meat burgers from falling apart when I cook them.)

  3. Cook burgers in a large skillet over medium-high heat (sprayed with non-stick cooking spray) or on a grill until cooked through, or about 6-7 minutes per side, (no longer pink in the center). Serve burgers on sandwich thins, whole grain buns or lettuce wraps. Serve with ranch dressing.

3. Easy Mac

a plate of food on a wooden table: Serves 1 © Courtesy of Dashing Dish Serves 1
I have distinct memories of eating macaroni and cheese from a box as a kid. They didn't have Easy Mac around when I was a kid, but I can imagine that it would have been one of my favorite snacks. I have taken all the of the simplicity of this novel concept and turned it into a much healthier and satisfying dish.

Ingredients:

1/3 cup (dry) high fiber elbow macaroni noodles

1/2 cup water

Pinch salt

1/8 cup almond milk

1/8 cup low-fat cottage cheese

3 Tbsp low-fat (or 2%) shredded cheddar cheese

Optional: Pinch of pepper and mustard powder to taste

The estimated total time to make this recipe is 10-15 minutes.

  1. Combine the pasta noodles, water and salt in a large microwave-safe bowl (I used a 4 cup Pyrex glass measuring cup). Microwave for 6 minutes total, taking the bowl out and stirring every 2 minutes. Water should be almost completely absorbed at this point and pasta al dente.

  2. Add 2 tablespoons of the cheddar cheese, the milk and cottage cheese, (and pepper and mustard powder if desired). Stir and microwave for another 2 minutes, or until cheese and cottage cheese are melted. Stir once more after removing from microwave, add the additional 1 tablespoon of cheddar and stir until everything is combined. Enjoy!

4. Cheesy Burritos

a close up of food: Serves 8 (2 burritos per serving) © Courtesy of Dashing Dish Serves 8 (2 burritos per serving)
My husband's favorite food growing up was beef and cheese burritos, so when we got married I asked my mother-in-law for her burrito recipe. I was relieved at how simple the recipe was and with a few minor tweaks, I made an even healthier version of these burritos so it was something we could both enjoy.

Ingredients:

1 lb lean ground turkey

1(15 oz) can black beans (or black refried beans)

1(6 oz) can tomato paste

1/2 cup 2% cheddar cheese (or 2% Mexican cheese blend)

1 packet of burrito seasoning

16 low carb/high fiber tortillas

8 slices reduced-fat cheese

Optional: Shredded lettuce, bell peppers, sliced olives and/or diced tomatoes for filling. Ortega taco sauce or salsa for dipping.

The estimated total time to make this recipe is 15 minutes.

  1. In a large skillet over medium high heat, break up ground turkey and add burrito seasoning. Cook until the turkey meat is browned and cooked through, and turn heat down to low.

  2. While the meat is browning, pour beans in a bowl and lightly mash the beans together with the tomato paste until some of the beans are smashed, and the tomato paste is well combined with the beans (I use a fork to do this).

  3. Add the bean mixture and shredded cheese to the skillet with the ground meat and mix well until the cheese is melted and everything is well combined. Remove from the heat.

  4. Place 1/4 cup of burrito filling in each tortilla and roll up burrito style. (You may also put shredded lettuce, chopped tomatoes and/or any other chopped veggies you would like in the burrito at this time!).

  5. Place 2 burritos side by side on each plate. Cut 1 cheese slice (per plate) into 4 long slices, and place 4 strips length-wise across the 2 burritos. If eating immediately, place the plate in the microwave for 1 minute, to melt cheese on top of burritos. (If eating later, cover the plate with saran wrap and refrigerate until ready to eat! Just before eating, microwave for 1 minute to melt the cheese.)

Serve immediately with taco sauce or salsa if you would like.

5. Bacon Wrapped Barbecue Glazed Chicken

a close up of food: Serves 4 © Courtesy of Dashing Dish Serves 4
Just about everyone I know loves a good piece of grilled chicken slathered in BBQ sauce in the summer. The only downfall is that most store-bought bbq sauces are loaded with sugar. This homemade version takes moments to prepare and you even have leftovers for dipping, glazing or for future BBQ's. Enjoy!

Ingredients:

1 lb chicken breasts, cut into strips (I had 2 large breasts, cut into 6 strips)

1 tsp garlic powder

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

12 slices center cut bacon (or turkey bacon)

Barbecue Sauce:

3/4 cup low sugar ketchup (I used Heinz low sugar ketchup)

3/4 cup diced tomatoes (I used canned)

2 tbs Worcestershire sauce

1 tbs mustard

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

1/3 cup low sugar maple syrup (or honey)

1/4 cup sweetener (or to taste)

1 tsp garlic powder

1/2 tsp onion powder

1/2 tsp chili powder

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp pepper

1/2 tsp paprika

The estimated total time to make this recipe is 25-30 minutes.

  1. To Make the Sauce: Blend everything for the sauce in a blender until smooth. Pour half of it into a bowl, (this will be for brushing on the chicken on the grill), and save the rest in sealable container, and place in your fridge. (This will be for dipping your chicken in later if you desire, or for a future BBQ.)

  2. To Prepare the Bacon Wrapped Chicken: If you haven't already done so, cut the chicken into strips (this allows for a more even and quick cooking of the chicken, without the bacon burning on the outside). Sprinkle garlic powder, salt and pepper evenly over chicken breasts. Wrap each piece of chicken in 2 pieces of bacon (or as many as will fit on one piece). Secure each piece of bacon with 2 toothpicks, one on each end. Meanwhile, start pre-heating your grill to medium heat.

  3. To Grill the Chicken: Place chicken on preheated grill and grill chicken on each side for about 10-15 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through, basting both sides in the BBQ sauce while it is on the grill. (Note: If you find your bacon is cooking faster than the chicken, just turn the grill heat down. Also, be sure to toss any leftover BBQ sauce that you used for glazing the chicken on the grill. It will now be contaminated from the raw chicken).

Just before serving, glaze chicken with the sauce stored in your fridge if desired, or serve on the side for dipping.

6. Asian Citrus Grilled Chicken Strips

a close up of food: Serves 4 © Courtesy of Dashing Dish Serves 4
These Asian Citrus Grilled Chicken Strips are a guaranteed crowd pleaser. Forget bland, dry, boring chicken. This chicken is bursting with flavor.

Ingredients:

1.25 lb chicken tenderloins (or chicken breasts, cut into strips)

1 medium orange, juiced (or 1/2 cup orange juice)

1 lime or lemon, juiced (or 1/4 cup lime/lemon juice)

1 tsp orange zest

1/4 cup honey (or low sugar maple syrup/agave nectar)

1/2 cup soy sauce (or Bragg aminos for gluten-free)

2 Tbsp minced garlic (or 1/2 tbs garlic powder)

1/4 cup sweetener of choice

1/2 tsp ginger

1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

1 Tbsp sesame seeds (optional)

The estimated total time to make this recipe is 30+ minutes.

  1. Marinate Chicken: Place all of the ingredients in a Ziplock bag (or a large bowl), and toss the chicken in marinade to combine. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, or overnight. (*Note: If you want you can double the marinade and only use half with the chicken, and save half in your fridge for later for brushing on the chicken when it is on the grill).

  2. Grilling Method: Preheat the grill to 400 degrees. Place chicken breast on the grill. Cook 4 to 5 minutes on the first side before turning. Turn and cook another 3 to 4 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees. Remove from the grill and serve warm.

  3. Oven Method: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a shallow baking dish with cooking spray and place chicken and marinade in baking dish. Bake 15-20 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through, or reaches an internal temperature of 160 degrees.

7. Cheeseburger Hot Pockets

a close up of a slice of pizza: Serves 4 (1 hot pocket per serving) © Courtesy of Dashing Dish Serves 4 (1 hot pocket per serving)
These cheeseburger hot pockets are bursting with melt-in-your-mouth flavors that will make it hard to believe how light and healthy they actually are. The best part about this recipe is that it is both kid and adult-friendly, all while being the perfect balance of whole grains and protein. These hot pockets are ready in less than 30 minutes and they can also be taken with you on the go.

Ingredients:

1 lb lean ground turkey (or extra lean ground beef)

1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce

1/4 cup low sugar or organic ketchup

1/2 Tbsp mustard (optional)

1 tsp onion powder 1 tsp garlic powder 1/8 tsp salt 1/8 tsp pepper 4 large whole grain/low carb tortillas

1 cup shredded cheese of choice

2 large Roma tomatoes, sliced thin

Optional: Shredded lettuce & pickles for topping

The estimated total time to make this recipe is 20-25 minutes.

  1. Preparing the Filling: In a large skillet sprayed with cooking spray, cook the ground meat on medium-high heat until it is almost cooked through (about 5 minutes), breaking it up as it cooks. Add Worcestershire, ketchup, mustard and seasonings to the pan. Mix together until thoroughly combined and continue cooking until meat is cooked all the way through and is no longer pink.

  2. Making Hot Pockets: Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Divide the burger mixture among four tortillas. Add cheese, tomatoes and pickles and lettuce if desired to each tortilla. Fold in right and left sides and then tightly roll up. Place the seam side down on a baking sheet and bake for 5-10 minutes or until the outside start to turn golden brown.

Serve with a side of ketchup and mustard for dipping if desired.

8. Crockpot Teriyaki Chicken

a plate of food with broccoli: Serves 4 (about 4 oz chicken) © Courtesy of Dashing Dish Serves 4 (about 4 oz chicken)
This slow cooker teriyaki chicken recipe is incredibly easy to make and the Crockpot does all of the hard work. The homemade teriyaki sauce is naturally sweetened and it forms a sweet glaze over the chicken, making it irresistibly delicious. This chicken can be served traditionally, on a bed of rice with vegetables or on slider buns, or even on a lettuce wrap.

Ingredients:

1.25 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts

1 Tbsp garlic, minced (or 1 1/2 tsp garlic powder)

1 Tbsp dried minced onion (or 1/2 small onion, diced)

1/4 cup honey (or sweetener of choice)

1/4 cup soy sauce (or soy alternative)

1/8 cup rice wine vinegar

1/2 tsp dried ginger

1/8 tsp pepper (or to taste)

1/2 cup pineapple juice (or 1/2 cup water + 1-2 tbs sweetener)

1-2 Tbsp cornstarch (or arrowroot powder)

Optional: Sesame seeds for topping

The estimated total time to make this recipe is 4-8 hours.

  1. Combine everything except for the cornstarch (or thickener) into your Crockpot. Cover and cook on high heat for 4 hours, or on low heat for 8 hours. Transfer the chicken to a cutting board and shred using two forks.

  2. Pour the sauce from the Crockpot into a saucepan and heat until boiling. In a small bowl, combine 2 tablespoons of cold water and cornstarch. Use 1 tablespoon of water and cornstarch for a thinner sauce and 2 tablespoons for a thicker sauce. When the sauce begins to boil, whisk in the cornstarch/water mixture until it thickens, about 1 minute. Add the chicken and sauce back into the crock pot and toss until the chicken is completely coated in the sauce. Top with sesame seeds if desired.

Enjoy over a bed of whole grain rice or quinoa and vegetables if desired. This chicken would also taste great on whole grain buns or lettuce wraps.

9. Homemade Oat Flour Pizza

a pizza sitting on top of a wooden table: Serves 8 (1 slice per serving) © Courtesy of Dashing Dish Serves 8 (1 slice per serving)
I am SO excited to share this oat flour pizza crust with you guys! I have been trying to perfect an oat flour pizza crust for quite some time, and I knew I finally 'nailed it' when my husband ate half the pizza in one sitting. I can promise you this whole grain and gluten-free pizza crust will be one of your new favorite ways to enjoy pizza in a much healthier way.

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cup oat flour, firmly packed

1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp garlic powder

1/4 tsp Italian seasoning

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

2 large eggs

2 Tbsp honey

2 Tbsp plain low-fat Greek yogurt

1 Tbsp water

Toppings:

1/2 cup pizza sauce (or marinara/tomato sauce)

3/4 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded

Optional: Turkey pepperonis, Parmesan cheese, veggies of choice for topping

The estimated total time to make this recipe is 15-20 minutes.

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a 9×9 pie dish, round cake pan or springform pan with cooking spray. (You could also shape the dough into a square or rectangle on a baking dish).

  2. In a medium bowl, combine the dry ingredients first, then add the wet ingredients and stir to combine until a dough forms. Press the dough into the prepared pan or form into the shape you desire on a baking dish.

  3. Bake the dough for 10 minutes at 400 degrees. Take the dough out of the oven and spread sauce over dough and sprinkle cheese (and toppings of choice) on top. Bake for an additional 5-10 minutes, or until cheese is melted to your liking. Remove from oven and cut into 8 slices. Enjoy!

10. Barbecue Chicken Skillet Pasta

a close up of a plate of food: Serves 6 (1 heaping cup pasta, 4 oz chicken) © Courtesy of Dashing Dish Serves 6 (1 heaping cup pasta, 4 oz chicken)
This Clean Eating BBQ Chicken Skillet Pasta is one of my husband's favorite meals. It is also one of my favorites since it is so easy to prepare. The meal requires a few basic ingredients—one skillet and about 20 minutes, and you have a family-friendly, perfectly balanced and delicious meal.

Ingredients:

1 lb chicken breast, cut into 1-inch cubes

3 cups dry whole grain rotini pasta

3 cups of water

Clean BBQ sauce

1 (15 oz) can tomato puree

1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce

1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar (or white vinegar/mustard)

2 Tbsp honey (or low sugar maple syrup)

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1/2 tsp onion powder

1/8 tsp salt & pepper

2-3 packets of Stevia (or 1/4 cup sweetener, or to taste)

1/2 tsp paprika (optional)

1/2 tsp chili powder (optional)

The estimated total time to make this recipe is 20-25 minutes.

  1. To Cook the Chicken: Spray a wide/shallow pot (or deep/large sauté pan) with cooking spray and heat over medium heat. Add chicken and cook until it is cooked through (no longer pink in the middle, about 5-6 minutes). Remove chicken from the pot and set aside.

  2. To Cook the Pasta: Add the water to the pot and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the pasta and return the heat to medium. Cover the pot and continue to stir occasionally. Allow the pasta to cook until just al dente (just tender, but still has some firmness, as it will continue cooking for about 6 minutes).

  3. To Make the BBQ Sauce: Drain any leftover water from the pan/pot and add the cooked pasta to the bowl with the cooked chicken. Add the ingredients for the barbecue sauce to the pot/pan. Stir everything together, and allow the sauce to come to a simmer over medium heat. Continue to simmer until sauce has thickened to your liking (about 5-10 minutes) stirring occasionally.

  4. Put it Together: Add the cooked pasta and chicken to the pot/pan with the BBQ sauce, and stir to combine. Cook over medium heat until everything is heated through, about 1-2 minutes. Enjoy!

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