Tag Archives: homemade

Weeknight Meals Made Easy

What’s for dinner? It’s a question most of us ask every day. With evening routines packed full of extracurricular activities, chores and preparation for the following day, we don’t always have as much time as we’d like to make dinner. Fortunately, a quick, delicious and healthy meal can still be an option for your family, even when you’re short on time. All it takes is a little planning, some common ingredients and one trip to the grocery store. Here are five dinners to take you through an entire work week:


Start the week by putting your slow cooker to work for you. Slice off the tops of four to six bell peppers, but don’t throw them out. Remove the seeds and stuff each pepper with a combination of lean ground turkey or chicken sausage, grated cauliflower, carrots, onion and garlic, plus fresh herbs, salt and pepper. Put the pepper tops back on, arrange the peppers securely in a slow cooker, pour a large can of low-sodium chopped tomatoes over them and cook on low for eight hours. Dinner will be ready when you walk in the door.


Soup can be a quick way to have dinner on the table in minutes – and it allows you to use up vegetables that may be near the end of their shelf life. Try a Broccoli Cheese Soup (recipe follows), a classic favorite that the whole family will enjoy. There’s minimal pre-cooking required – simply steam the broccoli, measure the remaining ingredients, put them in your blender. Blend until smooth, pour into bowls and garnish with extra steamed broccoli florets and bit of grated cheese. For a heartier meal, chop and add grilled chicken chunks. Serve with crusty bread and a salad for a complete dinner.


Whole-wheat pasta with basil walnut pesto is a crowd pleaser. Take fresh basil, Parmesan cheese and walnuts and puree with garlic, olive oil and lemon juice in your blender for a quick and easy sauce. If there are stuffed pepper leftovers, chop and heat for a tasty pasta topping. Make a large batch of pesto and you can use the leftover portion later in the week.


Throw together a chicken stir-fry for another quick weeknight meal. Chop up your favorite vegetables, including extra cauliflower, onions and carrots from Monday’s stuffed peppers and broccoli from Tuesday’s soup. Saute the vegetables with cooked, cubed chicken and a mix of soy and teriyaki sauces. Serve over rice and offer a spicy chili sauce for those who like it hot.


You’ve made it through the week. Why not treat your family to pizza? Top a ready-made, whole-wheat pizza crust with your leftover pesto sauce, cheese and any toppings you’d like. Add peppers, mushrooms and vegetables you chopped for the soup and stir-fry to create a veggie delight. Follow the cooking instructions on the pizza crust package, and you’ll be ready to kick off your weekend in no time.

With a bit of planning, you can shop once and have your dinners set for the week. Buy canned or frozen fruits and vegetables in bulk and try to prepare at least two meals using the same ingredients. Even with hectic schedules, families can prepare and sit down to a satisfying meal every night of the week.


Broccoli Cheese Soup  (Yields two cups)

1 cup (240 ml) milk, skim or low fat
1/3 cup (40 g) shredded, low fat cheddar cheese
1 cup (100 g) chopped fresh or frozen broccoli or cauliflower florets, steamed
1 teaspoon diced onion
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon chicken or vegetable bouillon or soup base

Place all ingredients into a blender in the order listed and secure lid. Blend until smooth.

Homemade Alternatives to Halloween Candy

Processed, sugar-packed candies are collected door-to-door every year at Halloween. This year, try a different angle with homemade sweet treats that parents can make with their kids for Halloween.

Chef Claire Menck from The Art Institute of Wisconsin loves making ghostly “gorp” wrapped in white parchment paper with her two children.

“Gorp is basically granola mixed with your child’s favorite treats like chocolate candies, peanut butter chips, pretzels, gummy bears, etc.,” she says. To make the granola, take oatmeal and toss with your choice of spices, honey and oil. Lay oatmeal on a sheet tray and toast on the lowest heat possible (usually 150 or 200 F). You can add sugar to the granola, but be careful to not add too much sugar as it can make it hard. Parents can also choose to substitute the sugar with agave or maple syrup. Mix the granola with the tasty treats. Take white parchment paper and draw two eyes. Place a scoop of the gorp into the opposite side of the paper and tie up top for spooky gorp.

Another of Chef Menck’s favorite treats is dried fruit roll-ups wrapped to look like candy. She recommends using local, seasonal fruit. “We always go apple-picking in the fall and come back with more than we need; and so we create dried apple treats.” Cut and peel the apples or your choice of fruit beforehand in half-inch slices. Then mix the slices with spices of your choosing such as cinnamon, nutmeg, brown sugar, etc.

“Make it a tactile experience for your kids and allow them to mix all the ingredients together, maybe even with their hands,” she says. Lay the apples on an oiled cookie sheet, turn your oven on to the lowest setting and slow bake until dehydrated (about 45 to 90 minutes, depending on preference). Take colorful tissue paper or Halloween-themed paper and place under parchment paper. Once the fruit is dehydrated, place a small amount of the fruit on a 4-by-4-inch parchment paper. Then roll and twist the ends to look like a candy wrapper and tie the ends. You can also use dehydrated berries like cranberries for the fruit roll-up candy.

“Chocolate! Can’t have Halloween without the chocolate, chocolate spiders with pretzel legs that is,” says Chef Amy Carter, baking and pastry instructor at The Art Institutes International Minnesota. Begin by lining a baking sheet with parchment paper or foil and spray with cooking spray. Melt chocolate chips of your choosing in the microwave in a microwave-safe bowl, and stir every so often to make sure chocolate melts evenly. Add rice cereal or bran twigs, or your favorite crunchy grain and then add to the melted chocolate. Stir the mixture until well combined. Take half of a palm-size of the mixture and place on the baking sheet. Add stick pretzels for legs. Add two marshmallows or white chocolate chips for eyes.

“For a creepier spin on your Halloween treats, I recommend truffle eyeballs to liven up a kids’ party,” Chef Carter says. All you need is 8 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate, 1/2 cup of heavy whipping cream and 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter. Heat the cream, pour over the chocolate, and whisk in the butter until nice and smooth. Pour the mixture in a pan and chill for 2 hours, or -overnight – just long enough to firm it. You can flavor with anything like vanilla, peanut butter or fruit puree. Then take an ice cream scoop or have the kids help by rolling the mixture into small balls with their hands and then roll the balls in powdered sugar. Top off with a chocolate candy and then take red, edible writing gel to make squiggly lines.

These creative, make-it-at-home-tips are just some fun ideas you can create with your kids as a Halloween project, and then tackle carving the pumpkin.