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35 Quick and Healthy School Night Dinners Your Kids Will Actually Eat

What’s for dinner is the most impossible question to answer on our best nights, but during the chaos and rush of back to school it feels nearly hopeless. Adjusting to new schedules and adding extracurriculars to an already crammed-tight calendar and you’ve got a recipe for another drive-through dinner.

This year, don’t sweat it. Put prioritizing dinner on your back to school list. Any of these dinners can be thrown together and in the mouths of your hungry family in 30 minutes or less. They’re also healthier meals you can feel good about serving. And in many cases you can eat them on the run.

We may not change how you see dinner as a necessary evil, but we can certainly take the devil out of the details!

Mexican and Southwest

quesadilla black beans

Black Bean and Mushroom Quesadillas

For meatless Monday or exclusive vegetarians, hearty black beans and mushrooms melted together with cheese is simple and satisfying.

BBQ Chicken Tacos with Avocado Coleslaw

Fire up the grill and you’re only 30 minutes away from the best tacos ever! Buy pre-shredded coleslaw to really save prep time.

Mexican Stuffed Peppers - Barr and Table

These peppers use protein-rich quinoa instead of rice and can be prepped and served in just 30 minutes with on-hand ingredients.

Chorizo Nachos

Biggest Loser has a homemade chorizo recipe that tastes and looks like the real deal but is much better for you (just make it in advance).

Apple Sausage Quesadillas

The kids can practically make these themselves and will love every last comforting bite.

Classic Comforts

meatloaf mug

Meatloaf in a Mug - My Recipes

Individual meatloaves are made in minutes in the microwave. Not only are they adorable, but they practically make themselves.

Oven-Fried Chicken Tenders

This drive-thru favorite is better than ever when you use panko to get that crispy crunch the kids crave.

BBQ Pork Sliders

It takes only 30 minutes to roast a tenderloin, which you can then shred, toss in your favorite BBQ sauce, and serve!

Turkey Meatball Subs

The sandwich shop has nothing on our effortless meatball subs, made lighter with ground turkey. Serve in hot dog buns for tiny hands.

Pumpkin Chili

Chili in 30 minutes is possible. The pumpkin adds delicious nutrition without influencing the flavor much at all.

Sandwiches

finished pita

Mediterranean Chicken, Pear, and Arugula Stuffed Pitas - Fit Bottomed Eats

Our original recipe for FBE starts with a store-bought rotisserie chicken for the ultimate in hand-held, get-out-the-door meals.

Best Club Sandwich Ever

We use Applegate Farms ham, turkey, and bacon to craft a cleaner sandwich that’s finished with avocados and veggies.

Oprah’s Love Sandwich

This grilled panini sandwich presses turkey and cheese together for a super-quick, hot and ready dinner.

Almond Butter Banana Crazy

It doesn’t get any easier – we fold almond butter with banana slices and sprinkle a few dried cranberries.

Super Sloppy Joes - Meal Makeover Moms

This family favorite is made lighter with ground turkey and always gets two messy thumbs up from the kids.

 

Meals On a Stick

chicken stick

Maple Ginger Chicken on a Stick - Green Lite Bites

Make the marinade in the morning and dinner is literally minutes away when you get home. Roni says kids will eat anything on a stick!

Bayou Kabobs

Shrimp, sausages, and peppers take less than 15 minutes on the grill.

Fancy Fish Sticks

A Jillian Michaels creation that is super family friendly and way better than any frozen fish stick in a box.

Jalapeno Cheddar Burger Bite Kabobs

Hand-held burgers without the bun are stuffed with gooey cheddar cheese and a bit of jalapeno pepper for big flavor.

Stuffed Almond Butter and Jam French Toast Kabobs - Nibbles by Nic

It’s breakfast for dinner in a whole new way! You could even add bites of ham to the kabobs if you’re looking for more protein.

 

Pasta and Noodles

butternut squash macaroni

Butternut Squash Macaroni and Cheese

An Abra Pappa original that uses less, but higher quality cheese and a butternut squash puree for a kid-approved mac!

Creamy Avocado Pasta - In Good Taste

One of our very favorite 15-minute dinners. Prepare it meatless or top with shrimp.

Tomato Basil Alphabet Soup

A super simple homemade soup that easily fills thermoses for feel-good brown bag lunches all week long!

Spaghetti Squash with Fresh Tomato and Basil Sauce

It’s a no-noodle pasta dish and they’ll never know the difference! More nutritious and just as fast as a heap of spaghetti.

Spinach and Ricotta Ravioli - Picky Eater Blog

Turn a package of store-bought ravioli in to a quick and easy feel good dinner the kids will rave about!

Breakfast for Dinner

waffle panini

Prosciutto and Apple Waffle Paninis – HelloGiggles

If you’ve made the waffles in advance, or have frozen available, the prep time on these is dramatically reduced!

Pigs in Comforters

Biggest Loser’s Chef Devin Alexanders rolls all-beef hot dogs in buttermilk biscuits.

Cornbread Waffles - Edible Perspective

Prepare these heartier waffles with our oven-baked chicken tenders for a better take on chicken and waffles!

Egg and Kielbasa Sausage Pizza – Kid Friendly Home

The eggs form a breadless crust that holds kielbasa sausage, fresh herbs, and both cheddar and parmesan cheeses.

Carrot Cake Pancakes – Grimmway Farms

We crafted these using Grimmway’s famous baby carrots. Topped with cream cheese and walnuts, they’re quite satisfying.

 

Mediterr-Asian

Hoppin Johns Hummus

Black Eyed Pea Hummus

Our “new year” hummus will bring good luck to your pupils. Serve with warm pita and fresh veggies for an easy, filling dinner.

Crispy Pork Wontons

Another winner of a dinner from Chef Devin, these wontons bake up in minutes and are easily eaten on the go.

Mediterranean Fish Tacos - Food Network

A Rachael Ray original that takes only 30 minutes to prep and serve and offers a lighter, cooler meal for those hot and busy nights.

Chinese Potstickers with Turkey - Super Healthy Kids

If you’ve got about 20 minutes, a food processor, and a pot of boiling water, you’ve got time to make a super lean take-out-inspired meal!

Caprese Grilled Cheese

The grilled cheese is all grown up! We make it better with real mozzarella, fresh basil, and juicy tomatoes.

meal planner

Keep it all organized! Download our FREE meal planner worksheets HERE!



The Best Club Sandwich Ever is Made with Cleaner, Fresher Ingredients You Can Feel Good About

If I see a club sandwich on a menu, I’m ordering it. End of story. No matter how you stack it, I rarely find a sandwich that has a better combination of ingredients that meld so perfectly together. That first bite through the crisp lettuce, juicy tomato, sweet ham, and salty bacon sends the endorphin center of my brain to the realm of utter satisfaction.

best club sandwich

Eating these sandwiches at a restaurant is anyone’s gamble. It’s all pretty processed, and I know that. The salt is higher than it should be, the meat came from God knows where, and all in all it’s never quite as good as anything I make at home. So I try to take my own sandwich makings to the office to build my own for lunch. It’s always a far better option than what the corner deli is dishing up.

club sandwich cut

That better option, for me, is Applegate. I’ve been a long-time consumer and fan of their cleaner approach to meat products. How could anyone not be? They source humanely-raised animals to craft quality meat products that are organic and hormone free. The sandwich meats are tender,  juicy, and never overwhelmingly salty. For pre-cut sandwich meat, it’s truly as good as it gets.
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The Great Gatsby Recipe Guide: 10 Party Foods Inspired by the Roaring Twenties

The roaring twenties will no doubt be a theme of many a summer party this year as The Great Gatsby film release has everyone reconnecting with this classic novel that embodies one of the most fabulous periods in our history. When most people think of the 1920s in the U.S. they think of the flappers, Prohibition, gangsters, and jazz. What people often overlook are the great advancements in home cooking and recipe development during this period.

gatsby

The availability of “sliced bread,” refrigerators, and other convenience foods that are dogged today helped (mostly) women spend 44 hours each week in their kitchens preparing meals. By 1965, women were only spending 25.7 hours per week cooking, and research in 2010 revealed women today spend only 13 hours each week on all household chores.

If you plan on hosting a Great Gatsby party this summer, you’ll want to dress the part of course, but the food can play a major role in pulling together the theme. If healthy is your goal, stick to the recipes we’re sharing. But if authenticity is most important, you’ll appreciate the homemade, healthified versions of many of these processed foods that are still popular today.

Thai Blueberry Old Fashion

old fashioned with blueberries

Alcohol was banned for much of the 1920s during a period known as Prohibition, but that didn’t keep the booze from flowing. The Old Fashion, a tart whiskey-based cocktail, was a creation of this decade that we still raise a glass to today. Guests will easily celebrate with this jazzed up version with fresh blueberries and a Truvia simple syrup.
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Caprese Grilled Cheese is a Healthy Twist on an Italian Classic

The first time I ever tried a caprese salad was when I was visiting my much-more-sophisticated-than-I older cousin Billy Jo. She and her husband own an exquisite home in Houston and my sister and I were down for a visit nearly a decade ago now.

Before dinner one night, Billy pullled out the ingredients for a caprese salad – fresh mozzarella, gorgeous roma tomatoes, huge stems of basil, and a little balsamic vinegar.

Caprese grilled cheese sandwich 2

Never having seen such an adventurous flavor combination before, I watched closely as she meticulously layered the cheese with the tomato, and then the basil, over and over again until the plate resembled the Italian flag. A drizzle of balsamic vinegar finished it off before we all claimed our portion. Admittedly, my then 16-year-old self didn’t appreciate the robust, fresh flavors. But now, it’s one of my absolute favorite Italian bites. This “grilled cheese” sandwich is an homage to that salad with a bit more heartiness and the ease of portability.
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A Turkey Meatball Sub is a Healthier Alternative to the Classic

Win a $5 Jennie-O Coupon when you share this recipe on Facebook and/or Twitter by Friday, March 29! Four winners will be selected.

We all know when going through a sub sandwich line that the meatball isn’t typically the healthiest choice, but why does it have to taste so good? The perfectly cooked meatballs simmering in hearty marinara sauce, nestled into a fluffy bun and topped with melty mozzarella cheese – what more could you ask for? How about a version that doesn’t leave you regretting your lunch pick for hours?

This sub sandwich may appear a little complex but it’s so, so simple. Thanks to Jennie-O’s lean ground turkey and Italian turkey sausage, there’s lots of flavor and protein without much fat. Our favorite marinara sauce amps up the flavor and sends the savory factor over the top. Then, we nestled ours into a whole wheat bun and topped it with two slices of low-fat mozzarella and a bit of grated Parmesan cheese. Serve it alongside salad and you’ll be satisfied the healthy way ’til dinner.
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