Easy recipes, planning makes meal possibles

Published 4:35 pm Wednesday, September 19, 2007

It doesn’t seem to matter anymore how many kids you have, or how old they are they are all busy every minute of every day.

Besides homework and school activities most of them are involved in two sports at a time. Not only are kids busier but so are parents with very few homes that have a stay at home parent in them.

If you are like most houses you spend more time in the car than you spend sitting down to eat a meal in the house.

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This inevitably leads to fast meals put together with pre-cooked or packaged items or even worse stopping to pick up fast food.

One thing to do is sit down on Sunday afternoon and look at our entire week’s schedule. Even with cheerleading, softball, soccer and school work there is usually one evening that is lighter than others and you can make sure on that evening you put a meal on the table that satisfies with taste and ease to prepare.

These recipes are some of favorites to use for these purposes that you and your family can enjoy.

Start your meal with a salad. Keep a bag of prepared salad in refrigerator and add some canned mandarin oranges and toasted pecans to your salad to dress it up a little. Then serve this casserole to rave reviews. I first got this recipe from Southern Living a few years ago, since then I’ve made some changes to it. You can prepare it all at once or in stages so that you can have it half made when you finally get home in the evening.

Baked Ziti

1 medium onion, chopped

2 tablespoons olive oil

3 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 pound of ground beef

1/2 pound Italian sausage (if you buy the kind in links, remove the casings before cooking

1 26-ounce jar pasta sauce, tomato and basil variety


1 16-ounce box ziti pasta

3 tablespoons butter

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

3 cups milk

1 cup grated Parmesan Cheese (I buy the pre-shredded kind, do not use the kind you sprinkle on spaghetti)

Black pepper

1 8-ounce package shredded mozzarella cheese

Place the oil in a large skillet and over medium heat, saute the chopped onion for about five minutes or until soft. Add the garlic and sauté for a minute, do not let the garlic brown or it will be bitter. Add the beef and sausage and brown until no longer pink. When done place in a colander and drain well. Put back in the pan and break up any large pieces. Stir in the pasta sauce and a 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Cook the pasta according to the directions, be sure to cook just until done. Place back in the large pot you cooked it in or place in a large mixing bowl. (If you want to do the pasta ahead you can drain it and sprinkle with olive oil, toss gently and when cool place in a Zip-loc bag in the refrigerator.) Melt the butter in a large saucepan over low heat, when melted whisk in the flour until smooth. Cook, whisking constantly for a minute. Gradually whisk in milk, cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until mixture is thickened and bubbly. Stir in the Parmesan cheese, 1/4 teaspoon salt and black pepper. Pour the cream sauce over the pasta and stir until evenly coated. Spray a 13 by 9 baking dish with non-stick spray and transfer the pasta and cream sauce to it. Then top evenly with the beef mixture and sprinkle evenly with the mozzarella. At this point you can cover plastic wrap and refrigerate till the next day or bake on 350 degrees for about 20 to 25 minutes. Let it stand for the 10 minutes before serving.

Serve with salad, French bread or rolls.

Another quick and easy to prepare recipe is Chicken Divan. This dish has both your meat and vegetable in it. You will need cooked chicken for this recipe. You can use a roasted chicken from the grocery store or cook your chicken the night before. Again, this dish is quickly served with rolls and pre-prepared salad.

Chicken Divan

1 bunch fresh broccoli

3 cooked chicken breasts (6 half-breast) or the equivalent of left-over chicken or turkey

1 8-ounce package cream cheese, room temperature

1/3 cup mayonnaise

3 tablespoons milk

1/8 teaspoon curry powder

1/4 teaspoon sugar

Toasted almonds to garnish

Steam broccoli 5 to 8 minutes until fork tender. Spray an oven-proof dish with non-stick spray and line the dish with the cooked broccoli. Arrange the chicken or turkey on the broccoli. In a food processor blend the cream cheese, mayonnaise, curry powder, sugar and milk. Pour this cream mixture over the chicken or turkey. Place the dish under the broiler until warmed through and lightly brown. Sprinkle with the toasted almonds.