In the throes of summer with kids sports and various activities, it can be a challenge to come up with fast or easy meals to serve with healthy benefits. Over the years I have developed a few ‘go to’s’ that make our lives easier. Whether simmering in a crock-pot or thrown together in a pinch, here are 5 easy and healthy recipes that your kids will actually eat.

Thai Chicken Lettuce Wraps

These have recently become a family favorite with a succulent flavor and the addition of carrots for extra nutrition, color and crunch. I often serve rice on the side, sometimes fried with additional veggies and eggs or steamed plain depending on how much time I have to cook.
Cook/Prep Time: 25 minutes
What to Have on Hand: thai chicken lettuce wraps

  • olive oil – 1-2 tbsps
  • soy sauce – 2 tbsps
  • hoisin sauce – 1/4 cup
  • sriracha sauce – 1-2 tbsps
  • garlic – 2 cloves, minced
  • ginger – 1 tbsp fresh or 2 tsps dry
  • rice wine vinegar – 1 tbsps
  • water chestnuts -1/2 a can, diced
  • Fresh Ingredients:

  • ground chicken – 1 lb
  • scallions – 3 diced
  • carrot match sticks -1/4 cup
  • butter lettuce – 1 head
  • Directions:
    Heat olive oil in a wok or large frying pan over medium heat. Add chicken, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, ginger, garlic and rice wine vinegar. Cook chicken thoroughly while stirring until the color becomes white. Add half of the can of water chestnuts, scallions and carrot match sticks. Cook on med-low for another 3-5 minutes until all flavors blend. Add salt and pepper to taste and continue to simmer on low for 10 minutes while you wash and prepare the butter lettuce for outside wrapper and steam rice (yes, sometimes I cheat and use instant). Serve with a mixture of soy and siracha sauces on the table. Enjoy!

    *Tip: If you add too much ginger the flavor can be cut by adding sugar and lemon juice to the mix.

    Kid Friendly Grilled Cheese With Apple Slices

    I have been told that I make the world’s best grilled cheese sandwhiches which can honestly only be attributed to one simple thing that I do. I add light garlic to the butter to make the flavor pop and add a crispness to the bread. So far I haven’t come across a single kid who doesn’t boast about my grilled cheese sandwiches, including picky eaters so in that way this one is a win.
    Cook/Prep Time: 11 minutes
    What to Have on Hand: apples on grilled cheese sandwhich
    For me, most of these are staples and I use whatever bread and mix of cheeses that we happen to have on hand.

  • bread
  • garlic powder
  • Fresh Ingredients:

  • apples – red or green, sliced thin
  • 1 slice each of both an orange and yellow cheese such as cheddar and provolone or gouda
  • Directions:
    Heat butter, sprinkled with garlic powder (usually two or three shakes, you want them to taste it but not overdue it) in large frying pan over medium low. Add the first slice of bread and layer it with orange (cheddar cheese) 3 apple slices cut thin. Top with the second layer of yellow cheese and second piece of bread. Flip when the bread is golden brown.

    *Tip: If I’m in a big hurry or the outside has browned while the cheese is not completely melted, I will finish it off in the microwave for 10-20 seconds. To spruce up flavor and health benefits of the meal I have also added ham, tomatoes, and avocados to the sandwhiches. I usually use honey wheat bread which mixes well with the sweet apples and garlic.

    Fast Tortellini Soup and Chef Salad

    This delightfully light meal is a mainstay for my family and so easy to have on hand. Often if we have been running all weekend and especially eating out, this is an easy clean, and healthy meal we look forward to on a Sunday night.
    Cook/Prep Time: 20 minutes
    What to Have on Hand: tortillini soup

  • Swanson chicken broth
  • frozen cheese tortellini
  • parmesan cheese
  • black pepper
  • salad dressing
  • Fresh Ingredients:

  • salad – whatever mix of leaves your family prefers
  • Ham – either lunch meat or a lightly grilled ham steak will do
  • hard-boiled eggs
  • salad veggies (I use cucumber, avocado, carrots, tomatoes, red pepper and onions. I cut them all up and display them so the kids can pick and choose.)
  • Directions:
    In a large saucepan add the broth and chicken tortellini. Cook over medium heat. When the tortellini begin to float, they are done (approx. 10 mins). Add parmesan cheese and fresh cracked black peppercorns to each bowl of soup before you serve. I usually dole out the salad and then let the kids top their own from the fresh ingredient options above.

    *Tip: Do NOT use generic brands of broth. In this recipe, it makes a big difference to the flavor. I use Swanson but I am sure there are some other leading brands that work as well.

    Crock-Pot Light and Flavorfull Beef Stroganoff

    Traditional stroganoff is heavy and rich. This lighter version is immensely flavorful and healthy for you too.
    Cook/Prep Time: 4-5 hours
    What to Have on Hand: beef stroganoff recipe

  • vegetable oil – 2 tbsps
  • low sodium vegetable juice – 1 cup
  • low-sodium beef broth – 1 cup
  • worstershire sauce – 1 tbsp
  • flour – 1 tbsp
  • egg noodles – 4 cups
  • Fresh Ingredients:

  • steak – 1.5 lbs, trimmed and cubed
  • white onion – chopped
  • garlic cloves – 2 minced
  • mushrooms – 2 cups
  • low-fat sour cream – 1/4 cup
  • parsley- chopped for garnish
  • Directions:
    Add all ingredients with the exception of egg noodles, sour cream and parsley to crock-pot. Cook on low for 5-6 hours or on high for 2 hours and low for 2 more. Twenty minutes before serving, boil egg noodles. Add the sour cream and parsley to the crock-pot. Serve the beef mixture over noodles. Enjoy the light and tangy flavor!

    *Tip: I add a sprinkling of parmesan cheese on table to replace some of the salt.

    Pork Tacos for Family or Crowd

    This is the newest addition to my retinue provided by a friend from the South who has been making it for years and is an excellent cook. What’s great about it is that it virtually cooks itself and the flavor stays sealed in so you can serve it with or without BBQ sauce.
    Cook/Prep Time: 6-8 hours
    What to Have on Hand: pork tacos

  • paprika – 1 tbsp
  • cumin – 1 tbsp
  • smoked paprika – 1 1/2 to 2 tbsp
  • salt & pepper – to taste
  • Fresh Ingredients:

  • pork butt – the rule of thumb is .5 lbs per person, more if you want leftovers
  • water – 2 cups
  • tortillas- corn or flour
  • taco fixings (I use white onions, cilantro, tomatoes, avocados and shredded cheese)
  • Directions:
    Mix dry spices in a bowl until well blended. Pierce the raw pork with a large fork or meat tenderizer on various places on each side. On a sheet of aluminum foil (or other easy to clean surface) roll the pork in the dry rub until all sides are covered. Place seasoned pork in the crock pot and add 2 cups of cold water. Cook on high for 4 hours and low for 2-3 or cook on low for 8 hours, turning halfway through. The pork will start to shed by itself but you can help it with a fork near the end. Chop all toppings and lay out for a build your own taco bar with moist succulent meat.

    *Tip: This is great for a crowd and the leftovers make zesty BBQ pork sandwiches the next day.

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