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After-school and post-practice dinners can still happen (and be healthy!) when they’re this easy

By Zara Abbasi, Photography by Katie Childs

 
 

Remember how I was saying last month that I’m not one of those moms who like summer vacation to be over? Yeah, well it’s August and I’m in full denial mode right now. I don’t want it to be August already. I don’t want to shop for crayons and folders and backpacks. I want to still sleep in late and play all day with my babies. I know each person is different and back to school is welcomed in many other households, but I think I get just as sad as the kiddos around this time of the year. I loathe the rushing, the early mornings, the after-school routines and hunger pangs and early bedtimes. All of it is my nemesis. All of it. Especially because we are starting a new school this year. Bleh. 

But, nevertheless, the school year is here and once it is, it’s like sprinting a year-long marathon. Between homework, school plays, projects and then the after-school activities, there is simply not enough time for anything else. Especially not enough time to come up with quick meals. And, if you have more than one after-school activity, forget it; I’ll meet up with you at David’s Burgers and call it a night! Seriously, there’s no room for judgment here. And, a cheeseburger is known in the medical field to cure pretty much all that ails us. Don’t look that up!

But for the nights we have a miniscule desire to cook as well as a smidge of time to do so, we want healthy recipes we can whip up in a few minutes. Actually, what we want is a personal chef to do all our cooking for us, am I right? Well, in lieu of a personal chef at home, let me help by at least providing a few ideas to get us started. Sometimes coming up with the ideas is the hardest part! 

My goal here was to provide quick, healthy meals that you’d hopefully actually make. I know time is hard to come by, so if you can prepare by having the ingredients handy, these meals will come together for you in a snap. I love using grocery delivery to lighten my load; it has been the one time-saver I have utilized consistently in making my life easier and smoother. If you are able and interested, I’d highly recommend using such a service to gather all your ingredients while you’re sitting through a basketball practice.

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20-Minute Chicken Stir Fry

Talk about a quick meal! This one is seriously quick and utilizes coleslaw, which you wouldn’t think to use, but I love the carrots and cabbage in there and there’s no extra chopping for you! See my note at the end for a quick tip on rice.

1 pound chicken, cut into strips
2 cups coleslaw mix
2 cups broccoli florets
1 red bell pepper, sliced thinly
2 teaspoons garlic paste

For the sauce:
½ cup soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
½ teaspoon ginger powder
2 teaspoons honey
2 teaspoons cornstarch
Salt and pepper to taste

Garnish: 
1 to 2 teaspoons sesame seeds

Optional: 
Crushed red chili flakes or chili paste to taste

1. Add sauce ingredients into a bowl, mix and set aside.

2. Add oil into a large skillet and heat to medium-high heat. Add in chicken and cook until no longer pink.

3. Add in the broccoli and peppers and cook for about 6-8 minutes, until tender. 

4. Add in coleslaw mix and sauce and cook for another 3-4 minutes.

5. Garnish with sesame seeds and serve with steamed rice. (I love buying the frozen brown rice from Whole Foods for nights when I’m in a hurry. It’s been a real time-saver.)


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Lazy Lasagna

If you have picky eaters or just a younger audience, sometimes you want something you know they’ll eat and you just want to be done with it … and I so get that. Fret not, the Lazy Lasagna is a saving grace at our house. This dish is ridiculously simple because you’re barely cooking (and, isn’t that what we want sometimes?) and it’s actually more versatile than it appears because you can change it up by adding 

1 bag of frozen ravioli
24-ounce jar of your favorite pasta sauce
2 cups shredded mozzarella
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon garlic powder
½ cup parmesan cheese, grated

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees and grease a large baking or lasagna pan.

2. Add seasonings into the jarred sauce and stir to combine.

3. Spread ¼ of the sauce on the bottom of the pan and arrange half of the frozen ravioli on top in a single layer.

4. Top with half of the sauce and half of the mozzarella. Repeat with the remaining ravioli, sauce and cheese. Sprinkle top with the parmesan. 

5. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake for another 10-15 minutes until the top is bubbly.

6. Let cool for a few minutes and then dig in!

7. Variation 1: Beef ravioli, bell peppers, thin-sliced sausage, same cheeses and spicy red sauce. Variation 2: Mushroom ravioli, bell peppers and onions, shredded rotisserie chicken, same cheeses and alfredo sauce. Variation 3: Cheese ravioli, alfredo sauce, same cheeses and pesto.