Quick & Easy Weeknight Family Dinners | The Source Weekly - Bend

Quick & Easy Weeknight Family Dinners

Stock your pantry with fall staples for quick cooking

Between work, school and extracurricular activities, it can be tough to put healthy, family dinners on the table. Here are a few ideas to help with the weeknight food blues!

Quick & Easy Weeknight Family Dinners
Tambi Lane Photography

Fall Pantry Staples

Store in a cool, dry place:
Sweet potatoes
Dry beans/lentils
Salt, good quality
Coarsely ground black pepper
Spices such as cinnamon, chili powder, cayenne pepper, curry powder
Maple syrup
Balsamic vinegar
Extra virgin olive oil
Other oils of your choice
Canned tomatoes
Boxed or canned broth

Refrigerator staples

Unsalted butter
Milk or cream
In-season veggies
Fresh meats

Sweet Potato Lentil Soup

Quick & Easy Weeknight Family Dinners
Tambi Lane Photography
Even the picky kids in my family like this soup.

1 pound dry lentils, rinsed
1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into small cubes
olive oil
½ onion, finely diced
1 carrot, peeled and finely diced
1 stalk celery, peeled and finely diced
1 small red pepper, cored and finely diced
½ can crushed tomatoes
6-8 cups water, broth or combination
1-3 teaspoons curry powder, optional
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper, optional

Toss cubed sweet potato with olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper to coat. Spread onto baking sheet and roast at 350 until tender. Turn cubes at least once during roasting. Once roasted, set aside.

Meanwhile, swirl more olive oil into a large pot. Add onion, carrot, celery and red pepper. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Heat and stir until the veggies are slightly softened.

Stir in crushed tomatoes, lentils, water/broth and bring to a boil. Turn down heat, add curry powder and cayenne pepper. Simmer gently for an hour or until lentils are tender. Add the roasted potatoes in the last 10 minutes.

Serves 6-8

Harvest Bowl

The great thing about a bowl is that it's flexible. Great bases are polenta, rice or pasta. Great add-ins are veggies, fruit and meats. I think the key is a sauce or dressing on top to bring it all together. The simple Balsamic Glaze recipe featured here works well with fall vegetables, apples and meats.

For each bowl, spoon polenta into bottom of bowl. Place a big spoonful of Sauteed Greens or Greens & Beans on top of polenta. Lay your favorite braised or roasted meat (if using) or Roasted Fall Veggies across the polenta and greens. Dollop Maple Apples on top. Drizzle Balsamic Glaze over entire dish.

To make fast and easy polenta, I follow the Quick Polenta (microwave recipe) on the back of the package of the Golden Pheasant brand of polenta. To make it richer and creamier, whisk in two tablespoons of butter, ¼ cup of cream, and a handful of grated parmesan.

Sauteed Greens

This recipe can be easily doubled or tripled. Leftover greens are nice to have on hand for a quick lunch bowl with other veggies, rice, polenta or pasta.

At least 1 bunch of greens, your choice – can be mixed or just one kind – mustard greens, turnip greens, kale, beet greens, Swiss chard

1-2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 onion, thinly sliced
1-2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
salt and pepper
red pepper flakes, optional
fresh lemon juice (to squeeze on finished greens)

Clean greens, remove center stems, then slice the leaves into small ribbons.

Heat olive oil over med-high heat in large skillet. Add onion & garlic. Sauté until tender and fragrant. Season with salt & pepper. Add greens and red pepper flakes. Stir occasionally until greens are tender. Squeeze fresh lemon juice over greens.

Serves 4

Quick & Easy Weeknight Family Dinners
Tambi Lane Photography

TIP: Add a can of rinsed and drained white or cannellini beans to the greens toward the end of cooking for a quick Greens & Beans side dish or to include in the Harvest Bowl.

Roasted Fall Veggies

Cut up fall vegetables of your choice – such as sweet potatoes, beets, carrots, onions, cauliflower. Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper before roasting on a baking sheet at 450 until tender. Plan on 20-40 minutes of roasting time.

TIPS: Cover baking sheet with foil for easy cleanup. Roast a couple pans of veggies to have some left over for a lunch or dinner meal later in the week.

Maple Apples

Quick & Easy Weeknight Family Dinners
Tambi Lane Photography

Double or triple this recipe and try on ice cream or stirred into oatmeal.

2 large apples, peeled, cored and sliced (any variety)
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons maple syrup
pinch of salt

Melt butter in a hot non-stick skillet. Turn heat to medium and add apple slices. Let apples cook until golden brown, 5-8 minutes, turning once or twice. Stir in syrup and salt. Simmer until apples are soft.

Serves 4

Balsamic Glaze

Mix 1 cup balsamic vinegar with ¼ cup honey in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly until combined. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until glaze is reduced by half. Drizzle over veggies, bowls, etc.

Donna Britt is the creator of the Food.Life podcast and host of Central Oregon Daily's Taste This food series. Follow on Instagram @food.life.podcast & @allthingsfoodbend