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Jessica Woodbury @JessicaW444

9 Quick Weeknight Meals

Need help getting dinner on the table before 9 p.m.? Try these recipes for quick weeknight meals, guaranteed to have supper ready in 30 minutes or less.

It's the end of a busy Thursday and everyone is starving. Getting dinner on the table -- fast -- can seem like a daunting task, but if you have an arsenal of quick and healthy recipes on hand it can be a piece of cake.

When you're short on time, it's all about being prepared, says Katie Workman, the author of "The Mom 100 Cookbook" and "Dinner Solved!" The key to quick weeknight meals is to do a little prep work the beginning of the week when you're less frazzled. "Get a bunch of ingredients that you use over and over again recipe-ready," she recommends. "Mince garlic, chop onions, juice lemons and limes, peel and mince ginger and put them all in little containers in the fridge. Then when you are scrambling to make dinner at 5:45, you have these wonderful little parcels of prepped ingredients ready to go."

Don't forget to let kids help out with meal time, too. Sharon Sprague, the marketing director of kid's cooking magazine "ChopChop," a cofounder of KidNosh and a food blogger at Umommy, recommends tasks based on age. "When kids are too young to really help, they can count tomatoes for a salad, push the button on the blender for a smoothie or soup or help pour pre-measured ingredients into a mixing bowl. When they get a little older, kids can help with measuring, rinsing fruits and vegetables and mixing."

Get your kids involved in meal time with these 9 recipe ideas for quick weeknight meals you can whip out in 30 minutes or less.
 

  1. Stay Simple
    Penne or rigatoni works best in this dish of pasta with sausage, rosemary and tomatoes from Sprague's Umommy, which has classic Italian flavors that will please grownups and kids alike. Simple is always best for this kind of weeknight pasta dish, but this meal is still packed with flavor.
     
  2. Cook Everything at Once
    Not only is this Asian-style fish and veggie dinner from Cook in Canuck ready in 10 minutes, clean-up is as easy as tossing the foil packet it was cooked in. Asian flavors can make fish more acceptable to kids who might otherwise only accept it in stick form.
     
  3. Go for Greens
    Whether you have more adventurous eaters or you're trying to introduce new foods to your picky bunch, using pasta can make it a lot easier. This five-ingredient campenelle with chicken sausage, kale and olives from Workman's Mom 100 blog is a good way to introduce a tougher green like kale.
     
  4. Repurpose Leftovers
    Have leftover protein and rice? Cold rice is perfect for this fried rice dinner from Gimme Some Oven, and it's adaptable to whatever meat or vegetables you have lying around in the fridge. You'll have a big crowd-pleaser in no time at all.
     
  5. Add Some Spice
    A store-bought roast chicken or leftover pork or steak means all you need to do is make the sauce and mix the filling for these enchiladas from Rachael Ray. Homemade sauce is miles better than what you'll find in the store, and you can control the spice level for kids with milder palates. Some tomatoes and a few spices will transform yesterday's dinner into a delicious Mexican dish.
     
  6. Get Saucy
    A pan sauce, such as this chicken with herbed wine pan sauce from Mom 100, is a simple way to add tons of flavor to a dish while keeping the prep and ingredients simple. This is the kind of blueprint recipe you can adapt for steak, fish, scallops or tofu. If you're looking for quick weeknight meals, pan sauces can make your life a lot easier.
     
  7. Make Sandwiches
    Sloppy joes are always a hit, but add some barbecue flavor for the "best" sloppy joes from Mel's Kitchen Cafe. Kids will love the chance to get a little messy at dinner, and you'll love the easy preparation for this filling meal. Serve these sandwiches on small slider buns to make it easier for little ones to feed themselves.
     
  8. Stir Things Up
    Stir-fries are usually finished cooking in under 10 minutes and work with endless combinations of vegetables and proteins. Try this veggie-heavy stir-fry from "ChopChop Magazine," or adapt it into a rice bowl. Start up the rice cooker and you'll be done by the time the rice is finished. Add a fried egg on top to mix it up!
     
  9. Wrap It
    Your kids will love these teriyaki chicken lettuce wraps from Dashing Dish, both for their flavor and their eat-ability -- what kid doesn't have fun eating with his hands?
     

Want more recipes to try? Try these healthy dinner ideas your kids will actually eat.

Jessica is a working mom of two. She lives in Boston and writes about single parenthood at Don't Mind the Mess.

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