Skip to main content

Oregon Family Magazine

Meals that Make the Grade

09/14/2010 ● By Anonymous
From Delicious Dinners to Perfect Brown Bags With after school activities, late workdays and long commutes or carpools, many families struggle to find time to sit down together to eat dinner. When they do, the meal may consist of prepackaged or fast food options, which can increase food costs and skimp on good nutrition.

What's a busy parent to do? While a home cooked weeknight meal may sound labor-intensive, it can really payoff economically, nutritionally and environmentally - all in the form of leftovers.

Child nutrition expert and mother Jodie Shield, RD, understands the challenges families face in trying to balance full calendars and tight checkbooks while serving nutritious and delicious meals. "Busy moms don't always have time to plan ahead and make two meals each day," said Shield. "Transforming last night's dinner into tomorrow's brown bag lunch, for my kids or myself, can save time and maximize budgets without cutting corners on nutrition."

Shield's tips - which incorporate plenty of nutritious vegetables - will help parents prepare family meals that stretch from dinner to lunch:

* Presto, chango! Transform last night's meatloaf into tasty tacos - crumble ground beef or turkey and sautÈ with taco seasoning. Enjoy wrapped in a soft whole-wheat tortilla or layered over shredded lettuce as a salad; add diced tomato and onions, low-fat cheese and a drizzle of Hidden Valley Original Ranch Light Dressing.

* Kids like 'em hot! Reheat leftover vegetables (eggplant, zucchini, sweet potato or snap beans) in the oven at 400∞ F for about 10 minutes. Let cool five minutes, then serve warm with ranch dressing to dip.

* Get egg-cited for dinner! Serve your family a backward breakfast for dinner. Use leftover veggies like tomatoes, bell peppers, onions and new potatoes, and whip up a southwestern omelet, frittata or quiche.

Jammin' Jambalaya

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cooking Time: 15 minutes

Makes 4 (2 cup) servings

2 teaspoons olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

1 medium green bell pepper, chopped

1 cup frozen okra cut, thawed

1 14.5-ounce can stewed tomatoes, undrained

12 ounces chicken breast, cut into strips (tenders)

12 ounces fully cooked Cajun-style andouille sausage or smoked turkey sausage

1 teaspoon Cajun seasoning

2 cups cooked brown rice

1/4 cup Hidden Valley Original Ranch Light Dressing

Heat one teaspoon of olive oil in skillet over medium-high heat until sizzling hot. Add onion, bell pepper and okra; cook and stir until crisply tender. Remove and set aside.

Add the other teaspoon of oil and heat; add chicken tenders and stir-fry about five minutes until lightly browned.

Return vegetables to skillet with chicken and stir in sausage and Cajun seasoning; bring to a boil.

Reduce heat; simmer about five minutes, stirring occasionally.

Stir in rice and dressing; continue cooking until liquid is almost absorbed and rice is thoroughly heated.

Tip: The next day, wrap leftover jambalaya in a whole wheat or veggie tortilla for a special brown bag lunch.

For more great recipes, creative nutrition tips and fun activities, visit