Dinner is Ready!

Tasty Tips That Make Family Dinners Possible

by Kirsten Harrington

One-pan dinners are easy to prepare and huge time-savers.

With work, school and extracurricular activities, you may feel as if getting dinner on the table is a Herculean feat. While it takes some effort, eating together as a family offers plenty of rewards. “Family meals are a great way to model good nutrition to your kids,” said Allison Brinkley, a registered dietitian nutritionist in Ocoee. “They’ll want to adopt good habits when they see you making healthy choices.”It is also a chance to slow down and bond as a family.

Have a Plan

“The key is to plan ahead and make time for what’s important,” said Brinkley, who recommends the app Plan to Eat for storing recipes and creating shopping lists.She uses time on the weekends to chop or roast veggies, grill chicken, and brown and season ground turkey. Stored in the fridge, these ingredients can quickly be turned into hassle-free midweek tacos, chicken wraps or a DIY salad bar. Cooked beans, brown rice and quinoa can be topped with protein and veggies for healthy dinner bowls.

The Freezer Is Your Friend

“I love the freezer-meal concept,” Brinkley said.Double a batch of chili or soup and freeze one, or slice chicken, onions and peppers or pork and veggies, and freeze with seasoning for ready-to-cook fajitas or stir-fry. Why not talk a few friends into preparing multiple batches of a single recipe and have a freezer-meal exchange?Cooking Among Friends by Mary Tennant and Becki Visser tells you everything you need to know to get started. Make sure to date and label freezer meals, and squeeze out as much air as possible to prevent freezer burn.

Slow Cooker to the Rescue

There’s nothing more satisfying than coming home from a hectic day to the enticing smell of a ready-to-eat meal. Fill your crockpot in the morning (or even prep the ingredients the night before), plug it in and enjoy black-eyed peas with ham, sloppy joes, hearty soups or pulled chicken for tacos. Double the recipe and freeze one for an easy midweek meal. If you’re new to crockpot cooking, www.365daysofcrockpotcooking.com is a great place to start.

Sheet Pan Magic

These one-pan wonders involve cooking protein, vegetables and seasonings in the oven on an 18-by-13-inch sheet pan.“The beauty of this method is convenience: one pan and minimal work,” said Ocoee mom Ev Janssen.She likes the rich textures and flavors of sheet pan cooking, and the natural sweetness of roasted vegetables is a family crowd-pleaser. The varieties are endless — simply toss meat or fish and veggies with olive oil and spices. Visit www.mealpreponfleek.com and search “sheet pan meals” for easy, one-pan recipes and other meal-prep tips.

Grab & GoMake a quick stop at the market for rotisserie chicken, steamable green beans, whole wheat rolls and sliced fruit, and dinner is on the table in minutes. Several local restaurants, like Axum Market Cafe, offer family-style meals for pickup, and Whole Foods and Fitlife Foods in Dr. Phillips specialize in healthy heat-and-serve meals to fit every lifestyle, from vegetarian and gluten-free to high-protein and comfort food. (Fitlife Foods also offers delivery at www.fitlifefoods.com.)

Get It Delivered

For ultimate convenience, consider a meal-delivery service like Orlando’s Catered Fit (www.cateredfit.com) and Mindful Meals (www.mindfulmeals.com), where you choose from an online menu and fresh, healthy meals arrive at your home. Just heat and serve. If you like to cook, a food delivery service, like Sun Basket (www.sunbasket.com) or Blue Apron (www.blueapron.com), saves time by providing the ingredients and recipes at your doorstep.The Shipt app makes ordering groceries for home delivery a snap. The list feature makes it easy to place repeat orders or create recipe-driven ingredient lists.

Sheet Pan Fajitas

To save time, set the timer on your oven so it can preheat on your way home. Find this and more recipes online at www.laughingspatula.com.


1 pound chicken breasts, thinly sliced

1 each: red, yellow and green pepper, sliced

1 onion, halved and sliced

1/4 cup olive oil2 teaspoons chili powder

1 teaspoon cumin

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

Pinch of chili flakes

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

8-12 taco-sized tortillas

Sour cream, salsa and sliced avocado for garnish


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix oil and spices in small bowl. Toss on sheet pan with chicken and vegetables. Spread ingredients out evenly, leaving a 1-inch border around the edge. Cook 25-30 minutes until chicken is cooked and vegetables are soft but have a crisp edge. Heat tortillas in tin foil during the last 3 to 4 minutes. Serve with warm tortillas, salsa, sour cream and avocado.

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