With more cooks preparing meals at home, keeping dinner ideas fresh, easy and budget-wise can be a bit challenging at times. Jennifer Bushman, author of “The Kitchen Coach” cookbook series, knows this dilemma all too well.
“Many cooks face what I call dinner monotony. People feel stuck with the ‘old standbys’ and have trouble coming up with new ideas – and that’s where I step in,” says Bushman.
The Kitchen Coach recommends making weeknight cooking a pleasure rather than a chore. Cooks can prepare quick and delicious recipes using high-quality yet affordable and convenient foods and by adding a bit of “dinner-tainment” to the evening’s fun. Here are several ideas from the Kitchen Coach:
• Spend less time in the kitchen by making a quick one-dish meal in three easy steps: simply grill chicken and vegetables and serve with prepared Knorr Cheddar Broccoli Rice to create Grilled Chicken and Veggies over Rice. With the extra time saved, you can enjoy dinner and play a board game with the family. Why not consider making it a weekly event and let the kids take turns picking their favorite rice or pasta variety and game of choice?
• With restaurant-quality food from the freezer section at your fingertips, you can make a night in as delicious as a night out with Bertolli Oven Bake Meals in such varieties as Meat Lasagna Rustica and Stuffed Shells in Scampi Sauce. All you need to do is set the mood by lighting candles and pouring the wine to surprise your loved one.
• Celebrate a night-in with the family with a new twist on a comfort food favorite. Prepare a perfectly seasoned Pizza Meat Loaf in no time with go-to ingredients, such as Lipton Recipe Secrets Onion Soup Mix and Ragu Pasta Sauce. Set up the couch and chairs in your family living room to create a “home theatre” and enjoy pizza meat loaf, while watching your favorite family flicks.
• For a quick and fun twist on dinner, create a baked potato bar stocked with savory toppings. Feature spuds toppers, such as shredded cheddar cheese and steamed broccoli, for delicious, added flavor. Add Shedd’s Spread Country Crock Calcium plus Vitamin D for added nutritional benefits. For a no fuss lunch, use the leftover toppings as the base for a grab ‘n’ go wrap the kids can enjoy the next day.
• Spread a blanket in the living room and treat the family to an at-home dinner picnic. Prepare simple sandwiches or wraps like a delicious Avocado Tuna Melt or a chicken and avocado wrap. Try using Hellmann’s Light Mayonnaise, which has the great taste, but half the calories and fat of Hellmann’s Real Mayonnaise. Or, when parents and kids are on-the-run between soccer practice and music lessons, spread out the sandwich fixin’s so the family can make their own grab ‘n’ go dinner.
• Instead of hosting (and taking on the full expense of) a dinner party, enjoy a sweet treat with friends that won’t cost a fortune. Plan a budget-friendly ice cream social with a toppings bar, or invite friends over for a simple Skippy Dippin’ Sundae made with Breyers All Natural Vanilla Ice Cream.
For delicious recipes, affordable meal ideas and a family fun booklet, go to www.MakingLifeBetter.com.
Avocado Tuna Melts
Preparation time: 10 minutes; cooking time: 6 minutes; makes 2 servings
1, 6-ounce can tuna, drained and flaked
2 tablespoons Hellmann’s or Best Foods Light Mayonnaise
1 tablespoon chopped pickled jalapeno pepper (optional)
4 slices whole grain sandwich bread
2 ounces thinly sliced low fat cheddar cheese
1/2 avocado, sliced
2 tablespoons Shedd’s Spread Country Crock Omega Plus Light
In small bowl, combine tuna, mayonnaise and jalapeno; set aside.
Evenly top two bread slices with 1/2 of the cheese, avocado and tuna mixture, then remaining cheese. Top with remaining bread slices. Evenly spread tops of sandwiches with 1 tablespoon spread.
In 12-inch nonstick skillet, cook sandwiches over medium heat, spread side down, 2 minutes or until golden. Evenly spread tops with remaining 1 tablespoon spread, then turn. Cook an additional 2 minutes or until golden and cheese is melted.
Pizza Meat Loaf
Preparation time: 10 minutes; cooking time: 1 hour; makes 8 servings
1 envelope Lipton Recipe Secrets Onion Soup Mix
2 pounds ground beef
1-1/2 cups fresh breadcrumbs or 3/4 plain dry breadcrumbs
1 small green bell pepper, chopped (optional)
1/4 cup water
1 cup Ragu Old World Style Pasta Sauce
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (about 4 ounces)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine all ingredients except 1/2 cup pasta sauce and 1/2 cup cheese in large bowl.
Shape into loaf in 13-inch-by-9-inch baking or roasting pan. Top with remaining sauce. Bake 50 minutes. Sprinkle top with remaining cheese. Bake an additional 10 minutes or until done. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.
Also terrific with Lipton Recipe Secrets Beefy Onion or Savory Herb with Garlic Soup Mix.
Skippy Dippin’ Sundaes
Preparation time: 5 minutes; makes 4 servings
1 quart Breyers All Natural Vanilla Ice Cream
1/2 cup Skippy Creamy or Super Chunk Peanut Butter, melted
Your favorite sundae toppings
Scoop ice cream into 4 dessert dishes. Drizzle with melted peanut butter, and then spoon on toppings.
All materials courtesy of: Unilever Brands
From Family Features