Ever since college I’ve been putting meals together that are quick, easy, and healthy. If you have a busy lifestyle like I do, it’s important to keep pantry staples always in stock. Here are a few items I always have in my cabinet.

  • Whole wheat Pasta
  • Canned tomatoes
  • Spaghetti Sauce
  • Instant Rice

For items that need to remain cold, I like to always have the following:

  • Skinless Chicken Breast
  • Some vegetable (right now I have carrots and broccoli)
  • Spinach
  • Italian Dressing
  • Milk
  • Eggs

Most nights I’m drained and want something that won’t take too long to prepare or cook. Even if I’m making a simple meal, I try to add an extra vegetable or leafy green to boost the nutrition factor. Here are a few of my favorite weeknight dinner ideas.

Tossed Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette

  1. Combine romaine and spinach in a large salad bowl. Add sliced cherry tomatoes, chopped Almonds and dried cranberries. Sprinkle feta cheese on top and add croutons for a nice crunch.
  2. If you want some extra protein, add half a cup of cooked chicken breast chopped. Drizzle balsamic dressing on top and toss.
  3. Ready to serve!

Whole Wheat Spaghetti with Spinach

  1. Cook whole wheat spaghetti as directed on the box. I’m typically cooking for one, so I only use a portion of the box.
  2. While your water is boiling, chop up a couple tomatoes, baby portabella mushrooms and fresh spinach leaves. Set aside.
  3. In a medium skillet on low heat drizzle a little extra virgin olive oil and add minced garlic. Sizzle for a few minutes. Add tomatoes and mushrooms. Sauté until vegetables are nice and tender. Add spinach and stir. I prefer my spinach on the raw side so I don’t cook it too long. Pour in spaghetti sauce and bring to a light simmer.
  4. Pour sauce over cooked pasta and serve.

Miniature Lasagna

  1. You will need a bread pan, no-boil lasagna noodles, pasta sauce, sausage, ricotta and mozzarella cheese, one egg, and multiple vegetables. This is a good time to use any extra produce you may have. I like to use zucchini, baby portabella mushrooms, onion, and tomato.
  2. Slice Zucchini long ways. Cook in a medium skillet with extra virgin olive oil. Next sauté sliced mushrooms and onion. Brown Italian sausage.
  3. Combine one egg with ricotta cheese and Italian seasoning.
  4. In the bread pan cover the bottom with a layer of pasta sauce. Then place a noodle and coat with sauce. Spread cheese mixture, add sausage, layer on Zucchini and other veggies and pasta sauce. Add another noodle, cheese mixture, sausage, veggies, sauce. Repeat two more layers. Top off with mozzarella cheese.
  5. Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Uncover and bake for an additional 10 minutes or until cheese is fully melted.
  6. Let cool and serve!

Quick tip: You could also add things like Broccoli, Cauliflower, Sweet Pepper or spinach. Cut out the sausage and go vegetarian.

Parmesan Encrusted Chicken with Brown Rice and Broccoli

  1. For this recipe you’ll need 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, Lemon juice (bottled is fine), panko bread crumbs, vegetable oil, lemon pepper, parsley, instant brown rice and a couple stalks of fresh broccoli.
  2. I typically slice my chicken in half. I like working with smaller pieces and it cooks faster. Dip each piece of chicken in lemon juice then roll them in a mixture of bread crumbs and lemon pepper. Set aside.
  3. Pour a couple tablespoons of vegetable oil into a large skillet. Enough to cover the entire bottom. Set on medium heat. Add each chicken breast to the skillet. Fry until golden brown on each side, about 4 minutes. Place cooked chicken on a plate with a paper towel to soak up any excess. Garnish with parsley.
  4. Cook rice as directed on the box.
  5. Chop stalks of broccoli into florets and place in a steamer over medium-high heat. Steam until tender.
  6. Serve and enjoy!