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5 Ideas for quick and easy meals

Heather Barnett is a freelance writer and foodie whose work has been featured in blogs, websites, magazines, and TV and radio ads. She spends her free time relaxing with her soulmate, Keith; her dog, Mosby "The Fly Slayer;" and Felix th...

Serve up a home- cooked meal in minutes

Making a home-cooked meal after a long day at the office can be such a pain, it's no wonder we opt for fast food. We have a few ideas to help you whip up a home-cooked meal in minutes.
Mom preparing salad

A home-cooked meal doesn't mean spending hours in front of a hot stove. Your local supermarket holds a treasure trove of simple ingredients you can use to make delicious home-cooked meals with fewer calories and fat than most fast-food offerings in about half an hour.

1

Calzones

Keep a canister of refrigerator pizza dough on hand to whip up a quick and healthy calzone in minutes. Just press out the pizza dough into a 12 x 8-inch rectangle on a greased cookie sheet. Spread it with sauce, herbs and spices, cooked lean meat, frozen veggies and a small amount of 2 percent or skim-milk cheese. Then roll it up and pinch and roll the edges together to create a complete seal. Put a few slits in the top and spritz it with cooking spray to facilitate browning, then pop it into a 400 degree F oven to cook for 15 or 20 minutes.

Suggestions:

  • Chicken, broccoli and cheese sauce
  • California mix veggies and garlic butter
  • Lean ground turkey, red peppers, onions, mushrooms and marinara

Try a smoky paprika pork calzone >>

2

Super-quick salad

Bagged salad mixes are a lifesaver for busy moms. Cut open a bag and dump it into a salad bowl with fresh-cut veggies or fruits, nuts, cheese, croutons and your favorite dressing for a healthy salad in minutes. To make it a meal, add grilled chicken or shrimp.

Suggestions:

  • Grilled chicken, Caesar dressing, Parmesan and croutons
  • Mandarin oranges, walnuts or almonds, dried cranberries and a sweet vinaigrette
  • Crumbled bacon, blue cheese crumbles, sliced green onions, carrots, celery and blue cheese dressing

Whip up this easy chicken Waldorf salad in minutes >>

3

Easy lasagna casserole

Everybody loves lasagna, but it takes so much time! To get dinner on the table faster, cook up some tube or spiral pasta (this is a good time to sneak in the wheat version), toss it into a casserole dish with some pasta sauce, frozen veggies, cottage or ricotta cheese and cooked meat, top it with skim mozzarella and bake it at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes or until it's heated through and the cheese is bubbly and brown.

Suggestions:

  • Wheat rigatoni, red peppers and onions, marinara and ground turkey
  • Spinach rotini, spinach, carrots, zucchini and half Alfredo/half marinara sauce
  • Farfalle, carrots, broccoli, bell pepper and fresh tomato chunks with Alfredo sauce

Take a shortcut! Make this cheese ravioli lasagna >>

4

Saucy little "meat" cups

Vegetarian meat crumbles may sound like a weird thing to buy if you're a carnivore, but they're super-convenient. They come frozen, but already cooked and taste a lot like ground meat. All you have to do is heat them up, and they're ready to use. For a fun meal, roll out some refrigerator biscuits into rounds and place them into muffin tins to create a cup. Add your favorite sauce and maybe some veggies, top with cheese and bake for 10 to 12 minutes at 400 degrees F.

Suggestions:

  • Barbecue sauce, some onions and cheddar cheese
  • Sloppy Joe sauce, frozen spinach and Jack cheese (serve with ketchup and mustard)
  • Canned tomato (not pasta) sauce, enchilada or taco seasoning and quesadilla cheese (serve with sour cream)

Try these quick sloppy Joe squares >>

5

Dessert parfait

What's a great dinner without the perfect dessert? Just before you start dinner, whip up some pudding. It should set by the time you're finished eating. Layer in some fruit, cereal, crumbled cookies, creams and other add-ins, and you've got a delicious dessert with far fewer calories than what you get at most restaurants.

Suggestions:

  • Chocolate pudding, crushed gingersnaps, mini chocolate chips and whipped cream
  • Pistachio pudding, crushed nuts (preferably pistachios, but pecans will do, too) and whipped cream
  • Vanilla pudding, fresh sliced (or thawed frozen) berries and granola

Make banana yogurt parfaits for an easy dessert >>

More quick and easy meal ideas

English muffin pizzas recipe
Tuna skillet recipe
Foil-packed hobo stew recipe

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