easy & healthy meals for the family like Sheet-pan Fajitas
ChefPassport’s Guide on Easy & Healthy Meals for Busy Families

ChefPassport’s Guide on Easy & Healthy Meals for Busy Families

Let’s face it: weekday evenings can be chaotic between work, after-school activities, and the ever-present question: “What’s for dinner?” The pressure to put a healthy, delicious meal on the table while everyone’s juggling schedules can feel overwhelming. 

But fear not, fellow kitchen warriors! There are ways to win this nightly battle, and it doesn’t have to involve takeout or frozen dinners.

Your family will surely love these family meals. Let’s explore!

Easy & Delicious Dinner Ideas

Let’s dive into some meal inspiration. These recipes are all about simplicity, flavor, and minimal cleanup, perfect for those busy weeknights:

One-Pan Wonders:

Sheet-pan Fajitas: This crowd-pleaser is guaranteed to disappear fast. Marinate chicken or steak strips with fajita seasoning, toss with colorful bell peppers and onions and roast on a single sheet pan. Serve with warm tortillas, shredded cheese, and your favorite toppings, such as salsa, guacamole, and sour cream.

Sheet-pan Fajitas

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, sliced thin against the grain
  • 1 red bell pepper, sliced into strips
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, sliced into strips
  • 1 orange bell pepper (optional), sliced into strips
  • 1 red onion, sliced into wedges
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons black pepper
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 6 fajita-sized flour tortillas, warmed
  • Your favorite fajita toppings (shredded cheese, guacamole, salsa, sour cream)

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (204 degrees C). Lightly oil a baking sheet or coat with nonstick spray.
  2. Whisk together chili powder, cumin, paprika, oregano, salt, and pepper in a small bowl.
  3. Place chicken, bell peppers, onion, and garlic on the prepared baking sheet in a single layer. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with the spice mixture. Toss gently to combine.
  4. Bake for 25-30 minutes until the chicken is cooked and the vegetables are tender-crisp.
  5. While the fajitas are cooking, warm the tortillas according to package instructions.
  6. Once the fajitas are cooked, stir in cilantro and lime juice (if using).
  7. Serve immediately on warm tortillas with your favorite fajita toppings.

Tips:

  • For extra flavor, marinate the chicken in the fajita seasoning for 30 minutes before cooking.
  • You can cook the fajitas in batches if your baking sheet is crowded.
  • You can add other vegetables to this recipe, such as broccoli florets, zucchini, or mushrooms.
  • Serve with Spanish rice or black beans for a complete meal.

 

Salmon with Roasted Veggies: This dish is as healthy as it is delicious. Simply toss broccoli florets, cherry tomatoes, and chopped asparagus with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Roast in a preheated oven while you bake or pan-fry salmon fillets seasoned with lemon and herbs.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound assorted vegetables (such as broccoli florets, Brussels sprouts, cherry tomatoes, red onion wedges, zucchini slices)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 4 salmon fillets (4-6 ounces each)
  • 1 lemon, sliced

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C). Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Toss the vegetables with olive oil, oregano, garlic powder, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. Spread the vegetables in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet.
  3. Pat the salmon fillets dry with paper towels. Season them with salt and pepper. Place the salmon fillets on top of the vegetables.
  4. Arrange the lemon slices around the salmon and vegetables.
  5. Roast for 20-25 minutes until the salmon is cooked and the vegetables are tender-crisp. The salmon will be opaque and flake easily with a fork.
  6. Serve immediately with the roasted vegetables and lemon slices.

Tips:

  • For crispy salmon skin, place the baking sheet under the broiler for the last minute or two of cooking. Watch closely so the skin doesn’t burn.
  • You can use any fresh herbs you like instead of the oregano.
  • You can use 1 tablespoon of lemon juice if you don’t have fresh lemon.
  • To add more flavor to the salmon, marinate it in your favorite marinade for 30 minutes before baking.

 

Speedy Skillet Dinners:

One-Pot Pasta Primavera: This is a fantastic way to sneak in various vegetables. Sauté chopped onions and garlic in olive oil, then add chopped seasonal vegetables like zucchini, mushrooms, and peas. Cook until tender-crisp, then stir in cooked pasta, diced tomatoes, and a splash of broth—season with Italian herbs and parmesan cheese.

One-Pot Pasta Primavera

Ingredients:

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest (from 1 lemon)
  • 1 medium shallot, minced
  • 12 ounces dried short pasta (such as penne, fusilli, or orecchiette)
  • 4 cups hot water
  • 1 pound asparagus spears, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces on the diagonal
  • 1 small zucchini, diced
  • 1 cup julienned carrots (about 3 ounces)
  • 3/4 cup diced orange or yellow bell pepper
  • 1 1/4 cups broccolini (about 3 ounces), trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas
  • 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)

Instructions:

  1. Make the garlic butter: Mash the garlic with 1/2 teaspoon of salt in a small bowl to form a paste. Add 4 tablespoons of butter and the lemon zest, and mash together until well combined. Set aside.

  2. Sauté the shallot: Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter in a large Dutch oven or pot over medium-high heat. Add the shallot and cook until softened and starting to brown, about 2-3 minutes.

  3. Cook the pasta: Add the pasta, hot water, and the remaining 2 teaspoons of salt to the pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium and cook according to package instructions for al dente pasta, stirring occasionally.

  4. Add the vegetables: While the pasta cooks, add the asparagus, zucchini, carrots, bell pepper, and broccolini to the pot. Stir to combine and cook for 5-7 minutes or until the vegetables are tender-crisp.

  5. Finish the pasta: Once the pasta is cooked, stir in the frozen peas, cherry tomatoes, and reserved garlic butter. Cook for another minute or two, until the peas are heated and the tomatoes are softened.

  6. Serve: Remove the pot from heat and stir in the Parmesan cheese, parsley, and red pepper flakes (if using). Serve immediately and enjoy!

Tips:

  • You can substitute other vegetables for the ones listed in the recipe. Some good options include broccoli florets, mushrooms, or chopped green beans.
  • If you don’t have hot water, you can use cold water and increase the cooking time by a few minutes.
  • You can add a splash of heavy cream or milk and garlic butter for a richer flavor.
  • Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Turkey Taco Skillet: Brown ground turkey with taco seasoning. Add diced tomatoes, corn, black beans, and a can of diced tomatoes with green chilis (optional). Simmer for a few minutes, then serve in bowls with shredded lettuce, cheese, and your favorite taco toppings.

Turkey Taco Skillet

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeds removed and diced (optional)
  • 1 pound ground turkey (93% lean)
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (10-ounce) can of diced tomatoes with green chiles (undrained)
  • 3/4 cup frozen corn
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish
  • Lime wedges for serving
  • Toppings of your choice: sour cream, avocado, chopped tomatoes, salsa, green onions

Instructions:

  1. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and jalapeno (if using) and cook for 2-3 minutes, until softened.
  2. Add the ground turkey and season with salt and pepper. Cook the turkey, breaking it into small pieces as it cooks, until browned.
  3. Stir in the chili powder, paprika, cumin, and cayenne pepper (if using). Cook for an additional minute, stirring constantly, to toast the spices.
  4. Add the black beans, diced tomatoes, and corn to the skillet. Stir to combine and heat through for 5-7 minutes.
  5. Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in the shredded cheese. Let the cheese melt slightly.
  6. Serve immediately with your favorite toppings, such as sour cream, avocado, chopped tomatoes, salsa, green onions, and lime wedges.

Tips:

  • You can substitute ground beef for the ground turkey if you prefer.
  • To make this recipe spicier, add a diced chipotle pepper in adobo sauce and the diced tomatoes.
  • You can substitute 1 teaspoon of dried cilantro if you still need fresh cilantro.
  • For a heartier meal, serve the taco skillet over brown rice or quinoa.
  • Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Hearty and Healthy Soups:

Slow Cooker Chicken Noodle Soup: This classic comfort food is perfect for chilly nights. Throw whole chicken or chicken breasts, chopped carrots, celery, onion, and your favorite herbs into the slow cooker. Fill with chicken broth and cook on low all day. When ready, shred the chicken and serve hot with cooked noodles.

Slow Cooker Chicken Noodle Soup

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 8 cups chicken broth
  • 1 whole chicken, skin on and bone-in (or 3-4 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs)
  • 2 cups egg noodles
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Instructions:

  1. Melt butter in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion, carrots, and celery. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes.
  2. Stir in the garlic, bay leaves, and thyme. Cook for an additional minute until fragrant.
  3. Pour in the chicken broth and bring to a simmer. Add the whole chicken and season with salt and pepper.
  4. Simmer for 30-45 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. The juices should run clear when pierced with a fork.
  5. If using a whole chicken, remove it from the pot and let it cool slightly. Shred the chicken meat and discard the skin and bones.
  6. Return the shredded chicken to the pot. Stir in the egg noodles and cook for 5-7 minutes, or according to package instructions, until the noodles are tender.
  7. Remove the bay leaves and discard. Stir in the parsley.
  8. Taste and adjust seasonings with salt and pepper as needed.
  9. Serve hot and enjoy!

Tips:

  • For a richer flavor, roast the vegetables (onion, carrots, celery) in the oven for 20 minutes before adding them to the soup.
  • If you don’t have fresh herbs, use 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano instead of thyme.
  • You can use leftover cooked chicken for this recipe. Simply add it to the pot with the broth and simmer for a few minutes to heat through.
  • For a creamier soup, stir in 1/2 cup of heavy cream or milk after adding the noodles.
  • Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

 

Lentil Soup: This protein-packed soup is surprisingly versatile. Sauté onions and garlic in olive oil, then add lentils, vegetable broth, diced tomatoes, and spices like cumin and turmeric. Simmer until the lentils are tender. You can customize this further by adding chopped spinach or kale near the end of cooking.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped (about 1 1/4 cups)
  • 2 celery ribs, chopped (about 1 1/4 cups)
  • 2 cups dried lentils, green or brown, rinsed
  • 1 (14.5 ounces) can of crushed tomatoes
  • 6 cups vegetable broth, low-sodium
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons paprika powder
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • 1 lemon (zest and juice)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Instructions:

  1. Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onion and garlic, and cook for 2 minutes until softened.
  2. Add celery and carrots, and cook for 7-10 minutes or until softened and fragrant. Take your time with this step, as it builds the flavor base.
  3. Add lentils, crushed tomatoes, vegetable broth, cumin, coriander, paprika, bay leaves, lemon zest, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Stir well.
  4. Increase heat and bring to a simmer. Occasionally, skim off any foam that rises to the surface.
  5. Reduce heat, cover the pot slightly, and simmer for 35-40 minutes or until lentils are tender.
  6. Remove bay leaves. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Stir in lemon juice before serving.

Tips:

  • You can substitute chicken broth for the vegetable broth for a richer flavor.
  • To thicken the soup, mash some of the cooked lentils against the side of the pot with a fork.
  • Add your favorite chopped greens like kale, spinach, or collard greens during the last 5 minutes of cooking.
  • Serve the soup with crusty bread for dipping.
  • Enjoy!

Breakfast for Dinner:

Sometimes, breaking the routine is the best way to break out of a rut. Savory breakfast dishes can be a fun and healthy change of pace for a weeknight dinner.

Frittata: This egg-based dish is incredibly customizable. Whisk together eggs, grated cheese, and chopped vegetables like bell peppers, onions, or spinach. Pour into a preheated skillet, cook until set on the bottom, then transfer to the oven to finish cooking. Frittatas are perfect for using up leftover vegetables and cheese.

Frittata

Ingredients:

  • 6 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup milk (or cream)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped vegetables (such as onions, peppers, mushrooms, spinach)
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheese (such as cheddar, mozzarella, Parmesan)
  • Optional: Chopped cooked meat (such as sausage, bacon, ham)

Instructions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350°F (175°C). If you don’t have an oven-safe skillet, you can use a pie or baking dish.
  2. Whisk together the eggs, milk, salt, and pepper in a large bowl.
  3. Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add your chopped vegetables and cook until softened about 5 minutes. Add cooked meat to the pan with the vegetables and cook for an additional minute or two.
  4. Pour the egg mixture into the skillet with the vegetables. Stir gently to combine.
  5. Sprinkle the top of the frittata with shredded cheese.
  6. Bake the frittata for 20-25 minutes until the eggs are set and the cheese is melted and bubbly.
  7. Let the frittata cool for a few minutes before slicing and serving.

Tips:

  • You can use any type of vegetable you like in your frittata. Other good options include broccoli, zucchini, asparagus, and sun-dried tomatoes.
  • You can use water or broth if you don’t have milk.
  • For a richer flavor, you can use grated Parmesan cheese instead of cheddar or mozzarella.
  • To make a crustless frittata, simply bake the egg mixture in a pie or baking dish without using a skillet.
  • Leftover frittata can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Reheat it gently in a skillet or microwave.

Breakfast Burritos: Scramble eggs with chopped vegetables and cheese. Warm tortillas, fill with the scrambled eggs mixture, top with salsa or avocado, and roll them up for a satisfying (and portable!) meal.Breakfast Burritos

Ingredients:

  • Scrambled eggs:
    • 4 large eggs
    • ¼ teaspoon smoked paprika
    • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Filling (choose some or all):
    • ½ lb sausage (chorizo, Italian, or your preference)
    • 1 Roma tomato, diced
    • ½ cup chopped onion
    • ½ cup diced bell pepper (any color)
    • 1 cup shredded hash browns (thawed if frozen)
    • 1 avocado, sliced
    • ½ cup shredded cheese (cheddar, Monterey Jack, or your choice)
    • ¼ cup salsa
    • Chopped cilantro
  • Tortillas:
    • 4 large flour tortillas (10-inch)
    • Vegetable oil

 

Instructions:

  1. Scramble the eggs: In a bowl, whisk together eggs, paprika, salt, and pepper. Heat a pan over medium heat with a drizzle of oil. Pour in the egg mixture and scramble until cooked through. Set aside.
  2. Cook the sausage (optional): If using sausage, remove it from the casings (if necessary) and crumble into the same pan used for the eggs. Cook over medium heat until browned, breaking it up with a spoon. Drain any excess grease.
  3. Saute vegetables (optional): Add the diced onion, bell pepper, and tomato to the pan with the sausage (or a new pan if not using sausage). Saute over medium heat for 5-7 minutes or until softened. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Assemble the burritos: Warm the tortillas in a dry skillet or microwave for a few seconds to make them pliable. Lay a tortilla flat and spread some scrambled egg in the center. Layer on your chosen fillings, like sausage, vegetables, cheese, salsa, avocado, and cilantro.
  5. Roll the burritos: Fold the bottom edge of the tortilla up over the filling. Then, fold in the sides. Tightly roll up the burrito, tucking in the filling as you go.
  6. Serve immediately or wrap in foil for later. You can also toast the burritos in a pan with a bit of oil for a crispy exterior.

Tips:

  • To freeze burritos, wrap them tightly in foil or plastic freezer wrap. Freeze for up to 3 months. Reheat in the microwave or oven until warmed through.
  • Get creative with your fillings! Add black beans, roasted sweet potatoes, refried beans, or any other breakfast favorites.
  • Serve with hot sauce, sour cream, or your favorite toppings.

Family Healthy Snacks

Sometimes, the simplest snacks are the best. Stock your fridge with fruits and vegetables that are easy to grab and go. Consider these options:

  • Rainbow Platter: This colorful display is as visually appealing as it is nutritious. Slice up bell peppers, cucumbers, carrots, and cherry tomatoes. Arrange them on a platter with a side of hummus or a yogurt dip for added protein.
  • Fruit Kebabs: Thread grapes, strawberries, blueberries, and chunks of melon onto skewers for a fun and refreshing treat. Drizzle with honey or maple syrup for a touch of sweetness.
  • Apple Nachos: Slice up an apple and top it with chopped nuts, dried fruit, and a sprinkle of cinnamon. Drizzle with a dollop of nut butter for a satisfying crunch.

Healthy Snacks for Morning

When mornings are chaotic, prepping snacks the night before can be a lifesaver. Here are some clever hacks for using fruits and veggies:

  • Overnight Oats: Combine rolled oats, your favorite milk (dairy or dairy-free), chopped fresh fruit like berries or mango, and a sprinkle of chia seeds in a jar. Let it sit in the fridge overnight for a grab-and-go breakfast or healthy snack.
  • Frozen Yogurt Parfaits: Layer plain yogurt with your favorite frozen fruits (berries, pineapple, or mango) and a sprinkle of granola. This is a delicious and healthy alternative to ice cream on a hot day.
  • Veggie Sticks with a Twist: Pre-cut veggies like celery, carrots, and bell peppers can be stored in an airtight container for easy access. Instead of the usual dip, try whipping up a simple hummus variation by blending roasted red peppers with the chickpeas.

Are you craving more inspiration?

The culinary world is at your fingertips! Explore the ChefPassports for a treasure trove of healthy and budget-friendly recipes. 

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With ChefPassport, you can explore authentic cuisines from the comfort of your kitchen, learn new skills, and expand your family’s culinary experience.

 

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