Quick and Easy School Night Suppers

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Well school is back and Labor Day is behind us, so like or not it is time to get back into the schedule of the school year! With ball games, club meetings and dance class commitments it is tough to accomplish the family meal! Most of us in my age bracket grew up having a “family meal” and whether we realized or not at the time, we reaped quite a few benefits over mealtime. Some of the benefits of hosting a family as many nights as possible include; everyone tends to eat a healthier meal, kids learn to love veggies and try new foods, families are less likely to become overweight because you can control the portions, school grades tend to be better, studies show that family dinners help kids say “no” to abusive behaviors such as drugs and alcohol, you will learn more about what your family is doing, there will be less stress in the home, and of course you can put more cash in your pocket!

The challenge is finding good healthy meals that you can make in minutes and that your whole family will enjoy. Here are some ideas for quick fix main dishes and more.

Cheddar Beef Casserole

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for the baking dish
Kosher salt
3 cups wide egg noodles (about 5 ounces)
1 1/2 cups sour cream
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
12 ounces ground beef (or turkey)
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 bunch scallions (white and green parts), finely chopped
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
One 14 1/2-ounce can petite diced tomatoes
2 cups grated Cheddar

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Oil a 2-quart baking dish.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the noodles and cook to al dente according to the package directions. Drain and put in the prepared baking dish. Toss with the sour cream, Parmesan and 1/4 teaspoon salt.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the ground beef and cook, stirring, until no longer pink, about 4 minutes. Add the bell peppers and scallions and cook until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Make a space in the pan; add the tomato paste and toast for a minute. Sprinkle with the Italian seasoning and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Add the diced tomatoes, stir and bring to a simmer. Cook until slightly thickened, about 2 minutes.

Pour the beef mixture over the noodles and sprinkle with the grated Cheddar. Bake on the middle rack until the cheese is melted and the edges are bubbling, 15 to 20 minutes. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

Easy Meat Sauce over Spaghetti Squash

1 medium spaghetti squash

1/2 pound extra-lean ground beef

1/2 cup chopped onion

1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1/4 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons tomato paste

1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained

1/4 cup (1 ounce) shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

1 tablespoon fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves


Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. halve the squash lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Sprinkle the cut sides with 1/2 teaspoon salt, then brush both sides with olive oil. Put the squash, cut-side up, in a baking dish and cover tightly with aluminum foil. Roast 20 minutes, then uncover and continue roasting until the squash is tender, about 35 more minutes.

While squash cooks, heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add beef, onion, garlic, oregano, and salt; cook 5 minutes or until beef is browned, stirring to crumble. Stir in tomato paste; cook 1 minute, stirring frequently. Add tomatoes. Bring to a boil; cook 1 minute. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook 3 minutes or until thickened.


Use a fork to scrape the spaghetti squash flesh into strands; transfer to a large bowl and toss with 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan. Cover with the cooked sauce and top with cheese and parsley.


Personal Pizza Pot Pies

Tomato Sauce:
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon fresh minced rosemary leaves
2 ounces diced pancetta (may substitute bacon pieces)
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Pizza Pot Pies:
3 cups Tomato Sauce
2 cups diced roasted chicken
2 cups broccoli cut into small, bite-sized pieces
1 1/2 cups diced mozzarella cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 pounds pizza dough (prepackaged, like Pillsbury)
1/3 cup olive oil
6 tablespoons grated Parmesan

**Special equipment: 6 (10-ounce) ramekins (or individual baking dishes)

For the Tomato Sauce: Warm the olive oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic, rosemary, and pancetta. Sauté until the pancetta is crisp and golden, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, stir to combine, and simmer over very low heat for 15 minutes. Add the salt and pepper. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. In a large bowl combine the Tomato Sauce, chicken, broccoli, mozzarella, salt, and pepper. Stir to combine. Divide the chicken mixture evenly between the ramekins. Roll out the pizza dough and cut circles with a pairing knife that is 1-inch wider in diameter than the ramekins. Place the circles of dough over the filled ramekins and press down to seal, making sure to pull the dough over the edge of the ramekin. Brush the top of the pizza dough with olive oil and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Cut a small slit in the top of the pizza dough with a pairing knife. Bake until the pizza crust is golden, about 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly before serving.

Chicken with TurkeyRoni Marinara Sauce

Cooking spray

1/2 teaspoon minced fresh garlic

16 slices Turkey pepperoni, coarsely chopped (you may also use mini turkey ronis)

1/4 teaspoon dried oregano

1 1/2 cups lower-sodium marinara sauce

2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

2 teaspoons olive oil

1 1/2 pounds boneless chicken tenders

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese


Preheat broiler to high. Heat a saucepan over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add garlic and pepperoni; cook 2 minutes or until garlic begins to brown, stirring frequently. Add oregano; cook 30 seconds. Add marinara sauce; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 5 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in basil.


Heat a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil; swirl to coat. Sprinkle chicken with pepper. Add chicken to skillet; cook 5 minutes or until lightly browned, turning after 3 minutes. Spoon sauce over chicken; sprinkle evenly with cheese. Broil 2 minutes or until cheese melts.

Written By

Photo of Jennifer StroudJennifer StroudCounty Extension Administrative Assistant (252) 527-2191 (Office) jennifer_stroud@ncsu.eduLenoir County, North Carolina

Contributing Specialist

Photo of Tammy Kelly, Ed. DTammy Kelly, Ed. DCounty Extension Director (252) 527-2191 tammy_kelly@ncsu.eduLenoir County, North Carolina
Posted on Sep 3, 2013
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