5 Easy Weeknight Meals

Brooklyn chef Chris Scott shares simple, family-friendly recipes.

From the WebMD Archives

Chef Chris Scott is co-founder of Brooklyn Commune, a café and market in New York. He and his wife, Eugenie Woo, began the venture in late 2010 to foster community around good food.

The café is a hot spot for busy families who stop in to eat wholesome sandwiches and salads at large communal tables, pick up containers of homemade soup and granola to go, or get involved in community events such as planting a vegetable garden at a local women's shelter.

Teaching Kids to Cook

Dad to daughters Elana and Pearl, Scott also leads monthly cooking classes for local kids ages 9 to 15 to help introduce them to the kitchen.

"We teach them fundamentals, like how to make rice, how to roast a chicken," he says. He remembers the pride he felt when he learned to make scrambled eggs as a child and wants more kids to have that experience.

"The simpler it is, the more comfortable they feel," he says. "I want to give them the confidence to go home and try cooking for their friends and family."

Scott cut his teeth in various restaurant kitchens in Philadelphia and then trained at the French Culinary Institute in New York. He's shown off his skills as a contestant on the Food Network's Chopped. But his passion is sharing the joys of food and cooking with young people.

When kids know what they're doing in the kitchen, Scott says, they’re less likely to be afraid of trying vegetables or new ingredients.

"[They] can begin to enjoy healthy, delicious, natural foods,” he says. “Not only that, they also develop a wonderful sense of community as they see the connection between the people who grow the food, those who prepare it, and those who sit at the table and share the meal." Scott remembers helping his grandmother slice apples for pie, which he says taught him the power of food to bring people together.

To help bring your own family together, Scott whipped up five simple recipes, one for each weeknight, each made up of only five or six main ingredients. These dinner options taste great and are fun for young, aspiring chefs to make. He also lists some essential pantry staples to keep on hand for healthy snacks and quick meals kids love.

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Monday

Mini Turkey Meat Loaf

Makes 6 servings

Ingredients

Meat Loaf

1/2 cup onions, diced

1/2 cup celery, diced

1 pound lean ground turkey breast

1/2 cup nonfat sour cream

1/2 cup whole wheat ­bread crumbs

1 egg

2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh thyme (optional)

2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley (optional)

Salt and pepper to taste

Glaze (optional)

1 cup low-sodium, no-sugar-added ketchup

1/4 cup molasses

1 cup balsamic vinegar

3 Tbsp Dijon mustard

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 375º F.

2. If using optional glaze, whisk all glaze ingredients together and set aside.

3. Sauté celery and onions over medium heat in pan sprayed with cooking spray until soft and translucent. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.

4. In large mixing bowl, combine ground turkey, sour cream, bread crumbs, egg, 1/2 cup glaze (if using), celery, onions, and optional fresh herbs. Season with salt and pepper. Mix well.

5. Shape into 6 mini meat loaves. Place loaves in a 9-inch by 13-inch baking dish. Bake about 45 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 155º F.

6. Brush meat loaves with remaining glaze, if using. Bake for an additional 10 minutes.

7. Remove from oven, and let rest 15 minutes before serving.

Per serving:

271 calories, 23 g protein, 39 g carbohydrate, 2 g fat (1 g saturated fat), 83 mg cholesterol, 2 g fiber, 20 g sugar, 224 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 7%

Tuesday

The salmon in this dish delivers a big dose of heart-healthy omega-3 fats.

Seared Salmon With Couscous

Makes 6 servings

Ingredients

2 cups whole wheat couscous

1/4 cup dried cranberries

1 cup low-sodium vegetable broth

1 pound salmon fillet, cut into 6 pieces

1/2 tsp salt

Pepper to taste

1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley

1 Tbsp olive oil

Directions

1. In large bowl, combine couscous and cranberries.

2. In a small saucepan, heat vegetable broth to boiling.

3. Add hot broth to couscous and cranberries. Stir to ensure all grains are moistened. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let stand 10-15 minutes.

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4. Meanwhile, season salmon pieces with salt and pepper. Sear fish in a preheated pan sprayed with cooking spray over medium-high heat, about 3 minutes per side.

5. Uncover couscous. Fluff with a fork, and add parsley. Add olive oil and pepper to taste.

6. Spoon one serving of couscous onto each plate and top with a piece of salmon.

Per serving:

428 calories, 23 g protein, 41 g carbohydrate, 13 g fat (3 g saturated fat), 5 g fiber, 257 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 27%

Wednesday

Savory Stuffed Crêpes

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients

8 ounces fresh mushrooms, sliced

4 ounces fresh baby spinach

1 Tbsp chopped fresh thyme (optional)

8 premade crêpes

8 (1-ounce) slices lean turkey breast

1 cup shredded low-fat Monterey Jack cheese

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350º F.

2. Lightly coat a pan with cooking spray. Over medium heat, sauté mushrooms about 5 minutes until they release their liquid. Add spinach and sauté lightly 2 minutes until wilted. Season with thyme, if desired, and remove from heat.

3. Place one crêpe on a clean counter. Add 1 slice of turkey, a sprinkle of cheese, and a spoonful of the mushroom and spinach mixture. Fold sides in to make a rectangular pillow shape and then roll over. Place crêpe, folded side down, in a baking dish lightly coated with cooking spray. Repeat until all crêpes are assembled. Top crêpes with remaining cheese.

4. Bake 20 minutes, or until cheese melts. Serve immediately.

Per serving:

171 calories, 19 g protein, 7 g carbohydrate, 8 g fat (4 g saturated fat), 50 mg cholesterol, 1 g fiber, 320 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 41%

Thursday

A frittata is a hearty dish with plenty of protein. Eggs are also a good source of bone-building vitamin D. Serve with a tossed green salad with lots of colorful chopped veggies.

Chicken and Broccoli Frittata

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients

3/4 cup chopped broccoli florets

6 eggs

1 cup low-fat milk

3/4 cup cooked, diced chicken breast

1/2 cup shredded low-fat cheddar cheese

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Salt and pepper

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 375º F.

2. To blanch broccoli florets, bring a small pot of water to boil. Place a medium bowl of water and ice on a nearby counter. Add florets to boiling water 30 seconds to 1 minute, until they're bright green. Immediately drain broccoli and place in ice water. When cool, drain well.

3. In a medium bowl, whisk eggs and milk thoroughly. Add chicken, broccoli, cheese, and a pinch of salt and pepper.

4. Pour egg mixture into an oven-safe, nonstick, 10-inch skillet sprayed with cooking spray.

5. Bake 25-35 minutes, or until center is firm. Cut into wedges and serve immediately.

Per serving:

181 calories, 21 g protein, 2 g carbohydrate, 9 g fat (3 g saturated fat), 342 mg cholesterol, 241 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 47%

Friday

Chicken and Veggie Kebabs

Makes 6 servings

Ingredients

2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts

2 red peppers (or other vegetables, such as zucchini or grape tomatoes)

1 large onion

3 or 4 cloves garlic

2 sprigs each of fresh herbs, such as parsley, cilantro, or mint

1/4 cup olive oil

1/2 tsp salt

Pepper to taste

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 400º F.

2. Cut chicken breasts and vegetables into 1-inch cubes.

3. Thread 6 skewers with alternating pieces of chicken and vegetables.

4. Finely chop garlic and herbs, and combine with a generous quantity of olive oil (about 1/4 cup). Season with salt and pepper.

5. Pour herb-oil mixture over skewers to coat evenly. Refrigerate 1 hour (or overnight).

6. Place skewers on baking sheet, and roast in oven about 25 minutes, or until chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165º F. Serve immediately.

Per serving:

274 calories, 35 g protein, 6 g carbohydrate, 11 g fat (2 g saturated fat), 87 mg cholesterol, 2 g fiber, 3 g sugar, 249 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 37%

3 Kid-Friendly Pantry Staples

Want to help your kids make healthy food choices? Keep these ingredients on hand.

1. Popcorn kernels. Air-popped corn is the perfect do-it-yourself project for kids: They have to prepare the popper, measure out the kernels, and wait for the corn to pop. "It's so much better than having them just open a bag" of premade snacks, Scott says. Kids learn that the best eats take a bit of effort, and "when they finally sit down with this snack, they feel a little bit proud."

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2. Dried fruit. Fresh fruit is one of the best snacks for kids, but dried fruits such as cranberries, raisins, and mango strips can be a convenient alternative. Packed with beneficial antioxidant compounds and fiber, dried fruit is "definitely a better alternative to candy or other junk," Scott says. But dried fruit has plenty of sugar, so make it an occasional treat.

3. Dry yeast. It's a key ingredient in an all-time favorite: homemade pizza. Kids love the hands-on process of mixing, kneading, and punching dough and then layering on toppings. Scott also uses dry yeast to make bread for sandwiches and soft pretzels -- a great weekend project for families.

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WebMD Magazine - Feature Reviewed by Kathleen M. Zelman, MPH, RD, LD on July 15, 2012

Sources

SOURCE:

Chris Scott, chef, co-owner, Brooklyn Commune, New York.

© 2012 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

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