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Family Meals Matter: Fun, fast family meals

Staff Report • Sep 11, 2013 at 8:19 PM

Family Meals Matter: Fun, fast family meals



Now that back-to-school season is in full swing, finding time for family meals might be a challenge. However, the benefits of eating together as a family — for both children and adults — should be enough to compel you to take this challenge head on.

Research has shown that families who eat together tend to eat better, with higher intakes of fruits, vegetables and key nutrients like calcium, fiber and iron. Perhaps lesser known are the benefits that family meals can have on students’ academic achievement. Well-nourished children tend to perform better in school with fewer tardies or absences.

Keep these benefits in focus during the busy back to school season with a fun and fast family meal of Sweetie Pie Quesadillas, Carrot and Broccoli Soup and Berry Perfect Parfaits. Keep going all week long with Alfredo Pasta, Cheese Herbed Zucchini, Mango-Ginger Couscous and Beef with Broccoli. As an added bonus, most of these recipes can do double duty for lunch or repurpose leftovers for added convenience.




Total Preparation Time: less than 15 minutes

Actual Cooking Time: less than 15 minutes

Number of Servings: 4 (376 calories/serving)

I've been making chili with black beans and sweet potatoes for years. This recipe takes those two winning flavors and pairs them with melted Monterey Jack cheese for a quesadilla that is far more satisfying than the norm.

— Katie Sullivan Morford, “Best Lunch Box Ever” (Chronicle Books, $24.95); http://momskitchenhandbook.com/bestlunchboxever/ .


1 1/2 cups coarsely grated Monterey Jack cheese

Four 8-inch whole-wheat flour tortillas

1 cup grated peeled raw sweet potato

1/2 cup cooked black beans, drained

4 tablespoons mild green taco sauce

2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil


1. Sprinkle half of the cheese evenly over one tortilla. Scatter the sweet potato over the cheese, followed by the beans. Spoon the taco sauce over the beans and top with the remaining cheese and the remaining tortilla.

2. Repeat step 1 with another tortilla.

3. In a medium skillet, heat half the olive oil over medium heat. Put one quesadilla in the pan and cook until golden brown and crispy, 2 to 3 minutes. With a spatula, flip the quesadilla and cook until the second side is golden brown and crispy, about 2 minutes.

4. Transfer the quesadilla to a cutting board and let cool for a few minutes.

5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 with the second quesadilla.

4. Cut quesadillas into quarters and serve, or pack into four containers for lunches.

— Cook's Notes: Cooking the quesadilla over medium instead of high heat allows the sweet potato to get tender by the time the outside is crispy and the cheese is melted. Leftover cooked vegetables such as broccoli, zucchini or peppers can be chopped up and substituted for the sweet potato.

Lower the fat and calories without sacrificing flavor or nutrients by using reduced-fat cheese for some or all of this dish.



Total Preparation Time: 15 to 30 minutes

Actual Cooking Time: 15 to 30 minutes

Number of Servings: 4 (168 calories/serving)

This is low-fat, but is delicious and nutritious.


2 medium carrots, chopped

2 celery ribs, chopped

1 medium onion, chopped

1 tablespoon butter

1 bag frozen broccoli cuts

3 cups fat-free milk, divided

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1/8 teaspoon pepper

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour


1. In a large non-stick saucepan (or regular pan coated with cooking spray), cook the carrots, celery, and onion in butter for 3 minutes. Add broccoli; cook 3 minutes longer. Stir in 2 3/4 cups milk, salt, thyme, and pepper.

2. Bring to boil. Reduce heat; Cover and simmer for 5-10 minutes or until vegetables are tender.

3. Combine the flour and remaining milk until smooth; gradually stir into the soup. Bring to a boil; cook 2 minutes longer or until thickened.



Total Preparation Time: 15 to 30 minutes

Actual Cooking Time: less than 15 minutes

Number of Servings: 4 (157 calories/serving)


1/4 cup water, divided

1 teaspoon cornstarch

1 cup fresh blueberries, divided

2 tablespoons honey

1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom

1/8 teaspoon grated lime rind

1/2 pound fresh peaches

1 1/2 cups raspberry fat-free frozen yogurt


1. Combine 1 tablespoon water and cornstarch; stir well and set aside.

Combine remaining 3 tablespoons water, 3/4 cup blueberries, and next 3 ingredients in a saucepan; bring to boil. Add cornstarch mixture, and cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat; stir in remaining 1/4 cup blueberries. Spoon into a bowl; cover and chill.

2. To serve, peel and cube peaches to equal 1 cup. Spoon 2 tablespoons blueberry mixture into a 12-ounce parfait glass; top with 1/4 cup raspberry frozen yogurt, 2 tablespoons peaches, 2 tablespoons raspberry frozen yogurt, 2 tablespoons blueberry mixture and 2 tablespoons peaches. Repeat procedure with remaining ingredients.











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