Life is always busy, but this spring, I have had a more difficult time than usual getting dinner on the table. My family seems to be going in all different directions in the early evening, frequently leaving little time to prep, eat and clean up from a meal. One of my solutions has been to make extra roasted or grilled vegetables early in the week. These are then used to dress up pasta or added to grains to make a more interesting side dish. Although noodles are a popular choice in our house, I try to include whole wheat pasta, whole wheat couscous and quinoa regularly in our meals. My younger kids like plain noodles or grains; Bob and I like flavor so I like to add vegetable and a splash of vinaigrette to pull the dish together. If the vegetables are already cooked, it is so much faster to make something healthy that I want to eat.
Here, I sauteed a red pepper with some garlic in a bit of olive oil, then stirred in leftover grilled asparagus. Once the asparagus was hot, I spooned the mixture over cheese ravioli.
Quinoa is a quick cooking grain that is full of protein. Stir diced mango, chopped red pepper and sliced green onions into red quinoa, then drizzle with orange vinaigrette for an easy side dish. This would also be excellent with some canned black beans. If you need to, leave some quinoa plain for the kids. That's what we do.
Cook a few extra ears of corn, then cut the kernals from the cob. The corn will keep for a few days in the refrigerator. Whole wheat couscous cooks in just 5 minutes and is packed with fiber. Add the corn and some diced tomatoes or red peppers to the couscous for another fast, flavorful side dish.
Barley does take some time to prepare, but it is a nutrient dense grain that makes a hearty main course when cooked risotto style. I made a creamy barley risotto using chicken broth, then added fresh corn kernals and grilled asparagus towards the end of cooking to reheat the vegetables. Topped with a round of goat cheese, this was a delicious, healthy meal at the end of a busy week.