Simple and Smart

Alabama Living Magazine

Armed with some easy recipes and a weekly meal plan, you can make every evening’s dinner a breeze.



Between school, work, soccer practice, piano lessons, house work, yard work and our never-ending lists of obligations and responsibilities, finding time to put a tasty meal on the table (and do it with a smile) each weeknight can prove a difficult task. It’s so much easier to swing through a drive-thru, or better yet, have a pizza delivered. While there’s nothing wrong with the occasional foray into fast food, rely on it too often and your family’s waistlines — and your household budget’s bottom line — will reap some unpleasant consequences.

An essential ingredient in the formula for fixing supper (and still getting the laundry done) is stocking your recipe repertoire with simple yet delicious dishes that you can whip up fast, and afterwards, clean up quick. This issue’s reader-submitted recipes will help with that.

The next item on the menu is making a meal plan and working smarter, not harder, when it comes to meal preparation. A weekly meal plan helps you create a grocery list that results in fewer trips to the grocery store and more efficiency — with a lower chance of over-buying or forgetting things — when you’re there.

If the meal plan is your appetizer, the meal prep is the entree. Before you start actually cooking, read through the entire recipe first so you can figure out things like “Can you use one measuring cup instead of many?” These little time-savers add up when it’s time to clean up. Then, get all of your needed ingredients chopped, measured, etc. and ready to go so you can move through the recipe instructions without stopping.

Prepping each dinner is important, but don’t stop there. Look ahead at what you’ll need for other nights that week, and if you’ll be using any ingredients more than once, get those items prepped (chopped, shredded, etc.) at the same time. And when you’re making a meal you know your family likes, if it freezes well, double or even triple it. There is no dinner that will ever be easier to get done than one that only requires a reheat.

Start making your meals more enjoyable by removing some of the stress that can accompany their creation and try it with these recipes from your fellow readers.

Cook of the Month

Misty Allbright, Cullman EC

Misty Allbright cooks a lot of chicken and is always on the lookout for a recipe that adds some pizzazz to her dinner lineup. This Parmesan Chicken dish fits that bill perfectly with zesty lemon, salty Parm and sharp but earthy garlic. “It’s my interpretation of a meal I had at a friend’s house, and it’s just something a little different,” she says. Plus, it’s easy. “It’s quick and simple to put together, so when you combine that with the great taste, it’s just one meal my family never gets tired of.”

Parmesan Chicken

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

4 boneless chicken breasts

Salt and pepper, to taste

½ cup Parmesan cheese

¼ cup bread crumbs

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 lemon, juice and zest

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Drizzle 2 tablespoons oil on a large baking sheet. Season chicken with salt and pepper. On a large plate, combine Parmesan, bread crumbs, garlic and lemon zest. Season with salt and pepper. Dredge chicken in bread crumb mixture, pressing to coat. Place chicken on prepared baking sheet and drizzle with remaining 2 tablespoons oil and lemon juice. Bake until golden, approximately 20 minutes.

Quinoa Buddha Bowl

1 cup quinoa

1½ cups chickpeas

1 tablespoon olive oil

½ teaspoon each: salt, smoked paprika, chili powder, turmeric and oregano

1 red bell pepper, sliced (ribs and seeds removed)

2 tablespoons olive oil

½ teaspoon each: pepper, salt and paprika

¼ cup cilantro

1 cup mixed greens

1 avocado, sliced

1 tablespoon sesame seeds

Bring 2 cups water to a boil. Add quinoa. Simmer for 15 minutes (until water is absorbed). Remove from heat and keep covered for 10 minutes. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Toss chickpeas, oil, and spices in a bowl until chickpeas are coated. Bake chickpeas on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool. Pour 2 tablespoons olive oil, cilantro, pepper, salt and paprika in a blender mix on high until smooth. In two bowls, arrange quinoa, greens, avocado, bell pepper and chickpeas. Drizzle red pepper sauce over everything. Sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Robin O’Sullivan, Wiregrass EC

Weekend Supper Beef Roast

½ teaspoon salt and pepper

½ cup flour

6 tablespoons oil

4-5 pounds chuck roast

1 package brown gravy mix

1 package dry onion soup mix

1 can cream of mushroom soup

1½ soup cans water

2 cans small potatoes, pre-cooked

3-4 carrots, peeled, chopped and cooked

Mix salt, black pepper and flour together. Preheat skillet, add oil. Heat to very hot, then turn down to medium. Flour roast on both sides; put in skillet for 5 minutes each side or until golden brown. Mix brown gravy mix, cream of mushroom soup, onion soup mix and water. Put roast in crock pot and add gravy mixture. Cook roast on high for 4 hours. Add carrots and potatoes to roast; continue cooking for 30 minutes. Cook’s note: Roast can be prepared in the oven. Cook roast and gravy mixture, covered, in 250-degree preheated oven for 4 hours. Add vegetables and continue cooking for 30 minutes.

Marilyn Jackson, Clarke-Washington EMC

Shortcut Chicken Cacciatore

1 rotisserie chicken cut into 8 pieces: 2 breasts, 2 thighs, 2 legs and 2 wings

2 14.5-ounce cans stewed tomatoes

1 6-ounce can tomato paste

1 cup mushrooms

1 zucchini, thinly sliced

1 teaspoon dried basil

Salt, pepper and garlic, to taste

Put chicken pieces into a large cooktop pan with stewed tomatoes, tomato paste, mushrooms, zucchini and dried basil. Add salt, pepper and garlic, to taste. Cook on medium for about 15 minutes and serve over your favorite cooked pasta. You can use more or less basil, garlic, mushrooms or zucchini depending upon your taste.

Glenda Weigel, Baldwin EMC

Leopold’s Famous Honey Garlic Turkey Breast

1 turkey-size oven roasting bag (up to 14 pounds)

1 tablespoon self-rising flour

1 turkey-size roasting pan

1 large yellow onion

1 medium golden or red apple

1 medium orange

3 medium yams

4l arge carrots

1 whole turkey breast, 5-8 pounds

3 tablespoons minced garlic (or 1 tablespoon garlic powder)

1 tablespoon onion powder

1 tablespoon dry Italian seasoning herbs

¼ cup honey

1/8 cup olive oil

½ cup dry white wine or dry sherry

Put 1 tablespoon white flour in oven roasting bag and place bag in roasting pan. Peel onion, wash, thinly slice one half of the onion and put remainder aside. Wash apple, orange, carrots and yams. Peel carrots and yams. Slice apple in half and core; slice orange in half; slice carrots and yams in thirds and put aside. Remove gravy packet (if available) from turkey, skin and rinse the turkey breast and rub with olive oil. Sprinkle garlic, Italian seasoning and salt substitute (or salt and pepper) seasoning on outside and inside of turkey. Stuff the turkey cavity with apple, orange and ½ onion. Put the thinly sliced onions on top of turkey breast and drizzle honey on all sides of turkey breast. Place turkey inside of oven bag. Put the wine or sherry inside of the bag. Place the yams and carrots inside of the bag and tie it. Place roasting bag with turkey in roasting pan. Slice six 1-inch holes in the top of the bag. Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 2-2.5 hours (or per roasting bag instructions) until the turkey and vegetables are tender. Remove bag after cooking. Drain off any fat. Let turkey cool on serving platter for 10 minutes before slicing. Per gravy packet, reduce gravy in shallow saucepan (or add water and a pinch of flour to drippings and reduce liquid by simmering) and put in serving bowl. If desired, slice turkey and serve with cranberry sauce on platter.

Leopold Babin, Central Alabama EC

Hamburger Potato Casserole

1 ½ pounds ground beef

4 medium potatoes, sliced or 2 cans sliced potatoes

½ cup onion, sliced

1 can cream of mushroom soup

1 cup shredded cheese or 6 American cheese singles

Brown ground beef with salt and pepper; drain. Par-boil potatoes. Add salt with onions or use canned potatoes to make it easier. Mix beef and potatoes with cream of mushroom soup. Add cheese on top and bake at 350 degrees until bubbly.

Donna Gilliam, Tombigbee EC

Chicken and Veggie Stir Fry

1 package boneless chicken thighs or chicken breasts

1 bag of frozen vegetable medley or stir fry veggies

1 onion, chopped

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/4 cup soy sauce

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1 tablespoon sesame seeds

Pepper to taste

Cut chicken into bite-sized chunks. Chop onion. Pour olive oil into a non-stick skillet, add chicken and onions. Saute chicken and onions for 12 minutes. Add vegetables, minced garlic, soy sauce and pepper. Continue cooking until chicken is fully cooked. Top with sesame seeds.

Sharlene Parker, Baldwin EMC

Hamburger Stroganoff

¼ cup butter

½ cup onion, minced

1 clove garlic, minced

1 pound ground beef

2 tablespoons flour

14-ounce can sliced mushrooms, drained

2 teaspoons salt

Pepper, to taste

1 can cream of chicken soup

8 ounces sour cream

2 tablespoons parsley, optional for garnish

Sauté onions and garlic in butter over medium heat. Add meat and brown; drain. Add flour, salt, pepper and mushrooms. Cook for 5 minutes. Add soup and simmer, uncovered, 10 minutes. Stir in sour cream and heat through. Sprinkle with parsley. Serve over noodles.

Trudy Nelson, Central Alabama EC

Upcoming Themes and Deadlines:

November.: Apples | August 9

December.: Nontraditional Holiday Food | Sept 13

January: Soups and Stews | Oct. 11


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