Fall is in full swing along with all the busyness that comes with it. Our family can’t always sit down to eat together. Yet even on busy days, with a little planning, I can have a healthy dinner ready.

This means the meal tastes just as good warmed up as it did hot off the stove. I also like to make balanced healthy meals that are tasty enough to keep the complaining at bay.

I find that pastas, casseroles, rice bowls, skillet dinners, and sandwiches work best for prepping now for eating later. They also need minimal sides, if any. The variety of flavors and textures are satisfying, leaving just enough room for a (healthy-ish) dessert.

Pasta With Turkey Meatballs and Roasted Vegetables

PREP TIME: 15 mins
COOK TIME: 30 mins
TOTAL TIME: 45 mins
SERVINGS: 4 to 6 servings


For the vegetables:

  • 3 medium (about 3/4 pound) zucchini, cut into half moons
  • 2 large (about 3/4 pound) red bell peppers, sliced into 1-inch strips
  • 1 medium yellow onion, sliced into half moons
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

For the meatballs:

  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup plain breadcrumbs
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning (or 1/4 teaspoon each dried oregano, basil, marjoram, and rosemary)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

For the pasta:

  • 1 pound small-shaped pasta, like orecchiette, bow ties, or rotini
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  1. Preheat the oven to 425ºF:

    Line two baking sheets with aluminum foil or silicone baking mats.

  2. Begin roasting the vegetables:

    Toss the vegetables with the olive oil and salt. Spread them out on one of the baking sheets in a single, even layer. Roast the vegetables for 30 minutes.

  3. Prepare and begin roasting the meatballs:

    In a medium mixing bowl, combine the ground turkey, egg, mayonnaise, bread crumbs, and seasonings. Roll into 1-inch meatballs and place on the second baking sheet, about 1/2-inch apart.

    Roast the meatballs for 20 minutes in the oven alongside the vegetables.

  4. Boil the pasta:

    Once both the vegetables and meatballs are in the oven, put a large pot of water on the stove to boil. Salt the pasta water to taste (I use about three tablespoons for a big pot) and boil the pasta. Cook the pasta according to the instructions on the package and drain.

  5. Toss everything together and serve:

    In the pasta pot, stir together the roasted vegetables, meatballs, and pasta with the olive oil, lemon juice, and parsley. Serve hot.

Cauliflower Pasta Bake

PREP TIME: 20 mins
COOK TIME: 60 mins
TOTAL TIME: 80 mins
SERVINGS: 6 to 8 servings


For the pasta:

  • 1 large head cauliflower
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 pound pasta, such as shells, pipe rigate, or rigatoni
  • 1/2 cup (1 1/2 ounces) finely grated Parmesan
  • 1 cup milk, whole or 2%
  • Zest from 1 lemon (about 1 tablespoon zest)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped thyme leaves
  • 3 cups (8 ounces) grated Gouda

For the cracker topping:

  • 14 (1 small sleeveRitz crackers or similar buttery crackers
  • 2 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley


  1. Preheat the oven to 425ºF:

    Place one rack in the top third of the oven and one rack in the lower third.

  2. Prepare the cauliflower and the onions:

    Trim away the outer leaves and cut the cauliflower into slices roughly 1/4-inch thick. Some smaller florets will fall away; this is fine.

    Spread the cauliflower slices and any florets that have fallen off on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons of the oil. Using your hands, rub the oil into the cauliflower, coating both sides. Sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.

    Roughly chop the onion. On a second baking sheet or in an ovenproof skillet, toss the onions with the remaining 1 tablespoon of the oil and sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt.

    (Roasting the cauliflower and onions on separate pans will give them more space and help them roast better.)

  3. Roast the cauliflower and onions:

    Place the cauliflower on the lower rack of the oven and the onions on the top rack. Roast for 25 to 30 minutes, until both are tender and golden. Flip the cauliflower once during roasting; stir the onions occasionally. Remove the onions from the oven if they finish before the cauliflower or start to burn.

    Let the vegetables cool slightly in their pans. Break the cauliflower into smaller florets.

  4. Lower the oven temperature to 375ºF for baking the pasta
  5. While the vegetables roast, cook the pasta:

    Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, or until al dente (do not overcook or the pasta will become mushy after baking). Scoop out and reserve 1 cup of the pasta cooking water.

    Drain the pasta in a colander.

  6. Assemble the casserole:

    Return the drained pasta to the pot and immediately stir in 1/2 cup of Parmesan while the pasta is still hot. Once the cheese has melted and absorbed into the pasta a little, stir in the milk.

    Add the roasted cauliflower and onion, lemon zest, thyme and Gouda, and stir well. Taste and add more salt and pepper, if you like. If the mixture seems dry, add a little pasta cooking water, a tablespoon at a time.

    Transfer to a 3- or 4-quart baking dish.

  7. Top with the crispy cracker crumbs:

    Place the crackers in a zip-top bag and crush with a rolling pin until coarsely crumbled.

    In a bowl, mix the crushed crackers with 2 tablespoons Parmesan, the melted butter and parsley. Sprinkle this evenly over the pasta.

  8. Bake the pasta:

    Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the pasta is hot and the top is golden.

  9. Cool briefly and serve:

    Leftovers can be refrigerated for up to 5 days and reheated in a microwave or a warm oven.

Ginger Pork Rice Bowls

PREP TIME: 15 mins
COOK TIME: 20 mins
TOTAL TIME: 35 mins
SERVINGS: 4 to 6 servings


For the bowls:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup diced white onion
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger (about 1 inch, peeled)
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce (use tamari to keep the recipe gluten-free)
  • 1 large carrot, shredded
  • 1 medium cucumber, sliced
  • 1/3 cup fresh parsley
  • 1/3 cup fresh basil
  • 1/3 cup fresh mint
  • 1 cup dried jasmine rice, to serve
  • 1 lime, sliced, to serve
  • Sweet soy sauce, to serve
  • Sesame seeds, garnish


  1. Cook the rice:

    Add dried rice to a medium pot and rinse with cold water until the water runs clear. Fill the pot until water covers the rice by about 1/4 inch. Place over high heat and bring to a simmer.

    Once simmering, stir the rice, cover it, and turn heat down to very low. Simmer rice slowly for 8 to 10 minutes, then test rice. If it’s cooked through (i.e. not crunchy), drain off any extra water, remove from heat, cover and steam for five minutes, then fluff with a fork.

  2. Cook the pork:

    In a large skillet over medium-high heat, add the olive oil and diced onions. Cook until the onions turn translucent, 3 to 4 minutes. Add ground pork and break up with a spatula continuously while cooking until the pork is crumbly, browned, and cooked through, 7 to 8 minutes.

    When the pork is almost done cooking, add garlic, ginger, and soy sauce. Stir, and cook for another minute or two to combine flavors.

  3. Assemble the rice bowls:

    Add 1/2 to 3/4 cup of cooked jasmine rice to a wide bowl. Top with 1/2 cup of the pork mixture, sliced cucumbers, shredded carrots, and the herb mix. Sprinkle the bowl with sweet soy sauce and sesame seeds.

    Leftovers keep well for up to 5 days. Reheat the pork and rice in the microwave in 30-second bursts until warm.

Apple Cider Chicken Thighs with Sweet Potatoes

PREP TIME: 10 mins
COOK TIME: 50 mins
TOTAL TIME: 60 mins
SERVINGS:  4 servings


  • 4 to 5 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (about 2 pounds)
  • 2 medium sweet potatoes, diced (about 2 cups diced)
  • 1/2 white onion, sliced thin
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 cup apple cider
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary
  • Cooked rice or orzo, for serving (optional)


  1. Preheat oven to 350˚F
  2. Sear the chicken thighs:

    Season the chicken thighs on both sides with kosher salt and pepper. Add chicken thighs skin-side down to a large, cold cast iron skillet. Place the skillet over medium heat and let the thighs cook, untouched, for 15 minutes, until the skin is deeply golden and crispy.

  3. Add the remaining ingredients:

    After the chicken thighs have cooked for 15 minutes, carefully flip them. Add the sweet potatoes, onion, apple cider, chicken stock, and fresh rosemary to the skillet. Stir gently to make sure ingredients are distributed evenly. The thighs should only be submerged halfway in the liquid so the skin stays crispy while baking.

  4. Cook the chicken thighs in the oven:

    Transfer the skillet to the oven and cook for 30-35 minutes, or until sweet potatoes are fork-tender and the chicken is cooked through. (It should reach at least 165 ̊F in the thickest part.) It’s very hard to overcook chicken thighs in this environment, so don’t worry if they register much hotter than that.

  5. Serve the chicken thighs:

    Divide the chicken thighs between four plates and add cooked rice or orzo to the side, which is great for soaking up the juices. Spoon sweet potatoes and onions on top.

    Salmon Burgers with Chive and Lemon Mayonnaise

    PREP TIME: 15 mins
    COOK TIME: 8 mins
    TOTAL TIME: 23 mins
    SERVINGS: 4 servings
    YIELD 4 burgers


    For the burgers

    • 1 large egg
    • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
    • lemon, zested plus 1 tablespoon juice
    • 2 tablespoons capers, chopped if large
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
    • 1/2 cup parsley leaves, packed
    • 1/4 red onion, cut into 1-inch pieces
    • 1 1/4 pounds skinless salmon fillet, cut into 1-inch pieces
    • 3/4 cup panko
    • 2 tablespoons olive oil

    For the lemon chive mayonnaise

    • 3/4 cup mayonnaise
    • 1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
    • 2 tablespoons chives, finely chopped
    • 1 tablespoon drained horseradish
    • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
    • Pinch black pepper

    To serve

    • 4 burger buns
    • 4 slices tomato
    • 4 slices red onion
    • 4 leaves lettuce

    Special Equipment

    • Food processor


    1. Whisk the egg and seasonings together:

      In a medium bowl, whisk the egg, mustard, lemon zest and juice, capers, salt, and pepper until blended.

    2. Pulse the parsley and onion in a food processor:

      In a food processor, pulse the parsley and onion 4 to 5 times, or until finely chopped. Transfer to the bowl with the egg mixture.

    3. Pulse the salmon in a food processor:

      Without washing out the food processor bowl, pulse the salmon chunks in 3 or 4 short bursts, or until they are in 1/4-inch size pieces.

      You want the mixture to be slightly chunky, not a puree. Make sure not to over process the mixture. Transfer the salmon to the bowl with the egg mixture, parsley, and onion.

    4. Add the panko, shape the burgers, and refrigerate:

      Add the panko to the bowl with the salmon mixture and mix until the ingredients are well combined.

      Divide and form the mixture into four 4-inch patties that are about 1-inch thick. Place them in a single layer on a large plate and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

    5. Make the chive mayonnaise:

      In a small bowl, combine the mayonnaise, lemon juice, chives, horseradish, mustard, and pepper.

    6. Cook the burgers:

      On the stovetop: In a large non-stick skillet over medium heat, add 2 tablespoons of oil. Add the burgers to the pan once the oil is hot and cook, without disturbing for 4 minutes, or until the burgers are golden brown.

      Flip the burgers and cook them on the other side for 3 to 4 minutes, or until golden and an instant read thermometer inserted into the center of a burger registers 130°F. Transfer burgers to a plate.

      On the grill: Heat the grill to high heat. Use tongs to dip a folded square of paper towel in 2 tablespoons of oil and generously brush the oil over the grates. Place the burgers on the grill and cook without disturbing for 4 minutes, or until golden brown.

      Turn and cook the burgers on the other side for 3 to 4 minutes, or until an instant read thermometer inserted into the center of a burger registers 130°F. Transfer to a plate.

    7. Assemble the burgers and serve:

      If you like, toast the buns in the non-stick skillet or grill for 30 seconds to a minute, or serve on soft buns.

      On the bottom of the 4 hamburger buns, spread some chive mayonnaise. Top with the burgers, tomato, onion, and lettuce and the top bun. Serve while the burgers are still warm.





    Knecht, R. (2021, September 28). 5 nutritious meals for when your busy, busy, busy. Simply Recipes. Retrieved August 22, 2022, from https://www.simplyrecipes.com/5-healthy-meals-for-busy-weeknights-5201792