As a busy working mom (well, okay, I only work part-time, but I’m still pretty busy with the other parts of my life that most people probably don’t consider “work”, but still require a lot of time and effort), it’s important to find healthy weeknight meals that don’t take a lot of time (or thought) to prepare.
One thing that makes this a surmountable task is finding good, quality prepared ingredients that can be easily enhanced to create healthy flavorful meals.
For instance, I like to take a jarred pasta sauce, such as Newman’s Own Sockarooni, which contains ingredients that you might actually use to make a pasta sauce from scratch (like peppers, onions, mushrooms, tomatoes, garlic, and other various herbs and spices), and put my own spin on it to make a complete meal. The sauce itself is super flavorful, and it already contains a lot of vegetables on it’s own, but I like to add a bunch more veggies and some browned ground beef to it to really punch it up.
Chock Full O’ Veggies Sockarooni Pasta
serves 4 with leftovers
For this meal, you’ll need one jar of Newman’s Own All Natural Sockarooni pasta sauce.
One large zucchini, and about 2 or 3 cups of raw baby spinach.
About a pound of good quality ground beef (I usually use a leaner mix than this, but this is what my husband brought home from the store, so it’s what I used. Just drain the fat off the browned meat if there’s too much).
Additionally, you’ll need about half a pound of cooked spaghetti, fettuccine, or other long, thin noodles.
Begin by browning your ground beef in a skillet or saute pan over medium heat.
Grate the zucchini on a box grater or in a food processor. Squeeze out any excess liquid.
Add the grated zucchini to the browned beef and stir to combine. Open the jar of sauce, and pour it over the meat and zucchini mixture. Taste for seasoning. I think I added a pinch of salt at this point. Add the spinach at the end, and just stir it through to wilt it. You want it to retain its lovely green color, so don’t overcook it.
Serve it over cooked noodles with some shaved Parmesan reggiano on top.
What’s great about this meal is that even your kids will like it, and they don’t have to know just how many veggies you snuck in there. My little guy even said he “liked the green things” that were in there. Granted, my kid likes lots of “green things”, but the flavor of this sauce is such that I bet kids who don’t normally like their veggies will enjoy it.
Finding affordable prepared ingredients that are nearly as good as what you might make yourself is certainly a challenge. I encourage you to read labels and know what goes into the prepared foods you buy. Try to buy products that contain fewer than 10 individual ingredients (I don’t count herbs and spices in that number), and make sure you can pronounce the 10 that are there. Once you identify these quality brands that are conscientious about the ingredients that they use, they become a lifesaver when it comes to weeknight meal prep.