Easy family meal recipes

  • Updated: May 8, 2013 - 1:40 PM

How do moms in the newsroom feed their families? We asked a few cooks to add to our communal dinner repertoire and the results are delicious.

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Lee SVITAK Dean, Taste editor

Sesame Pork Roast has been the chain letter of recipes among my extended family members, who love its intense flavors. The fragrance alone is enticing. The ingredients — especially the spices — seem as though they are too plentiful to be accurate, but it’s all correct. I like to pair it with Roasted Green Beans (see box) for an easy dinner, whether it’s for the family or for company.

SESAME PORK ROAST √

Serve 6.

Basically a braised piece of meat, this roast is easy to cook whether in a slow cooker, in the oven, or on top of the stove in a Dutch oven. When prepared in the slow cooker, the roast doesn’t need to be marinated in advance because the meat marinates during the lengthy cooking time. But for ease in the morning, it’s helpful to prepare the marinade the night before. From “Come One, Come All: Easy Entertaining With Seasonal Menus,” by Lee Svitak Dean.

• 2 tbsp. sesame seeds

3 or 4 green onions, sliced (about 1/4 c.)

• 1/2 c. ketchup

• 1/4 c. soy sauce

• 2 tbsp. ground ginger

• 2 tbsp. molasses (any type)

• 2 tsp. salt

• 1/2 tsp. curry powder

• 1/2 tsp. black pepper

• 1 c. water

• 2 tbsp. wine vinegar

• 4 lb. pork shoulder roast

• 3 tbsp. flour for gravy, if desired

Directions

Toast sesame seeds in a dry frying pan over low heat until golden and fragrant. Place seeds in a bowl with the green onions, ketchup, soy sauce, ginger, molasses, salt, curry powder, pepper, water and wine vinegar; stir to mix thoroughly. Place meat in a large bowl and pour the marinade over the meat. Marinate, covered, 2 to 3 hours or overnight in the refrigerator.

To prepare in a slow cooker: Place meat and marinade in the slow cooker, cover, and cook on low for 8 to 9 hours or on high for about 3 hours.

To prepare in the oven or on the stovetop: Remove meat from marinade and pat dry. Brown it in a Dutch oven or frying pan. To continue in the oven, place meat and marinade in a covered casserole dish and roast at 300 to 325 degrees for 3 hours. (The roast should be falling apart when it’s done.) To continue on top of the stove, place the meat and marinade in the pot and heat until the marinade is boiling. Reduce to a simmer and cover. Cook, turning meat once or twice, for 3 hours. Serve meat with pan juices or make gravy.

To make gravy: Pour pan juices into a 2-cup measure. Skim off fat, returning 2 tablespoons of the fat to the pan. If defatted pan juices do not equal 2 cups, add enough water or chicken broth to reach the 2-cup measure.

Whisk 3 tablespoons flour into fat in the pan and cook over medium heat on the stovetop until bubbly, scraping the bottom of the pan to release all the flavor from juices cooked to the pan. Slowly stir in pan juices and cook until gravy thickens, stirring constantly.

Nutrition information per serving:

Calories 505 Fat 27 g Sodium 1,695 mg

Carbohydrates 16 g Saturated fat 9 g Calcium 43 mg

Protein 47 g Cholesterol 135 mg Dietary fiber 1 g

Diabetic exchanges per serving: 1 other carb, 7 medium-fat meat.

kerri westenberg, Travel editor

My daughter has recently become a vegetarian, and chickpeas pack in the protein (15 grams per serving). Plus, it’s such an easy dish to make, I can whip it out in less than half an hour. And then, of course, there is the flavor: delicious! I usually double the recipe, freeze the leftover falafel, and warm them in the microwave one serving at a time for my daughter’s lunch.

falafel √

Makes 12.

I serve the falafel with tomato, lettuce and a nice dollop of tzatziki in a pita. You can purchase tzatziki, but I make my own by deseeding and grating half a cucumber onto cheesecloth and squeezing out any fluid. Then I stir that into 1 cup plain Greek yogurt along with chopped fresh mint, chopped garlic and a squeeze of fresh lemon.

• 1 (15-oz.) can chickpeas, drained

• 2 to 3 springs fresh parsley

• 1/2 small chopped onion

• 1 tsp. ground cumin

• 1 tsp. ground coriander

• 1 clove garlic, chopped

2 tbsp. flour, plus extra for shaping falafel

• Salt and pepper to taste

• 1 c. sunflower oil

Directions

Put chickpeas, parsley, onion, cumin, coriander, garlic, flour and salt and pepper into food processor and blend until the mixture is smooth. Lightly flour a work surface and turn out the mixture onto the flour. Divide it into 12 equal parts and shape each into a flat round patty.

Pour oil into frying pan and heat it over medium-high heat, allowing plenty of room between each patty. Fry the falafel 2 to 3 minutes per side, or until golden and crispy. You will need to do this in batches. Remove cooked falafel with a slotted spatula and place on a paper towel-lined plate.

Nutrition information per each falafel:

Calories 110 Fat 8 g Sodium 35 mg

Carbohydrates 9 g Saturated fat 1 g Calcium 17 mg

Protein 2 g Cholesterol 0 mg Dietary fiber 2 g

Diabetic exchanges per serving: ½ bread/starch, 1 ½ fat.

Kim Ode, staff writer

Our two kids always welcomed this meal, and it eventually became one they could help prepare. It’s off the Creamettes pasta box, with a few adjustments. My husband makes great batches of his “secret” tomato sauce, so that’s what I used instead of the sauce recipe here. You could also use a good jarred variety.

Stuffed Shells with Cheese Filling √

Serves 4 to 6.

1 (12-oz.) pkg. jumbo pasta shells

For the sauce:

• 2 tbsp. vegetable oil

• 1/2 c. chopped onion

• 1 clove garlic, minced

• 3 c. tomato juice

• 1 (6-oz.) can tomato paste

• 2 tbsp. chili sauce

• 1/2 tsp. salt

• 1/2 tsp. sugar

• 1/4 tsp. pepper

For the filling:

1 (16-oz.) container ricotta cheese

• 2 eggs, beaten

2 c. shredded mozzarella cheese

• 1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese

• 1/4 tsp. salt

• 1/4 tsp. pepper

Directions

Prepare pasta shells without salt according to package directions; drain. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

To prepare sauce: In medium saucepan, heat oil. Add onion and garlic; cook until tender. Stir in tomato juice, tomato paste, chili sauce, salt, sugar and pepper. Simmer 10 minutes.

To prepare filling: In medium bowl, blend ricotta and eggs. Stir in mozzarella, Parmesan, salt and pepper.

To assemble: Pour half the sauce into a 9- by 13-inch baking dish. Fill shells evenly with ricotta mixture, a generous tablespoon each, and place in baking dish. (Putting the filling in a pastry bag makes quick work of this task.) Top with remaining sauce. Sprinkle with additional shredded mozzarella, if desired. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 20 minutes, then bake uncovered for 10 more minutes. Serve at once.

Nutrition information per each of 6 servings:

Calories 652 Fat 28 g Sodium 2,116 mg

Carbohydrates 66 g Saturated fat 13 g Calcium 590 mg

Protein 35 g Cholesterol 127 mg Dietary fiber 5 g

Diabetic exchanges per serving: 1 vegetable, 4 bread/starch, 3 high-fat meat, 1 fat.

nicole hvidsten, deputy design director

My family is firmly divided when it comes to chili: Half of them like red chili, the others prefer a white chili. This version is something we all agree on. The absence of kidney beans won my kids over. Well, that and the fact that the recipe calls for Fritos.

Tex-Mex corn chip chili √

Serves 4 to 6.

This recipe is adapted from one that appeared in the Rachael Ray magazine. It has become so popular in my house that I just double it from the start. It also makes a great meatless meal — just use twice the beans and leave out the beef.

• 2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

• 1 lb. lean ground beef

1/2 onion, finely chopped (about 1 c.)

• 1 garlic clove, finely chopped

1 tbsp. chili powder, or more to taste

1 tsp. ground cumin, or more to taste

1 (15-oz.) can black beans, undrained

1 (15-oz.) can pinto beans, undrained

1 (10-oz.) can tomatoes with green chiles

1 jalapeño, seeded and finely diced, if desired

• Salt and pepper

1/2 c. chopped fresh cilantro, if desired

12 oz. Monterey Jack or pepper Jack cheese, shredded (about 3 cups), for topping

1 bag (about 10 oz.) corn chips, such as Fritos, for topping

Directions

In a Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the beef and cook for about 7 minutes. Add the onion, garlic, chili powder and cumin and cook over medium-low heat for 5 minutes. Add the beans, with their liquid, and the tomatoes; bring to a simmer. Add jalapeño, if using. Cook, stirring occasionally, until thick, about 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Stir in cilantro, then top with the cheese, cover and let stand until the cheese melts, 5 to 10 minutes. Place a handful of corn chips in each of 4 bowls. Top with the chili and serve.

Variation: Ladle up the chili and then sprinkle the cheese and corn chips on top. This allows the family to choose their own cheeses and allows the cook to better monitor the corn chip intake.

Nutrition information per each of 6 servings:

Calories 586 Fat 32 g Sodium 780 mg

Carbohydrates 45 g Saturated fat 10 g Calcium 304 mg

Protein 31 g Cholesterol 73 mg Dietary fiber 11 g

Diabetic exchanges per serving: 3 bread/starch, 3 medium-fat meat, 3 ½ fat.

to make ROASTED GREEN BEANS:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees (or whatever temperature you have your oven on if something else is cooking). Toss 1 1/4 pounds of fresh green beans in olive oil and place in baking dish. Roast for 15 to 20 minutes or so, until the beans are cooked through. They will have shriveled slightly. Remove from oven and sprinkle with coarse salt and pepper. Serve immediately. Serves 6. Lee Svitak Dean

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