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  • Writer's pictureRhonda Morrison

Simple meals for back to school busy schedules

Updated: Apr 9, 2020

Lemony Chicken and Orzo Pasta recipe, Roasted Chicken Tenders recipe, and Cashew Sauce recipe #bentolunchbox #eatinghealthy

As a mom, I find that I am at my busiest when school begins again. This year I am proud to have all my boys at one campus as a freshman, a junior, and a senior. With all of the different activities they have taken on, I have to simplify in order to maintain balance and sanity. This includes simplifying in my kitchen.

My family deserves a dinner that is quicker and healthier than a run to a drive-thru.

Creative short cuts can help make dinner time a little less overwhelming. I like to brown a family pack of ground beef when I get home from the store and refrigerate it to make a taco and pasta nights a breeze. Or I separate the beef into hamburger patties for the freezer. I like to prep chicken breasts for what I need before freezing. If the recipe requires a lot of chopping, I bust out the food processor to significantly cut time. Oven-roasted vegetables and salads are my quick go-to side dishes. If I know I have it ready and on hand, I am less likely to talk myself into going through a drive-thru on the way home.

My family deserves a dinner that is quicker and healthier than a run to a drive-thru. My Lemon Chicken and Orzo recipe is the perfect quick and easy meal. This dish takes only 10 minutes of prep time and 10 minutes to cook. I created this recipe out of a hankering for some Chicken Avgolemono soup. Avgolemono is a Greek chicken and rice soup. This light, creamy, and zesty one-pot adaptation satisfies everyone in the family in no time flat.

Now that we are back to our regularly scheduled program, I like to have something on hand for lunch that is satisfying and quick. Roasted chicken tenders with Cashew dipping Sauce fits the bill. Not only is it light and gluten-free, but it is served chilled which is so refreshing this time of year. I serve my Cashew Sauce as a dip for Roasted Chicken Tenders, carrots, and sliced green apples. I also toss some of it with cooked rice noodles for a little Asian flair. Almond butter can be substituted for cashew butter in this sauce recipe. Chicken tenders can be pounded thinner for quicker cooking time. This is a very easy and savory prep ahead meal for teachers and kids alike. Lemony Chicken and Orzo 16 oz. orzo pasta 4 cups vegetable or chicken stock 1 medium zucchini, quartered and sliced ¼ lb. baby carrots, sliced 1 tbsp. chopped flat-leaf parsley 1 tsp. chopped dill 1 tbsp. olive oil 2 lb. chicken breast, cut into 1” cubes Salt and pepper to taste 1 tsp. garlic powder 1 medium lemon 4 oz. crumbled feta lemon slices for garnish

Bring stock to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add zucchini, carrots, parsley, dill, and orzo pasta. Return to a boil, stirring often to prevent pasta from sticking for 8 -10 minutes until the stock is absorbed into the pasta. Season chicken with garlic powder and salt and pepper to taste. Heat olive oil in a large pan, wok, or pot. Add chicken and cook stirring until chicken is browned and cooked through. Stir in orzo and vegetables. Remove from heat and stir in feta and the juice of one medium lemon. Garnish with lemon slices and fresh herbs.

Roasted Chicken Tenders ¼ lb. chicken tenderloins 1 tsp. canola oil ½ tsp. black pepper ½ tsp. garlic powder

Preheat oven to 350. Coat tenders in oil then rub in the seasonings. Lay tenders on a baking sheet. Place in the oven for 25 to 30 minutes flipping halfway through cook time. Refrigerate until ready to use. For the lunch box, slice tenderloins into strips for dipping. Serves 1.

Cashew Sauce 2 tbsp. cashew butter 1 tsp. brown sugar 1 tbsp. low sodium tamari or soy sauce 1 lime cut in half 1 clove garlic, minced or pressed 1 green apple, sliced ¼ lb. carrot, sliced 1 cup cooked rice noodles

Cook rice noodles according to the directions. Whisk together cashew butter, sugar, sauce, garlic, and juice of ½ a lime. Squeeze remaining lime over carrots and apple slices. Place half the sauce in a container for dipping. Coat rice noodles with remaining sauce. Serve Chilled. Serves 1.

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