Recipes for the Busy Family

Recipes for the Busy Family


by Cathe Olson

It happens all the time. You’ve been so busy running around doing errands, shuttling kids to activities, and doing the other million things you need to do every day that 5:30 rolls around and you have to come up with something for dinner—fast. If you’re like me, you’re probably so hungry yourself (did you actually have time to eat lunch?) that it’s hard to think of interesting ideas. You can serve a good, nutritious, non-takeout dinner on short notice—you just need to plan ahead. 

Every mom needs a selection of quickie meals. The trick is to make sure your pantry is stocked with the ingredients you’ll need so you’ll be prepared. Here are a few staples to keep stocked up on: 

Canned beans – pinto, black, kidney, white, garbanzo, etc.
Grains – brown rice, millet, quinoa, barley, etc.
Pasta – spaghetti, penne, spirals, etc.
Tortillas – corn, whole wheat
Canned tomatoes – diced, puree, sauce
Salsa – buy the kind in the jar for longer storage
Tofu – buy the silken kind in the ascetic packs for longer storage
Frozen vegetables – I always have frozen peas and corn on hand
Nuts and Seeds – almonds, walnuts, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, pine nuts, etc.
Fresh fruit and veggies – try to always have those on hand to round out a meal or for snacks
Dried herbs and spices – keep an array on hand to jazz up any dish
Prepared vegetable broth
Olive oil
Soy sauce

With those ingredients on hand, here are some quick meals you can make: 

Rice and Bean Burritos 
Cook rice. Warm beans. Place a scoop of each in a warm tortilla with some salsa (and avocado if you have it). Serve with raw veggies. 

Cook up some pasta. Stir fry fresh or frozen veggies. Toss pasta and veggies with olive oil and toasted pine nuts or walnuts. 

Cook rice or other grain. Stir-fry diced tofu and fresh or frozen veggies in oil. Sprinkle on soy sauce and powdered ginger. 

Tofu Scramble 
Sauté tofu in oil. Season with turmeric, curry powder, cumin, salt and pepper to taste. Eat with toast or stuff in into a tortilla or pita pocket. Serve with fresh fruit. 

Toss fresh or frozen veggies, leftover grains or uncooked pasta, canned beans into a pot with a box of vegetable broth and some fried herbs. Cook until veggies are tender and pasta (if using) is soft. 

Prefer recipes? Here are a few “quick fix” meals from The Vegetarian Mother’s Cookbook

Rice and Bean Casserole
This dish is so delicious, nobody will believe how simple it was to make. If you have cooked rice and beans in your refrigerator or freezer, you can make this in a snap. 

3 cups cooked brown rice
2 cups cooked black or pinto beans
1 cup fresh or frozen corn
1/2 cup chunky salsa
Sea salt or black pepper to taste
1/2 cup shredded nondairy Monterey Jack cheese (optional)

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Oil casserole dish or baking dish. Mix rice, beans, corn, and salsa together. Season with sea salt and black pepper. Pour into prepared casserole dish or baking dish. Cover with cheese. Cover dish and bake 15 to 20 minutes, or until cheese is melted and mixture is hot. 

Makes 6 servings 

Tempeh-Squash Bake 
I love kabucha squash. Not only does it have an intense sweet taste, but it doesn’t need to be peeled. And it stores for months without going bad. Hubbard or butternut squash also work but they need to be peeled. 

1 onion, peeled and cut into chunks
1 medium kabucha squash, pulp removed, cut into 1-inch chunks (7 to 8 cups)
1 (8-ounce) package tempeh, cut into 1-inch chunks
1/4 cup pine nuts (optional)
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons fresh thyme or 2 teaspoons dried
2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil

Preheat oven to 450ºF. Place all ingredients in large bowl and toss. Use enough olive oil so that onion, squash, and tempeh are well coated. Pour mixture into 9 x 13-inch baking pan. Cover loosely with foil. Place in oven. Reduce heat to 375ºF. Bake 30 minutes, or until squash is tender.

Makes 6 servings 

High-Protein Pasta 
The pureed tofu adds protein, calcium, and iron and tastes like ricotta cheese. Don’t worry if you don’t finish all the pasta. The leftovers are great the next day—my kids’ love it for their school lunch. 

1 pound penne pasta, cooked and drained
2 1/2 cups marinara sauce, heated
1 pound firm tofu
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons minced parsley

While pasta is cooking and marinara is warming, blend tofu, olive oil, and parsley in food processor or blender until smooth. When pasta is cooked, drain and return to pot. Pour hot marinara sauce over pasta. Add tofu mixture and toss gently until combined. 

Makes 8 servings 

Vegan Paht Si-Yu
This dish is made without the traditional fish sauce and egg. Just about any vegetable you have on hand can be used instead of the broccoli and carrots. Spaghetti or fettuccini can be used instead of rice noodles. 

12 ounces flat rice noodles, cooked and drained
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
12 ounces firm tofu
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups broccoli florets
2 carrots, sliced
1 tablespoon water

2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon blackstrap molasses
3 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
While noodles are cooking, heat 2 teaspoons sesame oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add tofu and brown on each side. Add garlic, broccoli, carrots, and water. Cover and cook until vegetables are tender. Add more water if necessary to keep mixture from scorching. In small bowl, mix soy sauce, molasses, sesame oil, and black pepper together. Add noodles to tofu mixture in skillet. Drizzle with sauce. Toss together until everything is hot and coated with sauce. 

Makes 6 servings 

Cathe Olson

Author: Cathe Olson

Cathe Olson is the author of the new nondairy ice cream cookbook: Lick It! Cream Dreamy Vegan Ice Cream Your Mouth Will Love, as well as Simply Natural Baby Food and The Vegetarian Mother’s Cookbook. Visit Cathe’s blog at

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