chef table

Putting a healthy, wholesome meal on the dinner table every night can be quite challenging, especially if you’re a working mom. However, healthy doesn’t have to be complicated. The following recipes require minimal effort and provide maximum results, using ingredients that are readily available. They’re also perfect for the upcoming High Holidays or Shabbat.


• Keep a supply of chicken, roasts, ground beef, veal and poultry in the freezer. Allow 6 hours per pound for them to thaw in the refrigerator.

• Stir-fries are ideal for quick meals. Use frozen stir-fry mixed vegetables to save on prep time.

• Slow cookers are a great aid for the working mom. Prepare ingredients the night before, assemble them in the slow cooker insert, cover and refrigerate overnight. In the morning, place the insert in the slow cooker, set the timer and come home to a hot meal.

• Cook once and eat twice! Double your recipes or make large batches.

• Recycle leftovers. Use leftover roast chicken in salads or stir-fries. Combine leftover cooked chicken with rice, noodles or other grains to make tasty casseroles.

• Fish is fast. Breaded fish fillets take minutes to assemble and cook. Leftovers? Use them to make fish tacos.

• Make one-pot dishes such as casseroles, stews, shepherd’s pie or chicken with roasted potatoes.

• Ground meat can be used to make meatballs or spaghetti sauce and chili, which take just a few minutes to prepare. These dishes require little attention while cooking. Other quick meal ideas that use ground beef are tacos and sloppy Joes.

• Pasta is very versatile. Add leftover cooked chicken and steamed vegetables to pasta along with tomato sauce or Asian-style sauce to make dinner-in-a-dish.

• Frittatas (baked omelets), pancakes or sandwiches are quick and easy meal solutions when you’re pressed for time.

• It’s easy to make big batches of soup. They require little attention, are filling and freeze well. Just add a hearty sandwich for a quick, nourishing meal.

• Easy side dishes: Steamed veggies, potatoes, couscous or quinoa can be made at the last minute.

• Use your microwave to make baked potatoes—just don’t forget to pierce the skin first in several places with a sharp knife.

• Combine rice with double the amount of water in a saucepan in the morning and let it soak all day. When you cook it at dinnertime, it will be done in half the time.

Yields 12 servings

This scrumptious slaw has been a family favorite around the globe for years. The hot marinade keeps the coleslaw mixture crisp. It also keeps about a month in the refrigerator, making it a terrific timesaver for busy moms! For a colorful slaw, use a mixture of red and green cabbage. Using coleslaw mix and shredded carrots saves on time but, if you prefer, you can grate the cabbage and carrots in your food processor.

3 packages coleslaw mix (about 12 cups shredded cabbage)
1 green or red bell pepper, chopped
1 cup shredded carrots
1 teaspoon minced garlic
3 green onions, chopped
1 cup white vinegar
3/4 cup canola or vegetable oil
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Place cabbage in a large bowl. Add chopped peppers, grated carrots, garlic and green onions. Combine vinegar, oil, sugar, salt and pepper in a saucepan or microwavable bowl. Heat until almost boiling (two to three minutes on high in the microwave), stirring occasionally.

Pour hot marinade over coleslaw mixture and mix well. Cover and refrigerate.

Note: You can substitute sweetener for the sugar but the coleslaw won’t keep as long. Also, some sweeteners become bitter when heated. Splenda is heat-stable and can be used with excellent results.

Yields 8 servings

This dish is great for vegetarians and meat-eaters alike and can be prepared quickly.

2 cups uncooked rice (white or brown)
1 to 2 tablespoons oil
1 package dry onion soup mix (see Variation)
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 green or red pepper, chopped
2 cups sliced mushrooms
1 can (8 ounces) sliced water chestnuts
1 can (8 ounces) sliced bamboo shoots
4 cups liquid (reserved juices from canned vegetables plus cold water)
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine rice, oil, soup mix, soy sauce, peppers and mushrooms in a large sprayed casserole. Mix well.

Drain water chestnuts and bamboo shoots, reserving their liquid. Add drained vegetables to rice mixture.

Combine juices from canned vegetables with water to measure 4 cups. Add liquid to rice and stir to combine.

Cover and bake in a preheated 350ºF oven for about 1 hour, or until all liquid is absorbed. Adjust seasonings to taste.

Note: This keeps 3 days in the refrigerator. Reheats and freezes well.


Replace onion soup mix with 2 chopped onions.

Add 1/2 cup each of chopped carrots and celery.

For a vegetarian main dish, add 1 cup firm tofu, cut in 1/2-inch pieces.


Honey Basil Chicken

Honey Basil Chicken


Yields 8 servings

This salmon is simple enough for a busy weeknight dinner but is festive enough to serve to guests for the High Holidays or for Shabbat. For variety, I often substitute peach or mango jam or orange marmalade in the glaze. 

8 salmon fillets or 1 large salmon fillet (about 3 pounds total)
3 cups sliced mushrooms
1 red bell pepper, sliced
1 yellow bell pepper, sliced
1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 cup apricot preserves
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup honey
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon dried basil
Salt, pepper and paprika

Preheat oven to 425°F. Line a large baking sheet with foil and spray with cooking spray.

Place salmon fillets in a single layer at one end of the prepared baking sheet. Spread out mushrooms and peppers at the other end and drizzle lightly with oil.

Glaze: In a small bowl, combine preserves with soy sauce, honey, mustard and basil; mix well.

Brush salmon and vegetables with glaze; sprinkle with salt, pepper and paprika. Let stand for 15 to 30 minutes.

Bake uncovered for 12 to 15 minutes or until salmon is glazed and cooked through.

This is delicious hot or cold. Keeps 2 to 3 days in the refrigerator and reheats well.

Luscious Leftovers

• Salad Daze: Break leftover salmon into chunks and place on a bed of chilled salad greens or baby spinach. Drizzle with your favorite Asian-style salad dressing and garnish with toasted slivered almonds.

• Use your Noodle: Add leftover cooked salmon to cooked pasta along with sautéed onions, mushrooms and bell peppers. Stir in some tomato sauce (homemade or store-bought).

• Wrap-ture: Leftover cooked salmon makes a heart-healthy filling for wraps.  Spread whole-wheat tortillas with honey mustard and fill with salmon chunks, chopped avocado and tomatoes.

• Eggs-ellent! Leftover flaked salmon is also delicious in frittatas or omelets.

Yields 8 to 10 servings

This sweet, delicious dish is quick to assemble and makes an excellent main dish for family and friends. It’s a wonderful dish for the High Holidays, especially if you add baby carrots. Chunks of potatoes or sweet potatoes can be roasted together with the chicken for dinner-in-a dish. 

2 chickens, cut up
2 medium onions, sliced
Salt, pepper and paprika to taste
3 or 4 cloves garlic (1 tablespoon minced)
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup honey
1 teaspoon dried basil

Rinse chicken pieces well and pat dry with paper towels. Trim off excess fat.

Scatter onion slices in a large sprayed roasting pan. Arrange chicken in a single layer over onions and season with salt, pepper and paprika.

In a small bowl, combine garlic, lemon juice, oil, honey and basil; mix well. Drizzle mixture on top of chicken and onions to coat thoroughly. Sprinkle with additional paprika. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for 1 hour or as long as 2 days.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Roast the chicken, uncovered, basting occasionally, about 1 1/2 hours or until skin is golden.

Note: This will keep up to 3 days in the refrigerator.

Reheats and freezes well.

chefs secretsFreeze with Ease: Combine all the ingredients in 1 or 2 large resealable plastic bags. Seal well. Press on the bag(s) to spread out the uncooked chicken pieces so they are in a single layer. Freeze for up to 4 months. When needed, thaw the chicken in the refrigerator; it will take about 24 hours. Transfer chicken and marinade to a sprayed roasting pan and cook as directed above.

Glazed Salmon with Mushrooms and Peppers Photos: Doug Gilletz

Glazed Salmon with Mushrooms and Peppers
Photos: Doug Gilletz

Yields about 100 meatballs, about 10 to 12 servings as a main dish

These marvelous meatballs can be cooked in a slow cooker or on top of the stove. They can also be baked in the oven. This recipe makes a large batch, so your freezer will be well-stocked for future meals. These meatballs are scrumptious over rice, pasta or quinoa. Best of all, kids love them! 

1 jar (9 ounces) grape jelly
2 cans (28-ounces each) tomatoes
1 can (19 ounces) tomato juice
1/2 cup honey or brown sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Salt to taste

2 cloves garlic (about 1 teaspoon minced)
4 slices bread, torn into chunks
4 pounds lean ground beef or veal
2 eggs
2/3 cup water
1 to 2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Sauce: Spray the insert of a slow cooker with nonstick spray. Add ingredients for sauce to slow cooker insert and stir well to combine. Cover and cook sauce on high for thirty minutes, until simmering. Meanwhile, prepare meatball mixture.

Meatballs:  In a food processor or mini prep fitted with a steel blade, process garlic until minced.

Add bread and process to make fine crumbs. You should have about 2 cups. Empty crumb mixture into a large bowl.  Add ground meat, eggs, water, salt and pepper. Mix gently to combine.

Wet your hands and form mixture into 1-inch meatballs. Drop meatballs into simmering sauce.

Cook, covered, on low for 8 hours. (If you’re late getting home and the meatballs cook longer, they’ll still taste delicious!)

Note: These keep 2 to 3 days in the refrigerator. Reheats and/or freezes well.


No Slow Cooker? Combine sauce ingredients in a large heavy pot. Heat slowly on low heat until simmering; stir often to prevent sauce from scorching. Make meatballs and add them to simmering sauce. Cook, partially covered, for 2 hours, stirring occasionally. Alternately, bake meatballs and sauce in a large ovenproof casserole dish at 325ºF for 2 hours.

Frozen Assets: After shaping meatballs, instead of cooking them, arrange in a single layer on a cookie sheet and freeze until solid. Transfer frozen meatballs to heavy-duty resealable bags, seal tightly and freeze. When needed, take out of the freezer and add frozen meatballs to simmering sauce. Cook 8 to 10 hours in the slow cooker or 2 1/2 hours on the stovetop or in the oven.

Norene Gilletz is the author of nine cookbooks and divides her time between work as a food writer, culinary consultant, spokesperson, cooking instructor, lecturer and editor. Norene lives in Toronto, Canada.

This article was featured in the Fall 2013 issue of Jewish Action.