Weeknight Warrior – Chicken, Broccoli, and Tomato Mac

Let’s face it, all of us are CRAZY busy these days.  The thought of coming home to fix a dinner after sitting in rush hour traffic forever, or picking the kids up from school and driving them three different places for soccer, ballet, or whatever the latest phase is absolutely sends us into a panic attack.  Oh, and we want it to be something healthy and affordable.  Oh and did I mention that there will be loads of dishes to clean up after?  Yeah, I can see how that would be the last thing anyone would want to do.

I often get asked how I find the time to make all the meals I make (and post on Facebook and Instagram, I’ve become “that” person).  BUT anyone can do it.  Really.  Not kidding.  All it takes is a little time and planning.  Okay, okay, I know don’t shoot me!  Time is what we don’t have!  I get it.  I really do.  But trust me when I say scheduling in just a couple hours in your week will make things a lot easier.  Your health, your family, and your bank account will thank me.  🙂

Here’s what I do:

Friday evening – 30 minutes = I plan my menu for the next week, including breakfast, lunch, and dinners and make my grocery list. 

  • My husband works a lot of evenings so he always lets me know what nights to plan on his being there.  I think about things for dinner that will leave him leftovers that he can take with him or warm up quickly to eat before he goes or I can pack to take for lunch.
  • We do a lot of homemade frozen burritos, frittatas, and smoothies for on-the-go healthy breakfasts.
  • Soup or casseroles are great options.  Just throw together a quick salad and you’ve got a full meal.
  • I keep a notebook of each week’s menu plans so that way if I get stuck one week it’s easy to refer back to the things we’ve liked along the way.  If it’s a new recipe I always make a note of the source and if we liked it, what changes I would make, etc.
  • I double check my pantry items to make sure I don’t need to replace those.  This helps make meals quick and easy to throw together.
  • Try to think of ingredients that you can use for multiple meals in the week.  For instance, I buy the family-pack of chicken breasts and use two in a casserole on Sunday, then I grill the rest, will have a couple with some quick roasted veggies and rice one night and then use the rest in salads for my lunch.  Easy as that.

Saturday morning – 1 hour = grocery shopping.

  • I can’t express enough how important it is to have a plan and a list.  I am one of those people who has my list organized like my grocery store is organized.  I can get in and out in less than an hour (driving to and from included) and I don’t have the urge to splurge on a lot of things I don’t need.

Sunday afternoon – 1 to 2 hours = prep for the week.

  • I make a pot of soup, casserole, crock-pot meal, etc. on Sunday and usually that’s what we have for dinner that night.  Leftovers are then packed in individual containers for a quick brown bag lunch.
  • Prep our on-the-go breakfasts and pop in the freezer.
  • If I’m making anything to go with lunches (i.e. broccoli salad, pasta salad, etc.) I make it and pop it in the fridge.
  • Clean any fruits and veggies you want for snacks.

I know that might look daunting but once you get in the habit of doing it it becomes even easier.

Ok, I couldn’t have you read all that and not give you a delicious, healthy, quick weeknight recipe.  This is one that is in our regular rotation.  You’re in and out of the kitchen in about 30 minutes, there’s only one pot to clean AND you sneak in an extra serving of veggies that the kids won’t even notice.  I say that’s a winner all around!!

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Weeknight Chicken, Broccoli, and Tomato Mac

2 center-cut bacon slices, chopped

2 chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces

3 garlic cloves, minced

2 cups unsalted chicken stock

1 cup 1% low-fat milk

1 (10-ounce) package frozen butternut squash puree, thawed

10 ounce uncooked large elbow macaroni

3 cups chopped broccoli florets

1 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced in half

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

5 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded and divided (about 1 1/4 cups)


  1. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add bacon; cook 4 minutes or until crisp, stirring occasionally. Remove bacon from pan.
  2. Add the diced chicken breast and cook until no longer pink.  Add garlic sauté 30 seconds.
  3. Add stock, milk, and squash to pan; bring to a boil, stirring occasionally.
  4. Add pasta; cover, ­reduce heat, and ­simmer 5 minutes, ­stirring occasionally. Stir in broccoli and tomatoes; cover and cook 3 minutes or until pasta is done and sauce is thickened.
  5. Stir in salt, pepper, and 4 ounces cheese. Sprinkle bacon and remaining cheese on top. Cover; let stand 1 minute.
  6.  Dish up, serve with a salad and ENJOY!

Source: Adapted from Cooking Light Magazine, September 2015.

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