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56 Healthy Make-Ahead Dinners for Busy Nights

There's no need to rely on fast-food when you're busy, thanks to these convenient healthy make-ahead dinners. Simply throw them together when you have time and pull them out when you're in a pinch!

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Baja Pork Tacos Exps Sdam18 43842 D12 05 1b 18

Baja Pork Tacos

This delicious pork tacos recipe is my copycat version of the most excellent Mexican food we ever had, when we were visiting Flagstaff, Arizona. The original recipe used beef instead of pork, but this comes mighty close to the same taste. —Ariella Winn, Mesquite, Texas
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Korean Beef and Rice

A friend raved about Korean bulgogi, which is beef cooked in soy sauce and ginger, so I tried it. It's delicious! You'll dazzle the table with this tasty version of Korean beef and rice. —Elizabeth King, Duluth, Minnesota
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Chicken Mole

If you’re not familiar with chicken mole (pronounced mo-LAY), don’t be afraid of this versatile Mexican sauce. I love sharing this chicken mole recipe because it’s a great one to experiment with. —Darlene Morris, Franklinton, Louisiana
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Quinoa Unstuffed Peppers Exps Sddj18 206214 D08 08 3b 2

Quinoa Unstuffed Peppers

This deconstructed stuffed pepper dish packs a wallop of flavor. I truly make it all the time, and I make sure my freezer is stocked with single-serve portions to take to work. —Rebecca Ende, Phoenix, New York
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Chicken Pesto Meatballs Exps Sddj18 174952 D08 09 2b 16

Chicken Pesto Meatballs

These tender, pesto-stuffed meatballs get gobbled up in our house. They're short on ingredients, but packed with flavor. I always make a double batch, freezing the other half for a busy night. —Ally Billhorn, Wilton, Iowa
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Southwest Turkey Patties with Beans

These turkey patties are delicious and low in calories. Skip the rice if you're looking to cut carbs. —Dot Carpenter, Washington, Pennsylvania
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Arrabbiata Sauce With Zucchini Noodles Exps Hck18 196227 B04 014 7b 17

Arrabbiata Sauce with Zucchini Noodles

This popular Italian dish is flavorful and spicy. We decided to re-create one of our favorite jarred sauces and serve over zucchini pasta for a lighter, healthier meal that's naturally gluten-free. The results were amazing! —Courtney Stultz, Weir, Kansas
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Easy Chana Masala Exps Sdon17 175124 B06 30 3b 3

Easy Chana Masala

I love this quick and healthy Indian-inspired dish so much I always make sure to have the ingredients stocked in my pantry. It makes weeknight dinners feel a little more special. —Janeen Judah, Houston, Texas
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Sassy Salsa Meat Loaves

Here's a twist on classic meat loaf. You can make these loaves ahead, and they’ll last for a few days. Make meat loaf sandwiches with the leftovers, buns and a little Monterey Jack cheese. —Tasha Tully, Owings Mills, Maryland
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Lemony Chickpeas

These saucy chickpeas add just a little heat to meatless Mondays. They're especially good over hot, fluffy brown rice. —April Strevell, Red Bank, New Jersey
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Roasted Vegetable Strata Exps Hck17 195478 C08 26 4b 11

Roasted Vegetable Strata

With the abundance of zucchini my family has in the fall, this is the perfect dish to use some of what we have. Cheesy and rich, the warm, classic breakfast dish is sure to please! —Colleen Doucette, Truro, Nova Scotia
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Broccoli Tuna Casserole Exps 13x9bz19 133475 B10 05 6b 21

Broccoli Tuna Casserole

When I was in the Navy, a co-worker's wife shared this recipe with me. I’ve tweaked it over the years, but it still brings back memories of my "family" away from home. —Yvonne Cook, Haskins, Ohio
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Shrimp & Broccoli Brown Rice Paella

Years ago my husband and I were vacationing in France and came across an open market where a man from Spain was making paella in a skillet; we've been hooked ever since. I love to whip this up for a large group, but if the gathering is small, I know I can easily freeze leftovers for another time. —Joni Hilton, Rocklin, California
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Tender Salsa Beef Exps Scbz18 128014 B07 11 8b 3

Tender Salsa Beef

This is my Mexican-style twist on comfort food. To keep it kid-friendly, use mild salsa. —Stacie Stamper, North Wilkesboro, North Carolina
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All Day Red Beans Rice Exps Sscbz18 45258 C08 23 2b 16

All-Day Red Beans & Rice

My family loves New Orleans-style cooking, so I make this authentic dish often. I appreciate how uncomplicated it is. And its smoky ham flavor is scrumptious. —Celinda Dahlgren, Napa, California
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Chicken Merlot With Mushrooms Exps Chbz19 39062 C10 24 2b 5

Chicken Merlot with Mushrooms

Slow cooked and savory, this dish is perfect for any night of the week, and is sure to become a staple in your home.–Shelli McWilliam of Salem, Oregon
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Artichoke Chicken Exps 13x9bz19 24 B10 04 5b 24

Artichoke Chicken

Rosemary, mushrooms and artichokes combine to give this chicken a wonderful, savory flavor. I've served this healthy canned vegetable recipe for a large group by doubling the batch. It's always a big hit with everyone—especially my family! —Ruth Stenson, Santa Ana, California
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Pumpkin Lasagna Exps Pcbbz17 45358 C03 23 5b 4

Pumpkin Lasagna

I especially like this comforting fall dish because it's vegetarian. Even friends who aren't big fans of pumpkin are surprised by this delectable lasagna. Canned pumpkin and no-cook noodles make it a cinch to prepare. —Tamara Huron, New Market, Alabama
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Lamb Stew Exps119342 Thhc2238742b09 23 7bc Rms 4

Lamb Stew

My grandmother used to make this stew as a special Sunday meal. It's an unforgettable treat from Ireland. —Vickie Desourdy, Washington, North Carolina
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Top-Rated Italian Pot Roast

I'm always getting recipe inspiration from newspapers and magazines. Here’s a tender roast with aromatic spices that give it a Moroccan feel. —Karen Burdell, Lafayette, Colorado
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White Beans And Veggies With Couscous Exps38400 Sd143206b04 01 4bc Rms 10

White Beans and Veggies with Couscous

My family loves the simplicity and full-flavors of this meatless entree. With its variety in taste and texture, we can see why they list it as their favorite! —Heather Savage, Wood River Junction, Rhode Island
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Black Bean Turkey Enchiladas

My best friend and I created this recipe together because we wanted a meal that’s easy to prepare, affordable and nutritious. We both have hectic schedules, so when we’re feeling crunched for time, it’s a relief to have these wholesome enchiladas waiting for us in the freezer. —Holly Baber, Seattle, Washington
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Chicken Florentine Meatballs Exps Thcsf16 47913 A06 01 2b 7

Chicken Florentine Meatballs

Served over squash and a chunky, mushroom-tomato sauce, these tender meatballs are tops when it comes to great flavor. —Diane Nemitz, Ludington, Michigan
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Chicken Tacos with Avocado Salsa

A few people in my family have special dietary needs, but luckily, these chicken tacos work for all of us. I toss up a simple green salad and have a meal we can all enjoy together. —Christine Schenher, Exeter, California
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Saucy Indian-Style Chicken & Vegetables

This Indian-style dish seems to develop a devoted following. Prepared sauce makes it easy to bring the rich flavors of Indian cuisine to your family. Feel free to use more or less tikka masala sauce according to your personal taste. —Erica Polly, Sun Prairie, Wisconsin
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Slow-Cooker Beef Tips Burgundy

Here's a heartwarming classic that's so simple in the slow cooker. Mushrooms, red wine and tender beef make for an easy, elegant supper. —Deanna Zewen, Union Grove, Wisconsin
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Pork Tacos with Mango Salsa

I've made quite a few tacos in my day, but you can't beat the tender filling made in a slow cooker. These are by far the best pork tacos we've had—and we've tried plenty. Make the mango salsa from scratch if you have time! Yum. —Amber Massey, Argyle, Texas
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Weeknight Beef Skillet

This mild but hearty family fare is chock-full of veggies, Italian seasoning and nutrition. It’s a quick-and-easy meal that just might become one of your family’s favorites! —Clara Coulston, Washington Court House, Ohio
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Spaghetti with Fresh Tomato Sauce

When my mom made this spaghetti sauce, the house would smell so good that I'd open the windows to torture the neighbors. It even tastes wonderful the next day, when the flavors have really melded. —Vera Schulze, Holbrook, New York
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Oven Fried Fish Nuggets Exps35083 Thd143241c01 22 5bc Rms 2

Oven-Fried Fish Nuggets

My husband and I love fried fish, but we're both trying to cut back on dietary fat. I came up with this oven-baked version. He likes it as much as deep-fried fish, so I know it's a winner. —LaDonna Reed, Ponca City, Oklahoma
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Mexican Pork Pinto Beans Exps3238 Fm143298d03 11 1bc Rms 1

Mexican Pork & Pinto Beans

We've lived in Arizona for decades, so Mexican-style cooking has become the same as "Arizona-style cooking" for us. Nothing tastes better than chili-spiced pork with tortillas. —Anne Fatout, Phoenix, Arizona
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Wintertime Braised Beef Stew Exps Diydap21 41100 B10 12 1b

Wintertime Braised Beef Stew

This easy beef stew is incredibly rich. Since it's even better a day or two later, you may want to make a double batch. —Michaela Rosenthal, Woodland Hills, California
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Chili Tortilla Bake

A homestyle Tex-Mex casserole is all it takes to gather the whole family around the dinner table. With its popular flavors and bubbly cheese topping, there is never a need to worry about leftovers. —Celine Weldy, Cave Creek, Arizona
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Meat Loaf With Chili Sauce Exps39533 Sd142780c08 15 2bc Rms 4

Meat Loaf with Chili Sauce

I used to serve this meat loaf in my cafe, where so many of my customers asked for it. I adapted the recipe for my slow cooker at home, where it's quite popular, too. —Robert Cox, Las Cruces, New Mexico
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De Lightful Tuna Casserole Exps Hrbz16 35345 B09 08 4b 6

De-Lightful Tuna Casserole

This mild, homemade tuna casserole will truly satisfy your family's craving for comfort food without all the fat! —Colleen Willey, Hamburg, New York
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Contest Winning Greek Pasta Bake Exps Hrca20 33152 E10 08 1b 3

Contest-Winning Greek Pasta Bake

I've taken this hot dish to potlucks and it's received rave reviews. There's never a morsel left. Best of all, it's a simple, healthy and hearty supper made with ingredients that are easy to find. —Anne Taglienti, Kennett Square, Pennsylvania
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Spicy Shredded Chicken

I love Mexican food, but not the high calorie count that often comes with it. This easy dish is healthy, delicious and a definite crowd pleaser! I like to serve the chicken with warm tortillas, rice, beans and salsa. For an equally awesome dish, you can substitute beef or pork for the chicken. —Heather Walker, Scottsdale, Arizona
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Sirloin Strips Over Rice Exps Hrbz18 33317 D09 06 6b 5

Sirloin Strips over Rice

I found this recipe in a movie magazine some 20 years ago. It was the favorite of some male star, but I don’t remember which one. Its great flavor and the fact that leftovers just get better have made it a family favorite! —Karen Dunn, Kansas City, Missouri
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Makeover Easy Beef Stuffed Shells Exps143026 Hcka2972497b10 01 1b Rms 2

Makeover Easy Beef-Stuffed Shells

Enjoy the convenience of this make-ahead dish or bake right away. Either way, it has half the saturated fat of the original recipe but is just as meaty. —Blair Lonergan, Rochelle, Virginia
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Slow-Cooked Pepper Steak

After a long day working in our greenhouse raising bedding plants, I enjoy coming in to this hearty beef dish for supper. It's one of my favorite meals. — Sue Gronholz, Beaver Dam, Wisconsin
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Tomato Balsamic Chicken Exps Sddj17 197017 B08 11 8b 9

Tomato Balsamic Chicken

I came up with this saucy chicken during a particularly busy holiday season. As new parents, my husband and I both appreciate having a go-to dinner that's easy, homemade and delicious. —Anne Colvin, Chicago, Illinois
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Asian Chicken Thighs Exps27434 Th2847295b02 21 5bc Rms 2

Asian Chicken Thighs

The thick, tangy sauce makes this dish one of my favorite Chinese chicken recipes. Serve the chicken over long grain rice or with ramen noodle slaw. —Dave Farrington, Midwest City, Oklahoma
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Greek Pork Chops Exps Sdjj17 30883 C02 16 5b 3

Greek Pork Chops

My in-laws taught me a lot about cooking, so any time I come across a great new recipe, I enjoy making it for them. These bright, lemony chops quickly became a favorite. —Geri Lipczynski, Oak Lawn, Illinois
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Mango Pineapple Chicken Tacos Exps160307 Esc3139121c04 03 1bc Rms 7

Mango-Pineapple Chicken Tacos

I lived in the Caribbean when I was a child. Every time I make this yummy chicken, the fresh tropical fruits in it transport me back to those happy times.—Lissa Nelson, Provo, Utah
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Chicken Thighs With Shallots Spinach Exps Sdam19 45682 C12 12 4b 30

Chicken Thighs with Shallots & Spinach

What could be better than an entree that comes with its own creamy vegetable side? This healthy supper goes together in no time flat and makes an eye-catching presentation. —Genna Johannes, Wrightstown, Wisconsin
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Sunday Pork Roast

Mom would prepare pork roast for our family, friends and customers at the three restaurants she and Dad owned. The herb rub and vegetables give it a remarkable flavor. It's one of my favorite pork roast recipes. —Sandi Pichon, Memphis, Tennessee
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Hearty Turkey & Rice

We love this tasty dinner. It’s quick to prepare, making it a great (and yummy!) meal when you’re running late. You’ll love the easy cleanup, too! —Joan Hallford, North Richland Hills, Texas
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Taco Stuffed Pasta Shells

Here's a kid-friendly dish so flavorful and fun, nobody is likely to guess that it's also lower in fat. It's a great family supper for busy weeknights! —Anne Thomsen, Westchester, Ohio
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Special Occasion Beef Bourguignon Exps Hck17 135396 C08 30 2b 5

Special Occasion Beef Bourguignon

I've found many rich and satisfying variations for boeuf bourguignon, including an intriguing peasant version that used beef cheeks for the meat and a rustic table wine. To make this stew gluten free, use white rice flour instead of all-purpose. —Leo Cotnoir, Johnson City, New York
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New England Lamb Bake

This dish is hearty and perfect for warming up on a chilly winter evening. The aroma is almost as delightful as the dish itself. —Frank Grady, Fort Kent, Maine
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Red Clam Sauce Exps Sscbz18 41124 D10 18 6b 13

Red Clam Sauce

This recipe tastes like an Italian restaurant specialty and cooks while you take care of other things. What a marvelous way to jazz up pasta sauce! —JoAnn Brown, Latrobe, Pennsylvania
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Grilled Pork Tenderloins

We do a lot of outdoor cooking during the summer months, and this grilled pork tenderloin recipe is one my entire family loves. —Betsy Carrington, Lawrenceburg, Tennessee
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Saucy Bbq Chicken Thighs Exps118313 Sd142780c08 15 3b Rms 8

Saucy BBQ Chicken Thighs

Barbecued chicken gets a makeover in this recipe. The combination of ingredients makes for a mellow flavor that tastes more grown up than the original. It's fantastic over rice, pasta or potatoes. —Sharon Fritz, Morristown, Tennessee
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Italian Turkey Meatballs

What's not to love about moist and tender homemade Italian meatballs? Because they're made with lean turkey, they're lower in saturated fat, too! —Mary Berg, Lake Elmo, Minnesota
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Chipotle Shredded Beef

This beef is delicious whether you serve it all rolled up in a tortilla, with corn salsa in a burrito, in a bun or over rice or mashed potatoes. So many options! —Darcy Williams, Omaha, Nebraska
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Spicy Pork And Butternut Squash Ragu Exps Edsc18 167412 B03 23 1b 3

Spicy Pork and Butternut Squash Ragu

This recipe is a marvelously spicy combo that's perfect for cooler fall weather and satisfying after a day spent outdoors. —Monica Osterhaus, Paducah, Kentucky

Caroline Stanko
As Editor, Caroline writes and edits all things food-related and helps produce videos for Taste of Home. When she’s not at her desk, you can probably find Caroline cooking up a feast, planning her next trip abroad or daydreaming about her golden retriever, Mac.