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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 2Taste of Home

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 recipes for bulgogi—beef cooked in soy sauce and ginger—so I tried it. It's delicious! Dazzle the table with this tasty version of Korean beef and rice. —Betsy King, Duluth, Minnesota

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Chicken MoleTaste of Home

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 PeppersTaste of Home

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's 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 7

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 BeansTaste of Home

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 NoodlesTaste of Home

Arrabbiata Sauce with Zucchini Noodles

This popular Italian dish is very spicy and full of flavor. 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 MasalaTaste of Home

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 LoavesTaste of Home

Sassy Salsa Meat Loaves

We still can’t settle on our favorite salsa, but, honestly, why bother? There are so many fantastic options! We love trying them all in this twist on classic meat loaf. You can make these loaves ahead, and they’ll last for a few days—perfect for meat loaf sandwiches topped with a little Monterey Jack cheese. —Tasha Tully, Owings Mills, Maryland

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Lemony ChickpeasTaste of Home

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 3

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

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 PaellaTaste of Home

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 BeefTaste of Home

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 3

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 MushroomsTaste of Home

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 11

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 LasagnaTaste of Home

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 StewTaste of Home

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 RoastTaste of Home

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 3

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 EnchiladasTaste of Home

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

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 SalsaTaste of Home

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 & VegetablesTaste of Home

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 BurgundyTaste of Home

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 SalsaTaste of Home

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 SkilletTaste of Home

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 SauceTaste of Home

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 NuggetsTaste of Home

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 BeansTaste of Home

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 StewTaste of Home

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

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 SauceTaste of Home

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 CasseroleTaste of Home

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

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 ChickenTaste of Home

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 RiceTaste of Home

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 ShellsTaste of Home

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 SteakTaste of Home

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 3

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 ThighsTaste of Home

Asian Chicken Thighs

The thick, tangy sauce makes this dish one of my favorite Asian 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 ChopsTaste of Home

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 TacosTaste of Home

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 11Taste of Home

Chicken Thighs with Shallots & Spinach

This moist and tender chicken comes complete with its own creamy spinach side dish! It makes a pretty presentation and comes together in no time flat for a nutritious weeknight meal. —Genna Johannes, Wrightstown, Wisconsin

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Sunday Pork RoastTaste of Home

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

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 ShellsTaste of Home

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 BourguignonTaste of Home

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 BakeTaste of Home

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 SauceTaste of Home

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 2

Saucy BBQ Chicken Thighs

Barbecued chicken gets a makeover here. The combination of ingredients gives a mellow, not-too-sweet flavor that tastes more grown-up than the original. It's great over rice, pasta or potatoes. —Sharon Fritz, Morristown, Tennessee

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Italian Turkey MeatballsTaste of Home

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 BeefTaste of Home

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 RaguTaste of Home

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 an Associate Digital 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.

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