Expectations of what I could accomplish in 24 hours was a lot more certain before kids.  I used to shop at as many as three grocery stores in a day to find the perfect ingredients for recipes. I enjoyed hours in the kitchen purposively slaving over a meal for TWO. Now a party of four, expected to-dos easily fall by the wayside with surprises like a short nap or an unexpected call to pick up a sick child from school. While unpredictable changes can leave this certainty-craving mother a bit crazy, my children quickly re-center me and remind me that these uncertainties of parenthood are well worth it. While my love of cooking remains, my process of getting meals on the table has certainly streamlined to accommodate the unexpected.

Recently I heard some housecleaning advice that if you took just one minute a day to pick up an area in your home, you could more efficiently keep things clean. While I do love a clean home, I prefer to apply this same tactic to feed my family healthy meals. When I find myself with a few spare minutes, I use them to do tasks such as make a grocery list, take inventory of foods in my pantry, prep produce, or get a headstart on dinner. These “Got 5 minutes?“ action steps enable me to feed my mini mouths in a more efficient manner.  I hope that you also find that a few minutes of meal prep throughout the week can make a big difference in the amount of energy you spend on feeding your family.

Got 5? – Meal Planning Steps 

Saturday: 5-10 minutes during nap 1 – wash and cut asparagus & hard-boiled eggs

Saturday: 5 minutes while dad takes boys for bike ride – Make vinaigrette & grate parmesan cheese

Sunday: 15 minutes – put rest of meal together

One-Pot Spring Parmesan Pasta

I love a recipe that can be cooked in one-pot. This satisfying pasta bowl is lightened with the use of seasonal spring vegetables, and a slightly sweet & tangy vinaigrette.

Serves 12 – 2 cup serving

Ingredients:

Pasta

  • 12 oz. box of whole-wheat rotini pasta
  • 2 bunches fresh asparagus, cut in 1” pieces
  • ½ onion, diced
  • 1-10.5 oz. bag of frozen peas
  • 2- 15. oz cans white cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Vinaigrette Dressing

  • 4 oz. olive oil
  • 4 oz. balsamic vinegar
  • 1 T. Dijon mustard
  • ½ T. honey
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • Dash of pepper

Additions:

  • Arugula
  • 12 Hard-boiled eggs
Directions:

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil.  Once boiling, cook pasta according to directions. While pasta cooks, whisk olive oil, vinegar, salt, mustard, honey, and pepper in small bowl for vinaigrette. With 4-5 minutes remaining in cooking time for pasta, add onion, asparagus, and peas to boiling water.  Cook for the remaining 4-5 minutes. Drain pasta & vegetables, and place in a large bowl. Stir in white beans and Parmesan cheese.

When ready to serve, chop hard-boiled eggs into pasta, and place over bed of arugula. Dress pasta with desired amount of vinaigrette.

Pasta can be served cold or hot.

For additional heat, sprinkle on red pepper flakes.

Jennifer McDaniel

Jennifer McDaniel is a Registered Dietitian, Media Spokesperson, and co-author of Prevention's Mediterranean Table Cookbook. She and her team of Registered Dietitians aim to help their clients go further, make change last, and unlock their potential. She lives in St. Louis, MO with her husband, and three young sons. If you are interested in working with Jennifer, please visit our contact page.