Shrimp Polenta: My favorite last-minute dinner starts with frozen shrimp, which I keep on hand as a quick-cooking lean protein. Put shrimp in a strainer and rinse with cool water to remove ice crystals and separate shrimp. Shake off excess water. Sauté shrimp in a bit of olive oil until shrimp turn pink and opaque. Remove shrimp, add a handful of cherry tomatoes to the pan and cook until they start to burst. Throw in 1 or 2 handfuls of fresh spinach and cook until wilted. Return shrimp to pan and toss until hot. Serve the shrimp mixture over polenta with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.
— Jessica Ivey, RDN, LD
Ingredient Improv: Instead of polenta, serve the shrimp-vegetable mixture over cooked brown rice or pasta. For a vegetarian version, skip the shrimp and stir in cannellini beans.
Quick Enchiladas: To make quick enchiladas, shred about 2 cups cooked turkey and stir in a splash of taco sauce from a full bottle. Fill the rest of the bottle with water, shake and pour some of it in the bottom of a baking pan. Fill 8-inch flour tortillas with the turkey, roll up and place in a layer in the pan. Pour the rest of the sauce on top, cover and bake at 325°F for 30 minutes. Top with guacamole, chopped tomatoes and cheese, if desired.
— Laura Sabban, MS, RD
Ingredient Improv: Mix cranberry relish with chopped onions, jalapeno and tomatoes for a sweet and spicy salsa, or garnish with refried beans, chopped scallions and lettuce for a more traditional flavor.
Salsa Chicken: Place 4 chicken breasts in a slow cooker, pour a jar of salsa on top and cook 5 hours on high or until chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165°F. Shred chicken and mix with drained canned beans, corn and guacamole. Serve as a dip with tortilla chips.
— Esther Ellis, MS, RD, LDN
Ingredient Improv: To make it a veggie-packed filling for quesadillas, tacos or sandwiches, add a bag of frozen fajita vegetables to the slow cooker up to 2 hours before serving.
Open-faced avocado tuna melt: Open a can of tuna and drain liquid. Place tuna in a bowl with half a small avocado, a touch of mustard and some smoked paprika. Stir to combine. Toast a slice of bread, then top it with a slice of colby jack cheese and place in a toaster oven for 1 minute to melt cheese. Top cheese toast with tuna mixture and add a drizzle of Sriracha sauce, if desired.
— Karman Meyer, RD, LDN
Ingredient Improv: To make a creamy vegan version, mash a drained can of chickpeas with some soft tofu and mix in the avocado, mustard and smoke paprika. Use your favorite vegan cheese.
Egg Roll in a Bowl: In a pan over medium-high heat, sauté ⅓ cup diced onions and minced garlic in 1 tablespoon olive oil for 3 minutes. Add lean ground pork, chicken or beef and cook to its safe internal temperature. Add a bag of coleslaw mix and soy sauce or coconut aminos to taste. Cover and cook until wilted. Enjoy as is or serve with fast-cooking brown rice or other grain.
— Gillean Barkyoumb, MS, RD
Ingredient Improv: To mix up taste and texture, make this dish with broccoli slaw or spiralized vegetables. Make it plant-based by using shelled edamame instead of ground meat.