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4 Protein-Packed Weeknight Dinners

It can be tempting to reach for the takeout menu on a busy weeknight. But when you have the right arsenal of recipes, picking up the phone to order seems like a hassle. 

Whether you're a vegetarian, eating paleo, follow a ketogenic diet, or just like to eat healthy, eating at home is essential to sticking to a plan (and a healthy wallet). 

Try out these 4 recipes that you can whip up with just one pot, pan or slow cooker, and a little bit a time. 

4 Protein-Packed Weeknight Dinners

Photo courtesy of Cookie and Kate

Vegetarian Chili 

Recipe via Cookie and Kate

Ingredients: 

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium red onion, chopped
  • 1 large red bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 medium carrots, chopped
  • 2 ribs celery, chopped
  • ½ teaspoon salt, divided
  • 4 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder*
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 ½ teaspoons smoked paprika*
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 large can (28 ounces) or 2 small cans (15 ounces each) diced tomatoes**, with their juices
  • 2 cans (15 ounces each) black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can (15 ounces) pinto beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 cups vegetable broth or water
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro, plus more for garnishing
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar or lime juice, to taste
  • Garnishes: chopped cilantro, sliced avocado, tortilla chips, sour cream or crème fraîche, grated cheddar cheese, etc.

Directions: 

  1. In a large heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat, warm the olive oil until shimmering. Add the chopped onion, bell pepper, carrot, celery and ¼ teaspoon salt. Stir to combine and then cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender and the onion is translucent, about 7 to 10 minutes.
  2. Add the garlic, chilli powder, cumin, smoked paprika and oregano. Cook until fragrant while stirring constantly, about 1 minute.
  3. Add the diced tomatoes and their juices, the drained black beans and pinto beans, vegetable broth and bay leaf. Stir to combine and let the mixture come to a simmer. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally and reducing heat as necessary to maintain a gentle simmer, for 30 minutes. Remove the chilli from heat.
  4. For the best texture and flavour, transfer 1 ½ cups of the chilli to a blender, securely fasten the lid and blend until smooth (watch out for hot steam), then pour the blended mixture back into the pot. (Or, you can blend the chilli briefly with an immersion blender, or mash the chilli with a potato masher until it reaches a thicker, more chilli-like consistency.)
  5. Add the chopped cilantro, stir to blend, and then mix in the vinegar, to taste. Add salt to taste, too—I added ¼ teaspoon more at this point. Divide the mixture into individual bowls and serve with garnishes of your choice. This chilli will keep well in the refrigerator for about 4 days (I haven’t tried, but I bet it would freeze well, too)

4 Protein-Packed Weeknight Dinners

Photo Courtesy of The Garlic Diaries

Kale and Turkey Sausage Sauté

Recipe via The Garlic Diaries

Ingredients: 

  • 1 bunch kale (3 green containers, packed), chopped into bite size pieces
  • ½ pound turkey sausage, casings removed (2 red containers)
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely minced
  • 1 pinch red pepper flakes
  • ¼ cup Parmesan cheese (1 blue container)
  • 1 wedge of lemon
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil

Directions:

  1. Place a large skillet over medium high heat. When the pan is hot, add your turkey sausage (you shouldn't need to add any oil) and season with salt and pepper
  2. Break up your sausage with a wooden spoon and let it sit in the pan (leave it alone!) so that it will brown. Every so often, stir it around and break up the sausage more, but then let it sit again so it can brown. If you are constantly stirring it and moving it around, it won't brown
  3. When your sausage is browned and cooked through, remove it to a plate
  4. Add the 2 teaspoons of olive oil into your pan along with the red pepper flakes and garlic
  5. Stir this around and let it cook for about 20-30 seconds, until the garlic is fragrant
  6. Add your kale, stir to combine, and sauté until kale has wilted some and tenderized a bit
  7. Season to taste with salt and pepper
  8. Add your sausage back into the kale, and top with your Parmesan cheese. Squeeze a wedge of lemon juice over top, stir to combine, and serve!

Low Carb Market Chicken Skillet 

Recipe via A Spicy Perspective 

Ingredients: 

  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breast
  • 1 small fennel bulb, cored and sliced thin
  • 1 orange bell pepper, seeded and sliced
  • 2 zucchini, halved and sliced
  • 3 cups chopped fresh kale
  • 1 pint fresh grape or cherry tomatoes
  • 1 1/4 cups fresh corn kernels (optional)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2-3 tablespoons golden balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon dried Italian Seasoning
  • Salt and pepper

Directions: 

  1. Heat a large deep nonstick or cast iron skillet to medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon oil to the skillet. *The oil is only necessary if your skillet is not nonstick.
  2. Sear the fennel and bell pepper until char market form on the sides and the fennel softens. Remove and set aside.
  3. Next sear the zucchini until just browned on both sides. Remove and set aside.
  4. Meanwhile chop the chicken into bite-size pieces and set aside. Toss the chicken pieces with dried Italian Seasoning, and salt and pepper to taste. Add the remaining oil to the skillet and sear the chicken, stirring to brown for 2 minutes. Then add the garlic, chopped kale and tomatoes. Sear another 2 minutes, stirring regularly.
  5. Add all the cooked veggies back to the skillet, followed by corn kernels, golden balsamic vinegar, honey, and 1/4 – 1/2 cups water. Toss and warm. Taste, then salt and pepper as needed.

4 Protein-Packed Weeknight Dinners

Photo courtesy of The Iron You

Lemon Garlic Chicken Zoodles 

Recipe via The Iron You

Ingredients: 

  • 6 zucchinis
  • 2 chicken breasts (about 15 oz / 425 gr), cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 4 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 teaspoon fine grain salt
  • Ground black pepper to taste
  • Grated parmesan cheese (optional)
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)

Directions: 

  1. Using a spiralizer, create zucchini spaghetti (always read the directions as they vary by brand) If you don't have a spiralizer use a regular vegetable peeler to vertically peel long, thin strips of the zucchini. This will form more of a wider "zoodle", like fettuccini.
  2. Heat one tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Once hot, add zucchini noodles and cook for about 2 to 3 minutes, until zucchini noodles are tender but still retain some crunch.
  3. Let the noodles rest for about 3 minutes so that they can release all of the moisture. Transfer noodles to a colander and drain the excess water from the pan.
  4. Wipe the pan and heat one tablespoon of olive oil, when sizzling add chicken cubes and cook until browned on all sides, about 8 minutes.
  5. Add tomatoes and parsley, lower to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes, or until tomatoes start to break down and release some of their juice.
  6. In the meantime in a small bowl combine lemon juice, the remaining tablespoon of olive oil, garlic, salt, and pepper.
  7. Add zoodles to the pan alongside the lemon juice mixture. 
  8. Stir until everything is combined and heated through. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and red pepper flakes (if using) and serve!

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