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Spanish rice bake is an easy recipe that's sure to become a family favorite. 

On Monday, Dec. 3, families throughout the United States will take part in "Dine In" Day for Healthy Families, an annual Family and Consumer Sciences holiday. 

Families are asked to commit to making and eating a healthy meal together. There are a number of benefits for families when they prepare and eat meals together. Regular family meals promote healthy eating habits and create a bond between parents and their children, along with improving academic performance in school.

Research has also found that the more often children have dinner with their parents, the less likely they are to smoke, drink and use drugs. An important part of the family dinner is talking together which means not allowing cell phones at the table. Encourage the children to help in preparing the meals which provides the opportunity to develop important skills and gives the chance for valuable communication time. The following recipes are ones that are “family friendly” and easy to prepare.

Spanish rice bake

Spanish rice has been a popular family dinner casserole for generations. Your family will be sure to select this as one of their favorites.

Servings: 6


1 pound lean ground beef

½ cup finely chopped onion

½ cup chopped green pepper

1 (14.5-oz.) can diced tomatoes, undrained

1 cup water

¾ cup uncooked long grain rice

½ cup chili sauce

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon brown sugar

½ teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

⅛ teaspoon black pepper

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro


Cook beef in a large, ovenproof skillet (with a lid) over medium-high heat, stirring and breaking up lumps, until browned, about 5 minutes. Stir in onion, bell pepper, tomatoes, water, rice, chili sauce, salt, brown sugar, cumin, Worcestershire sauce and black pepper. Bring mixture to a boil. Stir once, then cover tightly. (Resist the temptation to stir so the rice cooks evenly.) Meanwhile preheat oven to 375 degrees. Uncover rice mixture, stir and sprinkle with cheese. Transfer to oven and bake until cheese is melted and bubbly, 10 to 15 minutes. Sprinkle with cilantro.

*As a variation omit the chili sauce and brown sugar and instead use a can of undrained chili beans. Another option is to use 1½ cups salsa instead of the water. Corn can also be added. Source: 20th Anniversary Limited Edition “Greatest Hits,” AllRecipes Magazine, 2017.

Santa Fe stuffed potatoes

Stuffed baked potatoes are a quick and easy meal you can put together for the family and you have a variety of options for the filling. This version takes on a Tex-Mex flavor. If desired, browned, ground beef could be added to the mix as well.

Servings: 4


4 medium potatoes

1 cup cooked, drained black beans

1 cup salsa

1 cup cooked or frozen corn

1 cup shredded cheese


Scrub potatoes and prick with fork. Bake 45 minutes in 350-degree oven or cook in microwave. About 10 minutes before potatoes are done, stir together beans, corn and salsa; heat until simmering. Remove potatoes from oven; cut in half lengthwise on plates and spoon bean mixture over the top. Sprinkle about ¼ cup cheese over each potato. Serve with a vegetable salad. Source: “Food and Fun for Healthy Families,” 2008 Nutrition Calendar, Iowa State University Extension & Outreach.

Sweet pork stir-fry

Stir-fry dishes provide the opportunity to use leftover vegetables you might have on hand and different meats to create interesting combinations. This recipe, which uses pork, snap peas and bell pepper, is rather traditional, but other combinations could be used.

Servings: 4


6 ounces whole-wheat thin spaghetti

⅓ cup reduced-sodium soy sauce

2 tablespoons packed brown sugar

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2 garlic cloves, minced

1 tablespoon oil (canola, olive, or vegetable)

1 pound boneless pork, thinly sliced (chop or loin)

1 package (8 oz.) sugar snap peas

2 cups bell pepper, sliced (2 medium bell peppers)


Cook pasta according to package directions. Stir soy sauce, brown sugar and garlic in a small bowl while pasta is cooking. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add pork when oil is hot; cook pork 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add peas and bell peppers to skillet. Cook for 3 minutes. Add the soy sauce mixture to the vegetables. Cook 3 minutes more. Add the pasta and stir until all the ingredients are combined. Garnish with mango or pineapple chunks.

*This recipe can be made with brown rice instead of pasta if desired. Source: “Healthy & Homemade,” 2018 Nutrition and Fitness Calendar, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.

Mini berry pie

For dessert try this simple variation of a pie, switching out the usual pie crust for a tortilla. If you have children to help you, they will enjoy fitting the tortillas into the muffin cups.

Servings: 5

Ingredients for pie crusts:

Nonstick cooking spray

5 whole-wheat tortillas (6-inch)

1 teaspoon sugar

¼ teaspoon cinnamon

Ingredients for filling:

1 bag (16 oz.) frozen mixed berries (2½ cups)

1½ teaspoons sugar

1 teaspoon cornstarch


Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray. Lay tortillas flat. Spray one side of each tortilla with cooking spray. Combine sugar and cinnamon. Sprinkle mixture on the tortillas. Place the tortillas in the muffin tin. Fit them into the muffin bowls. The cinnamon and sugar will be on the inside of the bowls. Bake the tortillas for 13 to 15 minutes until they are light brown and crisp. Put the berries in a medium saucepan over low heat. Stir sugar and cornstarch in a small bowl. Add mixture to thawed berries; cook over medium heat. Mixture will start to get thick and it will bubble. Cook 1 minute more; remove from heat. Cool slightly. Put ¼ cup berry filling into each tortilla bowl. Top with a dollop of whipped cream, if desired. Source: “Healthy & Homemade Meals,” 2015 Nutrition & Fitness Calendar, Iowa State University Extension & Outreach.

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