Lemon chicken nestled atop pasta, asparagus and bell pepper is an ideal springtime meal for families that treasure dining together.

As the days grow longer and warmer, it’s only natural that time for meal preparation gets squeezed by the lure of outdoor activities. However, there are plenty of reasons to choose a fresh-tasting meal over another uninspiring round of take-out. Sneaky shortcuts and time-saving ingredients allow you to serve wholesome food—and sit down with your family to enjoy it.

The key to an uplifting family mealtime is keeping it casual. Start by limiting menus to 2 or 3 elements, which reins in the prep time and workload. It also helps to set out a jar or vase of fresh flowers—cheerful blooms will focus those gathered on the beauty of creation and the love shared around the table.

Lemon Chicken & Asparagus Pasta

Lemon Chicken & Asparagus Pasta

As soon as boneless chicken breasts hit the skillet, they send out a tantalizing aroma promising dinner will be ready soon. For several minutes, the poultry cooks in olive oil and garlic, then butter is added to enrich the flavor. Just before it is done, a broth that includes lemon juice and zest brings the chicken to juicy perfection.

As the chicken simmers, prepare your family’s favorite pasta, whether it’s whole grain, gluten-free or a shape chosen by your children. Put depth into pasta flavors by adding quick-cooking vegetables to the boiling pasta water during the last two minutes it is on the cooktop. Try this with asparagus, bell pepper strips, sugar-snap peas or any other vegetables your family prefers. Drain the pasta when done.

To draw everyone together, serve this dinner family style in a large, rimmed serving dish. Place the pasta and vegetables in first, then ease the succulent browned chicken pieces onto the pasta. For the final touch, garnish the meat with sprigs of fresh herbs.

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Blueberry Peach Pastry

For the finale, every sweet tooth will stand up and cheer for blueberry peach pastries. Using purchased dough, top each pastry square with apricot jam, peach slices, blueberries and sugar. Bake and eat.

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Lord, we recognize Your faithfulness in providing food for our bodies and refreshment for our souls through family times together. With gratitude, we offer ourselves in service to You and those You've placed in our lives. In Jesus' name, Amen.

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