Meetings that run late…after school activities that end at 8:00…evening classes…Friday night high school basketball games. We are all busy, and we all struggle against the temptation to drop by the local restaurant or fast food joint for a quick bite when time gets tight. Here are easy recipes for seven meals you can make in ½ hour or less to tide you over, when cooking and eating a nutritious meal gets pushed to the background by your family’s schedule.
- TacosIt takes about 15 minutes to cook ground beef, turkey burger or leftover turkey or chicken meat along with taco spices in a skillet. While these cook, chop up a head of lettuce, some tomato, and a medium onion. Serve on a corn or flour tortilla with shredded cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion and salsa, and you have a tasty, popular meal that hits all the nutrition bases. This is just about our favorite in a hurry meal, because it is something everyone in the family loves.
- Cream of Tomato Soup & Grilled Cheese SandwichesBy mixing together canned tomato soup and milk, you’ve added vitamin C and D, as well as calcium to your meal. If you use fat free milk, heat the milk first before adding the can of tomato soup. While the milk heats, add a tablespoon of butter or a tablespoon of olive oil to prevent the soup from curdling. Curdled soup is still edible, but it has a weird consistency, as if stringy cheese were mixed into the soup. (We know this, because we’ve made our fair share of “stringy soup”!) Cook up some grilled cheese sandwiches in a skillet, and serve with a fruit or carrot and celery sticks you made earlier in the day.
- Baked Potatoes with Broccoli & CheeseThis is where owning a microwave really helps. In about 20 minutes, you can microwave a baking potato for each person and heat the broccoli through. While the broccoli cooks, butter the potatoes. Place the broccoli on the potatoes, sprinkle cheese and fresh ground pepper over the potatoes and microwave for about one minute to melt the cheese. Top with bacon bits, if you want, and serve. For a variation, eliminate the broccoli and add thick chili soup. Chili potatoes topped with shredded cheddar and green onions are really good. Why stop at a restaurant for baked potatoes with toppings when they are so easy to make at home?
- PancakesPancakes are not just for breakfast. You can use pancake mix you buy in the store, or for a more nutritious treat, use the following recipe to create your own pancake mix. In this recipe, mix together everything but the water. Store the mix in gallon size zip lock bags in a cool place until you need a fast supper. To make speedy pancakes, dump the mix into a bowl, add water and stir until the batter is the right consistency. Then cook your pancakes. Here an easy recipe for Homemade Pancakes:Ingredients:
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups all purpose flour
2 tablespoons ground flax
4 heaping tablespoons soy flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons baking powder
¾ cup powdered non-fat dried milk
5-5 ½ cups water
Mix the flours, flax, soy flour, baking soda, salt, baking powder and dried milk together in a large bowl. Slowly add water to the dry ingredients, beating with a whisk until all the dry is mixed in and the batter has a thinner consistency. You may have to add a little more water to get the consistency you desire.
Heat a skillet with the burner set on medium high. Add two tablespoons of olive or other vegetable-based oil to the skillet. When you can feel the heat as you hold your hand over the skillet, it is time to spoon the batter into the pan. Using a large spoon, place 5-7 spoonfuls into the pan. As the batter cooks, air bubbles will form across the pancake. When the pancake is full of bubbles, use a spatula to carefully flip the pancake. Cook for 1-2 additional minutes, then use the spatula to transfer the pancake from the skillet to the plate. Add more oil and repeat the cooking process.
This recipe makes about 12 large pancakes. Because of the amount of whole grains used, two pancakes are usually enough to stop a ravenous teenager in his tracks. Cover and refrigerate any unused portion for another meal. The batter can be refrigerated for up to 5 days.
Serve with syrup or honey, a fresh fruit and a glass of milk. We’ve used this recipe a lot on camping trips because it’s so easy to mix up a batch of pancakes. If you premade the mix, total time from empty bowl to sliding the first cooked pancake onto a plate is about 7 minutes.
- SpaghettiHave a few cans or jars of your favorite spaghetti sauce on hand in your pantry along with some boxes of spaghetti. In a pinch, cook up the spaghetti in hot water and heat the sauce in a saucepan. While they cook, spread margarine on hamburger buns or bread, shake garlic powder onto the buns, place them on a cookie sheet lined with aluminum foil and cook in a 400° F. oven for 7-10 minutes. Spaghetti, with or without garlic bread, is both quick and filling. Add a tossed salad with a vinaigrette dressing, and you have a fast, delicious meal.
- Chicken Fajitas
You can use raw chicken breasts for this recipe, but if you’re in a real hurry, make chicken fajitas with already cooked chicken, or even beef leftover from a previous meal. Here is an easy recipe for Chicken Fajitas:Ingredients:
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 large onion, thinly sliced
3 bell peppers, seeded and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
12 flour tortillas
Slice the onion and peppers and place in a bowl; set aside.
Thinly slice the chicken breasts into long, thin strips, place meat in a bowl; set aside.
In a skillet, sautÃ© the onion and pepper in the olive oil over medium high heat; add a little water if necessary to prevent sticking. Once sautÃ©ed to tender crisp stage, remove the onions and peppers from the pan and place on a plate; set aside.
Put the chicken into the hot skillet. SautÃ©, stirring constantly until the chicken strips are cooked through, adding a little water if necessary to prevent sticking. Reduce the heat to medium and return the vegetables to the skillet. Add the chili powder, cumin powder, Worcestershire sauce and balsamic vinegar. Simmer while stirring for 10 minutes; add a little water if the mixture appears to be too dry.
Serve on tortillas, topped with lettuce, chopped tomato and salsa. Makes 12 servings.
Leftover food can be a very fast meal, especially if you take full advantage of your microwave. Double your favorite recipes, store the leftovers in the refrigerator for up to five days, and serve when your family is in a hurry. Use your imagination to mix and match your leftovers. For example, Sunday’s leftover roast beef, sliced and mixed with a can of beef broth which has been heated and thickened with cornstarch, becomes Wednesday’s hot beef sandwiches. Tuesday’s fried fish becomes Friday’s fish sandwiches. Thursday’s leftover Spanish rice becomes Sunday’s Spanish rice burritos, with the addition of flour tortillas, shredded cheese, salsa and lettuce. Reheat Wednesday’s leftover chicken fajitas mix and serve before everyone heads out to the movies on Saturday night. The possibilities are endless. We often make twice as much food for a meal than we will eat at one sitting. The leftovers are served in the next day or two and give the cook of the day a nice break from meal prep.
Half an hour may seem like a long time to prepare a meal when you are in a hurry, but consider how much time you use when you drive the family from home to your favorite fast food restaurant, stand in line waiting to order and then wait even longer for the food to be delivered to you. With a little planning ahead, it is worth your time to stay at home and fix a fast, nutritious and healthy meal for your family.