Thursday, June 5, 2008

Meals In A Jiffy

Recently, I posed a question to the members of an online forum I belong to. "You have ten minutes to get dinner on the table. What do you make?"

Overwhelmingly, the answers were things like hot dogs or macaroni and cheese or canned soup. Things, in other words, that are quick but not necessarily healthy.

Hot dogs or macaroni and cheese or canned soup make a quick and easy dinner every once in awhile, but what if your consistently pressed for time? A friend of mine with two kids in school, sports and other activities, who also commutes an hour each way to her full time job, and who is a single mom, says that she rarely has time to put a lot of effort into making dinner. She says, "My schedule means I don't have the time or the energy to cook a complicated meal, but I also don't want my kids to eat a lot of processed foods that are unhealthy." Her solution was to invest in a copy of Rachael Ray's 30 Minute Meals cookbook, and then further slash the time spent cooking by buying convenient versions of healthy ingredients. Precooked and precubed white meat chicken, for example, or shredded cheese over block cheese or prewashed bagged salad.

Tonight, I fed my family Panko Crusted Chicken with salads, steamed peas and baked potatoes. The meal actually took me about fifteen minutes to cook, because I was also refereeing a disagreement over a toy between my kids. But had I been able to give dinner my undivided attention, it would have been on the table in ten minutes.

Here's how: I used Perdue chicken tenders over chicken breast, because they are smaller and thinner, thus cook faster. I used a pastry brush to apply a thin layer of ranch salad dressing to the chicken, rolled them in panko (Japanese bread crumbs) and then cooked them in olive oil in a skillet. While the chicken cooked, I scrubbed and pierced a couple of potatoes, then microwaved them on high for 8 minutes. Then I made the salads. When the potatoes were done, I used my Pampered Chef microwave steamer to cook the peas for 5 minutes.

By the time the peas were cooked, the chicken was nice and crispy and the potatoes had cooled enough to eat. Dinner was served!

This meal did require some forethought, because I already had my meat thawed and my lettuce and other produce washed and ready to chop. But it required very little of my time to make it and I felt good that I had prepared a healthy and tasty meal.

I also like the Perdue Perfect Portions chicken breasts because they can be baked in ten minutes without thawing them. I also utilize instant brown rice and frozen vegetable mixes to make fast and easy stirfries on busy nights.

How about you? Given the Ten Minute Meal challenge, what would you make?


Super Healthy Kids said...

For us it's always Angel Hair Pasta (3-5 minute boil time). With butter and parmesan cheese on top. When I have a few more minutes, I'll add broccoli to the boiling water. Or cut up chicken from a prior dinner. My kids love it.

Anonymous said...

Typically once a week I buy a roasted chicken and peel all of the chicken from the bones. Since it is just my daughter and I we couldn't possibly eat it all I freeze the shredded chicken into 3-4 ziploc bags. On rushed evenings I pull out one of the bags of chicken and toss it into the microwave for a couple of minutes to defrost - while it is defrosting I prepare a flour tortilla with shredded cheese and a little bit of salsa and the chicken. I spray olive oil cooking spray into a skillet and within 2-3minutes we have chicken quesidllas. I like to put a second tortilla with a little more shredded cheese on top of the first one. This is a healthy way to feed your family and it happens in under 10 minutes.