Wednesday, March 14, 2012

30 Minute Meals - March Question Month

Jan asked, "I would like to know what is your go to dishes that you can make in 30 minutes for dinner? I have a full-time job, kids, serving Master and I just need some quick go to dinners."

I think a big part of being able to make wonderful dinners in a short period of time is in the planning. Once per month I try and purchase items in bulk and do as much prep ahead as I can. I always try to keep cooked ground beef in the freezer so that I can add that quickly into sauces, soups, pastas, tacos, or whatever other areas I might use ground beef (or turkey or chicken). I also try to keep diced peppers & onions on hand (both in the refrigerator and freezer). This helps for less prep work during the week. I also clean and cut up all fruits that need prepping when I purchase them, so that they are on hand for whenever I want to add them to a dinner or provide a healthy snack for my kids.

I also am a big believer in utilizing my crockpot and rice cooker. Nothing more wonderful than popping something into the crock pot and then only having to add a salad or side dish to call it a complete meal at the end of the day.

My quick go to meals during the week (when I would need a 30 minute meal the most) are:

1. Chicken Ceasar salad. You can grill up extra chicken ahead of time when making it for another dinner and set it aside for one of those busy week night meals. Then just add it to the salad, toss dressing in, and go. Dinner is ready in about five minutes flat. For those who aren't calorie counters, it's nice to pair this with some fresh bread & honey butter.

2. Cheeseburger Pie. (my kids love this one, as does Himself).
1lb lean (at least 80%) ground beef ( I prefer to use either 93% lean beef, or turkey for this one). I also usually use one of the packets I have already browned and crumbled in the freezer. Just defrost and use.

1 large onion, chopped (1 cup)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese (4 oz) (we like extra sharp cheddar but any will do)
1/2 cup Original Bisquick® mix ( I use the reduced fax bisquick)
1 cup milk (I use fat free milk)
2 eggs

1. Heat oven to 400°F. Spray 9-inch glass pie plate with cooking spray.
2. In 10-inch skillet, cook beef and onion over medium heat 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until beef is brown; drain. Stir in salt. Spread in pie plate. Sprinkle with cheese.
3. In small bowl, stir remaining ingredients with fork or wire whisk until blended. Pour into pie plate.
4. Bake about 25 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out clean.

I serve this with a side of steamed vegetables (such as broccoli or cauliflower) and a side salad. You could also serve it with french fries or another potato type.

Also if you are using the precooked beef, then just sauté the onion in a pan, add beef at the last two minutes, and drain. then add to pie dish.

Pork Roast (crockpot cooking)
Cut up sweet potatoes into quarters (I use one potato per person who will be eating). Place these on the bottom of your crockpot. Place a pork roast on top of the potatoes. Next layer in a bag of mini carrots on top. Add one can of whole berry cranberry sauce on top. Cover and cook in crockpot for 8 to 10 hours on low heat. Before serving, you can either slice up the roast and serve in slices, or you can pull the pork and mix with BBQ sauce for pulled pork sandwiches.

I serve this with a green vegetable and a side salad.

Buffalo Chicken Pizza
For a quick homemade pizza, this one is super easy. I use pizza crust that I usually have on hand in the freezer (but you can also use pillsbury pizza crust in a pinch). Use chicken that you have cooked earlier in the week for another meal such as a roast chicken (I always try to cook once to eat twice to save time). Take the precooked chicken and dice it up (or pull it into pieces). Mix with ranch dressing and hot sauce (Use however much hot sauce you like -- we like it spicy). Spread a thin layer of cream cheese onto pizza crust. Top with chicken mixture, cover with shredded cheddar cheese. Bake in the oven at 350 degrees until chicken is heated through and cheese is melted.

Serve with celery & carrot sticks (my kids love these) or a side salad.
Simple, easy, and filling.

You can make a lighter version of this by using reduced fat cheese, fat free cream cheese, and reduced fat or fat free ranch dressing.

I also love Rachel Ray's 30 minute meal cookbooks. I think I have 3 or 4 of them. She has some great meal ideas and its fun to try new things.

But for me the biggest time saver is always in cooking once and eating twice, or prepping in bulk.


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