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Healthy Meals in a Flash

It used to be that families sat down to dinner together every night to enjoy the meal that Mom had taken at least a few hours to prepare. It was usually there and waiting when Dad walked in the door from a long day at work and the whole family gathered to share the day’s happenings over steaming bowls of mashed potatoes, a platter of fried chicken, and all the other necessary accompaniments.

My, have things changed! While some families still make dinner together a priority, such meals are more often the exception rather than the norm. Mom might work outside the house, kids have after-school activities that consume their time, and Dad may not keep regular 9-5 hours. The result is that many families are often scrambling to put dinners together, hoping they can achieve a healthy meal that doesn’t take too long to fix.

A quick and easy dinner doesn’t have to mean just a sandwich or a bowl of cereal. There are plenty of balanced and healthy meals that don’t take long to prepare yet provide more vitamins and minerals and substantially more bulk than a helping of corn flakes.

Scrambled eggs or omelets – Eggs are one of those perfect foods that provide protein as well as vitamins and minerals. You can mix them with just about anything from meat and cheese to a variety of vegetables like peppers, onions, broccoli, spinach, and mushrooms. (Buy the veggies pre-sliced or do the slicing over the weekend and put them in baggies.) Serve your omelet or scrambled creation with a loaf of crusty bread and a bagged salad for a 15-minute meal everyone will love.

šStir-fry As long as you have those veggies cut and ready to use, throw them in a pan with some olive oil and add meat (use cooked shrimp or pre-cooked chicken like Purdue’s ShortCuts®) and some soy sauce to make a great stir fry. You can even toss in some leftover spaghetti or egg noodles you might have left from another dinner, or you can serve it over minute rice which takes – umm – a minute to prepare.

šShepherd’s Pie With this favorite British dish, you can get all your food groups in one casserole. Simply brown some lean ground beef in a large pan, add some beef broth, Worcestershire sauce, and a can of mixed vegetables, which might include corn, green beans, lima beans, and peas. Put the mixture in a casserole, top it with instant mashed potatoes (which take only minutes to make), and bake for about 20 minutes. Top with shredded cheese and broil the casserole for an additional 5 minutes.

Pasta primavera Purchase refrigerated pasta and pre-cooked chicken pieces for this easy recipe. Cook the pasta and toss in a bowl with the chicken and a variety of vegetables. If you don’t have time to cut and cook fresh veggies, use the new variety that comes in bags that can be steamed in the microwave. They’re quick and tasty and perfect for this kind of recipe.

šTacos Soft, crispy, stuffed with chicken or beef. Whichever way you serve them, tacos are easy to make and fun to eat. Fill them with whatever you like including salsa, cheese, and beans for a quick meal that requires minimal preparation and clean-up.

Fish cakes Use canned tuna, salmon, or crab meat to make fish cakes/burgers that can be eaten by themselves or on a bun. Mix the seafood with egg whites, bread crumbs, and chopped red or green peppers for a tasty combination. Top with mayo or tartar sauce and serve with a bagged green salad or a can of fruit salad.