I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned.
Copyright Cheryl C. Malandrinos – All Rights Reserved.
Like many of you, I’m a busy mom. With a writing career, a family, and volunteer efforts, it seems there is never enough time in the day. Just because our family is running off in different directions at times, doesn’t mean I want to sacrifice healthy meals. Here are a few family favorites that don’t take a great deal of time to prepare.
Fiesta Taco Casserole*
½ package (13 ounces) tortilla chips, any flavor (about 4 cups)
2 cans (15 ounces each) chunky chili with beans or chili with beans
1 medium tomato, chopped (3/4 cup)
1 to 1 ½ cups shredded Mexican cheese blend (4 to 6 ounces)
Step 1: Heat oven to 350°. Remove 10 to 12 whole tortilla chips; set aside. Coarsely break remaining chips; place in ungreased 2-quart casserole*. Top with chili. Sprinkle with tomato and cheese.
Step 2: Bake uncovered 30 to 35 minutes or until hot and bubbly. Arrange whole tortilla chips around edge of casserole.
Note: I’ve made this recipe a few times and found that layering the ingredients makes it easier to remove it from the casserole dish than putting all the broken tortilla chips on the bottom.
Simply Delicious Pork**
1 ½ pounds boneless pork loin cut into 6 pieces or 6 boneless pork loin chops
4 medium Golden Delicious apples, sliced
3 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
Step 1: Place pork in CROCK-POT® slow cooker. Cover with apples.
Step 2: Combine brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt in a small bowl; sprinkle over apples. Cover; cook on LOW 6 to 8 Hours.
Note: I serve this with rice and green beans. I steam a week’s worth of rice on Sunday, so all I have to do is reheat what I need each night in the microwave. Depending upon the season, I’ll use fresh or frozen green beans that I steam in the microwave.
Cheese Tortellini in Light Broth***
4 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 19-ounce package fresh cheese tortellini
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
3 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Step 1: Pour the broth into a large, heavy saucepan. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat.
Step 2: Add the tortellini and 1/3 teaspoon of pepper. Cover partially and simmer over medium-heat, stirring occasionally, until the tortellini are al dente, about 7 minutes. Season the broth with more pepper to taste.
Step 3: Ladle the broth and tortellini into serving bowls. Top with Parmesan cheese and parsley, and serve.
Note: I serve this with crackers or thick slices of Italian or French bread. It makes the perfect light meal.
One other way to help you save time in the kitchen is to use marinades. I’ll defrost chicken breasts in the refrigerator for a couple of days and then combine salad dressing, olive oil, and a variety of herbs and spices with the chicken in a glass bowl. Cover and marinade for at least four hours or overnight. The chicken can be pan-fried or grilled. Preparing as much as you can ahead of time, means you’ll be in and out of the kitchen quickly.
* This recipe can be found in Betty Crocker 4-Ingredient Dinners. New Jersey: Wiley Publishing, Inc., 2003
** This recipe can be found in CROCK-POT® Best-Loved Slow Cooker Recipes. Illinois: Publications International, Ltd., 2006
*** This recipe can be found Everyday Italian: 125 Simple and Delicious Recipes by Giada De Laurentiis. New York: Clarkson Potter/Publishers, 2005.
Cheryl Malandrinos is a freelance writer, children’s author and editor. Her first children’s book, Little Shepherd, was released in August 2010 by Guardian Angel Publishing. Her next book is due out in the fall of 2012. She is a member of the SCBWI, a book reviewer and blogger. Ms. Malandrinos lives in Western Massachusetts with her husband and two children. She also has a son who is married.