Can you believe summer is more than half gone and it’s almost time for school to start again?
With most of the kids in our area starting back to school about a month from now, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about quick, easy and healthy meals that busy parents can put together on a school night.
I’ve also been thinking a lot about how hard that can be to accomplish in today’s hectic and fast-paced world, especially if your grocery budget is tight.
I know that on some days, it can seem like putting a meal on the table just adds another layer of stress. It can be difficult to put a tasty, healthy meal on the table after working all day, and the temptation to take the easy way out and reach for a bag of frozen chicken nuggets or that frozen pizza is hard to resist. I know because I’ve done it myself, even though I know those things are not the healthiest choices for my family.
Wouldn’t it be great if you could put a budget-friendly meal on the table that your family will love and that gets you out of the kitchen fast? You can.
With a little planning and these easy recipes, you can put a school-night meal on the table that’s fast, healthy and delicious in about the same time it would take you to make those nuggets or that pizza. In the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing some recipes with you to help get you started.
This week’s recipes are all-time favorites with kids and grown-ups alike: Homemade Chicken Nuggets, Amazing Oven Fries and Easy Fish Tacos.
Homemade Chicken Nuggets
1½ pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 cup cornflake cereal crumbs or bread crumbs
½ teaspoon salt-free Italian herb seasoning
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon paprika
Cut chicken thighs into bite-size pieces (about 1 inch). Place cornflake crumbs or bread crumbs in plastic bag and crush by using a rolling pin. Add remaining ingredients to crushed cornflakes. Close bag tightly and shake until blended. Add a few chicken pieces at a time to crumb mixture. Shake to coat evenly. Bake using either microwave or conventional oven method:
• Microwave method: Lightly grease an 8-by-12-inch microwave-safe baking dish. Place chicken pieces on baking dish so they are not touching. Cover with waxed paper and cook on high. Rotate chicken every 2 to 3 minutes. Cook until tender, about 6 to 8 minutes.
• Conventional method: Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly grease a cooking sheet. Place chicken pieces on cooking sheet so they are not touching. Bake until golden brown, about 12 to 14 minutes.
Serves 4 at about $1.75 per serving.
• Cook’s note: To make this meal even faster to prepare, buy chicken when it’s on sale, cut into bite-sized pieces and freeze in family-size portions. Defrost in the fridge while you work, and when you’re ready to make supper, just “shake and bake” your nuggets. A few minutes preparation now will save you precious time after a hard day.
Amazing Oven Fries
2 pounds large potatoes
8 cups ice water
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
Scrub potatoes and cut into ½-inch wide strips (don’t peel). Place potato strips in large bowl of ice water, cover and chill for 1 hour or longer. Preheat oven to 475 degrees F. Remove potatoes from water and dry thoroughly. Place garlic powder, onion powder, salt and pepper in zippered plastic bag. Zip bag closed and toss potatoes in spice mixture. Brush potatoes with oil. Place potatoes in nonstick shallow baking pan. Cover with aluminum foil and place in a 475 degrees-F. oven for 15 minutes.
Remove foil and continue baking uncovered for additional 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown. Turn fries occasionally to brown on all sides.
Serves 4 at about 89 cents per serving.
Easy Fish Tacos
½ cup non-fat sour cream
¼ cup fat-free mayonnaise
½ cup fresh cilantro
½ package low-sodium taco seasoning, divided
1 pound cod or white fish fillets, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 cups shredded cabbage
2 cups diced fresh tomato (about 2 medium)
12 corn tortillas
In a small bowl, combine sour cream, mayonnaise, cilantro and 2 tablespoons seasoning mix. In a medium bowl, gently combine fish pieces, vegetable oil, lemon juice, and remaining seasoning mix; pour into large skillet. Cook stirring constantly, over medium-high heat for 4 to 5 minutes or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork.
Fill warm tortillas with fish mixture. Top with cabbage, tomato, sour cream mixture, and taco sauce.
Makes 12 tacos. Serves 6 at about $2 per serving.
Penny Hawkins is a former Times-News Cook of the Month. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit her blog at twodollardinners.blogspot.com.