NDSU Extension Service - Ramsey County


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Ready to Eat Now

Ready to Eat Now


          Time between the end of the work day and the next happening can be short – so short that fast foods, frozen pizza and carry-out meals can become the standard for family dinners.  Some of those options do have variations that are healthier but when you’re ready for more nutritious meals, try moving back to home cooking. 

          Healthy foods can be a part of any schedule and cooking style. Planning is the key to creating menu options that fit your lifestyle.

          Stock Up on Basics –Smart shopping put the ingredients you need where you need them. Think about the foods you like to serve and stock up accordingly.  To your pantry add, spaghetti, macaroni and other pastas.  Stock boxes of packaged biscuit baking mix and ready-to-heat sauces.  Bags of rice, barley, potatoes, onions and lentils can be the base of many a delicious casserole. Add cans of vegetables, beans, chicken and/or tuna for your family’s favorite combo.  Packages mixes of seasoning and sauce mixes are another needed basic.

          In your frig and/freezer, have a variety of fresh and frozen veggies, fruit, grated cheese, chicken and/or turkey breasts and frozen chopped onion and green pepper.  The freezer is also the place for a variety of tortillas, pita bread, pizza crust, bagels and read-to-bake rolls.

          Make Packaged Healthier - A few simple changes to fat and sodium additions can make convenience foods healthier choices.  When preparing boxed mixes of rice, pasta or stuffing mix, use on half the amount of margarine called for in the instructions. Use ¾ to ½ of the seasoning packet (which is usually mostly sodium), when using frozen stir fry meals or seasoned rice mixes. On baked potatoes, instead of sour cream, use cottage cheese or plain yogurt. To reduce the fat in ground beef for a hamburger casserole, drain the fat from the cooked ground beef and then place the beef in a colander over a bowl and rinse with warm water.  For a boxed brownie mix, substitute an equal amount of unsweetened applesauce for vegetable oil and substitute 2 egg whites for each egg.


          Try this family friendly recipe for a fast answer to your busy evenings.


Chicken & All Casserole


2 cups small shell pasta, cooked and drained

3 cups frozen mixed vegetables, cooked and drained

2 cups shredded cheddar, divided

One can French fried onions, divided

2 cups shredded cooked chicken (can use canned chicken or rotisserie)

1 can reduced fat cream of chicken soup

¼ cup milk

1 teaspoon pepper

½ teaspoon garlic powder

½ teaspoon salt

          Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine everything in a large bowl, reserving half of the cheese and half of the onions for topping later. Spoon into greased 9x13 casserole dish. Bake for twenty five minutes. Top with remaining onions and cheese, bake until cheese is melted, about five minutes more.

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