We all have those days – getting home after work without a plan of what to make for our evening meal. Happened to me tonight as it does every once in a while! Dietitians are real people too. Moms generally no longer spend the entire day in the kitchen and have a meal on the table at 5:30 p.m. each night with fresh makeup and a change of clothes. For me, it’s spend 30-45 minutes in the kitchen while helping with homework, with a meal on the table when the meal is finished cooking and worn down makeup from the work day. And the only change of clothes I do is into some comfy ones – PJ’s!
Even though I did not have a plan tonight, I had a pantry full of quick and healthy pantry staples to create a satisfying MyPlate Meal! You can too. Follow me into the kitchen for five staples dietitians keep in their kitchens.
Besides the basics of olive and canola oils, flours, sugars, oatmeal, salt, pepper and spices:
- Pasta – whole grain and frozen cooks up in minutes and it’s so versatile. You can add a ton of vegetables like onions, peppers, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage – the list here could go on and on. And pair it with protein like chicken, fish or lean beef for a stick-with-you meal. If I am using a red sauce, I veg it up with shredded carrots and diced onions and if I make a white sauce, I throw in broccoli, peppers and cauliflower (pre-cooked). A meal in minutes.
- Canned beans – all kinds including red kidney, black, chili, white kidney, pinto. Beans are an easy way to add high fiber protein to any meal especially soups, tacos and salads. One of my favorite ways to use them is to mash them and mix them with either diced, cooked chicken breast or lean ground beef when making tacos. Just throw them in the pan once the meat is finished cooking and add your taco seasonings. Just choose reduced-sodium or no-added-salt varieties, you can add salt to your recipe if you wish and it’s under your control how much.
- Canned salmon and tuna – make the perfect tuna sandwich and add a slice of reduced-fat cheese and heat under the broiler. Or try my favorite – Homemade Salmon Burgers. Recipe on its way, keep reading!
- Whole grains – when I cook them, I cook them! Making brown rice? Cook up the entire bag, you have the pan going anyway. Just use what you need and freeze the rest in one or two cup portions. Quinoa is another favorite – it cooks in about 12-15 minutes and can be made ahead too. Quinoa is one of those grains that can go with anything. It can be used as part of a side dish with quick sautéed veggies. It can also act like a stuffing, or be thrown in with taco night or even a hearty salad.
- Canned fruits and vegetables – these are a must to have to create a balanced plate. Canned fruits in their own juice or in a natural state like applesauce, mandarin oranges and pineapple. Canned vegetables without added salt including tomatoes (of all kinds – sauce, paste, salsa, diced, crushed, stewed), corn, peas and green beans. Even dried fruits can add a sweetness and texture to salads or side dishes.
Having a selection of these foods available can make your meal easier and healthier. And for that matter – happier! When momma is happy, so is everyone in the house. Moms determine the temperaments in the home – have you noticed that? It’s true in my house. So making a meal easier and healthier makes for a happier mom.
And, if you want the video version of this recipe – I prepared this easy recipe on a recent Fresh & Simple TV segment on ABC 6 News.
Homemade Salmon Burgers – BEST EVER!
- 15 ounces canned salmon, drained
- 8 crackers (saltine-type), crushed
- 3 tablespoons mayonnaise
- 1/4 cup chopped bell pepper (any color), seeds removed,
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- 8 drops hot sauce (it’s not too hot, just adds a nice kick)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 whole wheat hamburger buns
- 4 lettuce leaves
- 4 slices tomato
- Place salmon in a medium bowl. Add crackers, mayonnaise, peppers, lemon juice and hot sauce to the bowl. Mix well – use your hands if you like.
- Shape mixture into four patties. Heat medium saute pan to medium heat. Add salmon cakes to pan and lightly brown, approximately 3 to 4 minutes. Flip once and heat 2 to 3 minutes or until lightly brown. Place each patty on bun and top with lettuce leaf and tomato.
Adapted from Lickety-Split Meals by Zonya Foco/National Fisheries Institute