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Ten Minute Meals

To cook or not to cook? That is the question. With all the frozen dinners, delis, carry out foods and meal delivery services available today, the urge to produce a homemade meal is certainly less compelling now than for generations past.

More often than not, deciding what to have for dinner depends on how much time the family has between the evening's scheduled activities. Most nights, many of us find ourselves looking at one of only two options: drive through if we want to eat at all or whipping up a ten minute meal before famine sets in.

Healthy carry-out choices

If carry out is your only option, here are some of the best choices for fast food:

Grilled chicken sandwich --- While they vary in fat content from restaurant to restaurant, the grilled chicken sandwich remains a best choice when it comes to fast food.

Regular hamburger --- Skip the mayonnaise and double up on the lettuce and tomato. Catsup and mustard offer flavor instead of fat.

Baked potatoes --- A great alternative to fries, as long as you skip the sour cream and butter.

Deli carry out --- Sliced cold cuts are a winner here with a selection ranging from lean corned beef to fat free turkey. Avoid prepared, mayonnaise-based salads, as most are heavy on fat.

Submarine sandwich --- Many sub shops offer low fat mayonnaise on request. Ask for sliced turkey or lean ham with generous additions of lettuce and tomato. All vegetable subs also make great high energy, low fat meals.

The ten minute grocery list

Avoid the last minute panic of "nothing to fix for dinner" by keeping these items on hand:

  • Salsa
  • Sweet and sour sauce
  • Pasta sauces (ready-to-use, low fat varieties)
  • V-8 Juice
  • Minced garlic (find bottled in the produce section)
  • Taco, chili seasoning (low sodium, packets)
  • Mayonnaise (low fat or fat-free)
  • Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing (packet)
  • Dressing (assorted fat free varieties)
  • Skewers for kabobs
  • Cream of chicken soup (low fat and sodium)
  • Chicken broth (low sodium, fat-free)
  • Sour cream (low fat or fat-free)
  • Yogurt (low fat or non-fat)
  • Mixed vegetable combinations (frozen)
  • Bulgur Wheat
  • Instant brown rice
  • Flour tortillas
  • Black, white and refried beans (canned)
  • Parmesan cheese (fat-free)
  • Cheeses (shredded reduced fat or fat-free)
  • Pork tenderloin, sliced turkey, ground round, chicken breasts (boned, skinned, chopped and frozen for later use)


Once your pantry is stocked, try these fast, healthy and delicious recipes:

New Age fettuccine    
For all the benefits that pasta brings, including a good source of energy, the sauce is often the culprit in ruining an otherwise low fat feast. Traditional fettuccine has a whopping 15-20 grams of fat per serving. In the new age version below, sour cream has been replaced with yogurt and high fat cheeses with fat-free forms to create a heart healthy version of this classic dish.

8 oz. fettuccine style noodles
1 tsp. minced garlic
1 tsp. all purpose flour
1/2 cup chicken broth (canned broth, bouillon, stock or base)
1 tsp. basil
1/2 cup plain yogurt or fat-free sour cream
2 tsp. fat-free Parmesan cheese

Cook pasta in boiling water for 5-7 minutes or until slightly tender (al dente). Drain. Whisk together flour, garlic and broth in microwave safe bowl. Heat until broth begins to bubble, about two minutes. Using a microwave safe casserole dish, add sauce to pasta with basil. Toss well to mix. Stir in sour cream or yogurt. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Microwave this mixture for two minutes on high. Transfer to warm platter.

Yield: 4 servings
Calories: 273
Fat: 1 gram.

Try adding 1/2 cup of sliced mushrooms to the broth mixture before cooking for a savory variation. Serve with fresh broccoli and fresh fruit.

  Honeyed Chicken Salad  
Try this low fat variation for chicken salad, made with fat free mayonnaise. The balsamic vinegar gives just enough zip to make the switch from high fat to low fat workable. Poppy seeds and pecans give the chicken salad a gourmet flair.

2 cups baked chicken breast, cut in bite-sized pieces
2 tbsp. chopped pecans
2 tbsp. poppy seeds
2 tbsp. honey
2 tbsp. Balsamic vinegar
1 cup sliced seedless grapes
1/2 cup fat-free mayonnaise

Combine all ingredients together in plastic storage container. Keep refrigerated.

Yield: 4 servings
Calories: 270
Fat: 1 gram

Serve on a sliced hard roll or spoon onto a sliced tomato.

    E-Z Chicken Stroganoff
Rich, luscious stroganoff gets its creamy base from generous amounts of sour cream and butter. Thanks to food technology and fat substitutes, you can still enjoy this creamy, delicious dinner with fat as the only sacrifice.

2 chicken breasts, skinned, boned and sliced into one inch strips
1/4 tsp. minced garlic
1/4 tsp. pepper (white, if available)
1/2 cup low fat, reduced sodium cream of chicken soup
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1 cup plain yogurt or fat-free sour cream
2 tbsp. sherry
1/4 cup fat free Parmesan cheese

Place chicken pieces in greased casserole. Combine garlic, yogurt or sour cream, soup, pepper, sherry and mushrooms. Pour over chicken. Sprinkle cheese over top. Microwave, covered, on high for ten minutes or until chicken is no longer pink. Serve with noodles, rice or bulgur.

Yield: 4 servings (two if you are very hungry)
Calories: 185
Fat: 3 grams

This recipe can also be baked in a traditional oven at 400 degrees for 25 minutes.

  Asparagus Roll Ups  
4 slices fat free turkey
8 spears asparagus
4 slices fat free Swiss cheese
fat-free non-stick cooking spray

Rinse asparagus and trim bottoms. Place in shallow microwave safe dish with 1 tablespoon water. Cover and cook one to two minutes in microwave on high. Remove from microwave. Place one slice cheese on top of turkey slice. Place two asparagus spears on top of the cheese and roll up the turkey. Repeat with remaining turkey, cheese and asparagus. Place in a shallow microwavable dish that has been sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. Heat in microwave two to three minutes until cheese begins to melt.

Yield: 4 turkey rolls
Calories: 44
Fat: less than 1 gram

Broccoli can be substituted for asparagus.

Serve with low fat hollandaise sauce or your favorite fat-free dressing. Sweet potatoes and crusty bread make an excellent accompaniment.

Instead of Chili    
This chicken recipe has a southwestern flair. For a savory variation, add your favorite pasta or vegetables. Try taco seasoning instead of chili. For a spicier version, add sliced jalapeno peppers.

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed
1 large onion, chopped
1 packet chili seasoning (1.48 oz.)
1 four ounce can diced green chilies
4 16 ounce cans great northern beans
2 cans water

Put chicken and onion in sauce pan with one inch water. Cook until chicken is white. Add chili seasoning, chiles and beans. Stir and serve.

Yield: 8 generous servings
Calories: 376
Fat: 5 grams

Serve with pineapple chunks and corn bread.

  Hamburger Casserole  
Precooking and packaging ground round in freezer bags is a great time saver for those short days during the week when every second counts.

1 pound ground round
salt and pepper to taste
1 onion, chopped
1 10.5 ounce can low fat, reduced sodium cream of mushroom soup
1 cup fat free sour cream
1 15-16 ounce can whole kernel corn, drained
1-1/2 cups macaroni noodles, uncooked

Fry meat in skillet. Drain and rinse thoroughly. Return meat to skillet, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add onion and one tablespoon water. Cover and cook until onions are transparent (less than five minutes). Cook noodles according to directions on the box. Add soup, sour cream, corn and noodles to meat mixture. Stir and serve.

Yield: 4-5 servings
Calories: 376
Fat: 9 grams

Serve with a dark green salad and French bread. Try varying the noodles.

    Taco Salad
This is a delicious low fat version of a family favorite. Although guacamole and olives contain fat, they can be added, if desired, to make the dish more colorful and flavorful.

1 16 ounce can fat-free refried beans
1/2 to 1 package taco seasoning (1.25 oz.)
1 cup chunky style salsa
1/2 to 3/4 cup fat free mayonnaise
1/2 to 3/4 cup fat free sour cream
1 package Hidden Valley Original Ranch Dressing (1 ounce)
1 onion, chopped
1 to 1-1/2 cups shredded, fat free cheddar cheese
1/4 head chopped or shredded lettuce
1 or 2 diced tomatoes

Mix beans, salsa and taco seasoning. Spread in bottom of 8" by 8" dish. Mix mayonnaise, sour cream and dressing mix. Spread over bean mixture. Sprinkle onion on top of dressing mixture, then cheese, lettuce and tomato.

Yield: 6 servings
Calories: 205
Fat: Less than 1 gram

Serve with reduced fat tortilla chips for dipping.

  Hot Ratatouille  
1 medium zucchini, sliced thinly
1 small green pepper, sliced
1 cup fresh, sliced mushrooms
1 small eggplant, peeled and sliced (optional)
1 tsp. minced garlic
1 cup prepared spaghetti sauce (low fat, chunky or garden style)
1 tsp. oregano
1 cup low fat, shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup fat free Parmesan cheese

Combine all ingredients except cheeses in two quart casserole. Microwave on high for six to eight minutes. Sprinkle with cheese. Microwave for one more minute.

Yield: 4 servings
Calories: 148
Fat: 5 grams

Serve with fresh fruit.

Microwave Broccoli Lasagne    
With this micromagic version of lasagna, forget cooking the pasta ahead of time. This version is ready in less than half the time of the traditional version.

10 ounce package lasagna noodles
20 ounce package frozen broccoli, chopped
32 ounce jar commercial spaghetti sauce
8 ounces sliced or shredded low fat mozzarella cheese
1-1/2 cups low fat or fat free ricotta cheese
2 egg whites
2 tbsp. Parmesan cheese
8 ounces ground round or turkey (optional)

Defrost frozen broccoli according to package directions. Combine broccoli with spaghetti sauce, mixing well. Combine ricotta cheese and egg white and mix until blended. Brown meat and combine with sauce mixture. Layer 1/3 sauce, 1/2 noodles, 1/2 ricotta cheese mixtures and 1/2 mozzarella cheese in a 9" by 13" microwavable baking dish. Repeat layers ending with sauce mixture. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Cover with wax paper. Microwave on high for eight minutes, rotating dish once. Continue cooking on medium for 25-30 minutes. Let stand for 10-15 minutes before serving.

Try serving with a zesty salad and toasted French bread.

  Better Than Frozen French Bread Pizza  
Thinly sliced onions and olives can also be added to these pizzas.

1 loaf crusty French bread or 2 individual submarine-style hard rolls, split lengthwise
3/4 cup prepared low fat chunky or garden style spaghetti sauce
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 fresh green pepper, sliced thinly
1/2 cup fresh or canned mushrooms, thinly sliced
1/4 cup fat-free Parmesan cheese
1 cup low fat, shredded mozzarella cheese

Spoon spaghetti sauce over sliced bread or rolls. Top with mushrooms and green peppers. Sprinkle with oregano and cheeses. Bake in preheated over for 12-15 minutes.

Yield: 4 servings
Calories: 429
Fat: 8 grams

Serve with a fresh salad or fresh fruit.

    Fantastic Pork Fajitas
You can also make vegetable fajitas by simply stir-frying a few of your favorite vegetables with peppers, onion and fajita seasoning. Good choices include yellow squash, zucchini and mushrooms. Try topping your fajitas with salsa, fat free sour cream, lettuce or low fat cheese.

1 pound pork tenderloin, cut into 1/8" strips and trimmed of all visible fat
1 tbsp. fajita seasoning
1 cup green, yellow and red bell peppers, sliced
1/2 onion, sliced
1 tsp. red pepper, crushed
4 flour tortillas, warmed
Fat-free, non-stick cooking spray

Spray a large non-stick skillet with cooking spray. Heat skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Add pork strips, fajita seasoning, bell peppers, onions and crushed red pepper to skillet. Stir fry about 5 minutes until pork is thoroughly cooked. Roll up 1/4 of meat mixture in each tortilla.

Yield: 4 servings
Calories: 295
Fat: 9 grams

Serve with fresh fruit, salsa and reduced fat tortilla chips.

  Tater Toppers  
Baked potatoes are like a "poor man's vitamin." Not only are they virtually fat free, they are jam-packed with a variety of vitamins and minerals. Potatoes are also a good source of fiber and iron. So be creative and serve them as a main dish with several of your favorite toppings, such as:

Steamed or stir-fried vegetables
Chopped tomatoes
Pizza sauce
Chunky barbecue sauce
Leftover pasta sauce
Dips or dressings made with low fat or fat free sour cream and a seasoning packet (taco, ranch, French onion, vegetable, etc.)
Grated low fat or fat free cheese
Low fat or fat free cottage cheese
Leftover stroganoff sauce
Pork tenderloin