"What's for dinner?" is the age-old question that's probably been around as long as the family. You may find you're asking that very question of yourself as the afternoon rolls around, or your hungry family may bombard you with the question as they come home one by one. If you're drawing a blank, don't worry. Keep a few dinner ideas in your head for those hectic days to put a wholesome meal on the table and take the guess work out of it.
Baked chicken and vegetables is an old stand-by, still loved by families because it's just practical. Chicken is a budget-friendly meat; it is extremely versatile and doesn't require much fussing when baked. Throw your chicken parts into a large baking tray, surround them with fresh cut root vegetables such as potatoes, beets or yams, and add onions, garlic or bell peppers for flavor. Sprinkle the entire tray with a ranch seasoning mix or the seasoning blend your family loves most, and bake it in the oven. Within an hour, you'll have a hot, complete meal. The fat rendered from the chicken will flavor the vegetables nicely.
The wonderful thing about pouch cooking is that you can custom-design everyone's meal. If you love garlic but your son doesn't, load it into your pouch and eliminate it in his. If your husband prefers salmon and your daughter likes tilapia, just grab a frozen fillet of each out of the freezer because you can make both with little fuss. The key element to pouch cooking is a heavy-duty foil. Put a piece of fish on a sheet of foil, shiny-side down, and add about half a cup scoop of frozen vegetables. Then season it how the diner likes it: lemon juice or a splash of olive oil, garlic or dill, spicy or mild. Fold the foil into a tightly sealed pouch. Bake one pouch per diner, and serve each diner his pouch with some rice or potatoes on the side.
There are entire restaurant chains that have built their empire on the concept of eating breakfast any time of day. If you find yourself running late, a quick and nutritious meal to prepare is a simple omelet. Omelets can contain anything the diner desires: cheese, crumbled bacon, grilled or roasted vegetable leftovers, sliced boiled potatoes or chopped breakfast sausage, just to name a few items. The trick to the perfect omelet is a hot pan with a little oil, a low flame and not to touch the egg once you pour it in. Let it set into one large piece. If you are using three or more eggs and your omelet will be thick, cover it so the top will cook as well as the bottom. As the eggs are about to finish cooking, pile your fillings on one half and then fold over the other edge with a spatula. Serve with some cornbread of muffins.
Dinner doesn't always have to consist of meals we eat with spoons and forks. An assortment of finger foods is ideal for those who prefer to nibble over chowing down. Young children and picky eaters will enjoy a tray of finger foods to pick and choose from. Consider the many options available. For protein go with chicken fingers, little smoky sausages or fried shrimp. Vegetables can include a variety of raw, peeled items, such as carrots, celery, bell peppers and cucumber sticks. Serve with a creamy dip. Cherry tomatoes, cheese chunks, crackers and sliced fruit are also great for grazing.
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