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Dinner Tips

Family Mealtime Ideas

Q. I need some new ideas for family dinnertime meals. Can you help?

slow cooker
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.
Use the slow cooker to make new and interesting meals that are ready when you get home.
A. Is dinner getting you down? It's not easy to get a tasty, healthful, hot meal on the table every night. Most of us find ourselves serving the same meals every week -- the "meatloaf on Monday" syndrome. That's why we compiled some easy meals to add to your repertoire:

  • Let the supermarket deli work for you. If you're making a salad, pick up some rotisserie chicken and prepared vegetables for the main course. If you've got the entrée, stop by the salad bar for greens. Need something to hold the kids while you put it together? Select some cubed cheese, raw vegetables, or olives.

  • Use leftover rotisserie. Any leftover rotisserie or roasted chicken can become chicken salad or a chicken casserole. Mix cubed leftover chicken with chopped vegetables and cream of chicken soup, pour into a casserole, and top with dumplings made fast with biscuit mix.

  • Broiling is probably the easiest and fastest way to prepare fish. While the broiler is preheating, sprinkle tilapia or salmon fillets with fresh lemon juice and freshly ground black pepper. Broil until fish flakes easily with a fork. Serve with a fruit salsa, shrimp cocktail sauce, or a sauce made from sour cream mixed with a little Dijon mustard.

  • Thinner fish fillets also cook up fast on a grill pan or skillet. Dredge tilapia or other whitefish fillets in seasoned bread crumbs or ground pecans, and sauté in an oiled nonstick skillet just 3 or 4 minutes on the first side, and 2 to 3 minutes on the second side, or until fish flakes easily with a fork.

  • Bring a little Baja California to your menus with fish tacos. Serve grilled or sautéed fish fillets in tortillas with shredded cabbage, tomatoes, and a white sauce made by stirring plain yogurt with a little sour cream, cilantro, and lime juice.

  • Pork chops don't require a long cooking time. In an oiled nonstick skillet, cook chops until browned; turn and cook just until no longer pink inside. Remove chops from skillet, and cover to keep warm. Over medium heat, add minced shallots or onions, and stir just until they're translucent. Increase the heat to high, and add a little wine, apple juice or cider, or chicken broth. Stir constantly, making sure to scrape up any browned bits. Cook until sauce is boiling, browned, and starting to thicken a bit. Melt in a little butter. Season with salt and pepper and pour over cooked chops.

  • Marinating adds a quick and tasty kick. Marinate boneless chicken breasts or thighs in Italian salad dressing; grill over hot coals or in a grill pan or indoor grill. Serve with fresh pasta and prepared pasta sauce.

  • Have an omelet night. Offer a selection of chopped vegetables and cheeses, and make omelets to order. Add a fruit or vegetable salad and some bread (or toast), and you've got a meal.

  • Don't rule out sandwiches. Make paninis in the indoor grill using sliced Italian bread, sliced meats and cheeses, sliced tomatoes, and lettuce and/or fresh basil leaves. When making grilled cheese sandwiches, first spread bread with mustard; add a slice of tomato. Dress up tuna salad with hard-cooked eggs, chopped cucumber, chopped or shredded carrot, minced celery, chopped green onion, and mayonnaise seasoned with a couple drops of hot sauce.

  • Pull out that slow cooker. For simple Salisbury steak with a twist, layer sliced carrots, cubed potatoes, sliced celery, and chopped onions in the crock. Place round steak on top; pour a can of tomato sauce over the meat. Cover and cook on low 6 to 8 hours. Serve with steamed rice.
See the next page for more meal ideas, and tips on knowing when food is done enough.

For more great information on meal planning, see: