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A Chowhound 30 Minute meal aka help!

Being a rising star of young supermoms my schedule is so busy that my favorite part of my day is when I get in bed. One of my many goals for this year is to cook at least three times a week and use leftover to get me through lunches. I work two jobs and go to school so prep time is almost non-existent. My budget is limited, ok let's realistically call it creative :). My daughter and I have an agreement that she will start eating vegetables next month (in exchange for a very pretty lunch box). Please help me with some ideas that will show what chowhounds can do with 30 minutes, a picky little kid, and a limited buget.

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  1. Not to be too obvious, but check out Rachel Ray's 30-minute meals: http://www.rachaelraymag.com/recipes/...

    1 Reply
    1. re: Tehama

      Thanks Tehama. I am more looking to pick the brains of the chowhounds tho. I want to know what Sam Fujisaka, Sweet P, Rev Sharkie, J food, and many other lovers of food can do with this no-so-complicated food challenge.

    2. For another child's journey into the land of vegetables... you have to read this blog!

      This UK mom had a 7 year old boy who ran from vegetables. They agreed to try and eat their way through the veg alphabet (they're currently in the "Rs").

      It's a great read with some great recipes for kids. Head into the archives.


      1. Red lentil soup. It's a 45 minute meal, but delicious, healthy, and good for leftovers. I've made it twice since it appeared in the New York Times last week


        I would recommend reducing the amount of water she calls for. The first time I made it, I accidentally left it out all together, and it was stew like. This last time I used the full two cups, and I found the flavor watered down a bit...

        1. i like to grill 4 or 5 chicken breasts at a time, seasoned w/ some olive oil, garlic salt and lemon pepper. they keep really well and even taste good cold. you can put these in salads, wraps, and sandwiches...i like to also make sauces like roasted vegetable marinara, thai red curry, etc., to pour over the chicken. you can then serve these w/ rice or pasta.

          1. If you have a crockpot and thermos, it opens up a lot of options. I make almost everything in the crockpot so when we walk in the door at 7 or 8, dinner is ready. Easy ones with vegetables are stews and curries. You can chop the vegetables the night before. I like to braise the meat and saute the vegetables but it can do w/out. When you come home, take out the meat, puree w/ an immersion blender and your child can have thickened soup w/out even knowing there are vegetables. Soup is also excellent. Make the soup in a crockpot, refrigerate. When you get home, add cooked meat, vegetables (frozen if you don't have time to chop). Thicken the soup for chicken pot pie the next day. I also make chili, using rehydrated beans and a lot of tomatoes. The next day, use the chili as a base, top w/ cornbread batter and cook in the crockpot.

            1. start out with lightly battered and fried vegetables (tempura style), let her dip them in Ketchup, Mayo or even ranch dressing (just like the fast food places). Kids will eat almost anything fried and dipped in ketchup. From there you can take some of her favs and let her dip those raw into the ketchup or mayo. Little steps.

              1. I work full time and have 2 young kids. A friend bought me this book and while it is not necessarily a "gourmet" cookbook, the dishes that I have tried have all been good, easy and somewhat healthy.


                I know that you say that prep time is limited, but do you have time to cook at all on the weekends? I often cook double batches of things that will freeze well, to be pulled out of the freezer at a later date (although I usually do a lot of my cooking from 9-11 at night after my kids are asleep -- no wonder I'm so tired!)

                1. How about veggie quesadillas? They take even less than 30min and are definitely kid-friendly.

                  1. Homemade soups were always a favorite of my daughter when she was young. Split pea with ham (the recipe from the New Basics Cookbook is good) and her all time favorite is white bean with sausage, although I replace the pork sausage with a turkey kielbasa. These are both relatively easy to make and can be done a day ahead of time and reheated. Chicken fajitas are nice and easy and can be paired with bean salads, corn salads, etc. Chicken Milanese is also a step up from chicken fingers but well received by little ones...and you can top yours with a nice arugula, tomato, fresh mozzarella salad!

                    1. Frittatas were historically our answer to this problem. Simple and cheap to whip up, delicious hot or at room temp (or even cold), can incorporate many vegetables in the basic mix, and a little cheese on the top makes some youngsters more liable to eat it.

                      We don't need to cajole on veggies anymore in our house, but frittatas remain one of our pressed-for-time favorites. Served with a side of simply dressed greens, a wonderful dinner. They also make great leftover lunches. Check any recipe site for a basic frittata recipe/technique that appeals to you and your comfort with skills, then go from there with your own vegetable leftovers.

                      Last night's frittata for us was onions, red peppers (from the freezer), potatoes, some heels of bacon, garlic, some Manchego on top. Greens on the side. Hub took some for lunch today. Teen Daughter had some for breakfast, and will soon be arriving home, hungry, and have some more as a snack. Even though that combo is pretty straightforward, you can put so many sauteed veg. into the basic recipe: asparagus, tomatoes, leftover green beans, sauteed...on and on.

                      Good for dinner, then breakfast and lunch. Quick and nutritious. Probably a good thing for young supermoms who ALSO need their nutrition!


                      1. Thanks, dream.

                        Cooking for my picky four-year old reflects a couple of goals like yours: that she eats vegetables and that she gets sufficient variety to not get bored. The backbone of what she eats are thick pureed soups: French carrot (caramelized onion, followed by potatoes, carrots, in chicken stock with powdered milk added at blitzing), a similar lentil soup (cooked with dried African game meat), a similar dried green pea soup, soupy black beans (cooked with pork ribs) and a similar squash soup. I then keep loads of poached chicken (torn in thin strips, some beef sausage, milk, eggs, and cooked rice and pasta—usually fusilli). The soups, poached chicken, and pasta are all done in relatively large batches and stored. None of the soups really takes much prep time. From these combos I can whip up her meals, including:

                        1. Any of the soups with a bit of sausage or chicken
                        2. Soups with meat and pasta or rice
                        3. Soups with egg and pasta or rice (cooked in the microwave)
                        4. Pasta with chicken and a bit of soy sauce and toasted sesame oil
                        5. Beans and rice
                        6. And on and on

                        Additionally, she eats yogurt (that I make in large batches), granola in milk, bananas, bread, cheeses, raisins… I cook up a lot of the basics for her on week-ends, needing no more than an hour of prep time for a lot of food. She’s eating now—carrot soup, poached chicken, and pasta—with prep and microwave heating taking maybe 3-4 minutes. All the stuff she eats is high quality and low cost>

                        All the best!

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                          Amen to all Sam's suggestions. But I'd add something in the pasta department. Take a look at the book "Pasta Improvvisata" (get it at the library). Instead of making what Americans think of as pasta sauces, make a sofritto of chopped aromatic vegetables in olive oil and add whatever other ones you think are good, and toss it with the pasta. And you can chop onions and garlic and carrots and celery ahead of time with a food processor if you like, and freeze small quantities in zip-lock bags. Then vary the pasta shapes. Also, if you can get her to help you make some of these things--like soup or even meatloaf--she may take a special interest in the food. And never forget the old trick of boiling up frozen mixed vegetables, V-8 juice, water and rice and putting them into a wide-mouth thermos to "cook" until lunch time. Just don't put in meat or fish, as these may ferment.

                        2. I ran across a this "30 Minute Meals" http://30minutemeals.net network that has a bunch of meals categorized into Breakfast Lunch and Dinner, and all their recipes take less than 30 minutes. Hope this helps.

                          1. A stew might work. Maybe something like a beef and carrot stew (which can have many variations). I find stew to be easy to prep, easy to re-heat, flexible (you can sneak many veggies in there!) and pretty cheap.

                            Good luck!

                            1. Three or four very delish ways I got veggies into my kids:

                              - steam or nuke a bag of carrots, add butter, brown sugar (just a bit) and cinnamon
                              - toss a pound of green beans with olive oil and garlic, and broil (I buy the bags that have recently appeared and require very little if any prep, as long as you use them when they are very fresh) Honestly, we eat twice as much green beans broiled as we do any other way. Also works with red peppers and onions added.
                              - steam some veggies (broccoli, cauliflower or carrots and beans, whatever) and toss with pasta, then put a quick peanut sauce over it (buy a sauce, or make it with peanut butter, hot water, mirin, soy sauce, sriracha, lime juice)
                              - raw veggies dipped in salad dressing, very popular
                              - salad became popular with my kids at a young age, with homemade vinegrette, or let your daughter pick out a salad dressing at the store

                              1. My two sons have a love hate relationship with veggies. Most of the time they hate them, but sometimes they just love them. I find that roasting is a great way to get veggies in them, and cheap too. The problem is that the prepping takes more than 40 minutes. You can prep into small pieces ahead of time and store and then stick them right in the oven when you get home. Or even roast ahead of time. Grilling is also a great thing. You can roast big batches and use it for several different meals. First night with a protein, second inside a quesadilla or enchilada, third into a quick bean soup for instance.

                                Lentil soup that has been mentioned is another trick of mine.

                                My kids also love Indian food. I make it without the chilis, so I don't enjoy it as much, but they do. You can make a quick saag paneer with frozen spinach and my kids actually eat spinach like that! No other way, even in pasta.

                                I make large batches of pizza dough because my son has Celiac disease, but you can do the same with regular dough. I par bake it, keep it in the freezer and then top and bake up quickly. The key is a very hot oven and a pizza stone. You can somtimes stick veggies on it.

                                Fritatta is another favorite or other egg dishes. And cheap.

                                1. Pasta is great, start the pot of water to boil, and start chopping some veggies! Here is my general recipe (adaptable to what ever veggies you have). What great about these simple pasta's that that you can add a bit of oil and vinegar and voila, you have pasta salad for lunch! http://blog.firecooked.com/2007/03/04...

                                  Beans done in the crock pot... add spinach at the end. You can also do with canned beans. http://blog.firecooked.com/2007/03/14...

                                  Soups.. have some good quality chicken broth (I like the Pacific Organic Free Range.. not super cheap, but makes a good pot of soup). Start with some sauted onions, add carrots, beans (draing and rinsed from a can), cut up pre-cooked sausage links (or link, one is usually enoung), some green veggies.

                                  Omelets... cook a few veggies (can be brocolli, asparagus, spinach, onions & bell pepper, etc) in your omelet pan then set to the side, cook omelets with the veggies, a bit a cheese, and some meat (leftover chicken, ham, etc) if desired inside.

                                  1. I have a near toddler, crazy schedule and newly limited budget myself, these are some things that have saved me.
                                    Pasta dishes like stuffed shells or lasagne are good to make over the weekend. I make extra and freeze portions for during the week for dinner, plus there is usually leftovers for lunch.
                                    Crabcakes - not the cheapest thing to make, but are also great to freeze.
                                    I have been using my crockpot about once a week for beef or lamb stews etc. A salad and side dish of egg noodles, couscous etc rounds out the meal.
                                    Soups - I love to make a big batch on Sundays, I use it for lunch and for pre-dinner on nights we are sick of salad. I stick to low fat and healthy soups like lentil, veggie or cabbage and veggie or white bean and escarole.
                                    Hope this helps and I am hoping to get some good ideas myself from your post!

                                    1. I just posted this recipe on another thread, but it would probably do the trick.

                                      NY Times Tomato Paella:

                                      Quick, easy, one-dish, and can be varied by adding other ingredients (we've had luck with artichoke hearts, green beans, chorizo, chrimp, mussels, etc. Not all at once but in different incarnations).

                                      1. Not a recipe tip, but have you tried getting her to help out in the kitchen? If she's old enough to make a deal with you, you could probably have her wash veggies, dump them out of the bowl into the pan, or maybe even trim them if she can do it by hand (stringing snow peas, snapping asparagus stalks). She might be more interested in eating food that she's helped prepare.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: Pia

                                          Thanks everyone for the ideas. I'm taking notes as the post progresses. Many of these ideas are great for my life.