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Meals in minutes

By Staff | Mar 4, 2011

Participants at Iowa State University Extension’s “Healthy Meals in a Hurry” class in Rockwell City combined the ingredients for dry cream soup mix.

ROCKWELL CITY – Think it’s too time-consuming for busy home cooks to make meals that are convenient, affordable, flavorful and nutritious? Not so, said Holly VanHeel, a family nutrition and health specialist with Iowa State University Extension.

“We want all of our food fast today, whether we’re eating out or cooking at home,” said VanHeel, who recently taught a “Healthy Meals in a Hurry” class to 25 participants at the Calhoun County Extension office in Rockwell City.

“By using recipes that allow you to do some of the preparation ahead of time, you can provide your family with better nutrition, reduce your stress and enjoy the benefits that come when your family sits down to a meal together.”

To make the process simple, ISU Extension has compiled a 40-page “Healthy Meals in a Hurry” cookbook, filled with meal planning tips, fill-your-freezer plans, and nearly 20 healthy recipes, ranging from pantry staples like dry cream soup mix to main dishes like broccoli chicken rice casserole.

On average, all the main dish recipes cost 87 cents per serving, said VanHeel, who noted that the “Healthy Meals in a Hurry” recipe booklet (PM 2035) is available through local Extension offices.

Mitch Hinrichs and Nicole Piechocki, both of Rockwell City, stir a pot of Mexican soup.

These recipes can be cooked and served the same day, or a variety of dishes can be prepared at one time and frozen for later use.

These frozen assets can be a real benefit, VanHeel said.”Not only will your meal planning become simpler and faster, but you’ll also have delicious items that you can pull out of the freezer if surprise guests drop by.”

Dry cream soup mix

This recipe makes the equivalent of 7 cans of cream soup.

2 cups nonfat dry milk powder

Gloria Casey, left, and Jan Remsburg, both from Manson, prepare a batch of taco meat that can be used in a variety of recipes.

3/4 cup cornstarch

1/4 cup sodium-free dry chicken bouillon

2 tablespoons dried minced onion flakes

1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves

1 teaspoon dried basil leaves

Sue Carlson, of Rockwell City, combines ingredients for dry cream soup mix.

1/2 teaspoon ground pepper

Combine all ingredients and mix well. Place in a storage container with a tight-fitting lid. Seal tightly.

Store in a cool, dry place for up to six months. Stir or shake well before each use.

To use this as a substitute for one can of condensed cream soup, mix 1/3 cup of the dry mix with 1 1/4 cups water.

Stove top directions:

Ericka Paulson, of Rockwell City, prepares broccoli chicken rice casserole.

Cook soup mix and water and stir with a whisk until mixture has thickened.

Microwave directions:

Using a large, microwave-safe bowl, cook soup mix and water on high for two to three minutes, stirring with a whisk every 30 seconds, until mixture has thickened.

Broccoli chicken rice casserole

This recipe, which makes six servings, can be frozen and reheated later.

3/4 cup instant brown rice

1/3 cup chopped onion

1 teaspoon margarine

1/3 cup dry cream soup mix (see recipe above)

1 1/4 cups water

1 16-ounce package frozen broccoli florets or chopped broccoli

2 cups chopped cooked chicken

1 cup reduced-fat shredded Cheddar cheese

Prepare rice according to package directions. Meanwhile, in a Dutch oven or deep pan, cook onion in margarine over low to medium heat until onion is golden. Add dry soup mix to the pan, stirring to mix well. Stir in water. Heat to boiling. Cook and stir until thick.

Add frozen broccoli, cooked chicken and cooked rice. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until mixture is nearly heated through. Add cheese and heat until cheese is melted.

Taco seasoning mix

This makes the equivalent of 6 (1.25-ounce) packages.

1/4 cup dried minced onion

2 tablespoons chili powder

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1 tablespoon crushed dried red pepper

1 tablespoon garlic powder

1 tablespoon dried oregano

1 tablespoon ground cumin

Combine all ingredients and mix well. Place in a storage container with a tight-fitting lid. Seal tightly. Store in a cool, dry place for up to one year. Stir or shake well before each use. To use as a substitute for commercially-prepared taco seasoning mixes, measure 2 tablespoons per pound of ground meat.

Mexican black bean soup

This recipe, which can be prepared in the slow cooker and makes 14 one-cup servings, can be frozen and reheated later.

1 pound black beans

18 cups water, divided

2 carrots, peeled and chopped (1 cup)

1 cup celery, chopped

1 medium onion, chopped (1 / 2 cup)

1 14.5-ounce can Italian-style diced tomatoes

1 14.5-ounce can low-sodium stewed tomatoes

4 envelopes of low- or no-sodium chicken bouillon granules

2 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons vinegar (red wine vinegar can be used for more flavor)

1 tablespoon ready-to-eat minced garlic

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon chili powder

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1 cup uncooked brown rice

Wash and sort beans and put in a large bowl. Add 12 cups of water; cover and soak for 8 to 12 hours in the refrigerator.

Thoroughly drain the soaked beans. Place beans and 6 cups of fresh water in a slow cooker. Add carrots, celery, onion, tomatoes, bouillon, sugar, vinegar, garlic, oregano, chili powder and pepper. Cover and cook on high for 8 hours.

If using long-grain brown rice, stir it into the bean mixture about one hour before the soup is done cooking.

If using instant brown rice, stir it into the soup about 20 minutes before the soup is done.

Basic cooked meat


This recipe, which can be frozen and used later, works well with pizza, spaghetti and other dishes.

2 pounds 93 percent lean ground beef

3 pounds lean ground turkey, white breast, no skin

2 medium onions, chopped

1 cup chopped celery

2 teaspoons ready-to-eat minced garlic, or 1 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon pepper

Brown ground meat and vegetables in a large skillet. Drain fat. Cook over heat for an additional 15 minutes. Continue cooking until meat reach 165 degrees.

Stir in pepper.

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