Time is of the essence when juggling new schedules and responsibilities. Whether you want to make a quick-and-easy, healthy dinner or you want a fun family project, one-container recipes are a great option.
“By combining protein, a starch, favorite vegetables, and a tasty sauce, you will save cooking time and make clean up a breeze,” says Laura Barr Walker, University of Illinois Extension nutrition and wellness educator. “There are multiple ways to do one-container recipes, from slow-cooker meals to sheet-pan dinners.”
Walker offers the following tips:
- Choose recipes wisely
Look for recipes that line up with your household’s needs. Walker recommends asking yourself a few key questions:
- Is this for one meal, to generate leftovers, or to double and freeze?
- What is on hand to use?
- What are your family’s favorite ingredients or recipes?
“The answers should help guide you when choosing one-pot or sheet pan recipes that will suit you,” she says.
A great place to start is the recipe finder at https://eat-move-save.extension.illinois.edu/eat/recipes .
- Mix and match
Use both shelf-stable pantry foods and items in your refrigerator and freezer.
“This helps expand the types of meals you can make,” Walker says. “Use the ‘first in, first out’ method for your food supply by using older items first. Keep this in mind for fresh produce as well.”
- Make it a family affair
All family members can help in the kitchen, making meal preparation a fun event. “Planning and making family meals together builds family bonds, cooking skills, and nutrition knowledge,” Walker says.
Younger children can measure or count ingredients, whisk or stir foods, and use a plastic knife to cut soft foods, such as bananas. Older youth can chop fruits and vegetables, practice with cooking on the stove, and measure temperatures with a food thermometer.
- Keep it safe and prevent waste
Once shelf-stable ingredients, such as salad dressing, sauces or canned vegetables, are open, store any remaining food in the refrigerator. Also, plan to use those leftover meals in three to four days. If you have a large batch recipe, freeze half for a meal next week.
“One-container meals can make meal planning, prep and clean-up easier,” Walker says. “Tuna casseroles and chili are traditional favorites, of course, but you also can explore other options that are both nutritious and flexible.”
Try out this do-it-yourself sheet pan meal guide:
- 1 pound of protein – choose chicken, tofu, pork or beef
- 2 cups of starchy vegetables – such as potato, corn, peas or dry beans
- 3 to 4 cups of non-starchy vegetables – such as broccoli, carrot, mushroom, onion, celery, tomato and bell or spicy peppers
- Favorite seasonings – rosemary, thyme, sage, red pepper, parsley or garlic powder, and your favorites, of course (season to taste)
- Vegetable oil or non-stick cooking spray
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
- Cube starchier vegetables and toss them in 1 Tbsp. of vegetable oil and sprinkle with 2/3 of your mixed spices.
- Slice or cube proteins. Keep in mind, the bigger the size, the more time needed to cook to the correct temperature.
- Spray a pan with non-stick cooking spray and fill two-thirds of the pan with the protein and the starchy vegetables. Bake for 20 minutes.
- Chop non-starchy vegetables and toss in 1 Tbsp. of vegetable oil and remaining 1/3 of the spice mixture.
- When the timer goes off, safely remove the pan from the oven and add the non-starchy, seasoned vegetables to the remaining one-third of the pan.
- Bake an additional 15 minutes and use a meat thermometer to check if meat is thoroughly cooked.
For a do-it-yourself guide for casseroles, go to https://eat-move-save.extension.illinois.edu/blog/whats-pantry-make-diy-casserole
For more tips for families during this time, go to http://go.illinois.edu/ExtensionCOVID19resources