The older my kids get, the less time I have to spend in the kitchen; and what time I do have seems to come in short and scattered periods.
Meals I can make in a hurry — and then leave until later — have become a must in my life.
Nine years old, my son is a pretty good help when it comes to giving meal suggestions. I tend to get in a recipe rut, so his ideas are a welcome inspiration. Last week, he reminded me that I hadn’t made our family favorite Salmon Patties meal since moving into this house a year ago. Sad that he was right, I went for it.
Of course, my meal prep time was limited, so I cleaned the salmon and mixed up the ingredients before running out the door for one activity or another. I resumed with cooking when we got back home; and quite some time later, the meal still not fully prepared, my hungry husband cautiously asked, “Is supper almost ready?”
My quick reply came as I stood tending a stovetop full of food. “No! This is why I don’t make ‘real meals’ anymore. I just don’t have time!” He nodded his head in understanding agreement.
It’s true. The time-consuming and more difficult dishes will always have their place in my life. But right now, on a daily basis, does not seem to be it.
Thus, quick and easy recipes like those following have become my happy reality.
Here are three of my favorite make-ahead meals, Mexican style.
Chicken Enchilada Soup
When I tasted my friend Emily’s Chicken Enchilada Soup, I knew I had to have the recipe. I asked if she’d be willing to share it with me, and when she said, “Yes, but I’m kind of embarrassed because it’s all canned and frozen ingredients,” I said, “EVEN BETTER!”
Personally, I could eat soup all year round. My husband and kids, not so much. (In fact, my kids don’t even like soup, but they love this!) Well, thank goodness fall is here, because soup weather is a huge time saver for me — especially when Chicken Enchilada Soup is on the menu! I can literally make this meal in five to ten minutes and not think about it again until suppertime.
2 – 12.5 oz. cans chunk chicken breast
1 – 16 oz. jar enchilada sauce
2 c milk
1 – 14.5 oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 – 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes (Muir Glen Organic Fire Roasted are my FAVE!)
1 – 14.5 oz. can Cream of Chicken soup
1 – 14.5 oz. can corn, drained (OR, I use frozen corn and measure in one of the emptied cans)
1 c frozen peppers/onions mix
1 – 4 oz. can diced green chilies
2 c shredded Mexican cheese blend
Tortilla strips or chips
DIRECTIONS: Mix all ingredients together in the Crock Pot, heat, and eat! Cook on High if you’re low on time or on Low if you’re in less of a hurry. Serve with tortilla strips or crushed tortilla chips and shredded cheese.
This is another recipe I got from a friend, and it instantly became a family-favorite. I make Taco Salad for my family at least once a month, often twice, and I’ve found it to be an excellent recipe for larger gatherings, as well.
1 lb. hamburger
1 yellow onion, diced
1 package Taco Seasoning (I like Simply Organic!)
1 – 14.5 oz. can Aduki beans
4 oz. French dressing
4 oz. salsa (I recommend Tres Mentes Medium Chunky!)
Shredded Mexican Cheese blend
DIRECTIONS: Brown hamburger and diced onion and add your favorite taco seasoning. Place the meat mixture in the refrigerator (or freezer, if you’re short on time!) to cool. At mealtime, mix together French dressing and your favorite salsa and set aside. Chop lettuce and combine with shredded cheese in a large serving bowl. Add the dressing mixture and toss to combine. Next, add the cooled meat mixture and beans and toss to mix. Serve garnished with crushed Taco Doritos.
Note: I like to mix up only what I think we’ll eat in one sitting — which is approximately this entire portion for my family of six — and save the rest for a later batch (I usually make two pounds of taco meat and hold back half). That way the lettuce stays crisp and fresh!
Crock Pot Chicken Fajitas
Recently, I hosted a Pampered Chef Show, and my consultant made for us the most delicious Chicken Fajitas I’ve ever tasted. For the purposes of the show, she cooked in the microwave — not necessarily my style, as I prefer to use the stove top. However, thanks to a Facebook friend, I just discovered another fast way of cooking my fajitas: in the Crock Pot!
2 lbs. boneless skinless chicken breasts
Pampered Chef’s Chipotle seasoning
1 – 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes
Green/red/yellow bell peppers, sliced
1 yellow onion, sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
Juice of 1 lime
DIRECTIONS: Add half of sliced peppers and onions to Crock Pot. Layer thawed chicken breasts on top and sprinkle both sides with seasoning. Add garlic, half of lime juice, and tomatoes. Layer on remaining peppers and onions, and add the remaining lime juice. Cook on High for 3 hours. Cut up chicken pieces and cook an additional 10 minutes. Serve on tortillas with shredded cheese, lettuce, sour cream, and guacamole.