Cooks Exchange

Fast-fix dinners come to the rescue on busy days

Most schools are back in session, and with that comes homework and a myriad of extracurricular activities for students and parents.

I for one am not ready for the rush from school to activity to perhaps another activity to say nothing of homework. Since a majority of parents work, grandparents get called in to service. This grand is coming into the fast pace dragging my feet.

Even preparing dinner is hard when family members do not like the same foods. I am determined this school year to fix one dinner meal and no extra. No ramen. No canned spaghetti. No mac and cheese every night. I am taking a stand for healthy, fast-fixed meals.

Anyone want to take bets on how long this meal plan lasts? At least I am going to try.

Two friends of mine sent me quick-fix recipes that I am going to try. Melanie Anderson Mason of Texas, with whom my granddaughter and I floated down the Guadalupe River, made a sausage and vegetable semi-Asian dish that I loved. Lilly ate the rice.

I must persevere.

The dish uses a variety of fresh veggies and sausage plus Asian seasonings. It is delicious. It has a nice sauce and sausage is a nice change from beef or chicken. I especially like the jalapeno and cheese sausage, which adds a little heat, but not too much.

Now Mason doesn’t measure and just adds whatever veggies she has on hand. Her recipe has no amounts but adjust to your family’s tastes.

A sweet woman we go to church with shared an old-time goulash recipe that is a quick fix and has few ingredients. Charlotte Pascua found this recipe on the internet and thought I would like it. It is made with elbow macaroni, tomatoes and ground beef. I try to use at least 80 percent lean ground beef, and really like the 93 percent lean for casseroles.

Years ago, a then-coworker, Kate Magandy Holzhauser, gave me a great cookbook, “All New Cookbook for Diabetics and Their Families,” which has stained pages as proof to how often I have used this book. Chicken Florentine with mushroom sauce can be on the table in less than 45 minutes and has 180 calories per serving.

Here are three recipes that are quick fixes for these hectic schooldays that are already starting.


1/2 pound macaroni

1/2 pound ground meat

1 huge onion, diced

Garlic, salt, pepper, packaged stew meat seasoning and hot sauce to taste

2 (14.5 ounces) jars stewed tomatoes, undrained

2 tablespoons ketchup

Cook the macaroni to al dente according to package directions. While it’s cooking, brown the ground beef and onion together in an extra-large skillet or in a Dutch oven. Drain and seasoning with spices to taste.

In a large bowl, mash tomatoes with a potato masher and add to beef along with the ketchup.

Drain macaroni and add to the beef mixture, stirring well. Taste and add additional seasoning as needed. I didn’t need to add any tomato juice to mine, but if you like yours very juicy you can add as much tomato juice as you like.

Tomato juice may be needed when reheating leftovers.

— Submitted by Charlotte Paschua from


Onion, chopped

Bell pepper, chopped

Sweet peppers sautéed in olive oil

Broccoli, optional



Bag of Asian chopped salad

Bag of spinach

Sausage, your favorite brand

Sweet Asian sauce (Mason uses HEB’s Mamma Tang’s Sweet Asian)

Place onion, peppers, veggies, except spinach and chopped salad, and sausage to skillet. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add sauce. The last few minutes of cooking add spinach and chopped salad.

This is done in less than 30 minutes from start to finish.

— Submitted by Melanie Anderson Mason


2 (2 1/2-ounce) skinned, boned chicken breast halves

1/4 cup chopped onion

Vegetable cooking spray

1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed

2 tablespoons shredded low-fat Swiss cheese

1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 cup sliced fresh mushrooms

1/2 cup skim milk

1/2 cup boiling water

1 tablespoon reduced-calorie margarine, melted (I use unsalted butter)

1/2 teaspoon chicken-flavored bouillon granules

Place chicken between 2 sheets of heavy-duty plastic wrap and flatted to 1/4-inch thickness, using a meat mallet or rolling pin. Set aside.

Sauté onion in a large skillet coated with cooking spray. Remove from heat and stir in spinach, cheese and nutmeg.

Divide mixture in half and shape into mounds. Transfer mounds to a 10-by-6-by-2-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Top each portion with a chicken breast half. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes or until chicken is done.

Place mushrooms in skillet. Stir in milk and remaining ingredients, and bring to a boil; boil 6 minutes, stirring frequently, until liquid is reduced and thickened. Spoon sauce evenly over each portion and serve hot.

— From “All New Cookbook for Diabetics and Their Families

Andrea Yeager can be reached at and Cooks Exchange, 205 DeBuys Road, Gulfport, MS 39507.