One pot wonders designed to be kid, pocket and schedule friendly

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By: Jena Demerly

Rachael Bender/Flavor 574

It’s okay to admit it, we’ve all had those days: those particularly challenging days when we limp home from an exhausting day at work only to be greeted by a sink full of dirty dishes and threats of a hunger-induced kid-plosion of tantrum.

It’s days like these when I find myself most tempted to resort to the quick fix of an overly priced and less-than-healthy fast food run and, if I’m being honest, this would likely have become my solution of choice had I not been introduced to the miracle that is the one pot wonder.

This type of meal was a staple of my mom’s as I was growing up and, now that I’m a busy mom of two busy kids myself, I understand why. The one pot wonder is a sanity-saving miracle of a meal which — wait for it — is made start to finish in a single pot. These recipes take half an hour or less to cook, are chock-full of healthy, yet kid-friendly ingredients, are incredibly inexpensive, and minimize the dirty-dish-damage: a seriously winning combination for any busy parent battling a ravenous brood.

The trick to making the one pot wonder work for you is to make sure you’re preparing it in the right order. The meat must always be first to hit the heat as it takes the most time to cook properly (nobody has time for food poisoning). The second ingredient to be added will be the wet ingredient used to bind the starch of the meal (we’re usually talking milk, water or a combination of the two here), followed by, you guessed it, the starch. My kids are picky eaters, so I most often choose basic quick-cook brown rice or instant mashed potatoes but the more adventurous may want to experiment with different varieties of rice and things like quinoa. Finally, you’re going to want to toss in a variety of appropriate canned vegetables: in other words, whichever ones your kids will give half a chance this week.

Here’s a one pot wonder recipe I used tonight which received “Mmmmm” reviews from my under-five-foot crowd:

One Pot Shepard’s Pie
Prep time: Less than 10 minutes
Cooking time: Approximately 20 minutes

Ingredients 

  • 1 lb lean ground chuck
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 tbsp margarine
  • ¾ cup 2% low fat milk
  • 2 cups instant potato flakes (no-name brand works just fine)
  • 15 oz can each of carrots, corn, green beans, and peas
  • ½ cup shredded colby jack cheese
  • salt, pepper, chopped dried onions, and garlic powder to taste
  • ½ of a 7oz box of crushed cheese crackers

Directions

  1. Cook the ground chuck thoroughly on medium-high heat, adding seasonings to taste.
  2. Combine water, margarine, and milk. Bring to boil.
  3. Reduce heat and add potato flakes. Stir until thickened.
  4. Add canned vegetables and leave on heat until warm.
  5. Top with a layer of shredded colby jack cheese and crushed cheese crackers
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