Since I avoid using convenience foods as much as possible and am a busy, working mom, it is necessary to find nutritious and tasty dishes that I can make from scratch quickly. When the weather is cold, my family enjoys eating soups, chili, and fresh from the oven casseroles. These dishes can be made from inexpensive ingredients and when made from scratch, I can control the amount of fat and sodium in them, plus there is less mess to clean up after dinner.
One-pot meals, like soups, stews, or casseroles, make it easy to cover all the food groups and do not require hours of preparation time to set something healthy in front of your family. They are also great for using up leftovers, which can also help stretch your food budget. Turkey, chicken, beef, or even leftover beans can add protein to soups or casseroles. Even small amounts of leftover vegetables can even be combined and frozen until you have enough to use in a soup.
Try these tips to make your one-pot meals healthier:
- To lower the fat content of creamy or cheesy soups or casseroles substitute low-fat milk, plain yogurt, cottage cheese, or low-fat cream cheese in place of whole milk, whipping cream, and half-n-half. Most Alfredo sauces in a jar have less fat and sodium than canned cream of chicken or mushroom soup and this can be substituted in many recipes.
- Ground chicken and turkey are great proteins that can be used in the place of beef in many recipes. These two high-quality proteins have less fat and many essential nutrients. As always, when handling raw chicken or turkey, be sure to wash your hands in between handling it and anything else. Also, make sure you cook your chicken and turkey to an internal temperature of 165 degrees to make sure it is safe to eat.
- You can stretch your soup or casserole easily by adding a side of whole-wheat bread or crackers. Add some fruit or a salad and you have a complete meal.
- Trying to add more whole grains to your diet? Add some cooked quinoa, barley, or brown rice to your soup. If you want to add it to the cooking process, add extra broth or water to your soup according to the package directions. If you have leftovers of a soup with grains or pasta in them add some milk or broth when reheating to thin the soup.
- Make your own soup stock to control the amount of sodium, fat, and money. Store or freeze leftover meat (including the bones) until you have enough for making stock. Add water, celery, carrots, onions/garlic, and herbs for seasoning your stock sodium-free. Stock soup can be frozen and thawed as needed.
Basic Chicken Stock
1 ½ tsp. salt
1 lb. chicken parts
1 large onion, quartered
1 large carrot
3 whole cloves
3 stalks celery, including some of the leaves
6 cups water
1. Chop scrubbed celery and carrot into 1-inch chunks. Place chicken pieces, onion, celery, carrot, salt, and cloves in a large soup pot or Dutch oven. Add 6 cups of water.
2. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 1 hour.
3. Remove chicken & vegetables. Strain stock then skim the fat off the surface (Remove fat from the broth by cooling then skimming with a spoon, adding and removing ice cubes, or blotting top of broth with paper towels).
If you would like to know more ways to make healthy, quick meals for your family, contact Alison Crane at 501-623-6841 or email [email protected] Try this easy basic chicken broth recipe, to make a great base for your soups.
Alison Crane is a Family and Consumer Science Agent with the Garland County Extension Service. Follow her on Facebook at GarlandExtensionHomeLife.
White Chicken Chili
makes 10 servings
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. oregano
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. chili powder
¼ cup cilantro (optional)
2 cups chicken broth (low sodium or homemade)
2 cups low-fat milk
4 cups cooked white beans (look for low sodium if using canned beans)
1 chopped large onion
1 chopped green chili (adjust to taste)
2 chopped red peppers
3 cloves minced garlic
6 corn tortillas, toasted and cut into 1-inch squares
¾ lb chicken (cooked and cubed)
1. Sauté peppers and onion in olive oil in a large pot.
2. Add green chili, garlic, spices, and chicken broth. Simmer for 20 minutes.
3. Add milk, cooked beans, and cooked chicken, then allow mixture to thicken before adding cilantro. Heat the mixture through.
4. Top chili with crisp tortillas before serving.
Nutritional Information: 208 calories per serving; fat: 4g (1 g. saturated fat); cholesterol: 16mg; carbohydrates: 30g; protein: 15g.; and sodium: 96mg.
This recipe is adapted by Alison Crane from Washington State WIC Program, The Bold and Beautiful Book of Bean Recipes.
Chicken Noodle Soup
Makes six servings
sprinkle thyme or sage (optional)
¼ tsp. black pepper
½ tsp. salt
1 cup chopped celery
4 cups uncooked noodles
1 chopped onion (chopped)
3 large, thinly sliced carrot
3 lbs. skinless chicken pieces
1. Thaw frozen chicken.
2. Place chicken pieces in a large pot. Cover completely with water, bring to boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 1-2 hours.
3. Remove cooked chicken pieces from broth with tongs or slotted spoon. Let cool for 10-15 minutes before separating bones from meat. Break the meat into bite-size pieces. Remove any bones from broth.
4. Remove fat from the broth by skimming with a spoon, adding and removing ice cubes, or blotting the top of the broth with paper towels.
5. Put chicken meat, seasonings, and vegetables into stock.
6. Bring broth to a boil, cover, reduce heat and cook about 15-20 minutes on medium heat until sliced carrots are crispy-tender.
7. Add noodles and boil uncovered for about 6-7 minutes, stirring occasionally to break up any noodles that might stick together.
8. Refrigerate or freeze leftovers within 2 hours of cooking.
If refrigerated, use within 2 days. When reheating, bring to a boil. Be sure to use soap and water, carefully wash your hands and any counter surfaces and equipment that came in contact with raw chicken.
Nutritional Information: 276 calories per serving; fat: 5g (1 g. saturated fat); cholesterol: 109mg; carbohydrates: 24g; protein: 32g.; and sodium: 338mg.
This recipe is adapted by Alison Crane from the University of Minnesota, Cooperative Extension Service, Simply Good Eating Recipe Cards, Vol. 1, 2000.
Chicken Pot Pie
Makes six servings
½ cup nonfat milk
1 cup baking mix*, reduced-fat (Bisquick)
1 cup cooked chicken, shredded
1 ⅔ cup of frozen mixed vegetables, allowed to thaw.
10.4 oz of Alfredo sauce or 1 can low-fat cream of chicken soup
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
3. Mix vegetables, chicken, and soup in an ungreased, 9-inch pie plate
4. Stir remaining ingredients in a mixing bowl with a fork until blended. Pour over vegetables and chicken in a pie plate.
5. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown.
6. Let cool for 5 minutes and serve.
Nutritional Information: 189 calories per serving; fat: 4g (1 g. saturated fat); carbohydrates: 26g; protein: 13g.; and sodium: 716mg.
This recipe is adapted by Alison Crane from the Texas Cooperative Extension, The Texas A&M University System, Expanded Nutrition Program
*To make your own Master Mix, visit: https://www.uaex.edu/counties/miller/Too%20Much%20Month%20at%20the%20End%20of%20Your%20Money%20-%20August%202016.pdf