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The last-minute cook

Elizabeth Yarnell is a Certified Nutritional Consultant and the author of Glorious One-Pot Meals: A new quick & healthy approach to Dutch oven cooking, a guide to a guide to preparing quick, healthy and balanced one-pot meals. As a moth...

Ask almost anyone who is in charge of putting the daily dinner on the table what the most dreaded chore is and you'll likely hear a complaint about meal planning. Figuring out what to make for dinner day in and day out is something many of us loathe. We'd like something easy to make, a recipe that won't require hours in the kitchen and it would be great if the meal was good for our family as well. And, of course, if it doesn't taste great we might as well give up before we even start.

Of course, typically preparing exciting weeknight meals takes forethought, special trips to the grocery for specific ingredients and a couple hours set aside for preparation and then the clean-up of multiple pots and pans after dinner. We all want to serve our families dinners that are as good for them as they are good tasting, but, let's face it, only a few fortunate ones have the time to find interesting and achievable recipes, shop for fresh ingredients and spend hours in the kitchen every day of the week.

More likely, we find ourselves racing from the morning send-off through two careers, soccer practices, piano lessons, the dry cleaners and the other tasks that make up our busy days. And that's just before dinner. Afterward there's homework, household chores, and everything else that didn't get done during the daylight hours. Really, who can blame us for choosing to eat out, bringing food home or reaching for highly-processed and expensive frozen meals?

Here's a solution for our time-crunched lives: quick, healthy and easy infused one-pot meals. With a few strategic purchases stocked in your freezer and pantry, you can bring out your inner intuitive chef and eliminate the drudgery of meal-planning. Almost the opposite of crock-pot cooking, which requires that you think about dinner in the morning or it won't be ready, infused one-pot meals can cater to your last-minute mentality, allowing you to get a nutritious dinner on the table in about an hour with only a few minutes of actual hands-on preparation and less than 50 minutes of unattended baking.

Infused one-pot meals offer a healthy, balanced meal of protein, energy-providing carbohydrates, and a variety of vegetables to offer the range of vitamins, minerals and nutrients that we all need.

Here's an easy, last-minute recipe to throw together out of your freezer and pantry for a nutritious and delicious meal that doesn't require any forethought. So, even if you're a last-minute mom or dad, you can still serve up a meal to be proud of at a moment's notice.

Santa Fe Chicken
Servings 4

Ingredients
2 15 oz. cans black beans, drained & rinsed 2 green onions 4 pieces frozen boneless chicken 2 8 oz. cans green chiles or 8-12 Tbsp. prepared salsa 1 bell pepper, cut into 1" triangles 2 15 oz. cans corn kernels, drained 2 14 oz. cans tomatoes, diced, drained 2 6 oz. cans black California olives, drained and sliced

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Spray inside of 3 1/2 or 4-quart cast iron Dutch oven and lid with canola oil.

2. Open cans of beans, drain and rinse well. Pour in a layer across bottom of pot.

3. Slice green onion into rings and arrange on bean layer. Rinse chicken and arrange on top of onions. If using chiles, blanket the chicken with them. If using salsa, spoon over the chicken, using as much or as little according to taste. Add bell peppers, corn, tomatoes and olives in layers.

Cover and bake for 48 minutes or until the aroma wafts from the oven.

Notes
This is a great meal to make when you don't have any fresh vegetables in the house. Stock up on the canned or frozen ingredients and you'll be able to whip up this southwestern staple in a jiffy.

Be sure to drain all cans well, refill with fresh water and drain again to remove extra preservatives and sodium.

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