Originally created 02/28/01

Skillet suppers



Packaged dinners abound in supermarkets today. From "ready-to-saute" bags in the freezer section to boxed-meal starters, they make getting dinner on the table quick and easy.

While these products are convenient, they can be pricey as well as skimpy. You can create your own meals just as quickly, and today and next week I'll share recipes that will help you.

Today's recipe for chicken taco rice is a one-skillet, kid-pleasing meal that can be on the table in 30 minutes or less.

Chicken-breast strips are sauteed with chopped onion. Water, a small can of tomato sauce and taco seasoning mix are added and brought to a boil. Canned Mexicali corn and chopped green chilies are added, along with instant rice, and the mixture is simmered until the rice is tender. Shredded Cheddar cheese is sprinkled on top just before serving.

The recipe couldn't be simpler. But the supermarket can help you make it quicker still. Pick up a package of stir-fry-ready chicken strips in the meat department, and there's no need to cut up the chicken. Frozen chopped onion from the freezer section also eliminates time at the cutting board.

Packaged taco seasoning adds just the right amount of spice to the dish. If you keep a jar of the seasonings in your pantry, simply substitute cup for the package of mix called for.

Mexicali corn, a mixture of canned corn and chopped chilies, adds flavor without any real "heat." A can of corn niblets can be substituted if that's what you have on the pantry shelf.

The chicken taco rice is a great centerpiece for a quick family meal. Leftovers can be heated in the microwave and rolled up in flour tortillas along with shredded cheese, lettuce and salsa.

A big salad is all you'll need to complete your meal. A simple fruit salad would be great, or you can toss up my friend Julie Hastings' wonderful and easy salad. She combines mixed greens with a can of drained mandarin oranges, sliced avocado and red onions. Her dressing is simply a mixture of equal parts of Seven Seas Italian dressing and mayonnaise. It's zesty, creamy and quick and goes wonderfully with the other ingredients.

Nutritional data:
(per serving)

Calories: 422
Total Fat: 7.7 g
     Saturated Fat: 2.8 g
Cholesterol: 72.2 mg
Sodium: 1075 mg
Total Carbs: 57.5 g
     Dietary Fiber: 2.8 g
Protein: 29.5 g

Chicken Taco Rice

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, sliced

1 small onion, chopped (about cup)

11/2 cups water

1 8-ounce can tomato sauce

1 package taco seasoning mix

1 14.5-ounce can Mexicali corn, drained

1 4-ounce can diced green chilies

11/2 cups instant or "Minute" rice

1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley, for garnish

1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and onions and saute until lightly browned. Add water, tomato sauce and taco seasoning mix. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer 5 minutes. Add corn and green chilies and bring to a boil. Stir in the rice, cover and remove from heat. Let stand 5 minutes, or until rice is tender. Fluff with a fork and sprinkle with the chopped parsley and shredded cheese.

Makes 6 servings.

Nutrient analysis provided by registered dietitians of the Augusta District Dietetic Association. Send questions via e-mail to augustadietitian@yahoo.com.

Karin Calloway is the online chef for Viking Range Corp. (www.vikingrange.com) and a member of the International Association of Culinary Professionals. You can write her in care of The Augusta Chronicle Newsroom, P.O. Box 1928, Augusta, GA 30903. Or send e-mail to karin.calloway@home.com.