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Thirty Minute Dinner Ideas

Many of us feel overwhelmed after a busy day at work and then a meal to prepare. Instead of going through the drive thru, with a little planning, you can prepare healthy meals at home.


Is your life hectic? With everything going on in this world, I think most of us feel that way. If you are like me, after I leave work, I then must prepare dinner, clean up and then hopefully have the time and energy for my evening walk. Throw kids in the mix with their crazy schedules and it is even more hectic. Figuring out what to make to feed your family, when you feel like you are out of time and out of ideas, adds to the daily stress.

Family meals at home often get squeezed out and replaced by the drive-thru of a fast food restaurant. This, in turn, can lead to unhealthy eating habits, poor access to healthy foods at home, and a higher risk of obesity

There is a solution. Enjoy fast, nutritious meals at home with these 30-minute dinner ideas:

  • Rotisserie Chicken. Pick up a pre-cooked rotisserie chicken on your way home. Add a roasted sweet potato (you can bake one in the microwave in minutes), steamed broccoli with lemon zest and a green salad topped with light dressing. Pull off the remaining chicken and refrigerate or freeze for another night’s dinner.
  • Chicken Salad. Create a salad with the leftover chicken. Toss the chicken into a large bowl of chopped romaine lettuce, or any vegetable of your choosing. Lightly dress with grated parmesan cheese, whole-grain croutons, and a light Caesar dressing. Have a whole-grain roll and a fresh fruit salad to round out the meal.
  • Salmon with Rice. Lightly season the salmon with fresh or dried herbs and pepper. Toss it on the grill or in the oven for quick cooking. Finish your dish with a squeeze of fresh lemon. Heat a pouch of pre-packaged brown rice in the microwave, then toss a can of drained mandarin oranges, a package of broccoli slaw, and toasted slivers of almonds with a light, sweet vinaigrette for a delicious side dish.
  • Filet Mignon. Treat yourself to a grilled 4-ounce grilled filet mignon. Bake a small potato in the microwave and top with light sour cream and chopped scallions or chives. Steam cauliflower and sauté mushrooms in cooking spray for a healthy side dish combo. Toss together a spinach salad with sliced strawberries, toasted pecans and light berry vinaigrette.
  • Pork Tenderloin. Marinate pork tenderloin the night before or in the morning with a bottled teriyaki marinade and then grill it when you’re ready to eat. Add some pineapple and quartered bell pepper to the grill. Cook up a box of quick-cooking whole grain pasta. For an Asian-style veggie, steam green beans and toss with sesame seeds and a drizzle of bottled ginger dressing.
  • Fajitas. Preheat your broiler. Slice lean sirloin into strips, season with fajita seasoning, and broil. Mix meat with lettuce, chopped tomatoes, a can of drained and triple rinsed black beans, chopped red bell pepper, chopped red onions, and salsa. Top your salad with a few slices of avocado and a dollop of light sour cream. Serve with a whole-wheat tortilla.
  • Greek Fish. Prepare tilapia or any firm fish on the grill, griddle, or in the oven until flaky. Top with a fruit or vegetable salsa. For a side dish, broil tomato halves topped with breadcrumbs, parsley, a little cheese, and a drizzle of olive oil. Serve with a Greek salad made with mixed greens, cucumbers, chopped red bell pepper and red onion, and feta cheese, topped with light vinaigrette. Serve with a few whole-grain bread sticks to complete the meal.
  • Pasta Primavera. Use stray vegetables for Pasta Primavera. Start with a jar of your favorite tomato sauce and a box of pasta. Lightly steam a variety of fresh or frozen vegetables until soft. Add cubed or sliced cooked meat to the veggies. Toss vegetable mixture with cooked pasta and garnish with parmesan cheese. Serve with mixed greens topped with sliced pears, chopped nuts and light vinaigrette.
  • Sandwiches. Sandwiches make great dinners. Pick up a whole-grain baguette. Slice an eggplant, brushing the slices with light balsamic vinaigrette, and grill on both sides until tender. Open and drain a jar of roasted red peppers. Slice the baguette and layer the eggplant, red peppers, some part-skim mozzarella cheese, sliced tomato, fresh basil, and mixed greens. Drizzle with light balsamic vinaigrette for a light, delicious sandwich. Serve with fruit kabobs and vegetables, accompanied by ranch-style dressing.

These are just a few ideas to get you out of the kitchen in a hurry, yet still provide your family with a healthy, nutritious meal. With the Farmers Market open, you can get your fresh produce and herbs to round out the meal. The produce is grown within a 75 mile radius of Texarkana, so you know it is fresh.

For more information, contact the Miller County Extension Office, 870-779-3609 or visit us in room 215 at the Miller County Courthouse. We're online at, on Facebook and Twitter @MillerCountyFCS, or on the web at

By Carla Due
County Extension Agent - FCS
The Cooperative Extension Service
U of A System Division of Agriculture

Media Contact: Carla Due
County Extension Agent - FCS
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
400 Laurel Street, Suite 215 Texarkana AR 71854
(870) 779-3609


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