Chickpea Curry

If you’re a busy parent, dump-and-go meals should be your best friend when it comes to getting nutritious, filling and even budget-friendly meals ready in minutes. The concept is simple: You dump your ingredients together, hit a few buttons, and come home to a just-about-ready-to-serve gourmet meal. All it takes is a little bit of preparation and a pressure cooker or a slow cooker.

TrueSport Expert Kristen Ziesmer, a registered dietitian and board-certified specialist in sports dietetics, shares a few of her favorite tips and tricks for mastering dump-and-go meals, as well as customizing them for your picky (or hungry) athletes.

Five Tips to Get You Going

Invest in a pressure cooker. While a slow cooker is a great tool most of the time, if you’ve forgotten to defrost dinner, a pressure cooker can have your frozen chicken thawed and cooked to perfection in under an hour. And since pressure cookers also have a standard slow cooker setting, they’re the perfect multi-tasking kitchen tool. Ziesmer says that no busy family should be without one of these!

Pre-organize your ingredients. If you’re really short on time on weekdays, Ziesmer suggests a new kind of Sunday afternoon meal prep. Rather than cooking your dozen chicken breasts, she suggests using gallon-sized bags (plastic or silicone) to pack all of your ingredients together: Your choice of protein, vegetables, beans, spices, sauces and any other additions all get added to the bag, which can go in the fridge if it’ll be cooked that week, or stashed in the freezer if you’re meal prepping for the month.

Play with your spices and sauces. The gallon-bag strategy is a great way to meal prep because you can set up the bags in a row and prep them with similar proteins and vegetables, then mix up the spices and sauces so you’re not always eating the same exact meal. Chicken and vegetables can have a Mexican, Thai, Indian or Italian flair, depending on what seasoning and sauce you use—so you save money by buying your proteins and vegetables in bulk, while maximizing nutrient density.

Take advantage of easy, cheap alternatives like canned beans for protein and frozen vegetables versus fresh. With inflation on the rise in every aisle of the grocery store, get creative with your meal prep by analyzing which is cheaper: fresh or frozen vegetables. You may also want to buy in bulk whenever possible, especially with ingredients like rice that are used often.

Get creative with your serving strategy. Most dump-and-go meals are served over rice or pasta (or with rice or pasta cooked directly in). But you can vary your serving style to make meals a bit more creative. Shredded chicken can be served over a baked potato, while pulled pork could go on a sandwich or top a rice bowl, says Ziesmer. And almost any meat dish made in a slow cooker can be converted to a nacho platter by topping tortilla chips with the meat and vegetables and smothering them with salsa and guacamole.

Three Easy Recipes to Try

Chicken with Salsa
Serves four

  • 1.5 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • Jar of salsa
  • Can of black beans
  • Fresh or frozen spinach
  • Yellow onion, diced
  • Can of diced tomatoes
  • Rice, corn tortillas, or tortilla chips
  • Fresh salsa (diced tomatoes, diced red onion, chopped cilantro, lime juice)
  • Avocado slices
  • Cheddar cheese

In the pressure cooker, add chicken, salsa, beans, frozen spinach, and chopped onion. Leave on slow cooker setting for eight hours. Using two large forks, shred the chicken into small pieces. Serve over rice, or strain and serve as tacos or nachos. Top with fresh salsa, avocado and cheddar as desired

Chickpea Curry
Serves four

  • 2 cans of chickpeas
  • 1 small chopped onion
  • Fresh or frozen spinach
  • Can of diced tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 3 tablespoons curry powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 2 tablespoons of lime juice
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1.5 cups of vegetable broth
  • Optional protein bonus of chicken (thighs or breasts are fine here) or extra-firm tofu chunks
  • Rice

In the pressure cooker, add all ingredients except for the rice. **You can cook the rice in with the curry, but add two cups of water for every cup of rice that you add.**

Leave on low slow cooker setting for 6-8 hours. Make rice separately if not added in.

Italian-Inspired Casserole
Serves four

  • 1.5 pounds Italian sausage
  • 4 to 6 servings of penne pasta
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • Chopped onion
  • Fresh or frozen spinach
  • Chopped bell pepper
  • Can of diced tomato
  • Small jar of pasta sauce
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 cup vegetable broth

Optional: Sauté onions and sausage together in the bottom of pressure cooker on sauté setting, then chop sausage into pieces, or skip to the next step if you’re in a rush.

Combine sausage, onions, peppers, tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, spinach, garlic and seasoning in pressure cooker and set on low slow cooker for eight hours.

With 30-40 minutes left before dinner, add the penne pasta. (If your sauce is looking very thick, add a bit more vegetable broth since the pasta needs to absorb liquid.)

Add in mozzarella cheese and serve!

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