Delicious Packet Meals
Do you ever feel like you are running an at-home restaurant? Perhaps the majority of your family loves onions, but one member will not eat anything that has onions in it.
The most challenging obstacle when meal planning can be preparing a dish that everyone likes. If this sounds familiar, packet meals may be the answer to satisfying your family’s taste buds, while providing an opportunity for family fun in the kitchen.
Packet meals are quick, simple meals easily prepared with ingredients of choice. Each packet is comprised of a protein, vegetables, spices, and topping/sauces. The ingredients are combined and placed on individual parchment paper, or aluminum foil squares, and baked.
The beauty of the packet meal is everyone can create their own based on preference. Once all the ingredients are selected, vegetables should be washed and cut into small, uniform pieces for even cooking. Hardy vegetables such as potatoes and carrots should be placed on the bottom of the packet. Brush both sides of the protein with olive oil and place on top of the hardy vegetables. Top with tender vegetables such as tomatoes and mushrooms. Drizzle toppings, sauces, and spices. Cheese can be added if desired. Fold sides of the packet up to the middle and fold down. Fold ends of the packet over to seal well. Do not put slits in the packet. Put the packet on a baking pan and cook at 450 degrees for 20-30 minutes. Allow the packet to rest about 5 minutes before opening. Use caution, as steam will release once the packet is opened.
The packet meal allows everyone to be creative and experiment with different ingredient combinations. Some packet meal ideas are:
- Ground beef patty, salt, pepper, onion, potato, carrot, and Worcestershire sauce
- Chicken breast, salsa, black beans, corn, and cheddar cheese
- Flounder filet, salt, pepper, Italian seasoning, zucchini, carrots, red bell pepper, onion, and dry white wine or water
- Salmon filet, salt, pepper, lemon slice, oregano, thyme, and basil
Cooking and eating meals with your family provides a great opportunity to connect, have fun, and create wonderful memories. In addition, cooking together also provides a hands-on opportunity to learn about nutrition, food safety, reading recipes, measuring, and baking science, to name a few. To kick it up a notch, consider planting a small herb garden to incorporate a horticulture lesson and introduce fresh herbs to your dishes!
It is never too early or too late to have fun with your family in the kitchen. Remember: keep it simple, keep it interesting, and develop your own style!
Cook Smart/Eat Smart
N.C. Cooperative Extension