Healthy Fast Food Options

If you're looking for healthy fast food options, here are four nutritious meals that can be hot and ready in 20 minutes.

| April/May 1994

Around midafternoon most any day at the school where I work, my female coworkers ask one another, "What are you making for dinner tonight?" There will be a variety of responses ranging from chicken tetrazzini to, "Does anyone have the phone number of Tony's Pizzeria?" Panic has set in and the daily dilemma must be resolved before departing for home just in case one needs to stop by the grocery. I seriously doubt that the male employees ponder this topic while power lunching. "So, Stan what do you think about the merger?" "Sorry, I wasn't listening, Fred. I was trying to remember if I took the chicken out of the freezer this morning."

The truth is, women are still preparing most of the family meals while juggling a job and raising children. This is a far cry from the life we imagined, growing up watching mom baste a roast in her shirtwaist dress and heels on "Leave It to Beaver."

Sure, who wouldn't like to have dinner prepared and on the table in 20 minutes? But TV dinners remind us of airline food. Tuna noodle, macaroni and cheese, and Hamburger Helper are not the healthy fast food options that we had in mind. And take-out can't be anything more than a very occasional luxury in my house. Since we're living in the low-fat '90s, we need to get our hands on some ideas for healthy fast foods. Maybe these meals won't be what we'll serve when the boss comes to dinner, but they'll be fast, affordable, and nourishing to our hungry masses.

Ramen Soup

Ramen instant Asian-style noodles are sold in packages that include a seasoning packet for soup. Most supermarkets carry them in the Asian section or the soups can be found in many varieties in health food stores. We like the Westbrae Natural Curry or 5-Spice Ramen.

1 package Ramen soup
1 teaspoon oil (sesame oil is good, but any oil is fine)
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
5-6 thin slices fresh ginger root, peeled
2 cups unsalted chicken broth (1 can)
1-2 cups water
1 tablespoon soy tamari
few drops chili oil (optional), to taste
1/2 package firm or extra firm tofu, drained and cut into 1/2" cubes
2 cups broccoli or snow peas, cut into bite-size pieces
3-4 green onions, chopped fine

1-2 cups mung bean (Asian-style) sprouts
cilantro leaves, chopped (optional)

Saute the garlic and ginger for a few seconds. Add the broth, seasonings, and seasoning packet. Simmer 10 minutes. Bring to a boil, add the noodles and vegetables, and reduce heat. Add more water if needed. Simmer about 5 minutes until the vegetables are crisp-tender. Serve topped with green onion, sprouts, and cilantro, if you so desire.

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