(Family Features) - Considering today's demands of work and after-school activities, creating a weeknight dinner from scratch is not always realistic. Many parents are too busy to make dinner but feel guilty for not providing their children with a hearty, home-cooked meal.
However, a newfound realism surrounding dinnertime is beginning to emerge in cities and suburbs around the country. Embracing a modern attitude, families are combining convenient, microwavable products and fresh ingredients to create delicious meals that save time and energy.
According to a recent survey*, 91 percent of moms participated in preparing weeknight dinners for their families. Nearly 50 percent of those moms used a microwave for meal preparation.
Especially with tight schedules, many families still do their best to spend time together at dinner. To assist in that goal, time-saving tools - such as the microwave - have become essential, trusted and accepted elements of cooking routines.
"When prepared properly, a meal made in 15 minutes can be just as enjoyable as one that takes hours," said Joan Hanson, test kitchen director of Hormel Foods. "With more convenient meal options available today, families can spend more time together and less time in the kitchen, without sacrificing the meal's flavor."
Hanson offers the following tips on how to make dinnertime less daunting.
Add a Gourmet Touch: Turn any meal gourmet with a surprise twist on the core items. For a fresh spinach salad, add mandarin oranges and sprinkle in some microwave-ready bacon for a protein punch.
Embrace the Center of the Plate: It's possible to honor the main course, or center of the plate, and still save time by preparing your side items from scratch. For a hearty meal, ready in minutes, serve a satisfying, microwave-friendly meat product, such as beef tips & gravy over cooked egg noodles and pair with a green salad.
Be Creative with the Everyday: Give regular sandwiches a delicious makeover by first microwaving HORMEL(r) Beef Roast Au Jus, which can go from the refrigerator to the table in four minutes. Pile the meat high on a toasted French baguette. Dip the sandwich in savory au jus and accompany with french fries and fresh fruit for a complete meal.
Take Comfort in Dinner: Whether it's a crisp evening or the family just had a long day, comfort foods often warm the body and the soul. Next time the family is in need of an uplifting meal, heat microwavable, fully-cooked meatloaf and gravy for the family to enjoy. Serve with mashed potatoes and buttered broccoli spears for a delicious dinner in minutes.
For more dinnertime recipes, visit www.HormelFoodsRecipes.com.
* Food Technology Survey published in December of 2007