As far as active cooking or prep time goes, I have, at most, about 30 minutes where Owen will play blocks or quietly read and Beck will hang out in his swing. I don't make much along the lines of a "gourmet" meal. I do make whole balanced meals that are quick, easy, and inexpensive. Owen is also really into helping in the kitchen and as long as I'm not doing anything with large knives or an open flame, I fully welcome his help.
I have been making a one pot, baked rice and chicken dish that we are loving. You can easily make different variations to mix it up and change the flavor profile. It also doesn't create a ton of dirty dishes so it saves us time on that front too. We also do not eat huge portions, so while this may be enough food for us, it is not a normal American sized meal.
Here's the basic how to:
1. In an oven safe dish with an oven safe lid I put about a tablespoon of olive oil. I add a cup of brown rice and stir it up. *Please note: the cook time for white rice is much less and your chicken will not be cooked through or your white rice will burn if you put the chicken and the rice in the same dish. Use brown rice...it's delicious and will cook properly with the chicken.
2. In the microwave I heat two cups of water, sometimes I add a bouillon cube, sometimes I don't.
3. Pour the hot water over the rice, I add either some soy sauce or teriyaki or balsamic (pretty much anything you would normally add to rice), and some seasonings to accompany whatever is in it. Stir it up again.
4. Put one large chicken breast in the center of the water, it can be thawed or frozen (for frozen it will just take a bit longer to cook as the frozen chicken cools down the water you heated up in step 2.). I drizzle a little olive oil (and/or more sauce from step 3) over the chicken and add some seasoning.
5. Cover and cook at 350 for 1 hour for thawed chicken or 1.5 hours for frozen chicken.
6. When there are about 15-20 minutes left of cook time, I add some frozen veggies around the chicken, and usually drizzle on a little olive oil. If I have fresh veggies I want to use I usually add then with about 40-45 minutes of cook time remaining.
7. When the rice has absorbed all or most of the liquid, it's done. Plate and enjoy.
Total prep time: 10 minutes
Total cook time: 1-1.5 hours
Serves two adults (and one toddler) at a cost of about $1.00 per person.