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5:39 PM Tue, Sept. 25th

Foil-packet dinners are quick, easy and satisfying

Most people, from working moms to retirees, are looking for easy and quick ways to quell those dinnertime growlies. Winter oven use and a box of foil can "wrap up dinner" and check off both those requirements. Dinner in a packet of foil can be versatile, cater to your own tastes, and certainly qualifies as easy.

The following can also be grilled outside, but today's fare will be for oven cooking. Put the oven rack to a low position and heat oven to about 475 for these recipes.

PROTEIN POSSIBILITES

Your choice of pork tenderloin, sliced crosswise into pieces about 1/2" thick, chicken breast in long slices also about 1/2" thick, or salmon fillets, center-cut are all good beginnings. Other fish can be used according to your preferences. Very small meatballs can be used, kept small to insure safe cooking completely.

VEGGIES GO IN NEXT:

Vegetable choices may include the following: cherry or grape tomatoes, snow or sugar snap peas, yellow or zucchini squash, thinly sliced in circles or matchstick pieces lengthwise. Bean sprouts can lend an Asian flair or add a can of water chestnuts, sliced. Other vegetables to add: sliced mushrooms, bell peppers: 1 or 2 colors, stems removed, cored and cut into 1/4 inch thick strips. Bok choy, sliced thin after halving and coring. Asparagus in one-inch lengths. If you have some leftover cooked, sliced cabbage or carrots they could go in.

SEASON AS YOU WISH:

Mix together any of the following by starting with: 1/4 cup olive oil, (extra virgin works great), 3-4 garlic cloves, 3-4 thinly sliced green onions or scallions. This is your basic flavoring mixture to add with protein and vegetables.

LEMON AND DILL:

Add 1/4 cup chopped fresh dill or about 1/2 tsp.

dried dill weed, grated lemon zest and 1/2 tsp. each of salt and pepper.

FOR BARBECUE:

(Good with either the pork or chicken above)

Add to the basic flavoring mix: 1/3 to 1/2 cup your favorite barbecue sauce and 1/2 tsp. salt and pepper.

A TOUCH OF ITALY:

To the basic flavoring mix add: 1/4 to 1 cup crushed canned tomatoes and 2 tsp. Italian seasoning (dry).

METHOD: Mix your choice of protein, the vegetables and sprinkle with choice of seasoning mix. Mix altogether gently in bowl.

Tear off four of about a 12 x 16 inch sheet of heavy-duty foil; putting equal amounts of mixture on each piece of foil. Place protein choice on top, making sure each packet is a single layer. Fold packets by bringing long sides of foil together, crimping and sealing packages lengthwise 1/2" at a time. Fold in ends twice if needed to seal well. Place packets on rimmed baking sheet in case juices leak. Bake for about 15-20 minutes. Let set for 5 minutes then carefully open to serve. Or cut slit on top and let each person scoop out contents. If you add a salad, can be made while packets cook and pop some rolls in the last few minutes, dinner is all "wrapped up". These are useful for so many ways to change the variety. If these are filed for later use and you want to grill (which is nice to do ahead for a crowd when cooking out), you can grill by putting on hot grill rack (preheated if gas grill for at least 8-10 minutes), and grill about 8-10 minutes. Packets also need to cool a few minutes before handling. Enjoy these tailor-made foil packets when you need a quick, easy and tasty meal. Cleanup is also minimal, making it an all around win-win meal!