The Palatable Pantry: Meal Ideas for Busy Times

The Palatable Pantry: Healthy Meal Ideas for Busy Times

By Sydney Karp Poll, a local holistic health coach, chef and friend of Care for Real

I became a dog-mom this month, which is a joy. I didn’t realize, however, how much time it would take. Between our puppy’s naps, walks and feeding schedule, I have limited time to prepare lunch and cook dinner for my husband and myself. 

I’m sure this doesn’t compare to the time crunch many of you face now that schools are back in session with remote learning, and you need to provide oversight as well as work, keep house and much more. Cooking is probably one of the last things you want to do.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve come up with a some fast, easy and healthy recipes. They will work well for anyone who does not have the time – or desire – for kitchen detail. Here are three of my favorites: White Chicken Chili, Brown Rice Noodle Soup and Savory Oats.

My White Chicken Chili is fast and filling. You can even switch out the chicken for shrimp or a white fish like cod.

White Chicken Chili


  • 3-4 cups cooked shredded chicken (a no salt added rotisserie chicken works well)
  • 6 cups broth (Chicken, Bone, Veggie – up to you!)
  • 16 oz jar salsa verde (or to taste)
  • 1 can of great northern beans, drained and rinsed
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • ½ tbsp garlic powder
  • Optional Toppings: avocado; shredded cheese; cilantro; chopped onions or scallions, tortilla chips


  1. Pour the broth, beans, cumin, garlic powder, and salsa verde in a large pot.
  2. Bring to a boil; then turn the heat to medium low and cover.
  3. Set your timer for about 15 minutes; stir occasionally
  4. Taste when stirring; add salt or more seasoning as needed
  5. Add in the olive oil.
  6. Add the chicken
  7. Let everything cook together for another 10 minutes or so and then you are done!


Another super simple soup is one that you can make in a mason jar. You can even prepare this soup ahead of time for the whole family. Feel free to change out any of the vegetables and add a protein of your choice.

Brown Rice Noodle Soup


  • 1 mason jar
  • Brown rice vermicelli noodles, about a handful (the thinner the better as they will cook faster; white rice would work well too)
  • ½ tbsp miso paste
  • Chopped veggies of your choice such as, sliced bell peppers, edamame beans, scallions, chopped onion, julienned carrots, peas, sesame seeds, grated ginger, avocado
  • Optional protein: cooked chicken; tofu; shrimp; etc.
  • Boiling water


  1. Place the miso paste and noodles on the bottom of the jar.
  2. Layer with vegetables and any seasonings that you want, be aware that the miso paste adds a good amount of salt.
  3. Top with your optional protein choice.
  4. Fill the jar with boiling water, close the top and let sit for 5-10 minutes until the noodles are cooked through.
  5. Stir and enjoy!


Last but not least is this fun take on a pantry staple. You are probably used to seeing oatmeal as a sweet breakfast item, but did you know that you can make it savory as well? I love this meal because it’s fast, easy and super healthy. Oatmeal helps lower cholesterol and is a heart healthy food. You can increase the protein with eggs or even some chia seeds.

Savory Oats


  • Oatmeal
  • 1 avocado
  • 1 fried egg
  • 1/2 tbsp olive oil
  • Red pepper flakes
  • Salt and pepper


  1. Prepare the oatmeal according to package instructions, using water instead of milk.
  2. While the oatmeal cooks, fry an egg and keep the yolk soft.
  3. Mix the oatmeal with the olive oil. Season with salt, pepper and red chili flakes.
  4. Top with your fried egg and sliced avocado.
  5. For an added touch, sprinkle with a little shaved parmesan and another drizzle of olive oil.