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The Last Minute

10 Minutes or Less : Well-Timed Potatoes

November 11, 1998

If I can predict what time our family will want to have dinner--and that's a big if--I wash and pierce some baking potatoes and place them in the oven before I leave for work in the morning. I set the delay/timed oven function to 400 degrees one hour before the intended dinner time.

Once I get home, I open up a can of chicken chili (I like Trader Joe's), warm it in the microwave and spoon it over the piping-hot baked potatoes. Then the kids sprinkle on some packaged grated cheese and watch it melt while I open a bag of fresh green salad. If I'm really thinking ahead the night before, there might be some fresh vegetables washed and cut up in the refrigerator for the salad. Otherwise, I open and rinse a can of mandarin oranges, and add them in. I make the balsamic vinaigrette salad dressing in advance on the weekends, since my husband and I don't really like bottled dressing.

This dinner is healthy and quick and tastes fresh and delicious. Also, there are very few dishes used, so even with cleanup the time can be under 10 minutes, too.

--JENNIFER L. POLHEMUS

Santa Monica

How do you get dinner on the table fast? We mean real fast. The rules: No more than one stop on the way home, no more than 10 minutes' prep time. The rest is up to you. To share your idea, write to The Last Minute, Los Angeles Times Food Section, Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles, CA 90053. Or e-mail us at food@latimes.com.

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