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Manage Crunch Time With Easy Family Meals

MISSION, KS -- (Marketwired) -- 06/10/14 -- (Family Features) For many moms, the hours between after school and bedtime can feel like chaos. The juggling act of figuring out what's for dinner, helping with homework and getting kids to bed is made even more complicated by having to summon the energy and inspiration for quality family time -- it is, without question, crunch time.

A recent survey conducted on behalf of Hidden Valley® Ranch found that the most hectic time for the majority of moms (55 percent) is between 5 and 7 p.m. It also found that making nutritious snacks or meals for the family ranks as one of the biggest challenges during this time window.

"With a blended family of nine, I know crunch time all too well," says country music superstar Sara Evans, who partnered with Hidden Valley to help busy moms manage these hectic hours. Her recipe for ranch risotto is one of her family's favorites, and yours will love it too.

These strategies simplify nutritious eating for your family, so you can focus on spending quality time together.

  • Keep the pantry full -- Stock up on nutritious, shelf-stable foods like black beans, chickpeas and whole grain pasta, so you can easily put together a meal when you don't have time to run to the store.
  • Get in the veggies during snack time -- Dipped in Hidden Valley® Original Ranch Light dressing, sliced carrots or cucumber are a great way to get your vegetables before dinner, while keeping you and the kids fueled.
  • Leverage leftovers -- With a little creativity, you don't have to reinvent the wheel each night. For example, use leftover meat in salad or soup to save time in the kitchen and enjoy more of it around the table with your family.

For more simple and delicious tips to help you get through crunch time, visit www.HiddenValley.com.

Ranch Risotto with Asparagus and Peas
Recipe provided by Sara Evans
Servings: 4
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 25-30 minutes

2   tablespoons olive oil
1   cup Arborio or Carnaroli rice
4-5 cups vegetable or chicken broth
1   bunch thin asparagus, ends trimmed and stalks cut into 1-inch lengths
1   cup thawed frozen peas
3-4 tablespoons Hidden Valley Original Ranch Light Salad Dressing
    Kosher salt and ground black pepper, to taste

Heat olive oil over medium heat in medium pot or saute pan. Add rice and stir for two to three minutes, coating rice well with oil.

Add 1/2 cup broth and cook, stirring constantly, until liquid is almost all absorbed. Continue adding 1/2 cup broth at a time using this method until liquid is creamy and rice is cooked through but not too soft, about 20-25 minutes total. Taste to check for doneness. You may not use all broth.

With last addition of broth, add asparagus. Stir in peas about two minutes before risotto is done. Remove from heat and stir in ranch dressing, using more or less depending on consistency you prefer. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and serve hot.

Option: To boost this dish with protein, stir in chopped cooked bacon or ham along with peas.

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