Dinner on the table in 15 minutes? Maybe 20? ‘Impossible!’ you say…. Unless you have brought home one of those ubiquitous ‘sacks’ from a local fast food drive through?
Truth is, it is not only possible but your meal will be cheaper and healthier.
Of course ’Dinner in 20 Minutes’ does NOT include shopping for the ingredients or the appliances.
A cooking student once complained to me that it took him 12 HOURS to prepare my Dinner in 30 Minutes. Further questioning elicited the information that he has first had to go out and buy the appliances, unpack everything, read the instructions, and figure out how to use everything before he even started cooking! AND then of course he also had to shop for the ingredients!
Patricia Mack in her book, The 15 minute Chef, has some useful tips to make your ‘fast food’ a little easier to prepare:
Shopping: Choose pre-cut vegetables and fruit, bagged greens, packaged grated cheeses.
On Hand in the Pantry and Freezer: all purpose flour, canned chicken stock or bouillon cubes, bottled pasta sauce, canned tomatoes, dried pasta, canned noodles, bottled chopped garlic, bottled salad dressings, seasonings, preserves, canned tuna, beans, canned fruit, chopped nuts, frozen vegetables, relishes and sauces.
There are three ways you can get a meal on the table in 15–20 minutes.
- Pick up ready prepared food – such as a roast chicken, salad from the supermarket salad bar, baked chips and ice cream.
- Pick up Quick to Prepare Ingredients such as ground beef or chicken, rolls, fresh fruit, eggs, fresh vegetables such as lettuce, celery, tomatoes and carrots.
- Prepare double recipes of your regular meals and freeze the second half to defrost for the nights you have NO TIME to cook.
For the purposes of this article we are concentrating on #2, Quick to Prepare Ingredients.
Here are three 20 minute meals: (All serve 4)
BUILD A BURGER – Green salad, salad dressing, whole grain buns, veggie or potato chips, cupcakes, strawberry sauce and fresh strawberries.
1 lb ground beef *[extra lean]
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon tomato ketchup
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon chopped garlic [bottled] 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons oil
Toppings: onion slices, lettuce, cheese slices or grated, sliced tomatoes, avocado wedges, mayonnaise or salad dressing.
Combine the beef and egg with the seasoning – mix well together and form into 4 patties.
Heat the oil in a skillet and cook the burgers until brown on one side – flip over and brown on the other. Cooking time will depend on how thick you make the beef patty.
While the meat is cooking, set out the toppings as well as the buns, chips and dressing. Serve the burgers and allow the diners to Build a Burger.
Serve bakery cupcakes with fresh strawberries and a drizzle of strawberry preserves as a sauce.
*Note: You may substitute ground turkey for the beef for a lighter burger.
MAC AND CHEESE – Canned tomato sauce, steamed broccoli, fresh pear and apple slices with dark chocolate dunking sauce.
1 cup elbow macaroni
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons cream cheese
3 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
Boil the macaroni according to package instructions. Drain.
Meanwhile combine the milk, cream cheese, flour, and butter in a large microwaveable bowl and microwave on high for two minutes. Stir well and continue micro-waving in 30 second increments and stirring, until the sauce is smooth.
Stir in the drained macaroni and the cheddar cheese. Spoon into serving dish and keep warm in a low oven.
Heat the bottled tomato sauce in a small saucepan.
Cut the broccoli into small pieces – set in a microwaveable plate with a little water, cover with saran wrap, leaving a corner open, and microwave for three minutes, and then in one minute increments until the broccoli is done to your taste. [Some people like it very crisp – others like it limp.] Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Serve the Mac and cheese with the broccoli – a drizzle of tomato sauce and a generous sprinkling of Parmesan cheese
While you are enjoying your main course make the…
CHUNK ‘N DUNK CHOCOLATE SAUCE
1x 8oz. bar dark chocolate, broken into small chunks
Place the chunks in a bowl and microwave for 1 minute. The chocolate should be starting to melt. Stir until smooth. If it is not sufficiently melted return to the microwave for another 30 seconds and stir again.
Serve apple and pear wedges with the chocolate sauce for dunking.
EXOTIC LAYERED EGG SALAD – Baby Tomatoes, corn muffins [purchased), sautéed bananas and you favorite cookies.
1 small or 1/2 large iceberg lettuce, chopped finely
2 sticks celery, chopped
4 spring onions, chopped
2 cups frozen peas
1 can sliced water chestnuts, drained, chopped
1 can black beans drained and rinsed
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
6 hard boiled eggs, chopped
1 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar [or to taste] 2 tablespoons chopped parsley for garnish
After you have chopped all the ingredients, stir together the mayonnaise and cider vinegar and add sugar to taste.
Layer the first 6 ingredients [NOT the cheese and eggs], in order, in a bowl, [preferably glass so you can see how pretty it is].
Spoon-on the dressing. Sprinkle on the cheese and eggs.
Decorate with the parsley.
Serve with baby tomatoes and the corn muffins.
Looks almost good enough to eat!
Four large or six small bananas, cut into chunks
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/2 cup orange juice.
Heat the butter and brown sugar in skillet. Add the banana chunks and cook two minutes. Stir in the orange juice and boil another two minutes.
Serve warm. (Note: you can also serve with some of your favorite yogurt sweetened to taste with honey on the side.)
About the Author
McKinney resident Kyra Effren is a contributing writer for TownSquareBuzz.com’s “Food” section. She is a retired food stylist and contributing writer for the “Food” section of Dallas Morning News. In 1975, Effren opened Cours de Cuisine Cooking School in Dallas and in 1978, she was awarded The Commanderie des Cordon Bleu in France for her contributions to French cooking. She has edited multiple cookbooks and served as recipe tester for a number of cookbooks including both of the Mansion on Turtle Creek cookbooks by Dean Fearing and baking books by Nick Malgieri.
Kyra welcomes any and all reader comments and suggestions. What would you like to have for dinner?