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Seriously Fast Dinner Ideas

  • l

I know everyone has their favorite fast stand-by weeknight meal, but what do you make when you're REALLY in a rush to get something hot on the table? I'm talking about 2-3 ingredient quickie meals which may or may not be considered real "cooking."

My old standby is this:

Chicken breasts cut up into bite-size pieces in a pan and coated with oyster sauce and then baked at 350 degrees for 20 or so minutes. It's actually very tasty with some steamed bagged spinach and rice.

What else is out there?

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  1. Anything involving eggs, especially frittatas. Be sure to brown the top of the frittata under a broiler (preheat the oven while you use the stovetop) so it puffs properly. Only an omelette is faster, but the frittata just seems more delicious.

    So, mix up some eggs, throw in some frozen veggies and leftover, some bits of cheese, some bits of bread, and have away at it. Takes perhaps 8 minutes tops, with most of those waiting for the broiler to do its work. Slice and serve with bread and some dressed prepackaged greens. 10 minutes. Done. A balanced and delicious supper that invites countless variations that can never bore you. If you want something more, add some good soup from the larder (preferably heated on the stove or in the oven, rather than zapped in the m-wave, which if done too harshly can ruin a soup in ways people don't often realize).

    I won't use boneless poultry, as I find it (unless poached gently in a flavorful stock) tasteless, dry and textureless compared to poultry cooked on the bone. I much prefer the pre-fried triangles of tofu I can get at my local Asian market, which are great to have on hand for last minute meals (and I am no tofu lover).

    2 Replies
    1. re: Karl S.

      The other classic simple supper is a properly grilled cheese sandwich (including a slice or two of ham or poultry if you like), and then that salad and soup combo. Takes only a bit longer than the eggs, maybe 15 minutes (depending on the type and thickness of the sandwhich ingredients).

      1. re: Karl S.

        I have taken note of the many good ideas in this thread but am surprised to see so little use of people's freezers as a way of providing homecooked food...later on. Mr Freezer is Our Friend. A few years ago I bought 500 portion-size plastic microwave containers for $4 at a catering supplies outlet. When I cook, I freeze leftovers in meal size, cover with Saran, label, secure with plastic bag and twistem, and freeze. Before long, the freezer becomes a smorgasbord. Last night, after a grueling day of moving furniture and entertaining the carpet steam-cleaning man, freezer + microwave provided instant hot dinner: roast beef potroast with gravy, mashed potatoes, creamed peas & carrots, [plus non-freezer salad], homemade biscuits, and apple betty. If the commercial guys can freeze it, you can freeze it at home.

    2. Anytime I'm in a really big rush, I make an ommlette. 2 eggs, some chopped tomatoes, some scallions. Dinner in under 5 minutes. Had it last night, in fact, with a nice big everything bagel, toasted with butter. Yum.

      1. Pasta and sauce, either from the freezer or a jar. Boil some water, nuke some sauce. That's about as fast as it gets. Steak under the broiler with a steamed veggie is another quickie. Grilled cheese and tomato soup, from the freezer or a can, makes people smile. The best trick is to have plenty of leftovers from a great weekend meal to serve again midweek.

        1. I lived on this in college:
          Prepare chicken flavored rice-a-roni according to package directions. While rice is simmering add to it chicken breast cut into bite sized pieces and your favorite veggies chopped. A complete meal in 20 minutes with only 1 pot to wash.

          1 Reply
          1. re: EAF

            something along the same lines, when i don't have the energy to cook and don't feel like going out, i like to make zatarain's dirty rice with ground beef (i grind my own meat, trimming off the fat) with some green olives tossed in. prep time is close to nothing in about 30min you have yourself a quick and satisfying meal. for this reason, i always have zatarains, beef, and olives on hand.

          2. Progresso lentil soup; add a couple of cut-up turkey hotdogs and some frozen chopped spinach.

            Annie's Whole Wheat Mac & Cheese. Add frozen peas to the boiling pasta 2 minutes before it's done.

            Soft tacos: Warm some tortillas. Top with mexican-flavored seasoned veggie crumbles, some shredded cheese and either shredded veggies from the salad bar or bagged coleslaw or broccoli slaw.

            Pasta with peanut sauce. Add frozen broccoli to the boiling pasta 2 mins before it's done.

            2 Replies
            1. re: doctor_mama

              Progresso Lentil soup is seriously my favorite fast dinner. I've been eating it for most of my life and I'm still not sick of it! I usually splash in a tablespoon or so of balsamic vinegar and eat it w/ a tomato and feta salad and some bread or Triscuits.

              1. re: melon

                I feel the same way about Progresso Lentil Soup - it is always in the pantry. An italian roommate I use to have would crumble a link of italian sausage in a pan and brown it and then add the can of lentil soup with a little olive oil and maybe a few herbs. While that was heating up she would cook some small soup pasta like tiny shells or tiny hollow tubes. When pasta is done just drain and put in a bowl and ladle the lentil soup over for a quick hearty meal....can add a salad and some bread. The perfect quick meal!