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Quick Weeknight Meals

Help!!! No matter what I do I can't seem to get "chow" type meals on the table in less than an hour. Most nights I get home at about 6:30 so by the time I get everything squared away it's 8 sometimes 8:30 before we eat. Not good.Sure, I can do a grilled fish/chicken with veggies on the side but that gets boring. I searched the threads but no inspiration was to be found. Please share some of your best recipes that can be prepared in 30 minutes or less. oh, by the way...hate cold food. So please no salads or sandwiches. I do lots of batch cooking but my family gets tired of the leftovers. TIA

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  1. This is a complete bringover from college, but I always enjoyed it. Pasta with kielbasa or a nice sausage and onions, portabellas, and tomatoes. Fast, easy, and good.


    1. Pad thai, any stir fry, fritatta.

      Have you used a crockpot? I love coming home to a wonderful smelling house with dinner almost ready.

      1. i get home at 6:30 every night so I have the same problem but I really enjoy cooking and have found some great quick meals that are usual standby's when i'm trying to get dinner on the table fast.

        Pita Pizza:
        whole wheat pita bread topped with salsa, turkey pepperoni, chopped peppers, shredded cheese baked in a toaster oven till crispy. You can top with anything you want really, leftover chicken, tomato sauce, pesto, or sliced tomato, any kind of veggies you want and cheese options are endless. To make a cold version I slather hummus, top with chopped tomato, chopped cucumber, chopped kalamata olives and crumbled feta

        chicken cutlets cook up fast and you can use them to make chicken parm, chicken with lemon, wine and garlic or mustard sauce (dijon mustard whisked with chicken stock). Rice or pasta is a simple side dish.

        variartions of burgers always make a great meal... add blue cheese and minced mushrooms to ground beef for a different flavor, remove turkey sausage from casing and form patties for another variation. serve with baked frozen french fries tossed with garlic poweder or southwest seasoning.

        grill up some chicken or steak with taco seasoning, make some spanish rice and put it all on the table with sour cream, salsa and guacomole and have a make your own taco night.

        pick up one of Rachel Ray's 30 minute meal cookbooks...or rent one from your local library, she's got tons of great ideas that I've tried and love!

        1 Reply
        1. re: lasiciliana

          As much as I try to hate Rachael Ray, I must say that some of her ideas are great. As long as you pick good ingredients, you can often do pretty well by her. I won't say always, but often.

          I like to have some precooked penne and make a quick pan sauce with garlic/anchovies/kalamatas/diced canned tomatoes. Throw the pasta in, let it all come together and heat and serve iwth shredded parmiggiano.

        2. Start the rice. A couple tablespoons of that Thai Kitchen red curry paste cooked with a can of coconut milk, add some fish sauce, lime, brown sugar to taste. Toss in whatever veggies you have in the fridge: this time of year it's brocolli, cauliflower, carrots, bell peppers, chile peppers. Or a can of pineapple and halved cherry tomatoes. Add some diced/sliced chicken or shrimp. Finish with basil, cilantro. Quick and good. You can also make it with chicken broth and add noodles instead of over the rice.

          1. Pasta, pasta, pasta. My favorite is any sauce you can make in the time the pasta cooks. I buy frozen raw prawns from the grocery store. Take out a handful and start them defrosting under cold water while the pasta water boils - they should be ready to cook by the time you get your pasta going..... and you can make loads of easy sauces with those as the base of your protein. Pestos are great, easy tomato sauces or simple anchovy and oil.


            1 Reply
            1. re: daily_unadventures

              Try picking up the new Killeen/Germon cookbook, "On Top of Spaghetti" - it has great recipes for quick pasta. I love the book; it's just out, but will be available at libraries or on eBay.

            2. Red Lentil Daal
              Sautee some garlic and onions, season when they become translucent. Throw in some Red Lentils, coconut milk, a can of diced tomatoes, and chicken stock. Season with Garam masala, cumin and chile powder. in 15 minutes, you'll have a delicious, hearty soup. Serve with chopped cilantro and plain yogurt.
              It's super fast, easy, and delicious.

              I also recommend nuking some sweet potatoes in the microwave (prick with a fork first) and serve with chives, tomato sauce, and a dollop of sour cream. I'll throw some chicken or shrimp on the size - super fast.

              1. I'm not a Rachael Ray fan either. But her Soba Noodle Bowl is simple, fast and very healthy and good! The recipe is on her talk show website.

                1. If your kids eat fish, blackened fish is fast, as is grilled ahi. Shrimp scampi w/ angel hair.

                  Hot tuna melt.

                  Chicken Pomodoro
                  Sautee garlic in olive oil with diced tomatoes, add sliced chicken breast, and stir in basil when nearly cooked. Toast sourdough bruschetta brushed w/ butter/olive oil and grated parmesan.

                  Tacos/burritos are quick to serve if you grill meat, onions, peppers, etc.

                  Couscous is a great side that cooks in five minutes.

                  Tip for baking potatoes or yams or other veggies more rapidly... Nuke in the microwave to soften, then bake and/or toast for that crispy crust. A baked potato bar can also be fun.

                  Almost forgot salmon croquettes! And if you precook potatoes the night before, with mashed potatoes!

                  1. I have been making Marinated Flank Steak every so often for a quick dinner.

                    I marinate the steak early in the day in a large Freezer ZipLock bag. I like an Asian marinade of Soy, Ginger, Honey, Garlic, Orange juice and rind, chopped Scallion, a little Chili Paste with Garlic.

                    When I get home I take out the steak and let it come to room temperature. About 30 min before dinner I take out the steak, preheat the broiler, make a Vinaigrette and prepare a salad. I also make some rice.You can make the rice the night before, or in the morning.

                    Broil about 6 inches from the heat. Remove to a platter and cover with tin foil. Let rest for 10 minutes. Slice and serve.

                    1. I have your same problem, and I think most of it is becuase of all the prep work I have to do. But last week, I went to Trader Joes and bought frozen salmon filets, frozen french green beans and frozen cooked jasmine rice. So I came home, cut up a shallot and some lemons, cooked them in a skillet, added some white wine and the salmon, covered and let that cook. Then I microwaved the rice and sauteed the green beens in some butter and garlic, and we had dinner on the table in literally 20 mins. I was shocked, and pretty thrilled!

                      1. here's my three fastest dishes:

                        black beans and rice (20 mins)
                        ~ while the rice is cooking, saute some onion, garlic and peppers, add can of black beans, smoked paprika, cumin, dash of vinegar, hot sauce, whatever else takes your fancy, cook on medium until rice is done. Layer on top of rice, add some grated cheese if you like, and eat.

                        salmon and salad (15 mins)
                        ~place frozen salmon fillet on baking tray, on a bit of parchment paper, dress with a bit of balsamic and oil, salt and pepper, whatever you like, shove in oven at 350 to 400 and in about 15 minutes you'll have some lovely fish. Serve with (or in my case, ON) salad

                        quick tomato sauce (15 minutes)
                        ~while the pasta cooks, saute onion and garlic, add can of chopped plum tomatoes, some salt & pepper, herbes de provence or whatever herbs you like, black olives, maybe a tiny bit of sugar if the tomatoes are too tart, cook on medium until pasta's done and then, at the last moment, drop some chunks of chevre or similar in, swirl once and then serve on the pasta.

                        1. I've been thinking about this all day today, because I am the SLOWEST cook on the planet, but am getting better, and I think it's techniques that help me more than anything. (My mom says I came into this world slow, and I'm going out slow! 24 hours of labor and 26 years later, and she's still bitter about it!! ;-)

                          Anyway, I took a cooking class a long time ago on easy weeknight dinners and I will have to dig out some of my notes, because there were some excellent ideas.

                          Here are some easy vegetable side dish ideas, because that's where I really struggle:
                          - Roasted asparagus- olive oil, salt and pepper, and Parmesan, or whatever seasonings you like- roast for 7- 10 min. in 400 degree oven- I like this because I can toss a sheet of them in while my main is sitting out and the main dish isn't going to get cold in that amount of time, and I can use that pocket of time to get drinks, set the table, etc.

                          - Microwave carrots- stupid easy but really good- take carrot sticks or coins and put in a plastic baggie with a pat of butter, salt and pepper, and minced garlic- microwave for 2- 3 min. and you've got steamed carrots! Sometimes we nix the garlic and use Mrs. Dash spicy.

                          - Roasted potatoes- take small potatoes, half them, mix with olive oil, salt and pepper, and rosemary- place cut side down in a cast iron skillet and roast for 25- 30 min. at 400- again, another pocket of time where you can work on other things

                          Main dishes that I can do in under 30 minutes (or close to it), which like I said before, is saying A LOT!
                          Most things, you can assume, if there isn't garlic, I added it!

                          Ants in a Tree

                          Pasta Carbonara

                          Breakfast food- pancakes, muffins, coffeecake, breakfast burritos, eggs, hashbrowns, etc.- believe it or not, most times I can turn out a baked item faster than a cooked item!

                          Filets with Goat cheese and balsamic syrup

                          Easy Macaroni and Cheese

                          Parchment Baked Halibut

                          Tacos, which I know sounds kind of boring, but we add corn and black beans to it, which I think makes it that much better!

                          Pork Tenderloins with Balsamic Honey Glaze

                          I'll let you know if I think of any others, from one slow cook to another!

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Katie Nell

                            Thanks so much...these sound great! I can't figure out why I'm so slow. I use my cuisinart for chopping so my prep work shouldn't take as long as it does. If I move with real speed; my kitchen looks like tornado hit it...LOL!

                          2. Have you tried making your batch meals and freezing them for later eating? This is my solution. Most nights I get home between 6:30 and 7 and I'm dead tired, in no mood to start cooking. But I make large amounts of food over weekends and holidays and freeze what can't be eaten in the next day or two - of course I have to select what I make, not everything freezes well. Right now the freezer has several different soups, a couple of roasted chickens, a Mexican pork dish, Chinese red-cooked belly pork, channa masala, dal, rogan josh. This weekend I plan to braise about 10lbs of oxtail and make scotch broth, all to be frozen for later.

                            As examples of weekday meals, tonight we'll have blanquette de veau. Last night was cassoulet (I'm on a French comfort food kick). Before that it was chicken korma and masala channa. You get the picture. I try to get just about everything cooked in advance so dinner is mostly reheating and perhaps a quick vegetable stir-fry. I even do rice in large amounts and freeze in meal-sized amounts.

                            It can work if you have the freezer space and think ahead.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: cheryl_h

                              I totally second this. I do it too. Right now my freezer has homemade pierogies and jamaican patties as well as split pea soup, beef bourginon, etc. Anything stewy or curry style gets even better in my opinion.


                            2. White Bean soup with kale and sausage topped with parmesan and toasted bread crumbs

                              Pan-Seared chicken breasts with any variety of pan sauces made from the drippings - mustard sauce, white wine sauce, lemon sauce with capers, basically anything you can think to deglaze the pan and season with.

                              Pork Tenderloin filet wrapped in pancetta and roasted over sliced apples

                              Beef filets with gorgonzola and walnut butter

                              Shrimp sauteed in butter and white wine

                              Sauteed Tilapia with olive and tomato sauce

                              Those are just a few - I can usually throw any of those together in 30 minutes - 45 maximum - as long as I have all the ingredients. Serve them with steamed rice, baked potatoes (I split potatoes in half and roast them with some olive oil and salt and they take half an hour instead of an hour), couscous or any other quick starch and some steamed or roasted veggies

                              1. I have a similar schedule and love to cook, and it's a challenge to eat before 9. Last night I made pacific cod with veggies for two in less than 30 mins with a technique that should work with just about any meaty white fish (or salmon, for that matter). Preheat oven to 400. Place filets on a plate and drizzle with a few glugs each of soy sauce (or Bragg's) and chinese rice wine, then a few drops of sesame oil. Flip 'em over a few times to coat well. Add some julienned fresh ginger and toss. Then julienne carrot and red bell pepper and chop a couple green onions. Add a few sliced mushrooms if you've got 'em. Place about 2/3 of the veg in the bottom of a shallow baking dish, add the fish, then top with remaining veg and the marinade and throw it in the oven for about 10 minutes. While it bakes, saute a bunch of spinach in a touch of oil until wilted, season with salt and a little lemon. Take the fish out of the oven just before it's completely cooked and let it rest for a few minutes. Serve the fish over the spinach with the veg on top and a few spoonfuls of the sauce from the baking dish. Fast, tasty, and healthy.

                                1. This is a huuuuuge hit every time

                                  Sole With Leeks And Tomatoes

                                  Serve with rice, mashed potatoes, or noodles.

                                  6 tablespoons olive oil
                                  1 3/4 cups sliced leeks (white and pale green parts only; from 2 medium)
                                  2 large garlic cloves, chopped
                                  2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried
                                  1 bay leaf
                                  1 cup canned vegetable broth
                                  1/2 cup dry white wine
                                  1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes in juice
                                  4 5- to 6-ounce sole fillets

                                  1. Heat 3 tablespoons oil in heavy large skillet over medium heat.
                                  2. Add leeks, garlic, thyme, and bay leaf. Sauté until leeks are tender, about 5 minutes.
                                  3. Add vegetable broth and wine; boil 5 minutes.
                                  4. Add tomatoes with juices. Boil until sauce thickens, about 5 minutes. Season sauce to taste with salt and pepper.
                                  5. Meanwhile, fold each fillet in half.
                                  6. Add fish and braise until just opaque in center, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer fish to plates
                                  7. Top fish with sauce.

                                  Makes 4 servings.

                                  1. I make sure that I have meat, chicken, fish frozen in individual serving size or quick to cook size - whole pork tenderloins, sliced pork loin, individual steaks or strips of sirloin tip, packets of three chicken tenders and so on. When I start dinner Monday night, I get out the meat for Tuesday's dinner and put it on a plate in the refrigerator to thaw. On Tuesday, I can cook it quickly along with whatever veg and starch I'm cooking. This means planning ahead, but it also means an easky meal. For instance, peel and quarter a couple of potatoes and start them boiling, put two servings of salmon in a small saute pan on top of a couple of lemon slices with some fresh dill branches or scallions, add a little wine or water or orange juice, some pepper, or brush with a little soy sauce, cover, and simmer until done. Toss the cooked potatoes with butter, chopped parsley and chives or scallions.... saute a little spinach, or toss some bagged mixed greens with a little salad dressing of your choice, and there's dinner, in less than 45 minutes. You can alter the flavoring agents for the salmon, brush it with jerk sauce, slice some tomatoes, whatever... Same with chicken - toss the thawed tenders or cutlets with seasoned flour (I keep a bag in the freezer) and saute in butter while some wide noodles cook... saute some mushroons in the same pan ( a nice big skillet will hold six tenders on one side, sliced mushrooms and maybe the white parts of several scallions on the other) When the chicken is done put on a plate, add sherry or wine to the pan and deglaze, add a little cream or broth for a pan sauce. Serve over pasta with a little side salad or cooked vegetable or a little dish of cut raw vegetables or....On weeknights I almost never alter the formula of quickly cooked meat, chicken or fish, a salad or vegetable, and a starch - rice, pasta, garlic bread, microwaved sweet potatoes.... it all cooks fast, the variety is huge, and I think it's chowish enough for anybody.