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45-minute dinner recipes?

In an attempt to get more exercise without sacrificing too much time out of the day, we added a nice elliptical machine to our home. It's in front of the tv AND air conditioning unit so we can stay cool and also go through the piles of shows on the DVR. My workouts are typically 45 minutes. However, this means that, if I get home by 5:30 (which is very optimistic) and workout when I get home, this means I'm not off until about 6:30 at which time I can start dinner. So, then we don't eat until 7-7:30 and after cleaning we're at 8:30.

The solution is not to wake up early for a workout. It just won't happen.

I have a lot of dinner meals that can be made in 30-40 minutes, but they all require kitchen supervision. What I want is something I can prep in the morning or when I get home from work and then toss into the oven for at least 45 minutes and not have check on it, flip something, stir or add. I found a recipe for braised chicked that takes 45 minutes in the oven. It takes some prep work beforehand, but I can leave it along for 45 minutes and then take it out and finish dinner. Cooking for an hour would be fine, too, but preferably not a slow roast that takes 2 hours in the oven.

Please don't suggest pressure cooker recipes, as I just don't want to go that route right now. Fridge to prep to oven to table - what recipes do you have?


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  1. What about a roast chicken - we do ours at v. high heat and it takes about 50 minutes. Only catch is that we cook it at 500-550 for 20 minutes, and then turn the oven down to 425, so you'd have to get off the machine to do that! You could prep the chicken in the morning, then stick it in the oven when you get home, and get on the machine after the 20 minutes.

    1. A crockpot would also help, although the newer ones cook at a higher temperature so things are done more quickly than in the past. Some people suggest putting the meat in frozen into the crockpot so it won't overcook, although I've never done that.

      1 Reply
      1. re: LindaWhit

        Meat Loaf and baked potatoes take little prep and take 45 mins. Meatloaf can be completely prepared and in the fridge, throw together a salad before the workout, and maybe some veggies in the m/w after, which takes all of 3 mins.


      2. spaghetti squash is great for this, however, I do cook the sauce/topping on the stovetop towards the end- so if you're willing to cook for 15 minutes after the workout it's great.

        also, thinly sliced chicken, turkey cutlets, & pork work. and of course fish- I just made a great salmon that I frequent, and added veggies & potatoes right into the dish this time.

        1. Hmmmm. You sound a lot like me!! I go the meatloaf route somewhat often. Stuffed pasta is another option--lasagna, manicotti, whatever. I make enchiladas in advance as well. I make the sauce the night before and store in tupperware. I also poach the chicken and complete the filling with shredded cheese, seasonings, etc. You can then quickly roll and toss in the oven after your workout on a higher temp for 20 minutes or so, or lower temp for 45 minutes. Or how about a pork loin cooked with roasted potatoes?

          1 Reply
          1. re: jules127

            I can see meatloaf, lasagna, and enchiladas working well... hey, if I roast a chicken one night I can use leftover meat for enchiladas the next night!

          2. What about preparing the meal 90% and then cooking your protein at the last minute? E.g:
            - flank steak with tabouleh and grilled veggies - won't take more than 10 min to cook the steak, but you could prepare everything else & marinate the steak while working out
            - Mexican - same idea, prepare the salsa/guac/etc, then just cook up your protein

            1. We go to the gym two nights a week after work and before dinner and it's hard to eat before 8 unless you're organized. Luckily we're only cooking for two.
              How do you feel about leftovers? We try to cook one meal on weekends that will be almost as good reheated during the week. Meat balls, bolognese sauce, chili and beef stew are favorites and all are great with a salad and some crusty bread. If you are a microwave user, lots of casserole dishes reheat well, especially rice based dishes and enchiladas And for fall back micro wave baked potatoes and a steak on the barbie.or grille pan is nice in the summer when you don't feel like making a stew.

              1 Reply
              1. re: ginnyhw

                Our leftovers tend to becomes lunches the next day. We may get into the habit of making a double portion so we have some to freeze for later. If it was up to me, cereal would become a good dinner after the workout, but then I'd feel guilty about not cooking a proper meal. Oddly enough, if left to my boyfriend, cereal and canned soup would be perfect dinners for him.

              2. 1) Pasta sauces - depending on the sauce - freeze well. All you have left to make is the pasta.
                2) Make garlic butter and freeze in usable portions. Usable in a bunch of recipes. I like to roast my garlic.
                3) Bean soups with pre-cooked beans. Cook and the rice, and voila! A rice cooker will take the trouble out of watching the rice.

                1. Baked rice takes an hour:


                  You could add veggies right to the rice, or layer chicken pieces or porkchops on top of it and bake it all together.

                  Any casserole could bake for 45 minutes just fine. Roasted potatoes take about 45 minutes, I like to stir them halfway through, but you wouldn't have to. Lots of veggies could be roasted at a lower temp for that long. Then just quick saute your protein at the end.

                  1. For some vegetables, I make roasted cauliflower, brussels sprouts, baby carrots and red onion. I often cut them up the night before so that when I get home, I just toss with some olive oil, salt and pepper, and then roast in the oven for about 45-60 minutes.

                    1. One of the few things I've bought from an infomercial saves the day for us all the time - the Ronco Showtime Rotisserie. As sick as I get of hearing the line, "Set it and forget it," it honestly does work that way. A chicken, a pork roast, ribs, even a standing beef rib roast - season it, stick it on the rod, turn the machine on to the right cooking time, and you don't have to think about it. After you're through exercising, you've got a roast something-or-other waiting for you and all you have to do is toss a salad. Granted, the machine takes up some room. Ours is on top of the stacked washer/dryer in our kitchen and we have to use a stepstool to get it down and put it back, but that minor inconvenience is far outweighed by the easy dinners that come out of that machine.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Deenso

                        I try not to add more "gadgets" to my kitchen, as it's already very full - juicer, ice cream machine, rice cooker, bread machine, mixer, blender, food processor, 2 crockpots, and 2 fondue pots. But I did remember that my oven has a convection setting, which I used last night to roast a chicken. In 45 minutes! So I will probably be trying that with a pork roast, too.


                      2. If you have Marcella Hazan's "Essentials" book, check out some of her braised pork chop recipes. They have minimal prep and cook for about 45 minutes to an hour on low heat on your stove. I particularly like the one with tomatoes and sage leaves.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Megiac

                          Also, a lot of her pasta sauce recipes can be left to simmer on low for 40-45 minutes.

                        2. Believe it or not, the Cook's Illustrated book of 30-minute recipes is quite good.

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: TerriL

                            Why wouldn't I believe it? CI does a pretty good job for the things they do. If you like the way a recipes seems like it should turn out, you're likely to enjoy the recipe....they test it a lot.

                            Their lasagna recipes are excellent and could be prepped in advance and tossed in the oven during a 45 minute workout. Add a salad and you've got a quick meal.

                            1. re: TerriL

                              But are they 30-minute leave-it-alone recipes or more meals that you can put together in 30 minutes if you spend that time in the kitchen?


                              1. re: leanneabe

                                I think they are designed to be 30-minutes start to finish.

                            2. GLAZED BAKED ONIONS

                              1 cup homemade or canned vegetable stock
                              1/4 cup honey or maple syrup
                              1 tablespoon nonhydrogenated margarine
                              Pinch each: dried rosemary and thyme, and ground nutmeg
                              4 large Vidalia or pure white onions
                              Wheat germ or Bread Crumbs for topping

                              Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

                              Combine all the ingredients except the last 2 in a small sauce pan. Heat gently, stirring, until the margarine and honey are smoothly blended. Remove from the heat.

                              Peel the outer skin from the onions and cut them in half crosswise. Cut a thin sliver from the bottom of each onion half, so that they will stand steadily in a baking dish. Arrange the onions halves in a shallow baking dish and pour the mixture from the saucepan evenly over them.

                              Cover and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until the onions are tender when pierced with a fork. Once or twice during this time, spoon some of the liquid from the bottom of the baking dish over the onions.

                              Sprinkle the onions with wheat germ or bread crumbs and bake, uncovered, for an additional 10 to 15 minutes, or until most of the liquid has been absorbed.

                              Preheat oven to 375F ~ Baking Time: 1hr

                              Arrange in shallow covered baking dish:

                              HONEY CHICKEN

                              Prep a 3lb. fryer, cut up (or 3 lbs. of your favourite chicken part) and spread in a baking dish

                              Combine and microwave for 1 minute:
                              1/3 cup butter
                              1/3 cup honey
                              2 Tbsp. prepared mustard
                              1/2 tsp. salt
                              1 tsp. curry powder
                              1/2 tsp. tarragon
                              Stir thoroughly and pour over chicken. Bake 1 hour, turning and basting, until chicken is tender and nicely browned

                              REUBEN QUICHE

                              1 Tbsp. caraway seeds
                              1 9" pastry shell
                              8 oz. pastrami, shredded
                              1 Tbsp. prepared mustard
                              3/4 cup sauerkraut, drained
                              2 cups Swiss cheese
                              2 eggs, beaten
                              1 cup cream
                              1 Tbsp. onion, grated
                              1/2 tsp. dry mustard

                              Preheat oven to 375F. Sprinkle caraway seeds over pie crust. Prick crust and bake for 7 minutes. Fill pie shell with pastrami. Spread mustard over meat; top with sauerkraut and cheese. Mix together eggs, cream, onion and dry mustard. Pour into pie shell and bake for 45 minutes. Let stand 5-10 minutes before cutting.

                              OVEN STEW

                              Not a 45 minutes dish, but so easy and pretty darn good

                              Prep this Sausage Filo Bake ahead of time or days ahead and freeze ... http://busycooks.about.com/od/sausage...

                              A few other ideas...









                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Emme

                                It sounds like a lot of people have this same dilemna.
                                I assume as you are working on your eliptical you are trying to eat healthy as well as quick and easy. Here is my solution.
                                I have a steamer which I use almost every day. Very healthy way to eat. I had the small one for a few years and just recently upgraded to the larger stacked version.
                                I put two chicken breasts (for two people) in the bottom and my favourite part is they can even be frozen solid - just adjust the cooking time a bit. I throw carrots in the top. If you want a starch you can tuck them in around the rice bowl filled with your water and rice or toss some baby potatoes in with the carrots. As I am trying to lose a couple of pounds I don't do this for now but it does work. I buy bags of washed organic spinach and put it beside the steamer. Dial the timer to 45 minutes and hop on my elliptical. When the bell rings I am done my exercise. I stuff the spinach on top of the chicken breasts and reset the timer to 7 minutes. Run upstairs for a quick shower and DING - dinner is ready. The great thing is that if I am in the show too long the meal stops cooking. The timer turns the steamer off and my dinner sits there over the hot steamy water staying warm and moist waiting for me to finish my shower.
                                A very healthy meal with no added fats! Now after a week or so of steamed chicken breast it can get a little dull - no really. Anyhow, to spice it up I will "garnish" with flavour. Soy sauce, hot sauce, chutney, pesto, chili powder, garlic, fresh ginger, red pepper, curry, even orange marmalade. Take your pick. I cube up the hot steamy cooked chicken and toss it in a bowl with just a bit of something and it changes the whole meal instantly. I have also steamed corn on the cob, asparagus, bell peppers, beet greens, chard, green/yellow beans, the list is endless! Good luck with your new exercise committment.

                              2. I say learn to love your broiler and your steamer. Meals should take only minutes, be creative with sauces or continments. Get your meal ready before your workout, then turn on and broil nice piece of fish or thin chicken breast, organic sausage and Steam some vegies. I saute vegies often in different things (I love Braggs liquid amino, find in a health food store) and then sprinkle spike seasoning and a little cheese. It's a meal in itself over nice brown rice. To help with your weight loss, you should be eating 5 small meals anyway, rather then a big meal so keep it light. Have a small bowl of rice and some vegies and light dip one night.