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Mar 25, 2010 04:46 PM

What do you do for a QUICK dinner on a week night?

I know there are a lot of these posts floating around out there, but I hoped to get some new ideas in a central location.

Since starting a new job, I've had less time and less energy to get dinner on the table, and I'm stuck in a rut, cycling the same meals over and over. So what are some new ideas? What do you prepare when you're short on time and energy?

I thought it might be cool if everyone posted one meal they love that takes less than 15 minutes of hands-on time.

Here's one of mine:
Spicy Seared Pork Chops with Roasted Potatoes and Squash and Broccoli
1. Brine 2-4 bone-in pork chops in 1/4c salt, 1/4c sugar, and 6c of water for 30 minutes.
2. On a large rimmed baking sheet, toss cubed squash and potatoes in olive oil, salt, and preferred spices (I use Penzey's Bouquet Garni or granulated garlic). Place in 425 oven while pork chops brine. [Steps 1 and 2 take about 6-8 minutes of hands-on time].
3. Put on water to steam broccoli, and prepare broccoli for steaming.
4. Heat cast iron pan (or grill).
5. Pat dry pork chops. Season with BBQ powder (I use Penzey's BBQ 3000) or a mix of 1T brown sugar, 2t chili powder or ancho chile powder, 2t cumin, 1t salt, 1t pepper, 1t chipotle powder, and 1/4t cayenne.
6. Sear pork on both sides. It usually takes 3 minutes on each side.
7. While pork rests, steam broccoli and take potatoes out of oven.
8. Serve and enjoy!

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  1. The original comment has been removed
    1. I love roasted veggie so much that when I make them I always make wayyyy too much so that on a night like tonight - I throw some home made pasta (that I had in the freezer from the last time I made it) in boiling salted water - take the roasted veggies and add a lil liq (stock), lil butter and heat up - toss with pasta, fresh grated cheese = YUM!!!!

      that boil in a bag br rice is great (we are in teh middle of a kitchen reno so I'm looking for easy and quick but good).

      The grill is awesome for quick meals, sliced summer squash (long ways) and a piece of fish or shrimp or pork.

      2 Replies
      1. re: lexpatti

        I just did this tonight. I had roasted veggies last night and had them with simple roasted chicken thighs. Tonight we had the leftover chicken and I tossed the veggies in w/ some spaghetti w/ oil, butter, garlic, shallots and Romano cheese. Yummm, it hit the spot and was so easy.

        To the OP, searing a steak in a cast iron skillet only takes a couple of minutes. Serve with a baked potato and some broccolini w/ garlic, oil, chili flakes and Romano (I have a theme...). Or serve it with a good salad.

        1. re: lynnlato

          I just made this tonight after getting home with some fresh asparagus. Very satisfying if you are not yet sick of pasta from the winter. Took about 10 minutes.

          Pasta with Asparagus Pesto from (Gourmet, April 1999)
          Gourmet | April 1999
          by Nathan Sivin, Philadelphia PA
          Yield: Serves 4 as a main course

          1 pound penne or other tubular pasta
          1 pound asparagus
          1/4 cup pine nuts
          2 or 3 medium garlic cloves
          1/2 teaspoon salt
          1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
          2 ounces freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (about 2/3 cup)

          In a 6- to 7-quart kettle bring about 5 quarts salted water to a boil for pasta.

          Have ready a bowl of ice water. Trim woody ends from asparagus. Cut asparagus stalks crosswise into 2-inch pieces, reserving tips. In a steamer set over boiling water steam stalks, covered, 4 minutes. Add reserved asparagus tips and steam, covered, until just tender, about 1 minute. Immediately transfer asparagus to ice water to stop cooking. Drain asparagus well in a colander and pat dry.

          In a food processor pulse pine nuts and garlic with salt until finely chopped. Add asparagus and oil and pulse until asparagus is coarsely chopped. Transfer pesto to a large bowl and stir in Parmigiano-Reggiano. Cook pasta in boiling water until al dente. Reserve 1/3 cup pasta cooking water and drain pasta in a colander. Add pasta and reserved cooking water to pesto, tossing to coat, and season with salt and pepper.

      2. I am sauteing shrimp and andouille sausage with onions and red peppers (seasoned the shrimp with Penzey's cajun seasoning) and cooking white rice in microwave.....will add parsley to the rice when it's finished this is a quick mid-week meal and in fact I am preparing it now!

        1. - fish & vegetable packets - only takes a few minutes to prep them, and you can cook them on the grill or in the [toaster] oven.
          - basic egg dishes - frittata, scramble or omelet - with whatever vegetables & herbs i have on hand or feel like using.
          - big chopped salad - i always clean & prep the veggies when i bring them home from the store, so there's less work to do when it's time to eat. i just do a quick chop on whatever i want in there, top with some protein (leftover roast chicken or turkey, tuna, salmon, hard-cooked eggs, etc.), and whip up some dressing.

          16 Replies
          1. re: goodhealthgourmet

            "i always clean & prep the veggies when i bring them home from the store"

            Bittman would be so proud of you, GHG. :)

            1. re: lynnlato

              i started doing it long before i even knew who he was ;)

              1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                I wish I did that because I really love chopped salads and sometimes forego because of the work in cleaning/prepping!

                I will sometimes make a big salad of dry things (no tomatoes or mushrooms to get soggy) so that I can either have it as a salad, or saute it or steam it and put on rice or quinoa. It usually consists of white cabbage, red cabbage, shaved carrots, broccoli, and cauliflour. This stays really fresh for quite a while. This mix sauteed with braggs liq. amino is sooo fantastic over rice, with fresh shaved/grated cheese.

                1. re: lexpatti

                  I was and cut up everything too. Makes dinner come together so quickly on a weeknight. One of my favorites- brown rice and veggie stirfry. I grill chicken separately. Extra grilled chicken goes on a salad for my husband's lunch, and leftover rice and veggies get packed in a container for my lunch.

                2. re: goodhealthgourmet

                  WAIT -- weren't we all born with his grin and voice imprinted on our DNA?!

                  Do you go so far as to peel carrots and separate stalks of celery, or core peppers? I'm curious how far's too far.

                  1. re: dmd_kc

                    I would think that would be negative with respect to freshness and vitimins - don't they start to exit if you peel??? Most times, I use the peeling and scrub things like carrots - lots of nutrition on the outside. (I thought)

                    1. re: dmd_kc

                      no on the carrots because i don't peel them, i just give them a good scrub. but celery gets separated and trimmed; peppers get seeded & cored; radishes get washed & trimmed; lettuce and cabbage get washed, dried & chopped; bunch herbs like parsley, dill and cilantro get washed & dried, but not chopped (i keep pots of mint & basil on hand so i just snip that off and wash as needed); scallions get washed & trimmed; and i don't do anything with cucumber, mushrooms, or tomatoes until i'm assembling the salad.

                      and just in case there was any doubt remaining, yes, i am a lunatic :)

                      1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                        Wow, you're hardcore! I always thought, except for lettuce, the other veggies start to spoil if you wash them long before using them. Washes off the protective wax, etc. I am always buying too much produce and throwing out what has spoiled........

                        1. re: Phurstluv

                          hardcore is one way to put it ;)

                          two secrets:
                          - be sure everything is completely dry before you put it in the fridge.
                          - store in glass containers or those really thin baggies - the ones with twist-ties that are becoming harder & harder to find. those are your best bets for prolonged freshness.

                          1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                            Good call. I love having my lettuce all cleaned, and crisp, ready to go. But it seems whenever I cut into a pepper, and save the rest, I wrap it in paper towels but it goes bad before I can use it.

                            Can produce bags work? I even tried those green bags, and didn't find they did a whole lot more than make everything in the fridge appear green, therefore I had to rummage through the crisper drawer to find what I wanted.

                            1. re: Phurstluv

                              Yes, I have used the green bags for asparagus & found they really do make a difference. I believe the instructions say you can use them about 5 times, so there does come a point where they don't help ...

                              1. re: Phurstluv

                                i never bothered trying the produce bags because all the reviews i read said they didn't make much of a difference - i also read somewhere that the Debbie Meyer green bags even resulted in the produce spoiling faster.

                                the super-thin baggies work just fine for me, and i reuse the heck out of them. i've honestly been working on the same box for TWO YEARS, and there are still many left!

                                bell peppers are tricky - once cut, they tend to spoil faster than other veggies. but i typically don't have a problem because i only buy one at a time and use it up within a few days. i've found that the cut surfaces start to get slimy around day 5.

                                oh, and i forgot to mention earlier that i first wrap the greens & herbs in a paper towel, and then shove the whole thing in a baggie.

                                1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                  Right, that's how I do lettuces too. Although, just last week I found the best lettuce at costco, all different fulls heads, six of them. Two frisee, two red leaf romaine, two green leaf. And the plastic container they fit into has kept them beautifully fresh so far. I only wash one when I need it. May have something to do with being stored upright on the core, as opposed to laying on its side. Anyway, they've been delicious and pretty, I am going to get more for Easter.

                                2. re: Phurstluv

                                  I keep my lettuce wrapped in a very slightly damp cotton or linen dishtowel in the crisper drawer. Stays nice and crisp.

                                3. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                  Glass containers, been using this since forever. Well at least 15 years. I can keep lettuce quite awhile. Wash, spin dry, pat down with paper towels, and then cover with two sheets of paper towels and the plastic wrap so tight you can bounce a quarter on it. The lettuce will stay for almost 2 weeks. Don't cut it or rust happens (or what looks like rust to me).

                                4. re: Phurstluv

                                  I'm with you Phurst, thinking my veggies go faster if I wash them first and because I love veggies, I think I shop at least twice a week for veggies and fruit.

                                  one new trick that works wonders is to wrap celery in foil - no joke, really works great for keeping much longer. Other then that, I don't like foil touching my food, at all!!!!! weird pet peeve