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Apr 30, 2011 09:47 PM

Simple Meals for the Time Starved Professional

I've just finished university and I'm just about to start work. I've gone from having a lot of time to prepare meals to having close to no time at all. While in college, I could spend a lot of time experimenting with cooking techniques and trying out different recipes, and boy did I learn a lot.

Now, I just want to get home and have something healthy, filling and simple to eat.

Do any of you know any healthy, simple meals that can be prepared in under 20 minutes?

I have a steamer, a sous-vide machine, a small slow cooker, a microwave, and a stove.

I've looked at once a month / once a week cooking, but it seems a bit extreme for me.

I'll start:

Four ingredient Chili
1x Package of Ground Beef
1x Can of Kidney Beans
1x Can of Stewed Tomatoes
1x Packet of chili spice
Step 1. Open Everything, Drain excess liquid, Dump into Pot, Bring to Boil
Garnish with whatever you have on hand (sour cream, nachoes, etc.)

Four ingredient Chicken Pot Pie
1x leftover BBQ Chicken (The rotisserie ones they sell at the supermarket)
1x frozen pie crust
1x can of cream of chicken soup
1x can of mixed vegetables (don't bother draining it)
Step 1. Tear up the chicken into small chunks and bring to a boil in a dutch oven with the cream of chicken soup and mixed vegetables
Step 2. Bake Crust on top.

Do any of you have simple recipes like these ones?

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    1. I *always* kept a bag of frozen Chinese vegetables and a bag of individually frozen boneless, skinless chicken breasts in my freezer.

      Start some rice, and by the time the rice is done, you have stir-fry.

      Not top-level gourmet, but simple, fast, and healthy.

      And pasta. LOTS of pasta.

      1. I've really liked Jacques Pepin's "Fast Food my Way" and "More Fast Food my Way" as good cookbooks that have gotten me out of my after work rut. You can view the episodes online here: (scroll down a bit).

        One of the recipes that is in his book but not on the website is this one It's a big Favorite in my house and so simple. It's mostly done in the oven so you can sit in front of the TV and enjoy a glass of something while it's baking.

        I also really enjoyed his almond cake as a fast dessert.

        2 Replies
        1. re: cosmogrrl

          That Pepin shrimp recipe looks terrific, especially for this thread. Must try soon. Thanks.

          1. re: Bada Bing

            I use about 1.5 times the mushrooms he calls for because we love mushrooms so much!

        2. Don't forget about Rachel Ray's 30 minute meals, and that other fake Rachel Ray lady's 5 ingredient fixes (I can never remember her name).

          Also, really easy, drop a beef roast over some sliced onions and garlic in your slow cooker in the morning. Season it with salt and pepper. Turn to low, and when you come home you have some tasty, tender beef.

          1. Congratulations on this new phase of life!

            Alas, it's never easy to accomplish this balancing act between speed and real tastiness/variety. And in the first months at a new job (new place, too?), it can be exhausting at the end of the workday.

            When I was in your position, I actually found myself taking my time to cook, because I found that cooking worked for me like a kind of decompression and meditation. Some of my friends couldn't believe that I'd spend an hour or more putting together dinner for myself. But I just knew that microwaving a frozen dinner, while faster, was not something that would help my quality of life much.

            But that's me and my schedule. Taking your challenge as stated, I think that learning to work with leftovers can help a lot. Also, it's helpful to plan a bit ahead where possible (say, put a handful of frozen shrimp in the fridge the night before, maybe even if you're not sure whether the shrimp will be eaten straight up, or as part of a pasta or rice dish, or in an Asian stir fry...)

            About leftovers, for example, when I make rice at all, I generally make twice what I need, because leftover rice is actually called for in a fried rice a day or two down the road. Thaw a few shrimps or other protein chunks, spoon out some Thai chili paste, slice some peppers and onions, get an egg or two ready to crack, and you're well on your way to a fried rice in less than 30 minutes.

            I've also heard that salad fans can save lots of time by prewashing and even precutting several days worth of salad basics for storage in the fridge. Then they just vary the salads with stuff on hand each day (rotisserie chicken, ham chunks, hard-boiled eggs, turkey slices...)