Weeknight Crunch: Top Five 20-Minute Meals
The thing that keeps me from eating out more than anything else is an easy, delicious, fast meal. Jason and I will hit that 7:00PM wall where dinner really needs to be on the table like a half hour ago, we’re both hungry, we are both tired from working all day, and I don’t really want to spend an hour in the kitchen making a fill-in-the-blank-overly-ambitious-item-on-my-meal-plan. So we go out to eat. And by the time we’ve let Bob out, crated him, decided where to go, ordered, and gotten our food I realize “wow, that took (at least) a half hour and I could have made fill-in-the-blank-easy-item-on-my-meal-plan in just 20 minutes”. I’ve decided to start stacking the odds in my favor and I make sure to always have the ingredients on hand for the follow 5 meals.The staples of which can be used for other great things like salads or just hang out in the freezer until it’s time to make them.
You’ll notice two big things with these meals.
One: While I try to eat healthy, I see these dinners as a boost to keep me on track to eating at home and cooking our own food, not Ideal dinners for healthy living. So using the microwave (which I try my best to avoid), and canned foods (another usual to avoid) comes into play.
Two:The fresh weekly items are a regular group of staples I tend to always have because they are pretty much salad ingredients and/or common for other recipes I make each week. So they are eaten often enough to always just keep them around.
One: Spaghetti from a Jar
I know, totally not the most “healthy” meal, but commme-onnnnn, who does really deep down love spaghetti from a jar. In the Pantry/Freezer:
- Spaghetti noodles
- 1 lb Ground Beef/turkey/chicken OR 2lb sautéed veg (mushroom, zucchini, and onions are great)
- Pre-jarred spaghetti sauce of choice (we vary between the ultra cheap ragu to the super fancy homemade sauce I jar myself)
- Salad dressing (or oil and vinegar if that’s what you like)
- Salad greens (this week was spinach)
- Cheese of choice
All you have to go is boil some noodles, grab your meat/veg of choice, saute it up in a pan, add the sauce and boom, dinner! We round it with a salad (lettuce, tomatoes + whatever cheese is in the house) and toast (whatever bread item is in the house). It feels fancy and put together, and takes about 15 minutes.
This is another lovely meal that tastes great, tacos are my favorite, looks super put together, and takes just 15 minutes to make, maybe 20 depending on the rice. In the Pantry/Freezer:
- Taco Seasoning (make your own with this recipe here on Craft Leftovers, or buy your favorite taco seasoning mix)
- Ground Beef/Turkey/Chicken or TVP (textured vegetable protein)
- Spanish Rice Mix
- Canned Diced Tomatoes
- Refried Beans
- Taco shells
- Sour cream
- Taco sauce
Start up the spanish rice (I like zatteran’s the best), brown/hydrate your “meat”, add the seasoning and let simmer, chop up the veggies for the filling, and then warm up the refried beans. And that’s it!
Three: Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup
This is probably the fastest and most nostalgic recipe on the list. Love this combo, it’s warm and tasty, and makes me think of sitting at the kitchen counter watching my mom make it when I was a kid. I’ve added the avocado and tomato since living on my own, but the memories are all the same. In the Pantry:
- Canned Tomato Soup
Four: Curried Chicken
This is Jason’s go-to when I’m out of town, that’s how easy and delicious it is! In the Pantry/Freezer:
- Curry powder (we get ours from our local co-0p)
- Rice of choice
- Celery or carrots (or both!)
- Salad stuff
Thaw the chicken ahead of time if you think of it in the morning, place a chicken breast in a bowl of water if you think of it 2 hours before dinner, or use the (least preferred) microwave to thaw it out in a pinch (adds about 15 minutes to total time). I looked for a recipe for how I make it, and couldn’t find it. So what I do is: (1) chop up the chicken so it’s bite sized, (2) heat up a pan with about 1T olive oil in it, (3) toss in the walnuts, raisins, and any veggies, remove the walnuts and raisins still pretty firm, (4) cook the chicken and add about 1T curry powder (to taste), (5) cover it until the chicken is cooked, (6) toss the walnuts and such back in, then dump loads of honey into the mix. Add-ons:If it’s watery I’ll add a little corn starch or arrow root. If I have it, I’ll add a small (4 oz) can of coconut milk. Then I serve it over the rice with a salad in a bowl on the side. If you want (leave me a comment if you do), I can post a better step by step recipe post on it’s own.
Five: Pepper Steak with Rice
This is another oldie but goodie. My mom first got the recipe from our neighbor Deb. I got the recipe from my memory. I’m not sure how true it is to Deb’s version (step in here in the comments Deb if you see this!), but I still make it all the time and LOVE it. Jason’s always impressed. It takes about 20 minutes to make if the meat’s thawed, about 30 if I need to zap it in the microwave. In the Pantry/Freezer:
- Round steak
- Soy sauce
- Corn starch
- Canned diced tomatoes (fresh is better)
- Cracked Pepper
- Rice of choice
- Garlic (crushed or diced or crushed and then diced)
- 2 Green and/or Red bell peppers
- 1/2 medium Onion (of choice)
Here’s how I make it:Start up the rice first, cut the round steak into bite sized (about 1/2″ wide and 2″ long), saute the garlic, onions and peppers in a little olive oil. Remove from the pan. Cook the beef until it’s just about done, mix together 1/4 cup soy sauce, 1/4 cup hot water, and 1 T corn starch and add to the beef. Let simmer until the sauce thickens, add the veggies back to the mix. Add either 1 Large diced tomato OR one can (drained) diced tomatoes. Serve over the rice.
So now I have to ask, what’s your favorite quick, but delicious and semi healthy meal to make?
Happy cooking! Kristin Roach