30 minute (or less) meals

mabeldingeldine_gwAugust 27, 2014

Hi All,

I've been occasionally lurking over the past months as life has gotten exceptionally busy for me as I am running for the state legislature.

I am hoping for a long list of simple-to-prepare light dinners for DH and I after I come home from canvassing in the evenings after work. In the summer it is easy, we have a big salad with something from the grill, but as the days get longer and the season winds down I'm looking for new ideas, and figured you good people will have great suggestions!

No allergies here but we are a bit calorie conscious and I aim for non-prepared food meals, but am not opposed to things like canned beans.


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As a former teacher, I can sympathize. By the time I got home I was usually tired and hungry and didn't want to spend a lot of time cooking.

For our winter meals, I often used the crockpot which I could set going in the morning to have ready when I got home. Beef stew with lots of veggies and low fat beef, and chlli with beans, veggies, and low fat beef or turkey are two favorites and one pot lasts for more than one meal, either two days in one week, or one meal for the freezer. You can also do much of a beef stroganoff in the crackpot, adding the dairy when you get home.

I also often cooked ahead of time so that I could warm things up when I got home. Baked pasta dishes and quiche work well for this as does a roast chicken which can be used in other dishes later in the week.

We still use the grill in winter, so that can continue to be an option, just with grilled, steamed, or roasted veggies instead of salad. Stir fries and stove-top pasta dishes tend to be fairly quick dishes that can be made when needed.

I tend to watch calories by adding more veggies than called for, using lower-fat meat and dairy, and using a smaller plate.

    Bookmark   August 27, 2014 at 1:29PM
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You will notice a variety of fresh garden produce showing up in these quick-to-fix summer favorites. -Grainlady

(serves: 4)
(adapted from myrecipe.com recipe)

2 T. olive oil [I use about 1-2 t. coconut oil]
1/4 onion, thinly sliced
1 clove of garlic, thinly sliced
2 c. broccoli (including stalks, trimmed and chopped)
chickpeas - one 10.5 oz. can - drained and rinsed [I use home-cooked]
1/3 c. chicken or vegetable broth
1/4 t. crushed red pepper flakes
salt & pepper
1/3 c. Parmesan shavings

In a lidded skillet, warm oil until hot. Add onion, garlic, and salt [if you use chicken or vegetable broth that has been salted, you may want to eliminate the salt]. Saute 4-5 minutes. Toss in broccoli, sauté 3 minutes. Add chickpeas, broth, red pepper flakes. Stir once, cover and cook 3-minutes more. Uncover, serve with pepper and a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese on the top. [Grainlady note: once you've made this recipe once, you can quickly adapt it to other kinds of beans, add some mushrooms or pea pods, add some greens and reduce the amount of broccoli.... I usually make a 1/2 recipe, and often make a single-serving for lunch.]

(Make ahead of time and serve cold with pita bread. I usually make 1/2 a recipe and there is plenty leftover for another day.) 

2 T. olive oil (or other oil, and I use much less)   
1 c. chopped onions   
1/2 c. sliced celery   
1/4 c. chopped yellow bell pepper   
1/4 c. chopped red bell pepper   
3 c. cubed zucchini   
2 c. seeded, chopped tomatoes   
2 T. chopped fresh basil OR 2 t. dried basil leaves   
salt and pepper to taste   
2 T. lemon juice   
1/2 c. small pitted ripe olives   
2 T. capers, drained (can omit) 

Heat oil in heavy 2\-quart saucepan over medium\-high heat. Add onions, celery and peppers. Cook and stir 5\-10 minutes or until tender. Add zucchini, tomatoes, basil, salt and pepper. Reduce heat to medium; cook 15\-20 minutes or until vegetables are softened, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat; stir in remaining ingredients. Refrigerate 8\-12 hours or overnight. Serve with pita bread wedges. \[I like to serve cheese and fresh fruit with this meal.\]   


2 c. uncooked penne or mostaccoli pasta (7\-oz.)   
1 c. sliced zucchini   
1 c. sliced yellow summer squash   
2 c. cubed fully cooked smoked ham   
1/2 c. reduced\-fat Italian dressing   
1/4 c. chopped fresh basil leaves   
1/3 c. shredded Parmesan cheese   
Coarsely ground black pepper, if desired 

Cook penne as directed on package except during last 3\-4 minutes of cooking, add zucchini and squash to pasta; drain. Return pasta mixture to saucepan; add ham, dressing and basil. Cook over medium heat until hot, stirring occasionally. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and pepper. (4 generous servings.)   

(source: Summer Recipes - Pillsbury July 1994)

12-oz. thinly sliced deli roast beef, cut into 1/2-inch strips [You can also use leftover roast beef or roast pork in this recipe.]
1/3 c. zesty Italian salad dressing or herb and spices vinaigrette dressing [I make my own vinaigrette and use less.]
4 c. water
2 c. thinly sliced carrots
2 c. (6-oz.) pea pods, cut in half diagonally
1 small cucumber, sliced
1 small tomato, cut into wedges, if desired

Place roast beef in large serving bowl. Pour dressing over beef; mix well. Let stand 10-minutes.

In medium saucepan, bring water to a boil. Add carrots; bring water to a second boil. Boil 2 minutes; add pea pods. Cook an additional 1 minute. Drain; immediately plunge into ice water to chill. Drain thoroughly; place vegetables in bowl with beef mixture. Add cucumber; toss lightly. Garnish with tomato wedges. Makes 6 (1-cup) servings. Option: To serve salad as a sandwich, cut 6 (6-inch) pocket pita breads in half. Line each pocket half with lettuce leaf; fill each with 1/2 c. beef mixture. 12-sandwiches.

    Bookmark   August 27, 2014 at 2:11PM
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YUM! I am going to try the chickpea recipe tonight!

I need to dust off my crock pot and get that out again. This is a great start, thanks!

    Bookmark   August 27, 2014 at 3:30PM
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Cook some brown or white rice on the weekend and make a double recipe so you will have leftover cooked rice; cool it down, put two servings in a freezer zip bag, press out the air and seal, press the rice to a flat level and freeze flat. Use a single chicken breast or small piece of sirloin steak for your protein; slice in thin strips and marinate in a little soy sauce, ginger, and minced garlic. Chop/slice any vegetables you like, mushrooms, onion, bell pepper, carrots, broccoli, and green onions. Stir fry the protein in a little hot oil in a wok or skillet, when completely cooked, turn out into a bowl and set aside; add a little oil if needed and stir fry the firm veggies until crisp tender, then add the mushrooms and green onions and stir fry briefly. Add in the cooked protein and stir everything together. Drizzle on a little toasted sesame oil, teriyaki sauce, or some more soy sauce. Serve the stir fry over the rice that you have heated in the microwave.


    Bookmark   August 27, 2014 at 7:40PM
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Just laughed at the thought of cooking with a crackpot ;) lovely.

I like pasta with a raw sauce - choped fresh tomato, capers, olives etc tossed over any cooked pasta.

    Bookmark   August 28, 2014 at 3:06AM
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Haha, I missed that! Well, in this case I'm the crackpot for doing this!

    Bookmark   August 28, 2014 at 9:56AM
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I remember something that mother used to make...very plain and simple. It's a one dish meal...and very satisfying on cold winter nights.

I remember it going in crockpot for at least eight hours...the result was by today's definition quite overcooked...but we liked it.

By googling, I found something very similar if not completely identical (think mom didn't put carrots or cheese in hers).

Here is a link that might be useful: Campbells Slow Cooker Chicken, Broccoli, and Rice Dinner

    Bookmark   August 28, 2014 at 10:04AM
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Annie Deighnaugh

Fish is fast...dust with flour and old bay and sauté in EVOO.

I know others are horrified, but we do veggies in the MW. Slice with a little bit of water, and hit fresh vegetables button. They come out crisp tender every time. And as they're cooked quickly and with a minimum of water they retain a lot of nutrients. Mix in some chopped fresh or dried herbs with butter and you have a healthy side dish.

You can also oven roast veggies ahead of time and then just heat and serve.

Mom used to bake a couple of things on the weekends like a roast chicken and a meat loaf, and then we'd eat them all week long by zapping them. Same thing with soup or stew...one dish dinners are great.

This post was edited by AnnieDeighnaugh on Thu, Aug 28, 14 at 16:44

    Bookmark   August 28, 2014 at 10:18AM
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An oven baked frittata is quick and easy for a light supper:

cook vegetables ahead, chopped zucchini and onions or cut up cooked broccoli and sauteed red and green bell peppers or steamed asparagus - use 1/2 to 1 cup of the cooked vegetables, put them in the bottom of a greased pie plate, season with s&p and herbs, top with a large handful of grated cheese, beat 4 eggs well (add 1-2 TB cream if desired) and pour over the cheese and vegetables.

Bake at 375 to 400 degrees F for 15 to 20 minutes until the center top is firm and springy. Slice in wedges to serve. Refrigerate leftovers.

    Bookmark   August 28, 2014 at 10:23AM
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If I have an entree figured out, the rest is easy if I'm trying to do a fast meal. I can defrost hamburger in the microwave in less than ten minutes (without cooking). I usually have fresh vegetables in refrigerator: broccoli, green beans, asparagus, etc. that can be steamed quickly. I can bake a sweet or white potato in my potato bag in microwave in ten minutes or less. We always have fresh fruit on hand. Sometimes breakfast in the evening is a quick answer. The thing that really helps me is to have a written list of menus to refer to when I'm running late and have no plan. I usually have plenty of food in house, but can't always think of what to fix on a minutes notice. I love getting more then one meal out of an entree. I also love the grill, crockpot and pressure cooker.

    Bookmark   August 28, 2014 at 4:49PM
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Great ideas, everyone! I made Grainlady's chickpea sautee last night with broccoli from the garden and it was delish!

I will try the veggies in the microwave. Mine is older so I'm not sure if it has a vegetable setting, but I'm going to try with some garden carrots tonight.

    Bookmark   August 29, 2014 at 1:58PM
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