Knowing a few easy-to-prepare, quick-to-table dinners can be a relief for those nights when time is not your friend. And, as long as you keep a few staples always on hand, you will not have to stop by the store on your way home, spend time finding a recipe or, worse, resort to fast food. Quick meals made at home can be tasty and nutritious, despite the short amount of time spent preparing them.
The ultimate standby meal, spaghetti can be on the table in less than half an hour. Heat a package of frozen garlic bread while you are boiling the spaghetti. Cook up some ground beef and onions if you like, but to save time, pour a jar of spaghetti sauce in a bowl, add the ground beef mixture and heat it in the microwave. Try out different jarred sauces and pastas, such as Alfredo and bow-ties, with peas and ham. Side salads with creamy dressing go well with pasta; for convenience use a bagged salad or a salad kit and pre-chopped vegetables. On a warm summer evening, a tri-color pasta salad with veggies, cheese and ham is a great dinner. Save time by cooking the macaroni the night before, coating it with Italian or creamy dressing and letting it sit in the fridge so it’s nice and cold by dinnertime the next day.
As long as you have vegetables and chicken breast strips in the freezer and teriyaki or soy sauce in the cabinet, you can whip up a stir-fry in no time. Remember, using quick-cooking rice can save you 20 minutes over the traditional cooking method. For another quick dinner, make a sweet-and-sour sauce with brown sugar, ketchup and pineapple juice. Pour it over boneless, skinless chicken breasts, and pop it in the oven for a half hour. Serve it over rice or egg noodles.
Make easy 20-minute enchiladas by heating frozen chicken breast strips, cream-of-something soup or sour cream and ranch dressing, and salsa. Spoon the mixture into tortillas, roll them up and pour cheese sauce and extra salsa over them. The best part is you only need to cook them in the microwave for five short minutes. Quesadillas are also quick and extremely easy to make, with sautéed onions and peppers, spicy seasonings or cool ranch-flavored dry mix, pepper jack cheese, and flour tortillas heated on a griddle. While you are preparing either the enchiladas or the quesadillas, use the microwave to heat up refried beans to have on the side. Stir in some ranch-flavored seasoning mix and top with cheese for kid-friendly refried beans.
Some American staples take only minutes to get on the table. A grilled cheese sandwich and a can of tomato soup is a good example. You can make no-bake macaroni and cheese by melting the cheese in the microwave while the macaroni is cooking on the stovetop. Toss some thawed frozen peas, dried minced onion and cubed ham into the cheese to heat them at the same time. Mix the cheese and macaroni together and dinner is ready in less than 30 minutes. Applesauce goes well with mac and cheese, and celery sticks or baby carrots with ranch dip can round out your meal.