Fast cooking often has more to do with the ingredients on hand than the recipe. Home cooks often are at their most inventive when they have to work with what they have. Keeping the freezer and pantry well stocked with easy-to-prepare foods helps move dinner time along. Keep items such as vegetables, frozen shrimp and fully cooked chicken breasts in the freezer as well as a good selection of sauces and dressings in the condiment bin of the refrigerator. Your pantry should include rice, pastas, broth and canned beans as well as a varied selection of herbs and spices.
Pasta is a lifesaver in the kitchen when attempting to make easy 30-minute healthy meals. From its variety of dry and fresh noodles to the ease of preparation and cooking, this staple makes it easy to get dinner whipped up in no time. Keep pasta dishes healthy by laying off the heavy cheese and cream sauces and substitute whole-wheat pasta for white for extra fiber. Use pasta noodles as a base for a quick stir-fry of chicken breast and fresh vegetables or grilled fish with an olive oil and herb blend. Classic spaghetti and meatballs is quick and healthy meal, especially when using chicken or turkey meat in the protein component of the dish. Serve pasta dishes with a fresh green salad for a complete meal.
While some people are only familiar with the lengthy cooking time of large roasts during the holiday season, plenty of meat dishes actually only take minutes to prepare and the variety is endless. When choosing cuts of meat based on their health and quickness factor, look for smaller, leaner cuts such as steaks, loins, chops and breast meat. Most steaks, for example, cook up in less than 20 minutes in the broiler or in the pan. The same can be said for pork loin and chicken breasts, all of which are good sources of protein with small amounts of saturated fat per serving. Slices of beef, chicken or pork can be tossed into stir-fries, tacos and curries to change things up.
Use The Grill
Grilling steaks, kabobs and seafood takes minutes on the grill and provides a great medium for fast, healthy eating, especially when cooks stay away from sugary barbecue sauces. Allow the grill to bring out the natural flavor of the foods before smothering them with condiments and bring the calorie count down at the same time. Kids love kabobs and the grill can bring out the sweetness in peppers, onions and mushrooms that even they’ll enjoy. Lean cuts of beef, fillets of salmon or tuna and tender strips of chicken all make great cuts of meat for cooking on the grill in less than 30 minutes.
When grilling isn’t an option, use your oven broiler and consider it an upside-down grill! The same techniques apply and can make quick work of meats, fish and vegetables. Don’t waste time slow-roasting meats when you don’t have to.
Cooking great and easy 30-minute healthy meals means getting to spend more time with your family and less time in the kitchen without sacrificing nutritious choices. Once you’ve spent a little time learning how to cook fast and easy, you’ll be amazed at how quickly dinner can be at the table.
These meal ideas are from the author’s own experience.