Aaahhh! The whirlwind of the fall season! Back to school, back to work, and back to moonlighting as a chauffeur for after school activities! If that isn’t busy enough, there is the annoying monkey on your back asking the daily double; “What’s for supper?” and “Can I make it quick?”
And the answer is. . . time crunch meals!
Do they exist? Well, as I wait at the checkout to pay, I can’t help notice the food magazines covers boasting meals in 30 or 15 minutes.
Always ready for a challenge, I decided to take these recipes to the test. This exercise led to discovery of some great recipes; however those that met the time crunch recipes fell into three categories: pastas, stir-fries and sandwiches.
If there’s a more versatile staple than pasta, I don’t know what it might be. Its shapes — long and straight (fettuccini, spaghetti) to short and curly (rotini) to rice-like (orzo) to beautiful bows — make it suitable for quick meals.
Hands down, the best tasting pasta would have to be homemade. Since this is weekday impossibility, the alternative is to buy fresh pasta from the refrigerated section of most grocery stores. Besides the taste, fresh pasta can save precious minutes if you are in a rush. Typically, they take two to seven minutes to cook, while dried pasta can take up to 10 to 20 minutes, depending on its thickness.
Dressing up pasta depends on your taste. If light pasta dish is more palate pleasing then gently sauté plenty of garlic and fresh basil with zucchini, red bell pepper, and mushroom in olive oil and then toss in cooked pasta. Or, for a leftover makeover, take grilled chicken from the night before and toss them in with capers, mushrooms and a white wine sauce for yet another light but flavour bursting dish.
For a full bodied and more filling pasta consider a creamy or tomato base sauce. Store-bought sauces are great but homemade pasta sauces can be made lickety-split too! You can make a tasty pesto, Alfredo or red sauce in about 15 to 20 minutes with just a few ingredients. Just use some time savers like canned tomatoes and tomato paste for a red sauce or cream cheese to quickly thicken up homemade Alfredo sauce .
Stir fries entails quickly frying small pieces of food in a wok over very high heat while briskly tossing and turning; hence making them ideal for weeknights! This Asian cooking style requires a minimum amount of fat and results in food that is crispy and tender.
Start stir frying with a base of onions, garlic and chillies. You then add ‘meaty’ ingredients such as boneless pieces of chicken breasts or thighs, pork tenderloin, shrimp or scallops. Then comes the vegetables.
We may think of stir-fries with sticks of carrot, pepper and bean sprouts, but seasonal vegetables can also be added. Try onions, leeks, sticks of parsnip or butternut squash over the winter months; during summer try green beans, asparagus, and spring onions. Frozen vegetables can also be tossed in at the end, taking only a minute or two to heat through before serving.
The final step to a stir fry is adding the sauce. The sauce is important because it ensure a nice flavourful body as well a glossy sheen to the dish. The grocery shelves are lined with ready-to-use sauces. Use one or live on the wild side and combine a few to create a sauce that appeals to your taste.
If you would like a quick Asian-inspired Thai sauce see below.
Sandwiches can be a sensuous dinnertime delight. Can’t imagine tuna or egg sandwiches as sensual? Well you need to think beyond the classics.
Like many other simple food preparations, sandwiches can be so much more: jazzy, worldly, fresh, inspired. To make it to the dinner table, these sandwiches demand outstanding bread, excellent ingredients and a little imagination.
Instead of boring white bread, try baguettes, multigrain’s, dark rye, Naan, tortillas wraps, and Panini breads. Fill the inside with pan fried salmon, grilled pork or satay chicken. Layer with fresh vegetables like vine ripe tomatoes, crunchy cucumber, shredded iceberg lettuce or roasted red onions, red bell peppers or eggplant. To make everyone drool before they even take a bit, have a family favourite dressing oozing out!.
Try these time crunch recipes and kick that annoying monkey off your back!
Pesto Cream Sauce
1 (16 ounce) package linguine or fettuccine pasta
1 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
8 cloves garlic, sliced
1/4 cup butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups milk
1 pinch salt
1 pinch pepper
1 1/2 cups grated Romano cheese
1 cup prepared basil pesto
1 pound cooked shrimp, peeled and deveined
20 mushrooms, chopped
Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente; drain. Heat olive oil and butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Sauté onion, garlic and mushrooms until tender and translucent. Mix in flour to form a roux. Stir in mix. Season with salt and pepper, and simmer 4 minutes, stirring constantly. Add cheese, and stir until melted. Stir in pesto. Add shrimp. Cook 4 minutes, or until heated through. Toss with pasta until evenly coated.
Indonesian Peanut sauce
Double the recipe and use in Stir fry or Pad Tai Wrap
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 cup green onion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon ginger, grated
1 teaspoon garlic, finely chopped
1 teaspoon red chilli flakes
2 tablespoon soy sauce
1/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup of peanut butter
Heat oil in saucepan. Sauté onion, ginger and garlic for about 3 minutes on medium heat. Add chilli flakes, soy sauce, brown sugar, and peanut butter. Stir until smooth. Thin out by adding chicken stock until desired consistency is reached.
Pad Thai Chicken Wraps
1/2 cup Indonesian peanut sauce
1/2 cup pad Thai sauce
4 burrito size tortillas
1 (6 ounce) package fully cooked grilled chicken breast strips, cut into bite-size pieces
2 cups shredded lettuce
Stir together peanut butter and pad thai sauce. Place tortilla on microwave-safe plate. Spread 1/4 of peanut butter mixture on tortilla to about 1/2-inch of edge. Microwave on High for 20 seconds. Layer chicken, then lettuce on top. Wrap burrito style: Fold one edge of tortilla up about 1-inch over filling. Fold right and left sides over folded edge. Roll up ending with loose edge on bottom. Cut in half diagonally. Repeat with remaining tortillas
Salmon Naan Wrap
4 naan breads
4 salmon fillets
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 red onion, cut circular
1 red pepper, seeded and sliced round
Green lettuce, shredded
1/4 cup Miracle Whip
1/4 cup sour cream
1/2 teaspoon dill
Pan fry fish in oil. Once fish is cooked through remove and place on paper towel. , Toss in the sliced onions and pepper to the fish juices in the pan. Cook until soft. Remove from heat. Prepare dressing by combing the three ingredients together. To assemble: microwave Naan for 30 seconds, place lettuce and onions on then top with fish and drizzle with dressing.
Madhu Badoni is a Red Deer-based freelance food writer. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Watch for Madhu’s Masala-Mix blog on bprda.wpengine.com.