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30-Minute Meals

Quick Fixes for the Family

1310_Cookin_2Name something we all want more of and can’t seem to find, especially when it comes to making a meal for the family. Time – that’s what! There’s planning, prep, and of course, execution. And wouldn’t it be nice to enjoy a few extra minutes at the table enjoying the meal with your family? If you’re looking for a few time-savers to make nightly cooking a little less daunting, you’ve come to the right place:

1. Have several of your favorite spice blends on hand in your pantry (garam masala, taco seasoning, Italian seasoning).

2. Buy frozen pre-cut basic ingredients such as onions, carrots, and peppers. Just remember to thaw any frozen protein you want to use in the fridge the night before.

3. Remember to prepare side dishes while the entrée is cooking: boil-in-a-bag brown rice, couscous, pasta, and of course fresh vegetables can all be prepared quickly.

All-in-One Pasta Bake

These measurements can certainly be adjusted to your taste, but this was a big success at our house recently. Cook 1 lb dried vegetable pasta (I use penne or rotini). Drain and set aside. While the pasta is cooking, in a large skillet brown 1 pound of ground turkey or lean beef. Now add ½ cup of any of your favorite chopped vegetables: squash, mushrooms, peppers. In a large bowl combine 1½ cups ricotta cheese and 1 cup grated parmesan cheese. Add ½ to ¾ cup of marinara sauce. With a slotted spoon, transfer meat of choice to the large bowl and combine. Add the drained pasta and mix. Preheat your oven to low broil or 375°F. Transfer the mix to a 13×9 pan. Top with grated mozzarella and/or breadcrumbs and bake until warmed through and cheese is bubbling. Serve warm with a salad.

Zesty Mediterranean Salmon

Fish is a very quick dish to prepare, but can be overcooked easily. This crust keeps the fish moist, it’s versatile on a variety of fish, and it can be used for chicken too. Preheat oven to 400°F. Mix in a medium bowl: ¼ cup each chopped Kalamata and green olives; ¼ cup drained, chopped sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil; 3 minced garlic cloves; 2 Tbsp melted unsalted butter; 1½ tsp each finely chopped fresh rosemary and thyme. Mix in 1½ teaspoons Dijon mustard and 1 cup panko breadcrumbs. Place four 6-oz skinless salmon filets on buttered large baking sheet. Spread 1 tsp Dijon mustard over each. Spoon ¼ cup of breadcrumb mixture onto each mustard-coated filet. Bake until filets are just opaque in center, about 12 minutes. Serves 4. Perfect with couscous and roasted vegetables.

Spice-Rubbed Baked Chicken Thighs

Preheat oven to high broil. In a small bowl make your spice mixture by combining 2 Tbsp brown sugar, 2 tsp chili powder, ½ tsp each of smoked paprika, ground cumin, garlic powder, and Kosher salt, and a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes. Place 8 skinless, bone-in chicken thighs on a foil lined baking sheet coated in cooking spray. Sprinkle half of the spice mixture over the chicken. Broil for 6 minutes. Turn chicken and sprinkle with remaining mixture. Broil another 6 to 8 minutes, or until juices run clear.Save the pan drippings to drizzle over chicken. Serves 4. Perfect with mashed sweet potatoes.

Christine Wansleben
Christine Wansleben, chef and owner of Mise En Place Cooking School, lives in the West End, where she cooks up a storm with her husband and their twins.
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