20-Minute Meals For Busy Weeknights
BY JULIE VAN ROSENDAAL, DINNER WITH JULIE
Sep 16, 2016
Parents know this well: weeknights can be rushed. Although it’s easy to resort to convenience food and call the pizza guy or hit the drive-through, there are plenty of meals you can pull together from scratch in less time than it takes to bake a batch of frozen fish sticks.
Bonus: A lot of them make use of leftovers, transforming them into a new meal and saving them from the compost bin.
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Knowing how to make an omelette is a good skill to have — it means that if there are eggs in the fridge, you can have a proper meal on the table in under ten minutes. Whisk a couple of eggs in a bowl and slide them into a small skillet that has been drizzled with oil and warmed over medium-high heat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and, as it sets, tip the pan to let uncooked egg run underneath. When it starts to look almost cooked through (but still wet on top), add bits of cheese, leftover cooked veggies, chopped ham or sausage, torn greens or even things like leftover crab and artichoke dip (really!) to one side, and slide it out onto a plate, folding the opposite side over with the edge of the pan to cover the filling. Best of all, older kids can whip up their own quick dinner when they get home — and everyone can eat on their own schedules if need be. Just add toast.
Plan ahead for useful leftovers the next time you cook some rice. Leftover cold rice is perfect for frying, as the grains are separate and won’t clump together and get sticky. Heat a drizzle of oil in a large skillet (a drizzle of sesame oil is delicious too), and add the rice to the hot pan; add chopped green onion, leftover ground or chopped meat and veggies, thawed shrimp from the freezer, and season with soy sauce. Push the mixture to one side and crack an egg or two into the pan to cook, scrambling with your spatula, then stirring into the rest of the ingredients. It makes a fast one-dish meal, and makes great use of leftovers.
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Spaghetti with Sausage Meatballs
While your spaghetti is cooking, make instant meatballs by squeezing fresh Italian sausages out of their casings into a drizzle of oil in a pan set over medium-high heat at 1-inch intervals; they’ll make perfect, pre-seasoned meatballs that hold together perfectly. Roll them around in the pan to brown, then add jarred tomato sauce and let them simmer — they’ll season the sauce as they cook through. Serve with your favourite pasta and freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
Eggs on Toast
Poached or fried, eggs on toast has been a quick dinner standby for generations. To give it a boost, add a warmed can of beans, mushrooms sautéed in butter with a clove of garlic and splash of cream, ratatouille or leftover meaty pasta sauce — truly.
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French toast is just stale bread, dipped in eggs and fried quickly in a hot pan — and it can totally count as a quick, economical dinner (and dessert, served with maple syrup) in a pinch. Oatmeal is also a hearty standby — it cooks up quickly, and reheats even faster. Top it with berries or a fruit compote for an added vitamin boost.
Thin whitefish filets cook in just a few minutes, it’s real fast food — all you need to do is dredge them in a shallow bowl (or pie plate) of flour, seasoned with salt and pepper, and cook for a minute or two per side. Set a skillet over medium-high heat, add a big dab of butter and when the foam subsides, add the fish filets. Serve them with quickly steamed or sautéed veggies, smashed potatoes or whatever you can scrounge from the fridge.
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Roasted Salmon and Asparagus
A fresh filet of salmon cooks in about 10 minutes per inch of thickness — place it on a parchment-lined sheet and lay asparagus spears (broccolini and grape tomatoes work well too) around it. Drizzle them with oil, sprinkle everything with salt and pepper (or smear the fish with bottled pesto) and bake at 425˚F for 10 minutes, until the asparagus is tender-crisp and the edge of the fish flakes with a fork, but the meat is still moist in the middle.
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