30 minute meals: Pressed for time? These quick fixes can help save the day and the dinner


Meal time — especially for families with school-age children in extra-curricular activities — can bring on the stress. Lucky for us, there are scores of “30-minutes-or-less” recipes out there, like this tasty Monterey chicken.

Meal time — especially for families with school-age children in extra-curricular activities — can bring on the stress. Lucky for us, there are scores of “30-minutes-or-less” recipes out there, like this tasty Monterey chicken.
Photo by: momswhothink.com


Toasted country bread, mozzarella cheese and sun dried tomatoes dress up this tuna melt.

Toasted country bread, mozzarella cheese and sun dried tomatoes dress up this tuna melt.
Photo by: Mark Thomas/dashrecipes.com


A vegetarian linguine made with provolone and Parmesan cheeses, zucchini and mushrooms makes a flavorful meatless meal in half an hour.

A vegetarian linguine made with provolone and Parmesan cheeses, zucchini and mushrooms makes a flavorful meatless meal in half an hour.
Photo by: tasteofhome.com



Jan Swoope



OK, so school's back in swing. And football, soccer, volleyball, cheer and dance team practices have parents running to and fro. So who has time to get dinner on the table? Well, you do, with some help from these 30-minutes-or-less recipes. 


Some of these dishes call for ingredients you can pick up at the Hitching Lot Farmers' Market in Columbus, Mondays 4-6 p.m. and Thursdays and Saturdays from 7-10 a.m., and at the Starkville Community Market, open 7:30-10:30 a.m. Saturday mornings. Support local growers while treating yourself and your family to the enhanced taste that often comes from just-harvested produce. 


Among today's time-savers is a Monterey chicken dish from momswhothink.com. It gets a savory zing from bacon, a blend of cheeses, barbecue sauce, chopped tomatoes and chives. Perfect served with roasted or herbed potatoes. 


If meat-and-potatoes has worn out its welcome at your house, a quick, colorful vegetarian linguine is a nice change. This pasta dish recipe comes from tasteofhome.com. It uses fresh mushrooms, zucchini and other vegetables, as well as basil and provolone cheese. It's a contest-winning recipe that's also diabetic-friendly. 


A takeout-inspired recipe for sweet and sour chicken from dashrecipes.com goes from grill to table in less time than it takes to get food delivered. Or, if sandwiches suit the occasion, try the tuna melt recipe, with sun dried tomatoes, mozzarella cheese and delicious country bread.  


For an Asian-influenced diversion, a shrimp and soba (buckwheat) noodle dish flavored with gingerroot and other spices offers variety. 


You'll find many more 30-minute options using beef, pork and chicken at sites like dashrecipes.com. Incorporate them into your recipe rotation for time-savers at your fingertips. 




Kitchen shortcuts 


Speaking of quick work in the kitchen, a few gourmet chefs share some of their "secret shortcuts" at delish.com. We tend to think the major players make everything from scratch, shun store-bought and even grow their own ingredients. Take heart. Professional chefs, just like us, look for ways to save time and effort without shortchanging flavor. 


  • Lidia Bastianich, author of "Lidia Cooks from the Heart of Italy," starts us off. Run out of flour, but still need to thicken your sauce? Stir in breadcrumbs and let them cook a few minutes so they release their starches. Strain the sauce, pressing all the liquid out of the crumbs. The result is a thick sauce without the raw-floury taste on your tongue. 


  • Tim Love, chef/owner of Lonesome Dove Western Bistro in Fort Worth, Texas, uses canned beans to save time. "They're almost always perfectly cooked," he says. "When I'm in a pinch, I almost always use canned beans for salads -- like my shrimp and white bean salad; easy to make and always a crowd-pleaser."  


  • "Ritz crackers are a great shortcut for lobster stuffing," says Charlie Palmer, executive chef at Bloomingdale's South Coast Plaza. Some chefs typically bake sliced bread, dry it out and salt, but Ritz crackers offer a quick and easy alternative. "At the restaurant people try to guess what's in the stuffing and no one ever guesses Ritz crackers." 


  • John DeLucie, chef of the Waverly Inn in New York City, says no need to start from scratch when preparing chicken pot pie. Use an organic rotisserie chicken and frozen vegetables. "Just wrap it up in dough and you have one fast, hearty meal." 


  • Chef Joel Dennis, executive chef at Adour Alain Ducasse at the St. Regis in New York City, fills up an ice cube tray with pesto and freezes it, creating easy portions. "Depending on how much pesto you need, a quick thawing out of an individual cube or two creates a nice sauce for pasta or chicken, fresh mozzarella and summer tomatoes." 


  • "Unless you're my mom, you're probably not going to get (dumpling wrappers) as thin as they should be," says Ming Tsai, chef/owner of Blue Ginger and host of "Simply Ming." "For less than a buck, you can buy about 100 great quality (store-bought wonton) wrappers -- super thin and flexible. You can steam them, fry them, and they make the best ravioli." 


    When time is short because of work, school or play, don't panic -- you can put food on the table and still have time to enjoy family and friends. 






    Makes six servings 




    6 ounces uncooked linguine 


    2 medium zucchini, thinly sliced 


    1/2 pound fresh mushrooms, sliced 


    2 green onions, chopped 


    1 garlic clove, minced 


    2 tablespoons butter 


    1 tablespoon olive oil 


    1 large tomato, chopped 


    2 teaspoons minced fresh basil 


    1/2 teaspoon salt 


    1/4 teaspoon pepper 


    4 ounces provolone cheese, shredded 


    3 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese 




  • Cook linguine according to package directions. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, sauté the zucchini, mushrooms, onions and garlic in butter and oil for three to five minutes.  


  • Add the tomato, basil, salt and pepper; cover and simmer for three minutes. Drain linguine; add to vegetable mixture. Sprinkle with cheeses and toss to coat. 


    (Source: tasteofhome.com) 






    Makes two servings 




    1 (6 ounce) can water-packed tuna 


    2 tablespoons light mayo 


    4 slices country bread, toasted 


    1 ounce part skim mozzarella cheese 


    4 large basil leaves 


    2 slices sun-dried tomatoes 




  • Mix tuna and mayo to make tuna fish salad. 


  • Spoon salad onto slices of toasted country bread. Top each with mozzarella cheese. Broil until cheese melts. Top with fresh basil leaves, sun-dried tomato slices, and toasted bread. 


    (Source: dashrecipes.com) 






    Makes four servings 




    8 ounces uncooked soba (buckwheat) noodles 


    1 tablespoon vegetable oil  


    1 pound uncooked medium or large shrimp, peeled and deveined  


    2 cloves garlic, finely chopped  


    1 tablespoon finely chopped gingerroot  


    1 1/2 cups baby-cut carrots, cut lengthwise in half  


    8 ounces green beans, cut in half  


    1 3/4 cups Progresso chicken broth (from 32-ounce carton)  


    2 tablespoons soy sauce  


    1 teaspoon sugar  


    1 tablespoon lemon juice  


    1 teaspoon cornstarch  




  • Cook and drain noodles as directed on package. 


  • Meanwhile, heat 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil; rotate skillet to coat bottom. Add shrimp, garlic and gingerroot; cook and stir about three minutes or until shrimp are pink and firm. Remove from skillet.  


  • Add carrots, green beans, 1 cup of the broth, the soy sauce and sugar to skillet. Heat to boiling. Cover and cook over medium heat four to six minutes, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are crisp-tender. 


  • Stir in shrimp and lemon juice. Mix cornstarch and remaining broth until smooth; stir into shrimp mixture. Heat to boiling, stirring constantly. Boil and stir one minute. Divide noodles among bowls. Top with shrimp mixture.  


    (Source: bettycrocker.com) 






    Makes eight servings 




    8 chicken drumsticks 


    1/2 cup sweet-and-sour sauce 


    1/4 cup water 


    1 teaspoon peeled, grated fresh ginger 


    2 garlic cloves, chopped 


    2 tablespoons soy sauce 


    Scallions, chopped 




  • Microwave chicken drumsticks for 10 minutes. 


  • Simmer sweet-and-sour sauce, water, ginger, garlic, and soy sauce, 5 minutes. 


  • Grill drumsticks 20 minutes or until done, brushing with sauce after first 15 minutes and again just before removing. Top with chopped scallions. 


    (Source: dashrecipes.com) 






    Makes four servings 




    4 boneless skinless chicken breasts 


    2 tablespoons Bull's Eye barbecue sauce 


    4 slices crisp bacon 


    1/2 cup Monterey jack and cheddar cheese blend 


    Fresh tomato, chopped 






  • Pound chicken breasts until somewhat flattened, season with salt and pepper. Spray cooking spray in a nonstick skillet. 


  • Cook chicken breasts for six to eight minutes on one side. Turn breasts over, cook for six to eight minutes longer or until no longer pink inside. 


  • Remove chicken from skillet and place in a casserole dish or baking pan. 


  • Top chicken breasts with barbecue sauce, bacon and cheese. Broil chicken breasts in oven until cheese is melted. 


  • Sprinkle with a small amount of fresh chopped tomatoes and chives.  


    (Source: momswhothink.com)


  • Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.


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