Quick Fixes (15 Minutes or Less)

We’ve all been there before.  You come home hungry (or with a handful of hungry kids), it’s late, and it would be so much easier to simply call the Chinese restaurant down the block.  Once in a while as a treat, that’s fine, but if your goal is to cook then calling the Chinese restaurant can’t be an option every time you don’t have time.  That’s why this blog exists; to help you deal with those days.  So, let’s get down to the business of quick fixes.

Putting together a quick balanced meal (a protein, a starch and a vegetable) is often more of an art than a recipe.  When I am doing it, I’m trying to get the right combination of elements and taste onto the plate while avoiding multiple steps.  And, the key is this: it has to happen in 15 minutes or less.

I start by picking a protein because that is determined by what’s in the refrigerator or pantry.  My options are generally: beans, eggs, cheese, cooked ham (bought at the store), a can of fish (wild salmon, tuna or sardines) or if I’m having a lucky day, yesterday’s boiled chicken.

The starch comes next, and I tend to keep the following around to use on my quick fix days (for me these are least twice a week, though I’ve got friends who operate on this basis for every meal): potatoes, bread, any kind of tortilla, pita or flat breads, rice, flour or even some pasta (dried tortellini are a great time saver every so often).

The vegetable is the compliment, although that does not mean it makes up a smaller portion of the meal.  My quick fixes tend to rely 50% on vegetables, and 50% on the rest.  To keep myself in the quick fix at all times, I always purchase broccoli, peppers, cucumbers, carrots, kale, tomatoes, green beans, frozen peas and frozen spinach.

To keep it simple, and help you identify what your quick fix will be tonight, here’s a map of the quick fix world as we see it.  We have included a column on vegetables to serve with these meals as a complement. It really depends on what you have at hand, and don’t be afraid, vegetables go with everything (I happen to think a broccoli salad rounds out any meal).  Start with a few of these ideas for inspiration; let us know if you’ve got your own set of quick fixes as well!  We’d love to know how other people are tackling the challenge of the 15-minute meal.

Protein Starch Recipes Paired Vegetables
Eggs Potatoes Eggs with Roasted Potatoes Broccoli, carrot, pepper or tomato salad.
Bagel Breakfast Bagels Sliced peppers, tomatoes, or a side of green beans or roasted asparagus.
Tortillas Huevos Rancheros Tomatoes, mushrooms, lettuce, peppers, onions, or avocado, inside.
Rice Fried Rice Chopped scallions, frozen peas, sugar snap peas, broccoli, stir-fried.
Flour French Crepes Sautéed spinach, zucchini, or broccoli.
Beans Rice Rice and Beans Peppers, tomatoes, sautéed greens.
Tortillas Burritos Tomatoes, lettuce, avocado, peppers, onions, broccoli, or just about anything you have!
Pita Chick Pea and Sautéed Greens Wrap Sautéed greens or spinach.
Cheese Tortillas Quesadillas Avocado, tomatoes, peppers, or if you have them left over, baked sweet potatoes.
Bread Oven-baguette Broccoli, carrot, pepper or tomato salad.
Polenta Baked polenta Quick sautéed baby tomatoes or spinach, steamed broccoli or cauliflower, or a vegetable salad.
Meat: Sausages Potatoes Bangers and Mash Frozen spinach or peas or a red beet salad.
Meat: Ham Bread Ham and Cheese Sandwich Broccoli, carrot, pepper or tomato salad.
Meat: Boiled Chicken Tortillas Chicken Quesadilla Avocado, tomatoes, peppers, or if you have them left over, baked sweet potatoes.
Rice Easy “Casserole” Sautéed spinach, broccoli or cauliflower.
Pita Chicken Salad Pockets Lettuce, pepper, tomato, scallions, carrots.
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