published Wednesday, August 24th, 2011

Too busy to cook? Think again

Readers share ideas for 30-minute meals

Meat and macaroni, foreground, is a hearty dish that's easy to fix when time is short.
Meat and macaroni, foreground, is a hearty dish that's easy to fix when time is short.
Photo by Jenna Walker.

Who has the time or the desire to cook after work or after shepherding youngsters to after-school activities?

You do.

With 30 minutes, the same amount of time you invest in "Wheel of Fortune," you could have a home-cooked meal.

Laura Burgess of Red Bank said she and her husband, Tony, prefer to eat at home for "a multitude of reasons -- the cost, it's healthier, and we both like to cook."

Burgess said a quick, 30-minute meal, though, is perfect when she and her husband want to go to events such as Riverbend, Pops in the Park or a movie.

"We have fallen into that trap where you think you don't have enough time, and you just get some takeout," she said. "But it gets old after a while."

So ready to ditch the bag, the box or the bucket?

Here are some 30-minute meal ideas from readers:

Former Chattanoogan Chris Shields, now of Baku, Azerbaijan, suggested a 30-minute version and a 45-minute version, of a quick meal.

  • Ham and emmentaler cheese omelet (emmentaler is similar to Swiss).
  • Sautéed asparagus (in olive oil, with grated garlic and sea salt).
  • Lithuanian tomato salad (chopped fresh tomatoes mixed with sour cream and topped with chives).

For the 45-minute version, grate a couple of medium potatoes, fry them and then add the omelet ingredients.

Laura Burgess said the following recipes were adapted from elsewhere to make them her own.

Real Fettuccine Alfredo

1 cup heavy whipping cream

Salt, black or white pepper, and garlic powder, to taste

1/2 stick real butter, cubed

8-9 ounces fettuccine noodles (the fresher the better)

Olive oil

3/4 cup (about 4 ounces) Parmesan cheese, freshly grated or shaved

Nutmeg and parsley, to taste

Heat cream with salt, pepper and garlic powder in small pot over medium heat; when it begins to steam slightly, reduce heat to medium-low and whisk in butter one cube at a time. When butter is melted, remove from heat (do not overheat). Cook noodles in water with a little salt and olive oil until slightly al dente (if the noodles are fresh, this will only take about 3 minutes). Drain and pour into large bowl. Add cheese and toss to incorporate, then pour cream mixture over and toss until blended and thickened. Sprinkle with nutmeg and parsley and serve immediately.

As an option, you can add precooked grilled chicken strips to the top. A bagged salad makes a complete meal.

-- Laura Burgess

Sesame Noodles

3 bundles udon noodles

3 tablespoons soy sauce

6 tablespoons rice wine or cider vinegar

6 tablespoons peanut butter

11/2 teaspoons toasted sesame seeds

1/2 teaspoon Asian chili sauce (sriracha)

Pinch of ground ginger

Salt, to taste (if needed)

Cook noodles and drain well. Combine next six or seven ingredients in small prep bowl; add salt only if needed, since soy sauce also contains salt. Pour over noodles and stir to combine.

Goes well with a side of grilled chicken or pork or as a quick meal all by itself (since the peanut butter adds protein).

-- Laura Burgess

Barbara Berwanger of Hixson said this "so easy" recipe was a childhood favorite of her now 35-year-old daughter, Bambi. "She still loves Worcestershire in recipes," she said.

Quick and Simple Supper

1 pound ground beef or ground turkey

1/4 cup minced onion

1/4 cup chopped green pepper (optional)

1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 cup water

1 cup uncooked macaroni

Cook beef in skillet until it loses its redness. Add onion and green pepper; simmer for a few minutes. Add tomato sauce, Worcestershire sauce, salt, pepper, water and macaroni. Cover (important to cover) and simmer for 15 minutes or until macaroni is cooked to suit your taste. Add more water if needed so it does not get too dry, and stir to keep from sticking. Double for more than four people.

-- Barbara Berwanger

Former Chattanoogan Nancy Cameron, now of Houston, said this dish serves two. She said it's "Southern comfort" for her.

Shrimp 'n' Grits

Olive oil

1/2 white onion, chopped finely

1/2 green bell pepper, chopped finely

2 cloves garlic, minced

Milk to make grits (substitute for water in package directions)

Salt

Instant grits, 1 to 2 serving packets

8-10 shrimp, peeled, deveined and tails removed

Creole seasoning

Butter

Tabasco sauce

1/2 lemon, cut into two slices

In a saucepan over medium-high heat, add a dash of olive oil. Add the onion and bell pepper, and sauté until soft. Add the garlic and cook for a minute. Add the milk and bring to a light simmer. Add a pinch of salt. Add the grits and lower heat to medium-low. Keep stirring until the right consistency arrives. Cover and set aside on a cool burner.

In a frying pan over medium-high heat, add a dash of olive oil. Sprinkle shrimp with Creole seasoning to taste. Cook the shrimp for a minute each side until just opaque. Remove from pan onto a plate for a moment.

Back to the grits, stir in a pat of butter and a couple of shakes of Tabasco sauce. Pour into two bowls. Top with shrimp. Squeeze a slice of lemon over each portion.

Serving suggestion: Serve with tomato salad and crisp white wine.

-- Nancy Cameron

about Clint Cooper...

Clint Cooper is the faith editor and a staff writer for the Times Free Press Life section. He also has been an assistant sports editor and Metro staff writer for the newspaper. Prior to the merger between the Chattanooga Free Press and Chattanooga Times in 1999, he was sports news editor for the Chattanooga Free Press, where he was in charge of the day-to-day content of the section and the section’s design. Before becoming sports ...

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