In February, a publisher approached me with an idea they had for a cookbook: Heart healthy, 30 minutes or less. Heart healthy I do, but 30-minute meals were a struggle for me too. “What about marinating?” I asked. Sorry, came the answer. Start to finish, 30 minutes. “What about something that’s in the oven in ten minutes, but has to bake for 45?” Nope. It needs to be on the table in 30 minutes.
I get it. I hear this often from clients. You get home at 6pm (or later!), exhausted, hungry, possibly with a hangry family to feed. As we mature, we know drive-through or frozen pizza can’t be the answer night after night.
We need this. I needed this!
Thus began months of research and experimentation. What whole grains can you cook in 30 minutes? How hot can you roast vegetables? What can we really do with frozen vegetables besides a quick side of corn?
In the meantime, I’m sharing excerpts and recipes here, starting with this one…
Ten Tips for Quick and Easy Meals
- Before you start, take a minute to read all the way through the recipe and gather the ingredients.
- Preheat the oven or start a pot of water boiling if needed, so they’ll be ready when you are.
- Start with whatever meal component takes the longest to cook, such as barley or brown rice.
- If time is short, aim to include just a vegetable, a protein-rich food, and a starch—whole-grain or vegetable. You can add more for flavour and variety, but the shorter your ingredient list, the sooner you’ll be eating.
- Experiment with cooking at higher temperatures. Roasting at 400° to 450°F or even judiciously using the broiler can save time and give food a nice, crispy exterior.
- Leave the skin on produce such as apples and potatoes to eliminate an unnecessary step and retain heart-healthy fibre, vitamins, and minerals. You may even find that you prefer the heartier texture.
- If possible, prepare everything—protein, vegetables, and grains—in one dish. You can add broccoli or frozen shrimp to pasta while it’s cooking, if you get the timing right. Salads, stews, chilis, and soups can all be quick, heart-healthy, one-pot meals.
- Roasting or baking? Skip the scrubbing by lining your pans with parchment paper. It’s generally compostable, nonstick, and oven-safe to 420°F. At higher temperatures, use aluminum foil.
- Save even more time on busy weeknights by preparing some components on weekends or whenever you have a bit more time and energy. Cook brown rice or other grains, and freeze it in small containers. Cook chicken, baked potatoes, or vegetables like butternut squash, which take time but require little hands-on effort.
- Double whatever you’re cooking. If you won’t eat it in two or three days, freeze the leftovers in small containers so you can defrost faster. Take a minute to label them so they don’t get lost in the freezer.
These ten shortcuts will help you shave valuable minutes while you keep the monster at bay (that’s what my husband calls my raging appetite). I shared ten more here right after writing the book.
The recipes in the book will give you more ways to build your 30-minute repertoire, without sacrificing heart health or satisfaction. Happy cooking!
* Note: Those are affiliate links – at no cost to you, I will earn a commission if you make a purchase.