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20 Minute Weeknight Meals

Weeknights call for dishes that come together fast. Here are three easy new ways to get dinner done in 20 minutes or less.


Like most people, I definitely don't have time to cook for hours on a daily basis—not if I want to spend time at the table with my family. But I still love food and cooking and want to eat a real dinner as many nights of the week as I can. So I've really shaken up my weeknight repertoire to emphasize dishes that I can pull together after a full day. Almost everything I make at home during the week involves a main-course serving that I can whip up in under an hour. But when I'm really in a rush the real sweet spot is a one-course meal that comes together in 20 minutes or so.
The key here is simple cooking methods and healthful, flavorful ingredients that earn their keep. In our house, Todd's the grill master; he loves to put the heat on rib eyes and sirloin. During the week, though, when time is of the essence, he's more likely to go for something like these lamb chops, smaller cuts of meat that cook faster and take even less prep time than, say, skewers that require threading. The cucumber sauce and tomato and feta salad make for a cooling, Mediterranean-flavored accompaniment that couldn't be easier to assemble. Since we're lucky to live a stone's throw from the Pacific, sometimes I fix sandwiches or easy-to-toss-together salad for dinner, and we'll take them with us for a picnic out on the patio or down by the beach. On these nights, a salad of tuna, white beans, and bitter greens, dressed with a zingy caper vinaigrette fits the bill. It's simple to make, and the bright, fresh flavors perk us all up at the end of the day almost as much as the change of venue.
In an effort to eat healthfully and mindfully, we've started observing meatless Mondays in our house. A meat-free pasta dish, such as this take on Calabrian chili, is a great go-to. Quick and easy, it packs lots of flavor but not too much heat, thanks to the addition of sweet piquillo peppers. These recipes typify the way we eat on weeknights, meals that are fast, full of flavor, and easy to shop for (and clean up after!). But these dishes don't come together by accident. I really do try to plan ahead so weeknights are stress-free. On weekends, I always try to at least sketch out a game plan for the week to come and I always make sure I have a good supply my most-used ingredients on hand—the ones that help me speed up the prep work but don't sacrifice any flavor. With a bit of feta in the fridge, cans of tuna and white beans in the pantry, pasta and jarred peppers on another shelf, I know I'm that much closer to a delicious, end-of-day meal in mere minutes.

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