Work, school, kids, life. Most people have enough on their plate without having to worry about what to make for dinner. But no matter how hectic your schedule, you still need to put something on the table every night. When time is at a premium, boring frozen meals or takeout might seem like the obvious solution, yet there’s no need to sacrifice flavor or nutrition for convenience. Each of these seven complete meals can be made in 30 minutes or less, so you can serve a delicious homemade dinner on the table without losing your mind.
1. Lemon-Roasted Chicken with Arugula Salad and Dilled Orzo
This Mediterranean-inspired recipe from Martha Stewart looks fancy but is actually a cinch to make. Cutting the chicken into pieces and roasting it on high heat means it cooks quickly. While the meat is in the oven, you can prepare the arugula salad and orzo. The whole process should take about 35 minutes. Serves four.
- 1 chicken (about 3½ pounds), cut into 10 pieces
- 6 garlic cloves, smashed
- 2 lemons, quartered
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon olive oil
- Coarse salt and ground pepper
- 1 cup orzo
- ½ teaspoon dried dill
- 2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
- 3 bunches arugula (12 to 16 ounces total), thick stems removed, washed well
Directions: Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Set a large saucepan of water to boil.
On a large rimmed baking sheet, toss together chicken, garlic, lemons, oregano, and 1 teaspoon oil; season with salt and pepper. Roast chicken, skin side up, until golden and cooked through, 25 to 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, generously salt boiling water. Add orzo, and cook until al dente; drain well, and return to saucepan. Add dill and 1 tablespoon oil; season with salt and pepper, and mix gently to combine.
In a large bowl, whisk together vinegar and remaining 2 tablespoons oil; season with salt and pepper. When chicken and orzo are ready, add arugula to bowl; toss to coat. Drizzle chicken with pan juices, and serve with lemon wedges, orzo, and arugula salad.
2. Steak and Quinoa Burrito Bowl
Healthy quinoa is substituted for rice in this take on the burrito bowl from The Girl on Bloor. This colorful meal also contains a ton of other good-for-you ingredients, including avocado, bell peppers, black beans, corn, and a homemade pico de gallo. Amazingly, you can put together this filling meal in less than a half hour. Serves two.
- 1 (1-inch thick) sirloin steak
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 cup cooked quinoa, divided into two bowls
- Red and green peppers, onion, or other veggies
- 1 avocado, sliced
- Optional: Hot sauce, sour cream, and cilantro, for garnish
For the corn salsa
- ½ cup frozen corn, defrosted
- ½ cup black beans
- 2 teaspoons lime juice
- ¼ cup cilantro
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- Dash hot sauce
For the pico de gallo
- 2 on-the-vine tomatoes, finely chopped
- ⅓ cup red onion, finely diced
- 2 teaspoons lime juice
- ¼ cup cilantro, finely chopped
- ½ teaspoon salt
Directions: Divide quinoa between two bowls.
Mix together the ingredients for the pico de gallo and the corn salsa in two separate bowls. Set aside.
Heat olive oil in a large frying pan on high. Once the pan is smoking, add the steak, cooking for about 4 minutes per side (for medium-rare). You may need to adjust the cooking time depending on the thickness of the steak and your preferred doneness.
Remove steak from pan and let rest for 6 to 7 minutes.
Meanwhile, add the sliced vegetables to the pan and sauté for 5 minutes.
Slice the steak across the grain. Add to the bowls with the quinoa, along with the cooked veggies, pico de gallo, corn salsa, and sliced avocado. Serve immediately with hot sauce, sour cream, cilantro, or other garnishes.
3. Shrimp and Broccoli Stir Fry
Quick-cooking stir-fries are the perfect, versatile weeknight meal. This one is made with low-fat shrimp and nutritious broccoli and cooked in a homemade soy and ginger sauce. Everything comes together in 20 minutes and each serving contains under 300 calories. Recipe from Damn Delicious. Serves four.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1½ pounds medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 24 ounces broccoli florets (about 5 cups)
- 1 teaspoon sesame seeds
- 1 green onion, thinly sliced
For the sauce
- 3 tablespoons reduced sodium soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons oyster sauce
- 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar, packed
- 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon sriracha (optional)
Directions: Whisk together soy sauce, oyster sauce, rice wine vinegar, brown sugar, ginger, garlic, sesame oil, cornstarch, and sriracha in a small bowl. Set aside.
Add olive oil to a large skillet or wok and heat over medium high. Add the shrimp and cook, stirring occasionally, for 2 to 3 minutes, until shrimp turns pink. Add the broccoli florets and cook, stirring frequently, until tender, about 2 to 4 minutes.
Add the soy sauce mixture to the pan and stir. Cook until sauce thickens slightly, about 1 to 2 minutes. Garnish with sesame seeds and sliced green onion, if desired. Serve immediately.
4. Black Bean Burgers
These black bean burgers have a secret ingredient — mushrooms — which gives them some extra umani flavor. The vegetarian patties are also seasoned with Montreal steak seasoning, so they have a just-off-the-grill taste. Top with arugula, Muenster cheese, or your other favorite garnishes for the perfect sandwich. This recipe from Gimme Some Oven takes 20 minutes to prepare and serves four.
- 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons olive oil, divided
- 4 ounces baby portabella or white button mushrooms, finely chopped
- ½ cup red onion, finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
- 2/3 cup panko breadcrumbs
- 1 egg white
- 2 teaspoons low-sodium steak seasoning
- Hamburger buns, sliced Muenster cheese, fresh baby arugula, and other desired toppings, for serving
Directions: Heat 2 teaspoons of the olive in a large sauté pan over medium-high. Add the mushrooms and onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft and translucent, about 4 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 to 2 minutes more, until fragrant. Remove pan from heat, drain off any excess oil, and set aside.
As the mushrooms and onions cook, pour the black beans into a large mixing bowl. Roughly mash with the back of a spoon or a potato masher. Add the cooked mushrooms, breadcrumbs, egg white, and steak seasoning and stir until fully combined. (Add some more breadcrumbs if mixture seems too soft.)
Divide black bean mixture into four patties.
Clean out the sauté pan. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the pan and heat over medium-high. Add the patties to the pan and cook for 5 to 6 minutes per side. (You may need to work in batches.)
Remove patties from pan and place on buns. Top with cheese, arugula, and other garnishes. Serve immediately.
5. Gnocchi with Sun-Dried Tomatoes and White Beans
One-pan meals are perfect for busy weeknights, saving you time on both prep and cleanup. This 30-minute vegetarian meal is a good fit for “meatless Mondays” (or any other day of the week) and is made with packaged gnocchi and healthy ingredients like fresh spinach and filling white beans. Recipe from Sweet Peas and Saffron. Serves four.
- 18 ounces packaged gnocchi
- 1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- ¼ to ½ teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
- 2 cups mushrooms, sliced
- ⅓ cup sun-dried tomatoes, diced
- 4 cups loosely packed spinach
- 19 ounces canned white beans, drained and rinsed
- Parmesan cheese
Directions: Add oil to a large sauté pan and heat over medium. Add the gnocchi to the pan, separating any that are stuck together. Season with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 8 to 10 minutes, until the gnocchi are golden in color and slightly crispy. Remove gnocchi from pan and set aside.
Add the mushrooms to the pan, along with a little more olive oil if necessary, and cook for about 3 minutes, until soft. Return the gnocchi to the pan and add the sun-dried tomatoes, spinach, and white beans. Cook, stirring, until the spinach is wilted and all the ingredients are heated through.
Season to taste with additional salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Serve with fresh-grated Parmesan cheese.
6. Fish Tacos with Garlic, Mint, and Cumin Mayo
You can use any meaty white fish (such as mahi mahi or cod) in this 30-minute fish taco recipe from the Today Show. Once cooked, layer the fish on warm corn tortillas with a homemade cabbage slaw and a zesty cumin mayo for a simple yet filling dish. Serves four.
For the fish
- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 teaspoons ground coriander
- 2 teaspoons ancho chile powder
- 1 pinch cinnamon
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 pound meaty yet flaky white fish, like mahi mahi or cod, skinned and de-boned, cut into bite-size chunks
For the cumin mayo
- ½ cup mayonnaise
- 1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
- 8 sprigs fresh mint, about ½ cup leaves
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 lime, zested and juiced, plus extra if necessary
- Kosher salt and pepper
For the tacos
- 10 corn tortillas, warmed
- ¼ head green cabbage, shredded (2 cups)
- ½ cup finely chopped scallions (1 bunch)
- Pickled banana pepper strips, optional
- 1 lime, cut into 8 wedges
Directions: In a bowl, combine the oil, spices, salt and pepper. Add the fish and make sure each piece is coated with the marinade. Set aside.
In a food processor, add the mayonnaise, garlic, mint, cumin, lime zest, and lime juice. Whizz until smooth. Season with the salt, pepper and more lime juice, if necessary. Pour into a bowl and set aside.
Heat a large, nonstick sauté pan over medium heat. Do not add oil. Once the pan is warm, place each piece of fish in the pan. The fish should sizzle gently but firmly when it hits the pan. Cook until cooked through, but still moist, about 3 minutes per side. The fish should flake easily with a fork. Do not overcook.
Remove the fish from the pan and serve immediately with the warmed tortillas, cabbage, cumin mayo, scallions, slices of banana pepper (if desired) and a squeeze of lime.
7. Parmigiano and Herb Chicken Breast Tenders
Kids will love these homemade breaded chicken tenders, while parents will appreciate that they’re not deep-fried. This versatile recipe from Rachael Ray can be served with pasta salad, a fresh green salad, or with a homemade tomato sauce and pasta, as described below. Serves four.
- Olive oil, for frying
- 1½ pounds chicken breast tenders
- Salt and pepper
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 large eggs, beaten with ¼ cup water
For the breading
- 2 cups Italian-style bread crumbs
- 1 cup shredded Parmesan
- 6 sprigs or stems fresh thyme leaves, stripped and chopped, 2 to 3 tablespoons
- 6 sprigs fresh rosemary leaves, finely chopped, 3 tablespoons
- 2 handfuls chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves
- 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
For the tomato sauce
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 small white onion, finely chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 (14-ounce) can chunky style crushed tomatoes
- 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
- 1 cup chicken broth or stock
- A handful fresh basil leaves, torn into small pieces
- Coarse salt
- 1½ cups shredded provolone
- ½ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
- 1 pound spaghetti, cooked to al dente
Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Place a nonstick cookie sheet in oven with a tin foil liner.
Set water on to boil for pasta and prepare according to package directions for al dente. Add oil, onions and garlic to a saucepan to cook medium low heat. Stir occasionally for 10 minutes while you prepare the chicken.
Heat ½-inch oil in a large nonstick skillet or frying pan over medium to medium-high heat.
Season chicken tenders with salt and pepper. Wash hands. Place flour in a shallow dish. Beat eggs with water in a second dish along side the flour. In a third dish, combine the breading ingredients. Coat chicken in flour, then egg, then bread and cheese mixture.
Cook chicken until deeply golden on each side, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to cookie sheet in preheated oven and finish off for another 5 minutes cooking time. Cook chicken 5 or 6 tenders at a time in a single layer, adding additional oil if necessary. If the chicken begins to brown too quickly lower heat slightly.
Once the onion in the saucepan has cooked for 10 minutes, add both cans of tomatoes and a cup of chicken broth and bring sauce to a bubble. Reduce heat to a simmer until ready to serve. Stir in torn basil and season sauce with salt, to your taste.
Place a little of the sauce on the chicken tenders, top with the shredded provolone and Parmigiano. Place in oven or broiler to melt the cheese and then serve. Coat the hot, cooked pasta lightly with sauce then serve.