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Dinner S.O.S.

Oh no! You're smack dab in the middle of a "dinner emergency!" These catastrophic culinary conundrums come in all shapes and sizes: dinner has to be ready in 10 minutes because [insert event, practice, or meeting] is in 15; the doorbell just rang - the in-laws decided to stop by unannounced; or it's simply been one of "those days" and take-out is not synonymous with culinary salvation. Don't despair - these 10 simple ingredients can save the day.

Woman Cooking in Kitchen10 ingredients for quick meals

Before your next dinner emergency leads to panic, booted in-laws (there are plenty of other reasons to do that!), or a call to the pizza joint, simply reach for the pantry. Every well-stocked kitchen has the right ingredients for pulling together an amazing and healthy meal in the time it takes to boil pasta. Here's how.

1. Herbs and spices

Making delicious food quickly does not require the world's largest spice rack. However, there are a few spices that will make your quick-to-the-table dinners rich in flavor. Herbs and spices, such as cumin, garlic powder, black pepper, chili powder, oregano, onion powder and salt, can be combined to take the most mundane meals to satisfying new heights. Be creative and add flavor to your simplest of dishes.

(Seven superfood recipes with herbs and spices)

2. Lentils

Lentils are an excellent source of protein and fiber. In addition to being quite filling, they are versatile and can be ready in 20 minutes. Just cook with broth and a chopped onion (if you have one on hand) and you have the basis for a variety of recipes. Mix cooked lentils with tomato sauce and spices for a taco filling, puree lentils to make a thick soup, or mix lentils with rice for a killer pilaf.

(Delectable lentil recipes)

3. Frozen tortellini

This is the only processed food on the list and it's only here because it is so convenient. Tortellini can be boiled and mixed with tomato sauce or cream, or with garbanzo beans, peas and lemon for a simply delicious pasta salad. You can also keep a bag of frozen ravioli handy for another impressive fast-to-fix meal.

(Chicken Tortellini)

4. Frozen peas

To serve healthy meals, vegetables are a must. Frozen peas are sweet and delicious and they take only a few minutes to thaw. Serve as a snappy side-dish with just a pat of butter or mix into pasta or rice dishes for an added bit of color, flavor and protein. You can also make a rich and creamy pea soup.

(Pea soup recipes)

5. Lemons

Lemons are a must-have ingredient for many dishes. If you have chicken in the freezer, make lemon chicken. Add lemon juice and zest to steamed broccoli florets. Whisk lemon juice and zest into quick marinades, sauces, and salad dressings. Use lemon wedges as a flavorful garnish. You can even add some sugar and make lemonade or a lemony dessert!

(Lemony dessert recipes)

6. Broccoli and cauliflower florets

Mixed bags of broccoli and cauliflower florets are a simple way to get vegetables into any dish. Toss florets with pasta and olive oil for a healthy meal, steam florets with a dash of garlic powder for a side, or use florets to make a stir-fry. Broccoli and cauliflower florets can even become a salad.

(Broccoli, Walnut and Fruit Salad)

7. Fresh basil

Fresh basil is not much of a meal on its own, but it can add distinctive and fresh flavor to so many things. Add fresh basil to salad greens, toss basil into a stir-fry, or add chopped basil leaves to tomato sauce for a marinara that would make any Italian grandmother proud. Keep a pot of fresh basil on your kitchen windowsill so you always have fresh basil flavor within reach.

(10 ways to use fresh basil)

8. Tomato sauce

Tomato sauce is the basis for a wide array of dishes. With the other nine ingredients on this list, tomato sauce can become pasta sauce, taco sauce, or meat loaf sauce. With some sugar and vinegar, tomato sauce can even become the best ketchup you've ever had!

(How to make authentic Italian pasta sauce)

9. Canned garbanzo beans or chickpeas

Garbanzo beans, also known as chickpeas, are an instant meal in a can. Give them a rinse and simply puree with garlic, salt and olive oil for an easy dip. Add tahini and you have a healthy protein- and fiber-packed hummus. Mash with a fork and mix with vegetables for an easy wrap. You can also add garbanzo beans to pasta or rice or toss them into a salad.

(Chickpea recipes)


10. Tortillas

Tortillas can turn into a near countless number of different meals: wraps, burritos, tacos, enchiladas, tostadas, spring rolls, tortilla chips, and the list goes on and on. Simply be creative with other ingredients you have on hand and you'll have an instant – and satisfying – tortilla-based meal.

(Recipes with gourmet tortillas)

With just these 10 ingredients, a delectable selection of quick and easy meals is within your reach anytime you're faced with a dinner emergency.

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Comments

Comments on "10 Ingredients for a quick meal"

Katie February 08, 2013 | 5:49 PM

It's always good to have a few essential items on hand when you don't have anything planned. Thanks for this list. I'll definitely be adding this to my pantry.

Megan December 29, 2012 | 2:46 PM

Thanks for this. It always amazes me what amazing meals can be created from basically nothing. See, cooking can be cheap!

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