As a busy mom, you've already mastered the art of time management and multi-tasking and can apply those skills to making dinner. Think about what you'd like to cook for tomorrow's dinner the night before, and using the list of quick-cook foods below, create a 30 minute menu. Knowing what you want to cook a day ahead will take the pressure off when it's crunch time.
Smaller vegetables and thinner cuts of meat will cook faster. The smaller you cut vegetables and herbs, the quicker they will cook, absorb flavors or infuse flavors into a recipe. Vegetables cut to 1/2-inch pieces will cook much quicker than 1-inch or 2-inch pieces. Minced onion, shallots, garlic and herbs will infuse flavor faster. A quicker cook time also ensures nutrients are kept at their peak. Thick cuts of pork, chicken and beef should be pounded to no more than 1-inch thick or butterflied to make them thinner.
Use bold ingredients that will build flavors fast. Chicken or vegetable stock used to boil converted rice will add more flavor than just plain water. Water, generously salted, will season pasta or potatoes as they cook. Soups, pan sauces and gravies started with a foundation of diced carrot, celery and onion will infuse complex flavors into the finished recipe. Rich "umami" foods such as tomato paste and crimini mushrooms will also infuse a long-simmered flavor into foods. Wines, vinegars and citrus zest will add a zing to your cooking liquid. A quick marinade of oil, vinegar, salt, pepper and fresh herbs will add a punch of flavor just before cooking. A second batch of the marinade can be made to slather over the cooked meats and vegetables before serving.
Braising, roasting and long simmered recipes are perfect for lazy weekends, but won't cut it in a 30-minute kitchen. Stick to shallow pan frying, broiling, grilling, blanching and steaming when you've got to get dinner on the table in a hurry.
If you've got four burners, use 'em all! Keep as many items cooking at the same time as possible. When something is finished cooking, cover it and set it in a warm oven until the rest of the meal is ready. Consider one-pot meals as well. For example, from the list below, you can combine pasta, vegetables and mussels or salmon for a quick, one-pot pasta dinner with a pan sauce of white wine, broth and shallots.
The following vegetables can be blanched in water for one to three minutes, and then pan fried/pan roasted to caramelize. They can also be steamed for six to seven minutes:
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