20-minute dinners for busy weeknights
by Anne Finch, Accredited Practising Dietitian for LiveLighter
- March 15, 2021
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You’ve just walked in the door after work. The kids are asking about dinner, you’re exhausted, and the clock has just struck 6.
While it’s tempting to settle onto the couch, scroll through a menu app and have something delivered, why not bump the junk and choose one of our fast, easy and tasty dinner options instead?
These low effort, high reward dinner recipes are ready to go on the table in under 20 minutes!
1. Noodle or rice bowl
Noodle bowls are fresh and tasty, quick to prepare using whatever you have in the fridge, and the perfect meal for a hot day.
To make your bowl you’ll need four components:
Some rainbow vegies
Choose from mixed leaves, spinach, avocado slices, carrot ribbons, bean shoots, cucumber slices, or thinly sliced red cabbage, snow peas, capsicum or kale.
Carrot ribbons look fancy but are actually super easy to make with a regular peeler.
For a vego option try hummus, soft boiled eggs, edamame (heat frozen edamame in boiling water or the microwave), or tofu (marinate your own or use pre-flavoured tofu pieces).
You could also use canned tuna (plain or flavoured), smoked salmon or cooked or BBQ chicken pieces.
Noodles or rice
Use ready-cooked, shelf-fresh sachets of brown rice or noodles from the supermarket. Dried noodles are also relatively quick to prepare.
Finish off your healthy bowl with a dash of sesame oil and salt-reduced soy sauce. For extra bite add chilli sauce. For extra crunch add a sprinkle of sesame or sunflower seeds.
2. Curry in a hurry
Sure, it would be great if we all had the time to grind and mix our own curry pastes, but let’s be honest, bottled curry paste is definitely the go for a quick dinner. Choose your favourite flavour (Thai red curry paste is my go-to) and wack a tablespoon or two of paste into a large saucepan together with fresh or frozen vegies and a protein source like chickpeas, peas, tofu cubes, slices of chicken or strips of lean beef.
You can make your own rice (a rice cooker makes this a breeze) or use pre-cooked sachets from the supermarket.
3. Stuff a spud
It doesn’t get easier than a baked spud hot from the microwave. Choose potatoes that are a similar size, prick them all over with a fork, and blast in the microwave. As a rough guide, 4 medium potatoes in my microwave takes about 15 minutes and I like to flip them halfway through. Top your baked spuds with whatever you have available in the fridge or pantry – baked beans, leftover Bolognese, cooked chicken breast, black beans, spinach, creamed corn or diced tomatoes. Grate some cheese over the top and you have a dinner winner.
Feeling fancy? Whole sweet potatoes steamed in the microwave are also a great option.
4. Faster pasta
Pasta is an absolute staple midweek meal at my house. If you know how to boil water and open a jar, you’ve got this one in the bag. Add frozen vegies when the pasta is almost cooked to up your vegie count and don’t forget a source of protein like bocconcini, sunflower seeds, fresh or tinned fish, or cooked chicken. Regular tomato-based pasta sauce works great or try pesto for something a bit different.
Try our creamy tuna pasta recipe.
5. Cheat’s risotto
OK, so this one’s not strictly 20 minutes, but this easy (and peasy) microwave version is too good not to share. It’s a great option for when you need to be able to quickly chuck something together and then leave to cook while you wrangle the dog/ kids. All you’ll need is rice, stock, frozen vegies and a protein food like cooked chicken breast, tuna or cannellini beans. Here’s a recipe to get you started, but feel free to mix it up with whatever ingredients you have available.