During my college waitressing years I was introduced to a whole new kitchen vocabulary. My first week of training the chef shouted down the line (def: the row of cooks), “86 tomatoes!” All the wait staff nodded and I wondered what was so special about 86 tomatoes. That poor 87th tomato must feel awfully left out that no one shouted while he was around. As it turns out, “86” means the kitchen has run out of that item. Ergo, there were 86 less tomatoes than I supposed there were. One of the most used phrases was shouted out when a customer’s order didn’t meet their expectations and they needed a replacement meal immediately. The chef would yell, “Gimme a halibut parmesan on the fly!” and that signaled the cook to make that dish as fast as he could.
As the head chef of our household I try to be prepared for our family dinners. I make menu calendars and stock our freezer. But life happens and sometimes dinnertime rolls around and I have nothing planned. Those are the nights I wish I could yell, “Gimme a delicious, nutritious meal for 6 on the fly!” But since I’m the only one on the line in my house, I’ve had to learn how to make fast, fantastic dinners with what I have on hand. Today, I’m sharing a few of my favorite fast dinners with you.
I always have canned beans and tortillas around and these quesadillas use both of those to get dinner on the table in less than 15 minutes. As an added bonus, they’re one of my kids’ favorites. They’ll pound them down as fast as I can get them off the griddle.
This dish is what my family eats in lieu of macaroni and cheese. I use whole wheat penne pasta and the nutty filling aspect of it makes this an easy meatless meal.
Nothing makes me zip back into happy childhood memories quite like a hot baking powder biscuit. These days I like to make my biscuits using half whole wheat flour. They still get a good rise to them and taste fluffy and buttery. Though it may seem like an unusual pairing, a buttery biscuit is well balanced by a dinner salad. Our salads vary with the seasons, but this week’s salad had spring mix greens, finely shredded beets, sliced almonds, cucumbers, pears, roasted chicken and a balsamic dressing.
Paninis are fancy grilled sandwiches and they’re incredibly versatile. You can use whatever combination of bread, meat, cheese, vegetables, and even fruit that you have on hand. I like my paninis best with a seasoned mayonnaise on the bread. Sometimes I make a spicy chipotle mayonnaise, other times it’s pesto or sundried tomato mayonnaise. Experiment with it and have fun!