10 Super-Fast Weeknight Dinners

Recipes and Food

We see lots of “easy” and “quick” meals around the Web. Most of them aren’t easy enough or fast enough for our liking.

When we working parents say we need fast and easy meals, we mean really fast. As in “It’s 5:30 pm and I just got out of work and the kids are going to be starving and need to be in bed in 2.5 hours and I have not given one thought to dinner tonight.”

Like that fast.

We’ve pulled together 10 unbelievably simple weeknight meals (too simple to be called “recipes”, even) that each take 20 minutes or less to make. Some of them can be made in that time even with a small child tugging at your pant legs every five seconds.

But first, a quick note: We know you know this, but we’ll say it anyway because it’s just the truth: Planning ahead always makes things faster. There is nothing better than coming home and finding your veggies already chopped and ingredients measured out.

Except, perhaps, coming home to find your meal has already been prepared by your personal chef. But we digress.

10 Easy Weeknight Dinners in 20 Minutes or Less

1. Niçoise Toast
Prep boiled eggs (see this tip for easy peeling) and tuna salad. Mash up avocado. Layer everything onto slices of toast. Top with chopped olives and a squeeze of lemon.

2. Naan Pizza
Buy naan flatbread. Add ready-made tomato or pasta sauce, toppings of your choice, and cheese. Bake at 350° for 10 minutes.

3. Dressed-Up Mac ‘n’ Cheese
We’re talking boxed mac and cheese! Start with a good-quality brand (Annie’s is a tried-and-true option) and dress it up with goat cheese or creamy cheese like Brie, and veggies (peas, bell pepper slices, spinach, broccolini, carrot rounds—your choice).

4. Shrimp and Broccoli Stir-Fry
Sautée cooked frozen shrimp and broccoli florets in a bit of water. (Yes, water!) Add some shoyu or soy sauce, a dab of hoisin or honey, and granulated garlic. Forget rice (takes too long) and serve over rice noodles, which only have to be soaked in hot water briefly to cook.

5. Seasoned Tofu with Veggies
You could cube and bake or sauté your own firm tofu, but that’s not the busy parents’ way. Buy seasoned, cubed tofu instead. Here in Toronto, we have gourmet seasoned tofu pieces from Ying Ying Soy Food, but most grocery stores will have some pre-seasoned tofu cubes.

Sauté broccoli and red, yellow, or orange bell pepper in water. Heat store-bought teriyaki sauce. Mix veggies and tofu together and top with teriyaki sauce and (optional) toasted sesame seeds.

6. Fish Sammie
Once you get the hang of cooking fish, it’s one of the easiest, healthiest meals out there. We love this whole-meal-in-one-sandwich.

Fry any type of white fish in a pan, top with (store-bought) tartar sauce and either store-bought coleslaw or just add vinegar, mayo, and lemon juice to a shredded cabbage mix. Serve on a bun with cucumber slices on the side.

7. Bean and Veggie Quesadillas
Heat up some (drained) canned beans with chili powder, cumin, and a few dashes of hot sauce. Throw a tortilla in a nonstick frying pan (or spray with oil) and top with beans, cheese, avocado, veggies (e.g. diced bell pepper, asparagus, packaged and pre-washed baby spinach), and a second tortilla. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes and flip.

8. Portobello Stacks
Spray portobello mushroom caps with oil and rub a bit of balsamic vinegar over them on all sides. Broil for 5 to 7 minutes. Crumble some goat cheese or feta on each cap and broil for another minute or two. Top with store-bought fresh salsa, chutney, pesto, or other delicious sauce. Optional: sprinkle with toasted seeds or nuts.

9. Creamy Chicken Pasta
Cook fusilli, conchiglie, farfalle or other textured pasta (to “catch” the sauce). Dice chicken and sauté until cooked thoroughly. Add frozen veggies (peas, broccoli, spinach, etc.) to the pasta in the last five minutes of cooking. Drain the pasta and add back to the pot with the cooked chicken. Add heavy cream (about 200 mL for about 400 g of pasta) and whole grain or “old-style” Dijon mustard by the tablespoon to taste. Season with black pepper or a bit of smoked paprika.

10. Smoky Corn Chowder
Sauté an onion, celery, and garlic in water or oil. (Make it faster with a mini food chopper.) Add whole milk and the smallest-size potatoes you can find (or pre-cubed potatoes). Bring to a boil, then add stock and two or more cups of frozen corn kernels plus a can of creamed corn (optional). Cook until potatoes are tender. Add a few dashes of liquid smoke and top with bacon bits, and freeze-dried chives. The pièce de resistance? A couple of avocado slices added to each bowl.

(You could use real bacon, but unless you prep it ahead, it will take longer than our 20-minute limit. Cleanest/fastest option: Bake your bacon on parchment paper at 400°F for 15-18 minutes.)

Images adapted from alanagkellykevinpaul goyette via Flickr CC.

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