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02/25/2013 12:05 pm ET | Updated Sep 30, 2015

The 13 Fastest Dinners On The Planet

By Lynn Andriani

Think of these "un-recipes" as guidelines for super-quick meals you can pull off in 20 minutes or less.

  • Spaghetti With Garlic And Olive Oil
    Lynn Andriani
    Put a pot of water on to boil. Separately, sauté 10 whole peeled garlic cloves in olive oil. Cook the pasta, drain and then toss with the garlic, grated Parmesan, a generous amount of freshly ground black pepper and chopped parsley. Depending on how much cheese you use, you may not need to add salt.
  • Chicken Sausage Hash
    Thinkstock
    Use chicken sausage that's fully cooked (this is the only way we've ever seen it sold), so all you have to do is warm it. Brown the sausage in some olive oil, take it out of the pan and add peeled, diced turnips. Let the vegetables brown for a few minutes, then pour in a cup of apple cider. Scrape up any bits of sausage or turnip that have stuck to the pan, season with salt and pepper, put the lid on and simmer until the turnips are soft, about 5 minutes. Remove the lid and keep simmering until the cider reduces to a glaze. Put the sausage back in the pan and continue cooking until hot. Serve with buttered noodles.
  • Roasted Pork Tenderloin And Garlic
    Thinkstock
    The key to this recipe is a very hot oven (475°). Turn it on as soon as you get into the kitchen so it has ample time to preheat. Rub two pork tenderloins (each about a pound) with olive oil and season with salt, pepper and any other spices you like (oregano and rosemary are two that go nicely with pork). Put them on a rimmed baking sheet with whole cloves of peeled garlic that you've coated with oil. Roast for about 20 minutes, being careful not to overcook the pork. When an instant-read thermometer registers 145°, take the meat out and let it rest for 5 minutes before slicing. Spread the now-soft garlic on the pork or on bread.
  • Personal Pizzas
    Thinkstock
    To make this old standby, set your oven to 400°. Spread Trader Joe's pocketless pitas or the bigger-sized Thomas' English muffins with jarred pizza sauce (we like Barilla Marinara and Rao's Homemade Pizza Sauce), slices of fresh mozzarella, basil and any other toppings you like. They'll cook in about 12 minutes.
  • Sushi Bowl
    Lynn Andriani
    Start with precooked rice, like Annie Chun's sprouted brown sticky rice. Add steamed shrimp, shelled edamame (frozen ones will cook in the microwave in minutes) and slices of cucumber, avocado and scallion. Top with a dash of soy sauce and rice vinegar; wasabi optional.
  • The Simplest Stir-Fry
    Thinkstock
    You can use chopped onions, broccoli florets, sliced mushrooms, diced carrots or practically any other vegetable you've seen in Chinese takeout. Stir-fry them in a tablespoon of oil, adding harder produce such as broccoli and carrots a few minutes before quick-cooking mushrooms. When a sharp knife can be easily inserted in the vegetables, add a tablespoon each of chopped garlic and ginger, plus cubes of chicken, shrimp or tofu, or thinly sliced beef or pork, seasoned with black pepper. When the protein is almost cooked (5 to 7 minutes for meat, 2 to 3 minutes for seafood or tofu), pour in a half-cup of water and a few spoonfuls of soy sauce. Once everything is hot and bubbling, pour it over rice or lo mein noodles.
  • Roasted Pepper-Tomato Soup
    Thinkstock
    Put two jars of roasted red peppers (minus the liquid) and a can of whole tomatoes (we like Muir Glen Organic fire-roasted tomatoes for their rich flavor) in a blender. Toss in a few cloves of garlic and -- the secret ingredient -- a spoonful of brown sugar. Whirl until smooth, then warm on the stove. Bonus points for serving this with cheesy garlic bread.
  • Veggie Chili
    Thinkstock
    Sauté an onion and some garlic in a saucepan; add a can each of black beans, red kidney beans and diced tomatoes (if you can find one with green chilies, even better). Sprinkle with chili powder, paprika, salt and black pepper, and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. Serve with shredded cheese, sour cream and cornbread.
  • Fish Tacos
    Thinkstock
    Either pan-fry frozen fish fillets that you've defrosted in a bowl of cold water and broken into chunks, or follow the cooking directions on a package of frozen fish sticks. Pile them into whole wheat tortillas with shredded lettuce and Monterey Jack or pepper jack cheese, chopped tomatoes, salsa and sour cream. If you have a lime, add a squirt; if you have a ripe avocado, layer a few slices on top.
  • Broiled Crispy Flounder
    Lynn Andriani
    This technique works with any thin white fish fillets, including cod, haddock, orange roughy and pollock. Lay fish on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Add chopped herbs such as thyme or chives if you have them. Sprinkle with panko or regular bread crumbs and cook under the broiler for 5 to 7 minutes, testing for doneness after 5 minutes (the fish should break apart easily when you try to peek inside with a fork; thicker fillets will take a little longer). You can also make this in a toaster oven.
  • Pasta With Winter Vegetables
    Thinkstock
    Boil water for pasta. While it's cooking, cook chopped bacon or pancetta in a sauté pan until crispy, and remove. Add cauliflower florets or sliced brussels sprouts to the pan and cook until they are caramelized and browned in spots. When the pasta is not quite al dente, drain it (reserve about 2 cups of the cooking water) and add it to the sauté pan with the vegetables, along with the bacon or pancetta, plus a handful of bread crumbs and a half-cup of grated Parmesan. Add some of the cooking water to make a sauce. If you have cream cheese or chèvre, throw in a few spoonfuls for a richer-tasting dish.
  • Pan-Seared Pork Chops
    Thinkstock
    Brown pork chops in a tablespoon of olive oil, turning so both sides get a slightly crispy exterior. When they're almost finished, remove them from the pan and add the juice of one lemon and a spoonful each of honey and soy sauce, and let simmer for 3 minutes. Add the chops back to the pan to finish cooking in the sauce.
  • Greens And Beans
    Thinkstock
    Heat a tablespoon of olive oil or butter in a large sauté pan, then pour in a can of drained butter beans (they look like oversized white beans; Goya sells them as "gigantes"). Let them sit for a few minutes so they develop a golden crust, then shake the pan so the other side can cook. Add a coarsely chopped onion and a clove of minced garlic and let those soften; after a few minutes, throw in a few handfuls of chopped kale, escarole or collard greens. When the greens are wilted, drizzle the entire dish with extra-virgin olive oil and sprinkle with a lot of grated Parmesan.

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