"So, it's a weeknight, okay? Life isn't always fun, you know? You've gotta work. And you've gotta come home, and you've gotta make dinner." That's the way Amelia from Bon Appétempt begins this episode, titled "30 Minute Meal?"
At this point, we're all familiar with the idea of the (attempted) 30-minute meal. While not a new concept, this idea was popularized and burned into our cortices by Rachael Ray's cooking show. The idea seems sound -- simple, healthful recipes that are easily executable for a weeknight dinner and neither bury you in prep work, nor leave you with a ton of clean-up. It's such a nice idea, but unfortunately, real life rarely works like this, right? Watching it on TV, it always seems like the timer is doing its job, but it rarely takes into account steps like rinsing and drying lettuce, finely shaving shallots, hard-boiling eggs. All these things get done in the magical land called "Ahead Of Time."
By the time you're a minute into Amelia's video, you can tell she's giving you a nudge and a wink about how long a weeknight meal can really take.
"The thing about the weeknight meal, is you just do everything ahead of time and it makes it super simple... it's not simple."
We love this. We love Amelia. We love standing up for a little bit of real talk and being honest. To make salad dressing, hard boil eggs, bake homemade croutons, fry sausages and pull together a composed meal in 30 actual, real life, human minutes takes intense organization, time management, trust in your abilities and zero distractions. Does this sound like your life? Amazing! It does not sound like ours.
Don't fret. It is possible to pull together a respectable dinner in 30 minutes (sometimes you can even do dinner in 10!), the important thing to remember is this: cooking under time constraints is rarely fun or rewarding. If you've got your heart set on a 30-minute meal and it ends up taking 40, don't worry! It will take you less time the next time you make it. Or you'll know what you can do ahead of time to speed things up. OR, you'll pick another, more realistic recipe altogether.
The notion that food can only be accessible or weeknight-appropriate if it takes 30 precise minutes or less is actually so silly that we can't believe we get so worked up about it sometimes. If your schedule mandates this kind of speed-demon behavior, there are a few things you can do that will make your life feel much less stressful:
- Prep ingredients ahead of time: You know, like, Sunday -- chop/roast/blanch some vegetables, make a sauce, a little planning goes a long way.
- Plan for leftovers: If you make enough on Monday to also enjoy on Wednesday, you'll feel accomplished, smart and less frazzled. Plus, there are a ton of foods that benefit from a day or two in the fridge, like soups and stews.
- Order take-out sometimes: Seriously. No one cooks every single night. Not even Rachael Ray.
[via PBS Digital Studios]
Also on HuffPost:
New-Style Greek Salad
<strong>Get the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/27/new-style-greek-salad_n_1057601.html" target="_hplink">New-Style Greek Salad recipe</a></strong> This re-imagined Greek salad has all the familiar ingredients of the classic, like cucumbers, tomatoes, onions and olives, but what puts it over the top are the feta fritters.
The Modern Caesar Salad
<strong>Get the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/27/the-modern-caesar_n_1057560.html" target="_hplink">Modern Caesar Salad recipe</a></strong> This modern take on Caesar salad starts with a very flavorful salsa verde, which coats the salad greens as well as the pan-fried shrimp. The salad also includes French bread croutons and boiled eggs.
Warm Farro Salad With Braised Radishes
<strong>Get the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/27/warm-farro-salad-with-bra_n_1058779.html" target="_hplink">Warm Farro Salad with Braised Radishes recipe</a></strong> Braising radishes in raspberry vinegar not only fixes their color a beautiful pink, it also makes them tangy and delicious. The braising liquid also becomes the dressing that tops this farro grain salad.
Grilled Lamb Salad With Cumin Vinaigrette
<strong>Get the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/27/grilled-lamb-salad-with-c_n_1058452.html" target="_hplink">Grilled Lamb Salad with Cumin Vinaigrette recipe</a></strong> This Chinese-Indian fusion salad starts with a base of sliced romaine with julienned jicama, carrot and cucumber plus shredded basil and jalapeños. Tender grilled leg of lamb goes on top. It's all dressing with a honey, mustard and cumin vinaigrette.
Barley And Grilled Vegetable Salad
<strong>Get the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/27/barley-and-grilled-vegeta_n_1058222.html" target="_hplink">Barley and Grilled Vegetable Salad recipe</a></strong> Use your favorite leftover grilled vegetables (or follow our <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/27/vegetables-with-walnut-dr_n_1058772.html" target="_hplink">recipe</a>) to make this healthy and filling barley salad. A bit of lemon juice, chives and pecorino cheese are all you need to finish it off.
Thai Crab And Green Mango Salad
<strong>Get the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/27/thai-crab-and-green-mango_n_1058743.html" target="_hplink">Thai Crab and Green Mango Salad recipe</a></strong> This refreshing crab salad has all the flavors of Thai cuisine covered -- salty, sour, sweet, bitter and spicy. The salad is packed with pungent flavors from watercress and herbs like cilantro, basil and mint. Cucumbers and green mango add a nice crunch.
Quinoa Salad With Sugar Snap Peas
<strong>Get the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/27/quinoa-salad-with-sugar-s_n_1058636.html" target="_hplink">Quinoa Salad with Sugar Snap Peas recipe</a></strong> Protein-packed quinoa cooks up exceptionally fast, making it perfect for the weeknight. Here it's combined with blanched sugar snap peas, toasted pumpkin seeds and chives for a refreshing salad that works well as a main or side dish.
Grilled Flank Steak With Corn, Tomato And Asparagus Salad
<strong>Get the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/27/grilled-flank-steak-with-_n_1058442.html" target="_hplink">Grilled Flank Steak with Corn, Tomato and Asparagus Salad recipe</a></strong> A summer salad of cherry tomatoes, sweet onion, asparagus and corn makes a nice pairing with grilled marinated flank steak and sauteed mushrooms. A honey and cider vinegar dressing brings all the flavors together.
Barley And Spinach Salad With Tofu Dressing
<strong>Get the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/27/barley-and-spinach-salad-_n_1058223.html" target="_hplink">Barley and Spinach Salad with Tofu Dressing recipe</a></strong> Crumbled tofu in the sherry vinaigrette adds extra texture and protein to this salad. The fiber-rich barley is cooked in chicken stock for additional flavor and served warm with sauteed mushrooms and wilted spinach.
Chicken Salad With Zucchini, Lemon And Pine Nuts
<strong>Get the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/27/chicken-salad-with-zucchi_n_1058297.html" target="_hplink">Chicken Salad with Zucchini, Lemon and Pine Nuts</a></strong> This unique salad features lemon-marinated seared chicken served with arugula and raw marinated zucchini. Dried currants and preserved lemon slivers add unique bursts of flavor.
Spinach And Shrimp Salad With Chile Dressing
<strong>Get the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/27/spinach-and-shrimp-salad-_n_1058714.html" target="_hplink">Spinach and Shrimp Salad recipe</a></strong> This healthy salad of baby spinach, peas and tomatoes features a warm dressing of caramelized onion, chile, ginger, cumin and turmeric. Top it with cooked shrimp to complete your dinner.
Warm Flank Steak Salad With Mint And Cilantro
Get the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/27/warm-flank-steak-salad-wi_n_1058780.html" target="_hplink">Warm Flank Steak Salad with Mint and Cilantro recipe</a> This salad is all about the steak and pungent herbs. First you start by grilling the marinated flank steak and then stir-fry the slices with the herbs so they crispen up. The special ingredient of roasted rice powder (a Thai condiment) gives it a unique crunch.
<strong>Get the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/27/cobb-salad_n_1061224.html" target="_hplink">Cobb Salad recipe</a></strong> This classic Cobb salad features poached chicken, crisp bacon, tomato, watercress, hard-boiled egg, avocado and blue cheese. For a unique twist serve it all stacked up.
Warm Lamb Salad With Fresh Herbs, Feta And Artichokes
<strong>Get the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/27/warm-lamb-salad-with-fres_n_1058781.html" target="_hplink">Warm Lamb Salad with Fresh Herbs, Feta and Artichokes recipe</a></strong> This Mediterranean melange of flavors will have you imagining yourself in Greece. Leftover grilled lamb tops a mix of Bibb lettuce, cucumber, artichoke, cherry tomatoes, red onion, olives and feta.
Caesar Salad With Crispy Tofu Croutons
<strong>Get the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/27/caesar-salad-with-crispy-_n_1058265.html" target="_hplink">Caesar Salad with Crispy Tofu Croutons recipe</a></strong> This Caesar salad has tofu in two forms: silken for the creamy dressing and firm for the croutons, which are fried until crispy. You still have the classic flavors of Caesar just with a healthier twist.
Grilled Green Bean Salad With Lentil Vinaigrette
<strong>Get the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/27/grilled-green-bean-salad-_n_1058446.html" target="_hplink">Grilled Green Bean Salad with Lentil Vinaigrette recipe</a></strong> Forget about steaming or boiling your green beans -- grill them for better flavor. In this salad they combine with arugula, pattypan squash, crisp pancetta and a flavorful black lentil vinaigrette
Ham And Egg Salad
<strong>Get the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/27/ham-and-egg-salad_n_1057476.html" target="_hplink">Ham and Egg Salad recipe</a></strong> Feel like breakfast for dinner? Make this ham and egg salad with runny soft-boiled eggs and crisp ham slivers, served over tender lettuce and basil leaves. Drizzle with a lemon and butter dressing.
Lemony Bulgur Salad With Shrimp And Spinach
<strong>Get the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/27/lemony-bulgur-salad-with-_n_1058523.html" target="_hplink">Lemony Bulgur Salad with Shrimp and Spinach recipe</a></strong> Buy cooked shrimp from the supermarket to make this recipe come together more quickly. The salad includes bulgur, baby spinach, sliced radishes and a dill-and-lemon dressing.
Warm Chicken And Rice Noodle Salad
<strong>Get the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/27/warm-chicken-and-rice-noo_n_1057527.html" target="_hplink">Warm Chicken and Rice Noodle Salad recipe</a></strong> Tender poached chicken tops this Asian-inspired salad of baby spinach, broccoli and scallion. A savory soy and balsamic vinegar dressing ties it all together.
Ginger Beef Salad
<strong>Get the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/27/ginger-beef-salad_n_1058406.html" target="_hplink">Ginger Beef Salad recipe</a></strong> Use any leftover roast beef or deli beef to make this salad in a hurry. Mixed greens, cilantro, mint and radishes combine with crisp chow mein noodles and a tangy Asian dressing to create this salad supper.
WATCH: How To Make A Poached Egg Salad
P. Allen Smith shows how to prepare a poached egg salad.