Kneesocks and plaid skirts--that's what "back to school" conjures up for me at this time of year. Then, after I reflect on how glad I am that that look is behind me (plaid's really not my color), what lingers is the itch to learn something new. This fall, learn how easy it can be to make dinner for four in 20 minutes--even if you're an elementary cook (like me).
Use our easy lesson plan to make 20-minute dinners for your busy week. The curriculum starts with geography and ends with math. Geography class is a 15-minute flyover to map the contours of Southwestern Sauté with Salsa Grits. (Convenient vegetables in your freezer contribute to the bird's-eye view of this quick dinner.)
Smoky Maple-Mustard Salmon is a formula to turn just 4 ingredients (not counting salt and pepper) into dinner in 15 minutes.
Repeat after me: Pollo siciliano. Perfect! That's Italian for chicken Sicilian-style (in our case, Sicilian Olive Chicken), for anyone who's skipping class.
If you can identify Mark Twain as the author of this quote--"Nothing helps scenery like ham and eggs."--give yourself extra credit. It's likely Twain would have been just as happy with Quick Pastrami Hash & Eggs for supper, and you will be too. Since it's ready in just 20 minutes, you can get right back to your reading or other extracurricular activities.
To show you've learned your lessons well, bring a couple apples for the teacher and turn them into Skillet Chicken with Cranberries & Apples (pictured above) for a truly autumnal one-pot dinner.
Skillet Chicken with Cranberries & Apples
Makes: 4 servings, about 1 1/4 cups each
Active time: 20 minutes | Total: 20 minutes
Celebrate the flavors of fall with chicken cooked in a fast apple-cranberry sauce. If you prefer a less tart flavor, try dried cranberries instead of fresh. Serve with quick-cooking wild rice and roasted Brussels sprouts.
1 pound chicken tenders, trimmed and cut in half on the diagonal
3/4 teaspoon dried thyme, divided
3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons canola oil, divided
2 crisp red apples, such as Braeburn, Fuji or Gala, thinly sliced
1 large red onion, quartered and sliced
3/4 cup apple cider or apple juice, divided
1 cup cranberries, fresh or frozen (thawed)
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1. Sprinkle both sides of chicken tenders with 1/4 teaspoon each thyme, salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium and add the chicken. Cook, stirring, until lightly browned on all sides, 3 to 4 minutes total. Transfer to a clean plate.
2. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil to the pan. Add apples, onion, 2 tablespoons cider (or juice) and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon each thyme and salt. Stir to combine. Cook, stirring often, until the apples and onion are softened, 3 to 4 minutes. Add cranberries and sprinkle flour over everything in the pan; cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Return the chicken to the pan and pour in the remaining cider (or juice). Cover and cook, stirring once or twice, until the sauce has thickened and the chicken is cooked through, about 3 minutes more.
Per serving: 287 calories; 10 g fat (1 g sat, 5 g mono); 63 mg cholesterol; 26 g carbohydrate; 0 g added sugars; 24 g protein; 4 g fiber; 496 mg sodium; 415 mg potassium. Nutrition bonus: Vitamin C (18% daily value).
What's your go-to quick dinner for a busy week?
By Wendy Ruopp
Wendy Ruopp has been the managing editor of EatingWell for most of her adult life. Although she writes about food for the Weeknights column of EatingWell Magazine, her husband does the cooking at home.
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