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TODAY

Friday, July 19

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Airbags

Editor's note: This column originally ran on April 10, 2006.

You know those days when you've gotten off work and you're grumpy and you're hungry and you don't have the energy to really cook anything, but the idea of a can of soup makes you groan with boredom? I know this feeling. All too well.

You'd think since I write a cooking column that I'd be the person who makes a delicious, healthy, well-balanced dinner every night, right? Ha! Fooled you. Seriously, there are some nights where pouring tomato sauce on some boiled spaghetti noodles and eating it while watching Bathroom Renovations or Project Runway is about all I can do.

There are also many nights when my guy is out doing something and I'm left to feed myself, and it's so hard to justify cooking something elaborate for just me. Especially when I've got so much other stuff to do with my time.

So I decided I would do a round-up of several of the meals which will serve one or two people happily. They don't require much brain power, the ingredients are ones I usually have on hand, the preparations are very simple, and the cooking time is about 20 minutes. Or less.

This desire to compile everything came about because even though I love the tomato sauce I made last fall, I'm secretly glad I only have a few jars left. Why? Because I'm tired of it being my lazy standby for a quick dinner. It's easy to get into cooking ruts, and sometimes the best way to break out of one is by thinking of things you used to make but that you haven't for a long time. And you may remember a meal that you made awhile ago, but since then you've learned of new ingredients or techniques that would make that old recipe so much better.

I know I've had many ideas for quick dinners, I just had to rediscover them. So here are some links to some of the quick dishes my guest writers and I have made in the past:

Better Sandwiches written by Andrew Huff
A sandwich can be a meal, as long as you don't make it like mom. There are some interesting non-meat ideas in the comments.

Sam Giancana's Last Meal written by Andrew Huff
This recipe makes enough food to feed two people. You can easily cut the ingredients in half for one. And you can use veggie sausage or one of the healthier sausage brands out there to make this better for you. We honestly make this at least twice a month. It's that good.

Avocado-Mango Salad and Fish Tacos
Each recipe on its own will come in under the 30 minute marker. If you have a cooking partner you can get both to come in under 30 minutes. To sneak over the line, you could make the salad, cook the fish as directed and then place the fish on top of the salad. Now that the days are getting warmer and longer, this is definitely something to remember for later.

Simple Single Mealswritten by Nazarin Hamid
Even though Naz now has a girlfriend (read the comments), and even though his cooking skills have increased ten-fold since he wrote this, I bet he still makes variations of these meals from time to time. The first one works great with other types of beans, too. Just taste before adding in salt, pepper, garlic powder, thyme, oregano, etc. since you'll probably want a little more flavor.

The Rice Cooker Is Your Friend
And I'm sorry to say that I've forgotten about it most of this winter. I admittedly use it more often during the summer months because I can cook a full dinner without heating my non-air-conditioned home by more than a degree.

Shrimp? Who You Calling a Shrimp?
Shrimp, a wonderful quick-cooking, protein-packed creature that absorbs flavors easily and makes my belly happy. These dishes probably require you making a stop at a grocery store or fishmonger, but it will be quick to cook once you get it home. You can also try Noodles, West and East Part 1, written by Nazarin Hamid. And as Naz mentions, you can get good shrimp frozen in a bag. As long as your freezer isn't full of frozen pizzas.

Quick Sauces
For pasta, of course. I'd forgotten about a few of these, and since they sound yummier than my winter fall-back, I think I'll grab a bag of frozen peas. And since writing this, I discovered that taking about 1/4 to 1/2 cup of sour cream, mixing it with 1-2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice, and stirring that over a warm skillet of ingredients creates a lower-fat version of a cream sauce. And yes, fat-free and low-fat sour creams will work with this.

Packing In a Quick Meal
I don't think I've made this dish since we moved a year and a half ago. What a shame. Especially since it was really good. Yes, the move was so traumatic I blocked the memory of this dish from my mind.

Migas Por Mis Amigos
Yeah, it's listed as breakfast food, but there's nothing wrong with eating eggs and beans at dinner time. You could also make a small Frittata.

Accidental Dinners
This column reminds me to keep it simple and challenge myself to be creative. Dinner doesn't have to be a big affair, and a handful of ingredients and 20 minutes can make a great dinner.

Warm Up With Japanese Soups
Sure some of these call for ingredients some folks don't have on hand all the time. But there have to be at least a few of you who will find these easy to whip up. And you can always substitute ingredients if necessary.

Since you don't want to get home and then start looking through these recipes to find out what you want to make, I give you permission to spend the last half hour of your workday reading the links and planning your dinner before you get home. I find it's much easier to plan dinner before you're hungry than when you actually are. If you have a quick and easy recipe you'd like to share, feel free to leave it in the comments below.

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About the Author(s)

Cinnamon Cooper is an untrained cook. Most of what she's learned has been by accident. The rest has been gained by reading cookbooks, watching The Food Network and by scouring the Internet. Oh, and she also hates following recipes but loves the irony of writing them down for others to follow.

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