Cheat Sheet

30-Minute Meals For Dummies

From 30-Minute Meals For Dummies by Bev Bennett

Take time now to master a few cooking steps to cut down on food preparation and bring out your meal’s flavor for those times when you’re running out of time and need a quick meal. Don’t fret if you’re out of an ingredient when preparing a 30-minute meal, a handy substitution list can keep you going. And don't forget side dishes, especially those that don't take a lot of time or effort.

Timely Substitutions for 30-Minute Meals

Even the most organized cooks have found themselves searching the kitchen for an ingredient only to find they’ve run out. When you’re missing an ingredient you need for a fast meal, use the following list for a quick substitution:

1 teaspoon baking powder = 1/4 teaspoon baking soda plus 5/8 teaspoon cream of tartar 1/2 cup bread crumbs = 2 slices crumpled bread
1 cup broth = 1 bouillon cube in 1 cup boiling water 1 cup buttermilk = 1 cup milk minus 1 tablespoon replaced with 1 tablespoon vinegar or lemon juice
3/4 cup ketchup = 1/2 cup tomato sauce mixed with 2 tablespoons brown sugar, 1/2 tablespoon cider vinegar, and 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon 1/2 cup chocolate chips = 3-ounce bar of semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 2/3 ounces chocolate, semisweet = 1 ounce unsweetened chocolate plus 4 teaspoons sugar 1 ounce chocolate, unsweetened = 3 tablespoons cocoa plus 1 tablespoon shortening
1 cup corn syrup = 1 cup sugar plus 1/4 cup water 1 tablespoon cornstarch = 2 tablespoons flour
1 whole egg = 3 tablespoons beaten egg or 1/4 cup egg substitute 1 cup flour for baking, sifted = 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons cake flour
1 tablespoon flour for thickening = 1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch, arrowroot, or potato starch 1 cup flour, cake = 1 cup all-purpose flour minus 2 tablespoons
1 cup flour, self-rising = 1 cup minus 2 teaspoons all-purpose flour, plus 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon salt 3-ounce package, prepared gelatin, flavored = 1 envelope plain gelatin plus 2 cups liquid flavoring, such as fruit juice
1/8 teaspoon ginger, powdered = 1/2 teaspoon grated, raw gingerroot 1 cup half-and-half = 7/8 cup milk plus 2 tablespoons butter
1 cup heavy cream = 3/4 cup milk plus 1/3 cup butter. Note: Don’t use this mixture for whipping. It’s fine for sauces or custards. 1 tablespoon minced, fresh herbs = 1 teaspoon crushed, dried herb
1 cup honey = 1 1/4 cups sugar plus 1/4 cup liquid 1 teaspoon lemon juice = 1/2 teaspoon vinegar
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest = 1/2 teaspoon lemon extract 1 teaspoon dry mustard = 1 tablespoon prepared mustard
1 medium whole orange = 1/2 cup juice 1 cup shortening, for baking = 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons butter
1 cup sour cream = 3/4 cup sour milk plus 1/3 cup butter whipped together 1 cup shrimp, cooked = 3/4 pound raw in shell shrimp or 7-ounce package frozen
3 medium whole tomatoes = 1 can (14 1/2 ounces) tomatoes 1 cup tomato juice = 1/2 cup tomato sauce plus 1/2 cup water

5-Minute Cooking Steps for 30-Minute Meals

Mastering the following cooking skills can make your meal preparation time effortless and provide fast, delicious meals. Try these techniques:

  • *Browning onions: Heat 1 tablespoon of vegetable or olive oil in a 10- to 12-inch skillet. Add 1 medium, chopped onion and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally until the onions are transparent. For golden brown onions, raise the heat to medium-high.

  • Browning ground beef: Place a heavy-bottomed 10- to 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat for 30 seconds. Add a pound of ground chuck or ground beef and break up with a wooden spoon while stirring occasionally until the meat is brown, crumbling into smaller particles.

  • Stir-frying chicken: Heat 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil in a wok or high-sided skillet over high heat. Add 1 pound of chicken breast strips and cook over high heat, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon until the chicken is firm and white on all sides.

  • Cooking precooked rice: Reconstituting rice in water or broth is what you’re actually doing to precooked rice. Bring 1 cup of water or broth to a boil in a small pot. Stir in 1 cup of rice. Cover the pot, remove from the heat, and set aside for 5 minutes. This makes about 1 1/2 cups of cooked rice.

  • Cooking greens: Spinach is one of the more popular greens, but kale, Swiss chard, and beet greens fit the bill as well. Wash a 12-ounce bag of fresh spinach leaves. Don’t dry the leaves. Place the spinach in a nonstick 12-inch skillet over medium heat and cook until the leaves are limp. Add a couple of tablespoons of olive oil to the skillet for flavor or if you’re preparing a longer-cooking green, such as kale.

Emergency 30-Minute Meals

If you’re in a time crunch to get dinner on the table, relax and check out these ideas for making a quick and delicious 30-minute meal:

  • Tostada tower: Layer a crisp, fried corn tortilla; precooked Mexican seasoned ground beef; another tortilla; shredded cheddar cheese; and a third tortilla. Heat in the oven and top with sour cream and guacamole. Serve with deli coleslaw on the side.

  • Nacho egg omelet: Melt a little butter in a large skillet and pour in 2 beaten eggs per serving. When the eggs are almost set, spoon condensed canned nacho soup on half the omelet. Fold the egg mixture in half and finish cooking. Serve with warm flour tortillas and a salad of sliced tomatoes with bottled balsamic vinaigrette dressing.

  • Italian antipasto salad: Dump a package of gourmet salad mix into a large bowl. Add a jar of drained, marinated artichoke hearts; 2 or 3 diced, hard-cooked eggs; a few olives; diced Provolone cheese; and your favorite dressing. Toss and accompany with bread sticks.

  • Mighty minestrone: Pour a couple of cans of minestrone soup into a large saucepan. Add a can of zucchini with tomato sauce and 1 cup diced salami or kielbasa. Simmer until hot. Sprinkle each serving with grated Parmesan cheese and serve with garlic bread.

  • Super bowl: Hollow out round sourdough rolls and fill with canned chili or French onion soup that you heated to serving temperature. Place the rolls on a baking sheet. Sprinkle shredded Monterey Jack cheese over each roll and heat in the oven until the cheese melts. Serve with baby carrots.

Saving Sides for Your 30-Minute Meals

Does your meal not feel complete without a side dish? Side dishes don’t have to be difficult and time-consuming. Try these handy ideas to inspire you and dress up your meals:

  • Italian marinated vegetables: Prepare a bag of frozen Italian mixed vegetables according to the package directions. Drain well and dress with bottled Caesar salad dressing.

  • Cheesy mashed potatoes: Prepare instant mashed potatoes according to the package directions. Stir in a handful of shredded sharp Cheddar cheese and let the cheese melt in.

  • Spinach salad: Pour a bag of baby spinach leaves into a salad bowl. Add a can of drained, diced beets. Sprinkle on crumbled blue cheese. Add your favorite dressing and toss.

  • Pear and lettuce salad: Open a large can of pear halves and arrange 2 halves on each lettuce-lined plate. Sprinkle on sliced almonds. Dress with bottled poppy seed dressing.

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