Time To Enjoy
Make a delicious, nutritious meal in next to no time. Here are three to get you started

By Elisa Bosley
Photos by Rita Maas

If you're the family cook, you've no doubt experienced that sinking feeling when the clock strikes 5 and you're still not sure what you're going to make for dinner. At these moments, succumbing to take-out temptation is nearly irresistible. But you don't want to reach for the phone too often, because few pleasures exceed sitting down to a nutritious meal made from scratch. There's nothing like a home-cooked dinner to satisfy the senses—indeed, to ground us, to center our thoughts, and to remind us of slower, simple pleasures.

Therein lies the rub: How do you make a satisfying meal that still leaves you with the energy to enjoy it? Rushing through an elaborate recipe certainly isn't the answer. Instead, relax and cook simply, with unfussy techniques and tasteful, easy-to-find ingredients. As a start, stock your pantry and freezer with culinary staples and learn ways to cut meal preparation time (see "Stock Up" and "Quick Tricks."). Sure, it's fun to make complicated casseroles and from-scratch pies for a special occasion, but for dinnertime squeezed into a regular weeknight, simple is the name of the game.

And just because the ingredients are few and basic doesn't mean taste has to be compromised. The key is using punchy additions to liven up quick dishes with unexpected flavor, color, and texture. So get out the pans and savor the joys of no-frills cooking. When you use your imagination and these recipes as a start, you'll be spending your time lingering at the table instead of the stove.

Menu 1
Spicy ginger turkey cutlets
Julienned beets with balsamic dressing
Serve with: Steamed asparagus

Spicy Ginger Turkey Cutlets

Serves 4 / Simplicity tip: Fresh ginger and orange juice are wonderful, but in a pinch, use ginger from a jar (available in the produce section) and reconstituted frozen juice.

1 pound turkey cutlets
All-purpose flour
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 teaspoons minced ginger
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
1 cup orange juice

1. Dust turkey with flour and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add turkey; brown on both sides until cooked, 3-4 minutes per side (do not overcook). Remove and keep warm.

2. Add ginger to skillet; cook 30 seconds, scraping up brown bits. Add brown sugar, red pepper flakes, and orange juice; stir to blend. Bring to a boil and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly reduced, about 5 minutes. Return turkey and juices to pan. Simmer until warmed through and sauce thickens, about 3 minutes.

Nutrition Facts Per Serving: Calories: 307 calories Fat: 9g (2g saturated) % fat calories: 27 Cholesterol: 65mg Carbohydrate: 25g Protein: 30g

Julienned Beets with Balsamic Dressing

Serves 4 / Simplicity tips: Get friendly with canned vegetables, including beets, whose color and flavor deliver maximum pleasure with minimal effort. If you don't care for beets, try fresh or canned pears instead. When toasting nuts, make extra and refrigerate leftovers for another time.

2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 can (14.5 ounces) shoestring beets, drained
1/4 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
1-2 teaspoons crumbled blue cheese

1. In a medium-size serving bowl, blend vinegar and olive oil. Add beets and toss gently to coat. Sprinkle with walnuts and cheese.

Nutrition Facts Per Serving: Calories: 102 calories Fat: 7g (1g saturated) % fat calories: 61 Cholesterol: 1mg Carbohydrate: 8g Protein: 2g

Menu 2
Asian pasta with tempeh
Red cabbage and apple salad
Serve with: Kiwi coins

Asian Pasta with Spicy Tempeh

Serves 4 / Simplicity tips: To reduce kitchen clutter, marinate tempeh in your serving dish. Start heating the pasta water before you do anything else; cover the pot to help the water boil faster.

1/4 cup soy sauce
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons, plus 1/4 teaspoon, sesame oil
1 tablespoon sugar
2-3 teaspoons Chinese chili paste with garlic
8 ounces tempeh (mixed grain)
1/4 cup slivered almonds
3/4 pound dried angel hair pasta
1/2 pound fresh or frozen snap peas
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions

1. Bring 3 quarts water to a boil over high heat. In a large, wide serving bowl, mix soy sauce, vinegar, 2 tablespoons sesame oil, sugar and chili paste. Cut tempeh into 1-inch cubes; place in soy mixture and toss gently to coat all sides.

2. In a medium skillet over medium heat, toast almonds in 1/4 teaspoon sesame oil until golden, 3-4 minutes. Set aside. Remove tempeh from the serving bowl with a slotted spoon; using the same pan, cook tempeh, turning, until cubes are browned, about 5-8 minutes. While the tempeh cooks, wash peas and chop cilantro and green onions. When cubes are toasted, return tempeh to serving bowl.

3. Stir pasta into the boiling water and cook, uncovered, 2 minutes. Stir in peas and cook 1 minute longer. Drain well. Transfer hot pasta to serving bowl with tempeh and sauce; toss. Add cilantro and green onions; toss. Sprinkle with nuts and serve.

Nutrition Facts Per Serving: Calories: 562 calories Fat: 17g (1g saturated) % fat calories: 26 Cholesterol: 0mg Carbohydrate: 80g Protein: 27g

Red Cabbage and Apple Salad

Serves 4 / Simplicity tip: Cabbage, an unsung and nutritious hero, can be bought preshredded; however, this salad takes practically no time at all when made with a food processor using the shredder blade.

1/2 head cabbage (red, white, or a combination)
4 baby carrots
1 Granny Smith apple, cut into wedges
1-1/2 teaspoons lime juice (fresh if possible)
1-1/2 teaspoons lemon juice (fresh if possible)
Salt, to taste
Fresh cilantro, for garnish

1. Finely chop or, using a food processor, shred cabbage with carrots and apple. Transfer to a serving bowl and mix gently. Sprinkle with citrus juices and salt; toss. Garnish with cilantro.

Nutrition Facts Per Serving: Calories: 82 calories Fat: 1g (0g saturated) % fat calories: 7 Cholesterol: 0mg Carbohydrate: 19g Protein: 2g

Menu 3
Portobello mushrooms on arugula
Savory rice with pine nuts
Serve with fresh pear or tomato slices

Portobello Mushrooms On Arugula

Serves 4 / Simplicity tip: Prepackaged arugula makes this hearty and flavorful favorite even quicker to prepare.

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon-style mustard
5 ounces arugula, washed and dried
4 portobello mushrooms, stems and gills removed
4 tablespoons crumbled goat cheese

1. Preheat broiler. In a medium bowl, blend 1 tablespoon olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and mustard. Add arugula and toss to coat lightly.

2. Brush mushrooms with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Lightly coat a broiler pan with cooking spray and place mushrooms on pan. Broil 5-6 minutes, turning once.

3. Divide arugula among 4 plates and top with mushrooms. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon goat cheese over each mushroom. Serve.

Nutrition Facts Per Serving: Calories: 121 calories Fat: 10g (2g saturated) % fat calories: 67 Cholesterol: 6mg Carbohydrate: 6g Protein: 5g

Savory Rice with Pine Nuts

Serves 4 / Simplicity tip: Next time you're chopping onions or shredding carrots, make extra, measure into zip-top bags, and freeze, ready for use in recipes like this one.

2 tablespoons butter
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1/4 cup shredded carrots
1/4 cup raisins
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons freshly chopped parsley (or 2 teaspoons dried)
1/4 cup pine nuts or slivered almonds
1 cup rice
2-1/4 cups water

1. In a medium-large saucepan with lid, melt butter over medium heat. Add onion and carrots; cook until tender, 3-5 minutes. Stir in remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer until rice is done and water is absorbed, about 20 minutes.

Nutrition Facts Per Serving: Calories: 313 calories Fat: 12g (5g saturated) % fat calories: 34 Cholesterol: 16mg Carbohydrate: 47g Protein: 7g Senior food editor Elisa Bosley enjoys spending time in the kitchen—but not too much time.