Quick and Easy Weeknight Meals - Part Deux

It’s August already! Back to school is on the minds of children and parents alike. The return to academia means different things to different people. But one thing that it means to most families is less time to prepare food during the week. Even with this time crunch, you can still make a delicious and healthy meal at home. iCook is sharing three recipes with you that are devilishly simple, fast, healthy and taste great!

Pasta, Pasta

Pasta is a great base for a meal and can be cooked in 15 to 20 minutes. The trouble is what can you pair with it that can cook in that amount of time? Well, I’m going to share not one, but two recipes that both have pasta. One is a rustic red sauce with sausage and cannellini beans, and the other is a chili rubbed steak with pineapple salsa. Both are delicious.

Beef & Rice

Occasionally we make a dish called “African Beef and Rice”. I’m not sure if it’s African but it’s incredibly simple, takes no time and can be a stand-alone meal or your main course with a side vegetable. It’s a one pot dish which also helps with clean up time. It has kidney beans, onion, bell pepper and tomatoes as well as ground beef and rice. Make it as spicy or bland as you like.

Here Fishy!

Want something different? Why not try fish for a fast weeknight dinner? Broiled or grilled salmon or halibut can be cooked in literally minutes. Pair the fish with a green salad or some steamed vegetables and a fast cooking starch like couscous and you have a full, well rounded meal in 15 to 30 minutes.

Give your fish a Mexican twist by preparing fish tacos. Dice up a meaty fish like Mahi Mahi and mix it with taco seasoning. Cook it in a hot pan with a little oil and you have fish tacos, hard or soft shell in less time than it takes you to shred lettuce for the taco. Some refried or black beans and Spanish rice will round out a quick meal. 

Gather at the table

My family almost always sat down for dinner, or at least we did until my brother and I were old enough to drive and hold down jobs. Those were the times when we shared our news of the day or caught up on what was happening with our family. I hope these suggestions and recipes allow you to share some dinner time with your family and friends even on busy weeknights. 

Live, Laugh, Love and Eat Well.

Sausage in a Rustic Red Sauce

  • 2 tablespoons of Olive Oil
  • 1 LB of ground Italian sausage (mild or sweet, can substitute links but cut into pieces after browning)
  • 1 Large Onion chopped into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 Green Bell Pepper seeded and chopped into 1 inch pieces
  • 4 cloves of minced garlic (I like about 2 heaping tablespoons)
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons of red pepper flakes (season to your heat level)
  • Two 15oz cans of Cannellini beans rinsed and drained
  • One 14oz can petite diced tomatoes (or use two large fresh tomatoes diced)
  • One 14oz can of plain tomato sauce
  • 1 teaspoon of dried Thyme leaves
  • 1 to 2 Tablespoons of Basil Pesto (can substitute 1 TBSP dried basil or ¼ cup fresh basil leaves chopped)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Pasta of your choice
  • Parmesan cheese for topping

Start a pot of water boiling to make your pasta. Make sure to salt your water and use a bit of oil to keep the pasta from sticking together. We like either penne or pappardelle. If you are using fresh pasta, remember that it cooks much faster than dried pasta.

Add the olive oil to a large deep skillet or pot on medium high heat. Add the sausage in pieces. When the sausage is almost done, add the onion, bell pepper and garlic and allow cooking about 10 minutes. Add all the remaining ingredients stirring well. Salt and pepper to taste. If the sauce looks a bit dry, add a little water or red wine. 

Reduce heat to medium low and simmer about 15 minutes covered. Taste and adjust salt and pepper if needed. Serve hot over pasta with parmesan cheese garnish.

Remember this is a base recipe and you can easily add other vegetables. Fresh vegetables cook quickly especially if chopped into small pieces (the better to hide them). If using frozen broccoli or spinach, be sure to thaw it out completely before adding to the pot or you must extend the cooking time several minutes. Typically, I cut up my vegetables as the sausage is browning to save time but feel free to prep them before starting to cook. You can also skip the pasta and serve this like a stew with nice crusty bread.

Total Prep and cook time about 40 minutes.  Serves 4.

Recommended wine pairing with a Pinot Noir or Chianti.

Penne with Chili-rubbed Flank Steak and Pineapple Salsa

Serves 4

  • 1 LB Flank or Top Sirloin steak
  • ¼ cup plus 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • ¾ tsp Chili Powder
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • ½ cup crushed pineapple, drained
  • ½ jalapeno pepper with seeds, chopped (add more if you like the heat)
  • 1 small red onion, chopped
  • 1 TBSP lime juice
  • ¼ cup chopped cilantro
  • ¼ tsp fresh ground black pepper
  • ½ LB penne pasta

In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook your penne pasta for about 13 to 15 minutes.  

While the water is heating, heat your broiler. Rub the steak with 1 tsp of oil, ½ tsp of chili powder, and ¼ tsp of salt. Broil the meat until medium rare, about 4 minutes per side. Let it rest for 5 minutes and then cut it diagonally into slices.

While the steak is broiling, combine the pineapple, remaining ¼ cup of oil, jalapeno pepper, onion, lime juice, cilantro, black pepper and remaining salt and chili powder in a large stainless steel or glass bowl.  After you have sliced the steak, stir it into the salsa.

Drain your pasta and toss it with the steak and salsa. Enjoy.

African Beef and Rice

  • 1 LB ground beef or lamb
  • 1 cup rice uncooked
  • 1 large onion chopped
  • 1 large Green Bell Pepper chopped
  • 1 or 2 Bay leaves
  • One 15oz can Kidney Beans rinsed and drained
  • One 14.5oz can Diced Tomatoes
  • 1/8 to ¼ tsp crushed red pepper flakes (season to taste)
  • ½ to 1 tsp Curry Powder (season to taste)
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • Water – about 1 ½ cups

Prepare in Large skillet or pot with lid.

Brown the meat in skillet (use a little oil if using lamb).  Add all the other ingredients and mix well.  Bring to boil then reduce heat to low and simmer covered about 20 minutes.  Check seasoning and adjust to taste and allow to simmer about another 5 to 10 minutes or until rice is done.  If getting dry, add another ½ cup of water.  Don’t stir too often or rice will break down and dish will become mushy.

Makes about 4 full servings as main dish.

Click Here to download a printable PDF of the recipes for this week!