Food Q&A: Meals in a Hurry

I need some cooking tips that will get me out of the kitchen fast!

Need ideas for coping with restaurant buffets? Want some good snack ideas? In our Q&A series, nutritionist and food editor Leslie Fink, MS, RD, answers questions about food, nutrition and weight loss.

Q: Help! I need food ideas that get me out of the kitchen and on with my life.

A: Every once in a while I enjoy putting my heart and soul into a time-consuming recipe like risotto, but my jam-packed schedule doesn't usually afford me that luxury. Making dinner has become a 15-minute affair, and lunch needs to be done in 10 minutes—or less! Here are my favorite tricks to get meals on the table fast.

Convenience Foods
You could soak beans for hours and then boil them. Or, you can open a can. You can also slice and dice vegetables to your heart's content or you can buy a bag of frozen precut vegetables. The same goes for packaged shredded cheese, bagged salads and frozen grated potatoes: You'll pay more for the convenience of precut and frozen, but you're buying yourself time.

In a Jiffy
Check out instant rice, no-cook lasagna noodles and pre-marinated poultry. Look for meal packages that come with seasoning packets so you don't have to spend time opening jars and measuring. And don't forget to shop from your grocer's salad bar; you'll find instant fruit salad, Cobb salad and more.

Double 'em up.
When you take the time to cook something that'll freeze well, such as lasagna, casseroles, soups or chili, double or triple the recipe for future meals.

Slow Cooking
A recipe may take hours to cook in a slow cooker but most of that time is unattended. You can toss the ingredients together in 10 minutes and come back six hours later to a hot, home-cooked meal. That's a time-saver! Try our Moroccan Slow Cooker Stew.

Beyond Breakfast
Scrambled eggs, vegetable omelets or cottage cheese topped with fruit make great dinners when you're short on time and groceries. Bring favorites from other meals to the dinner table: Who says you can't serve sandwiches, the quintessential lunch food, for supper?

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