Fast Food at Home (Lunch and Dinner Edition)

Gentle Readers, sometimes life doesn’t leave a whole lot of time for food preparation. In my job, I have the good fortune of being able to work from wherever there’s wifi. My kitchen is the corporate kitchen most days of the week. However, before you submit your resumes to me to pass along, be prepared to eat lunch on camera and to prep it in 3 to 10 minutes.

Speedy Salad: Strawberries, rotisserie chicken, almonds, goat cheese, greens.

Speedy Salad: Strawberries, rotisserie chicken, almonds, goat cheese, greens.

Yes, that’s right, there were no zeros missing from the above statement. I attend a lot of conference calls. I’m committed to being present in the meeting, so I use my webcam. The meetings run 30 minutes to an hour, and they’re often back to back. Because I work West coast hours, that spans the traditional lunch time. So I know quite a bit about fast food.

Open-faced tomato sammie, or tapas!

Open-faced tomato sammie, or tapas!

Dinner is 30 minutes or less by necessity. So fast food in the commercial sense is not really an option for me. Talking about quick meals with a chef friend, I asked what he made for himself when he was tired and wanted something easy. His answer: a roasted chicken with roasted potatoes and turnips.

Free form Mexican Meal made with The Jrs. Squash, guacomole, beans and rice, chips.

Free form Mexican Meal made with The Jrs. Squash, guacomole, beans and rice, chips.

Um, yeah, that’s not something I can prepare when I’m exhausted and it’s late! He even excused it as “rustic.” My point here, you have to work within your skill level and expertise. I can’t whip out a souffle or bi bim bap, but I can rock some pancakes, a quesadilla, or some tapas.

Spinach quesadilla with avocado slices FTW!

Spinach quesadilla with avocado slices FTW!

The Practical Cook’s 5 Tips for Making Fast Food at Home

1. Shop smart. I’ve been over this before, but stocking your pantry with Punt! meals that you can make in your sleep is key. You can’t eat the leg of your desk. Things I’m never without currently: peanut butter, bananas, bread, tortillas, spinach, cheese, yogurt, walnuts. I can make salads, sandwiches, parfaits, and more in seconds with these.

2. Plan ahead. This is a laudable goal, and I admire greatly those who succeed at it. This week, I’m happy to remember to dress in the AM. From my friend Literacy Cook, boil eggs in advance! From Complicated Veggie, pack lunch the night before! Go team! This could also include leaving leftovers in a state of near-readiness (single serving bowls, lined up in the fridge, etc.).

3. Practice. You’ll never get faster if you don’t. It may be years before I consider roasting a chicken and root veggies fast food (Chef tips: turn the oven on immediately when you get home, high heat and spatchcock the bird), but the more often I am forced to perform this dance, the faster I get.

4. Recruit help. I am fortunate in that The Practical Cooks Junior make excellent sous chefs and wait staff. They can now set the table, read labels, open jars, pour water and milk, and so on. It slows things down a bit short-term, but think of the long-term rewards!

5. Remain open. This bit of advice is as open as it sounds. You know what makes things fast? Not binding yourself to the notion of meat and three. You need nutritious food, not to win Iron Chef. Yogurt parfaits are fantastic and infinitely variable, cereal can work in a pinch, leave the top off your sandwich and eat it as tapas, throw random leftovers into a bowl of lettuce and call it salad.

The Juniors and I have embraced summer with 6 arms this year. We set aside dinner formality to work together, play together, and eat together. I’m sure the structure of a new school year will return us to more traditional meals as well, but we’ve learned a lot about being creative in the kitchen. They’ve asked that I do a breakfast edition of this post, so look for that soon. What do you eat for fast food? Share your ideas below!

Send your speedy suggestions, good ideas, and mayhem to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

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On Friday, A Little Vegetarian.

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Filed under Kitchen Philosophy, Punt!

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