Six Quick and Easy Dinner Menus
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#1: Shrimp and pasta dinner
This quick dinner features Shrimp Fusilli with Sweet-Pea Pesto, garlic bread and a simple dessert. Frozen seafood is the rushed cook's friend—here, peeled and deveined shrimp let you skip the prep work. Peas, garlic, mint, butter and vinegar form the pesto. For dessert, a build-it-yourself ice cream sundae bar can be elegant or simple, depending on your topping choices.
#2: Fish taco dinner
Another fast meal from the International Culinary Arts and Sciences Institute: Tilapia Tacos with Chipotle Cream, Spanish rice, Mexican hot chocolate and purchased sugar cookies. Break spiced white tilapia into pieces for tacos and top with a creamy chipotle sauce. ICASI Student Services Director Ruthann Kostadinov says: "Sometimes, I feel like the queen of fast food. I've learned that if it takes more than 30 to 45 minutes, my husband will suggest takeout."
Frozen tilapia is easy to work with; it's already skinned and boned. Rub with seasonings, and it's ready for the skillet. Rice mix from a box is an easy side dish. Another option: Pick up some side dishes at your supermarket's deli and get cookies from the bakery department.
#3: Off-The-Shelf Chili Meal
This quick and easy meal includes Chicken Salsa Chili with assorted toppers and Mocha Chocolate Mousse. While the chili bubbles away, mix together the simple mousse (next slide). Chill it until you're ready for dessert.
Mousse in minutes
This delicious mousse is a snap to mix together. You can layer it over fresh fruit and top with your choice of miniature chocolate pieces, chocolate sprinkles or chocolate-covered espresso beans.
#4: Salmon Dinner
The Chopping Block cooking school in Chicago suggested this menu: Oven-Roasted Salmon, fresh fruit and Chocolate Panini. Just four ingredients go into the salmon main dish. Pepper and a salt blend season the ready-to-cook salmon fillets. Use packaged broccoli slaw or cabbage slaw from the market's produce section and fruit from the salad bar for an easy, yet nutritious, meal. Serve with a melty chocolate dessert panini (next slide).
Warm and gooey Chocolate Panini
Assemble the panini dessert while the salmon roasts. Just before serving, toast the sweet sandwich until the chocolate filling is warm and gooey.
#5: Rigatoni Dinner
This menu, also from the Chopping Block in Chicago, features One-Dish Rigatoni, Italian bread and Pear Caramel with Ice Cream. Split up the prep time for this pasta meal by making the 30-minute main dish first; then heat the dessert (next slide) before serving.
Pear Caramel with Ice Cream
Scoop the ice cream and freeze while the pears cook in their sugary syrup. If you're interested in the cooking school that created this recipe, the Chopping Block has Chicago locations at Lincoln Square (773/472-6700) and the Merchandise Mart (312/644-6360). For information: www.thechoppingblock.net.
#6: Simple Steak Dinner
The meat lovers in your family will especially appreciate this meal: Cracked-Pepper Steak with Yogurt-Lime Sauce, Lemon Couscous, cooked vegetables and dessert coffee. A sprinkling of pepper adds a boost to already flavor-packed flank steak. A cool yogurt topper tames the peppery heat. St. Louis Kitchen Conservatory cooking school Owner Anne Schlafly Cori suggests a dessert coffee with her menu. For cooking school information: 314/862-2665; www.kitchenconservatory.com.