By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Fast food doesn't have to be bland
Around the Table
Hamburgers make quick-to-make, tasty meals.

The Food Network’s Rachael Ray had a successful run with a show called “30 Minute Meals.” I suspect it was popular because our lives are so hectic these days that when we get home in the evenings, no one feels like preparing a big supper.

I wasn’t a big fan of Rachael’s show, however, if only because she prepared some stuff I wouldn’t feed a stray dog. She was wasting 30 minutes of my time to think I’d eat something like “drunken spaghetti and black kale” or “roasted eggplant and tomato subs.” Where’s the meat?

If I had my own show, I’d fix man food. I mean, 30-minute meals don’t have to be meatless or bland.

I realize there are folks who prefer to get their protein from the stuff that’s fed to the cows, pigs and chickens that normal folks eat. Vegans probably are big fans of Rachael Ray.

I prefer fast, meaty dishes like sloppy Joes, grilled Spam or an old-fashioned hamburger cooked on my wife’s George Foreman grill. If you want veggies, slice up a tomato, eat a salad or heat up some frozen fries in the oven. These meals take way less than 30 minutes to prepare, so in the time it takes to obtain car insurance, you could be chomping down on a meaty sandwich.

Hamburger Helper is OK, though some of its flavors tend to taste the same. My wife sometimes prepares the stroganoff variety, which she pours over a bed of Ore-Ida fries. With this, we usually have some Le Sueur garden peas. There, see — you’ve got your meat, taters and something green. Healthy, right?

My wife is a champ at fixing man food. Usually, she uses the original Manwich brand of sloppy-Joe mix, but sometimes she makes her own from scratch. It probably takes her an extra 10 minutes to sauté the chopped onion and green peppers, then she adds the hamburger and the sauces and spices that make it so yummy.

While she’s cooking this, she’ll have fresh sliced taters cooking in the oven. These taters are smothered on both sides with parmesan cheese and cooked for 30 minutes at 375 degrees on a flat pan that’s been smeared with Canola oil. She turns each tater slice over after 15 minutes. The homemade sloppy-Joe mix will be ready about the same time the taters are done.

She makes another quick meal with boneless chicken. After washing off her boneless chicken breasts, she slices them into small pieces and then rolls them in crushed potato chips, specifically the sour-cream-and-onion chips. She then places them on a greased flat pan, which goes in the oven for 30 minutes at 375 degrees. Unlike the tater slices, the chicken slices are not turned over.

While the chicken is cooking, she’ll cook a bag of frozen baby lima beans. She seasons this with a tiny bit of sea salt, lots of bacon bits and a generous sprinkling of dried onion flakes. Of course, I always add more salt as well as pepper. With the chicken and lima beans, she’ll also fix white rice. If I beg her enough, she’ll cook the rice in chicken stock instead of water.

This meal may take a little more than 30 minutes — probably 45 — but it’s delicious and it’s simple. Delicious and simple are necessary when preparing meals in a hurry.

Probably the quickest meals to prepare that are delicious and simple are things we’ve already cooked and stored away in the freezer. My wife does a great chicken noodle soup that feeds us for one meal with the rest going in the freezer. One batch of her soup usually provides three or four quart-size containers, enough for three meals for two or three people. Ditto for her bean and ham soup, or my vegetable-beef soup and South Georgia chili.

When I make my Northern Italian spaghetti sauce, I make enough for four or five meals for the whole family. Similarly, our youngest daughter makes enough of her homemade marinara sauce for homemade pizza to store a couple containers in the freezer.

When she makes pizza, she has to prepare her dough the night before, anyway. On pizza night, she simply has to spread out the dough, add the sauce and toppings and throw it in the oven at 450 degrees for 20-30 minutes.

You can prepare quick, easy meals without sacrificing flavor. Just use a little prior preparation and a lot of imagination.


Email Murray at


Sign up for our e-newsletters