Fast food; the good kind

Written by Michael Hawkins

May 2, 2014


It might seem contradictory, but one of the great things about learning to become a better cook is discovering ways to spend less time in the kitchen.

As you learn more about technique, about ingredients and about how to combine them, you pick up a lot of useful ways to get from “what’s for dinner?” to “here’s dinner” in no time at all.

And we’re not talking about convenience foods or cutting corners here. There’s no “just microwave it instead” or “just replace the stock and vegetables with potato chips and beer.”

We’re talking about good, proper food. Real ingredients prepared properly and shoveled into one’s face in a very short period of time.

If you think about it, some of the world’s greatest foods are 30-minute-or-less meals. Chinese stir-fries, grilled Mexican fajitas, a myriad of Italian pastas.  All those items are regular parts of my home menu as I’m often faced with the question of “what’s for supper?” at 5:00 pm with the expectation it’ll be on the table by 6:00 pm.

Learning a few quick dishes can go a long way to reducing or completely ridding your diet of convenience foods & fast foods. Considering that on average, Canadians still eat something from a fast food restaurant every second day, there’s clearly room for improvement.

The trick is learning a few convenient, fast meals that are at the same time nutritious & satisfying.

We all have days when we want to spend as little time as possible in the kitchen. The Boston Pizza finger-cooking guy has a point there, but don’t let it get the best of you.

It’s completely understandable that some people don’t want to spend a lot of time in the kitchen or don’t like cooking at all. Those are the people with the most pressing need to learn more about cooking. Embrace the concept and get out of the kitchen faster.

The pesto pasta here is ready in the time it takes to put a pot on the stove and boil some spaghetti, or the time it takes to prepare a crazy-fatty-salty box of mac and cheese for that matter. Just watch for a pack of fresh basil at your local market and you’re armed and ready for fast, good food at home.

A roast chicken is a total no-brainer and something every meat-eating home cook should have in their repertoire.  This one takes a little over an hour but your time in the kitchen is about as short as you’ll get with any home meal.  You’ll be shocked at the results of a dish that needs barely five minutes of effort and comes with an hour of built-in leisure time while it cooks. Suddenly going to a fast food drive-through seems like a lot of effort.

Pasta with pesto and spring vegetables

A handful of fresh basil

A few good glugs of olive oil

1 clove garlic, chopped

Salt and pepper

2 tbsp of pine nuts

¼ cup parmesan cheese

juice of half a lemon (optional)

Pasta for two or three people (increase pesto ingredients for more people)

Fresh, roughly chopped vegetable such as asparagus, spring peas, tomatoes, roasted or fresh red bell peppers. 

Bring a large pot of generously salted water to the boil and drop in the pasta. While waiting for the pasta to boil, prepare the pesto.  Drop the basil, olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper and lemon (if using) into a food processor and blend briefly just until combined and smooth. Spoon into a large bowl and add the parmesan cheese. If using a vegetable that doesn’t need to be cooked such as roasted or fresh bell peppers or tomatoes, add them to the pesto now.  If using a vegetable that needs to be cooked such as asparagus or fresh peas, add them to the pasta pot during the last few minutes of boiling the pasta.  When the pasta is al dente or tender but still has a slight bite, drain it well in a colander and toss into the bowl with the pesto. Toss well and serve on warm plates with more parmesan.


 The easiest, best roast chicken

3-4 lb whole chicken

salt, pepper

some dried thyme or sage or other herb you like

A couple of russet potatoes (optional)

Preheat the oven to 425 F.  Drop the chicken into a large cast iron fry pan or roasting pan. Season all over with salt, pepper, thyme, sage or other herb.  Squeeze two potatoes in there.  Put it in the oven and roast for an hour and ten minutes. The chicken should be well browned and easy to pull apart at the wings and legs.  Prepare some other vegetables while the chicken roasts. Keep it simple. Frozen peas, corn, fresh broccoli, whatever floats your boat. Serve the potatoes as is or mash them as you like. Let the chicken rest once it’s done roasting. Carve and serve.



You May Also Like…

%d bloggers like this: