Fast Food

Life in the twentieth century is moving at lightening speed. And this seems even more true when you're in the process of moving. I got a major reminder of this fact recently when my husband and I moved into a new house. Between the weeks before the move filled with hours of packing, phone calls to realtors and filling out paperwork; the days of lifting, lugging and shoving boxes into and out of vehicles during the move; and the weeks of trying to unpack, meet the new neighbors and generally get settled, I had a unique opportunity to experiment with life in the ultra-fast lane. Guess what -- I didn't like it!

However, if you're like most of the population on the planet, you'll find it difficult to avoid those fast-paced moments all together. So, if life hands you a fast life, feed yourself fast food! Now, before you get ready to shoot a nasty email message my way to chide me for such advice, let me explain. When I say fast food, I'm not talking about a trip to the burger joint for a grease burger and a side order of grease, grease or grease. I'm talking about making meals that take 20 minutes or less to prepare from fridge to table.

The key to making these quick meals is using a combination of "from-scratch" ingredients and "ready-made" ingredients. A pizza is a snap if you use a crust that's already made -- no mixing dough and trying to shape it without becoming hopelessly stuck in it -- all you do is add your favorite toppings and bake it for a fraction of the time you would a completely "from-scratch" pie. Save that for a time when your world isn't spinning so fast! A scampi-style shrimp dish takes minutes when you use canned tomatoes and precooked shrimp -- it's just a matter of warming it all. Serving it over couscous -- which takes about 5 minutes to prepare -- gives it a great texture that's sure to impress. Anyone can stir-fry if frozen veggies are added to an already-hot wok or skillet. Sauces get easy when you premix them in a jar. Just close and shake -- what a great way to relieve tension! Serve it over quick-cooking rice and you've got dinner in a hurry.

When you're moving, the last thing you want to face after dinner is a sink full of dishes. You can avoid that by making sure you have plenty of paper plates and plastic utensils on hand for serving. All the recipes included in this article use a small number of dishes and cleaning them should be easy if you don't leave them sit for hours. If you're really in a rush, just pop them in the sink, add some dish soap and run hot water over them. You won't have much work to do when you get time to attend to them.

Here is what's on the menu:

So, before you decide that the only options open to you when you're on the move include a trip to the burger joint or a call to the pizza delivery man, remember that fast food doesn't have to come from a source outside your kitchen.

Chicken and Hummus Pizza

This tasty pizza passes on the traditional tomato sauce and uses a garlic hummus spread instead. If you really love garlic, feel free to add more to the hummus!
  • 1 (15 oz.) can chick peas, drained
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice
  • 1 T. crushed garlic
  • 1 large ready-made pizza crusts (such as Boboli)
  • cooking spray
  • 1/2 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper
  • 1 c. frozen spinach, thawed and thoroughly drained
  • 3/4 c. sharp cheddar cheese, grated

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Place the first three ingredients in a food processor. Process until smooth. Spread evenly over the ready-made pizza crust.

Spray a medium skillet with cooking spray and cook the chicken pieces over medium heat until it's no longer pink. Season with crushed red pepper. Sprinkle the cooked chicken evenly over the pizza crust. Add the spinach and grated cheese.

Bake for about 10 minutes or until the cheese melts and the spinach is cooked through. Serve immediately.

  • Yields: 6 servings
  • Preparation Time: 20 minutes

Greek Shrimp

Talk about a one dish meal! This one actually lets you toss everything into a deep skillet and it's practically done.
  • 2 (28 oz.) cans chopped tomatoes
  • 2 T. dried parsley
  • 2 T. dried oregano
  • 1 T. dried rosemary
  • 2 T. lemon juice
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 c. frozen spinach, thawed and drained
  • 1 lb. precooked shrimp, peeled
  • pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a deep skillet and heat, stirring frequently, over medium heat until thoroughly cooked. Serve immediately over hot couscous.

  • Yields: 4-6 servings
  • Preparation Time: 15 minutes

Tropical Chicken Stir-Fry

I came up with this one when I was getting low on groceries and was too busy packing to run to the store. I grabbed some pineapple juice I had saved, some chicken breasts and frozen veggies and -- ta-da! Dinner was served.
  • 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 T. wok oil
  • 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper
  • 1 (16 oz.) pkg. frozen stir-fry vegetables (choose your favorites)
  • 3/4 c. pineapple juice
  • 2 T. soy sauce
  • 2 T. corn syrup

Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces. Brown with the crushed red pepper in wok oil (you can use a wok or deep skillet on medium-high heat). Add the frozen vegetables; stir-fry until the vegetables are crisp-tender.

Meanwhile, combine the pineapple juice, soy sauce and corn syrup in a jar. Seal and shake until well mixed. Add the pineapple juice mixture to the wok or skillet and mix constantly until the juice is bubbly and thickened. Serve immediately over hot rice.

  • Yields: 4 servings
  • Preparation Time: 20 minutes