"Quick" meals have become synonymous with TV dinners, but maybe quick needs a new definition. After all, what is quick about a meal that takes 35 to 50 minutes to cook in an oven that must first be preheated for 10 minutes?
Is it quicker to heat a frozen scrambled egg breakfast in the oven for 20 minutes when scrambled eggs cook - from scratch - in two minutes?
With the cost of food rising far more rapidly than most people's salaries - 14 percent so far this year - it's difficult even for the two-income household to keep the food budget under control. Except in unusual circumstances, the cost of prepared foods - the so-called convenience foods - rises more quickly than the basics because the energy and labor to produce them must be factored in. It's always going to cost more to have someone else do it for you.
But if you eliminate steak, roast beef, and even fish; cut down on eating out, and select only what's in season, where else can you cut corners without devoting your life to cooking?
After working all day, most people are not in the mood to spend an hour or more in the kitchen making dinner. Advertising has conned us into believing that the only alternative is to eat food someone else has prepared, either in or out. But there is another way, and it needn't be a bowl of cereal or a bologna sandwich.
Dozens and dozens of excellent meals can be put together in 30 minutes or less that don't require many pots, meaning clean-up may be kept to a minimum, too.
These quick meals offer a way to eat well for less money and even get better nutrition as a bonus.
CHILICON CARNE (4 to 6 servings) 2 onions, chopped 1 1/2 pounds ground beef 1 can (8 ounces) tomato sauce 1 can (15 1/2 ounces) kidney beans 1 can (16 ounces) tomatoes 2 to 3 teaspoons chili powder Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste Spaghetti or macaroni shells
Brown the meat in its own fat. Add the onions and cook until brown. Add the tomato sauce, half of the kideny beans which have been mashed, tomatoes, chili powder, salt and pepper. Simmer 10 minutes. Add the remaining whole kidney beans and simmer another 5 minutes. Serve over spaghetti.
Accompany the chili with a salad of cherry tomatoes and small raw mushrooms which have been marinated in an oil and vinegar dressing while the chili cooked.
For desert, serve either fresh fruit with some cheese apples with cheddar, pears with gorgonzolat or slice, but do not peel, one apple per person and saute in butter with a sprinkling of brown sugar.
OYSTER STEW (2 servings) 1 tablespoons butter 1 cup milk 1 cup light cream Salt and pepper to taste 1/4 teaspoon celery seeds 2 dozen shucked oysters with their juice Parsley for garnish Additional butter, if desired
Place the butter, milk, cream, seasonings and oyster juice in a heavy pot. Bring to boil and reduce immediately to simmer. Simmer 2 minutes. Add the oysters and cook 3 minutes longer. Serve in deep bowls garnished with parsley and a dab of butter, if desired.
This recipe can be made with large clams, scallops or shrimp.
Serve with pilot crackers or very crusty, warm French bread.
The stew may be followed by a substantial salad made with greens, tomatoes, shredded cheese, pickled beets and hard cooked egg wedges dressed with an oil and vinegar dressing.
For desert: fresh fruit salad and a few chocolate chip cookies.
DEVILED DOUBLE LAMB CHOPS (4 servings) 2 tablespoons melted butter 2 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce 2 tablespoons lemon juice 2 tablespoon gin Freshly ground black pepper 4 double loin lamb chops
Combine all ingredients but chops and mix. Four over chops and allow to marinate while the rest of the meal is prepared. You can do this in the morning or the night before, if you happen to think of it.
To serve, remove chops from marinade and broil them 5 inches from heat for 8 minutes on each side.
If desired serve with warm mint jelly.
Accompany the chops with a package of frozen peas that have been briefly cooked with a sprig of mint. After cooking, drain and mix with a teaspoon or more of butter, if desired.
Cook 2 cups of green noodles with 2 cups of egg noodles in boiling water for about 5 minutes, or until just tender. Drain and return to saucepan with a tablespoon of butter, freshly ground black pepper and a few sprinkles of poppy seeds.
If you like, mix the peas and noodles and serve in a single dish.
For desert: a melon wedge with a piece of lime.
SHRIMP SAUCE FOR SPAGHETTI (4 servings) 1/2 cup olive oil 1 cup chopped onion 2 cloves garlic, crushed 6 mushrooms, thinly sliced 1 can (16 ounces) tomatoes 1/4 cup chopped anchovy fillets 1/2 teaspoon oregane Salt and pepper to taste 1 1/2 pounds shelled shrimp 1 pound cooked spaghetti
Saute the onions, garlic and mushrooms in hot oil. Add the tomato paste and tomatoes and simmer 5 minutes. Add the anchovies, oregano, salt and pepper to taste. Simmer 5 minutes. Add the shrimp and cook about 5 minutes longer, until shrimp is just cooked. Pour over cooked spaghetti.
Serve with garlic bread made by mixing butter with a crushed clove of garlic and spreading the butter on a loaf of French bread, slice lengthwise. Run the bread under the broiler to toast.
Cut 4 medium zucchini into thin slices and chop 1 large onion. Saute the onion in 2 tablespoons butter until tender. Add the zucchini and cook quickly only until zucchini is crisp tender, not soft.
For dessert: try grapes which have been drizzled with a mixture of honey and a bit of brandy.