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5 Simple & Healthy 20-minute Recipes for People Who Don’t Have Time to Cook

In a world where so few of us are obliged to cook at all anymore, to choose to do so is to lodge a protest against specialization—against the total rationalization of life. Against the infiltration of commercial interests into every last cranny of our lives. To cook for the pleasure of it, to devote a portion of our leisure to it, is to declare our independence from the corporations seeking to organize our every waking moment into yet another occasion for consumption. It is to reject the debilitating notion that, at least while we’re at home, production is work best done by someone else, and the only legitimate form of leisure is consumption. This dependence marketers call “freedom.”

Michael Pollan’s latest book, Cooked, from which I pulled the above quote, presents an elegant and thoughtful argument in favor of getting our butts back in the kitchen. What the book lacks, however, is the reality that most people a.) don’t have the time, b.) don’t know what they’re doing, or c.) both.

If you want to learn how to cook or need a little motivation/kick in the pants, I recommend you check out an article David Spinks wrote on Greatist called How Anyone (Yes, Even You) Can Learn to Cook. David’s the founder of Feast, a service that features a 30-day online bootcamp to help people develop the habit of cooking. And habits, as I’ve written about before, are the key to mastering any new skill.

I think one of the best things you can do if you don’t like cooking or don’t know how is to get outside your comfort zone a bit and just experiment. That’s what I’m gonna help you do in this post … and it’s a heckuva lot easier than you think.

I’ve compiled several of my favorite 20-minute recipes that anyone (seriously) can whip up. These recipes all meet the following criteria:

  • Simple: minimal ingredients, easy instructions a child could follow
  • Healthy: all natural, real food … no processed crap
  • Fast: 20 minutes or less from prep to table

Ready? Here we go …

Chicken Piccata

What You Need:

  • Boneless, skinless chicken (thighs work too)
  • Lemon
  • Olive oil
  • Capers
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Chicken broth

How to Cook It:

  1. Heat a non-stick pan to medium.
  2. Season chicken breast with salt and pepper and cook it for 5 minutes a side.
  3. Add a Tablespoon or two of olive oil to the pan, along with the chicken broth and juice from the lemon.
  4. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook for 10 more minutes, turning the chicken once while the sauce reduces.
  5. Top the chicken with the sauce and serve.

Pan Seared Salmon with Basil Butter

What You Need:

How to Cook It:

  1. Heat a non-stick pan to medium.
  2. Season salmon with salt and pepper, rub with a little olive oil and sear for 3-4 minutes/side.
  3. Top with a bit of fresh butter and chopped basil.

Chicken Parmesan

What You Need:

  • Boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • Olive oil
  • Tomato sauce (pick a sauce with only real ingredients you can pronounce)
  • Herbs (basil and oregano … dried is fine but fresh is always better)
  • Parmesan-reggiano cheese (shredded)
  • Salt
  • Pepper

How to Cook It:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Heat a non-stick pan to medium.
  3. Season chicken with salt and pepper, rub with a little olive oil and sear for 3-4 minutes/side.
  4. Top chicken with tomato sauce, herbs, and cheese.
  5. Bake for an additional 12-15 minutes and serve.

Simple Chili Lime Kale Salad

What You Need:

  • 1 bunch kale (rinsed and chopped … you can also substitute any other type of lettuce)
  • 1 lime
  • 1 T chili powder
  • 1/4 cup chopped nuts or seeds (sunflower or pumpkin are my faves)
  • 1 T feta cheese
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper

How to Cook It:

  1. Massage a couple Tablespoons of olive oil into the kale leaves.
  2. Add the remaining ingredients, season with salt and pepper, and serve.

Lettuce Wrap Burgers

What You Need:

  • Ground sirloin (grass fed if possible)
  • 2 T minced onion
  • Bibb lettuce
  • Garlic salt
  • Pepper

How to Cook It:

  1. Heat a non-stick pan to medium.
  2. Season beef with garlic salt and pepper, add chopped onion and form into patties (four patties for every pound).
  3. Cook patties for 3-5 minutes/side (closer to 3 for medium and closer to 5 for well done).
  4. Place each patty on top of a bed of lettuce and serve.

And there you have it. I make a variation of at least one of these 20-minute recipes every week.  Try ’em and let me know what you think.

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