- Shopping Bag ( 0 items )
The 5:30 Challenge and How It Works
It's 5:30. Do you know what's for dinner?
If you haven't got a clue, join the club. Recent surveys show that nearly three-fourths of all cooks don't know what they're going to prepare for dinner on any given day. And more than one-third don't decide until right before.
The Food & Drink staff at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution thinks about this a lot. How do we help our readers get a home-cooked meal on the table when we often feel stymied by the same obstacles they face? We too work long, erratic hours followed by horrendous commutes. Some of us shuttle kids back and forth to extracurricular activities on top of that. And those of us who only have to worry about ourselves dread dealing with the leftover ingredients we know are destined for the garbage disposal.
While many of the so-called "quick" recipes we see in magazines and cookbooks tease us with short cooking times, just look at those lists of ingredients! What many of these recipes don't take into account is the time it takes to check your shelves and make a grocery list, decide on the side dishes, shop, put groceries away, take them back out, measure, chop, process, whip, dirty up a mountain of dishes, load up the dishwasher, put groceries away again...No wonder so many of us just throw up our hands and say, "Let's order in," or "Let's eat out!" Or else settle for that sad pre-fab dinner lurking in the back of the freezer.
Several years ago, we came up with a better idea: simplify our favorite recipes. Declutter the ingredient lists. Minimize kitchen tools. Streamline shopping trips. Reduce recipe steps. Conserve as much energy and time as possible in the execution -- without sacrificing our standards of good taste and nutrition.
We decided to limit the ingredient lists to five ingredients, allowing for a few freebies: salt, pepper, water, and a neutral oil used only to prevent sticking or drying out; if a specific amount or type of oil was essential to the recipe then it would have to count as an ingredient.
These recipes would require no advance planning, (which rules out extended marination, chilling, and slow-cooking) or complicated side dishes to make a meal. The ingredients had to be available at the local supermarket. Our goal was to make it possible for the person sitting in 5:30 rush hour traffic to make a quick run through the express lane and still have dinner on the table within 30 minutes of arriving home.
Was that too much to ask?
For some chefs around Atlanta who were asked to come up with recipes that met these criteria, it seemed to be. Several had to go back to the drawing board more than once and a few gave up in exasperation. But we did come up with a few winners, and featured them in a cover story in the Food & Drink section.
And thus the 5:30 Challenge was born. We began taking the challenge ourselves, and invited readers to participate. Many of Atlanta's good home cooks, accustomed to getting dinner ready within the realities of everyday life, often proved more adept at meeting the challenge than the hot-shot chefs. It has been our most popular weekly feature ever since.
Atlanta Journal-Constitution food writer Marcia Langhenry and food stylist Mary Ann Clayton helped get the column off to a successful start. After its first year, Jeanne Besser, a cookbook author and member of the food staff, stepped in. She is responsible for sorting through and refining the best reader contributions, and supplementing them with many of her own.
We have come to embrace the 5:30 concept in our own kitchens, and take great pride in finding delicious ways to maximize the flavors of fresh, quality ingredients with limited embellishments. We also like discovering convenience products that will get us to the table a little faster -- but we're picky about them. We read labels scrupulously and try to avoid products with long lists of artificial ingredients, and we're not wild about canned soups or bottled dressings (although we're not above using either on occasion).
We're far more enthusiastic about the advances in the produce aisle -- bagged and washed salads, pre-chopped fruits and veggies -- that are more expensive but so worth it when we barely have the energy to lift a knife. When time is precious, cooked and shelled shrimp, rotisserie chicken, pre-shredded cheese, and "ready rice" in a pouch are worthy of a few hosannas from us. It's also fun to check out new condiments and spice blends in the ethnic foods section, which can do wonders for breathing new life into a bland sautéed chicken breast.
Here's another unexpected benefit: with only five ingredients, there is no need for a shopping list. Speaking from experience, even those of us who are prone to forgetfulness can easily commit five ingredients to memory. No fumbling through pockets and purses for that scrap of paper with illegible scribbles.
In compiling this book, we chose to organize it by technique, because once you get the hang of these simple methods, you will easily be able to adapt them to your own tastes and to the ingredients you happen to have on hand.
Use the recipes that follow as a starting point, and we believe you will find as we have that cooking with five ingredients can feel expansively satisfying.
How To Use This Book
To qualify as a 5:30 Challenge recipe, a dish must be prepared from start to finish in 30 minutes or less. Although not part of the recipe, the suggested side dishes can also be prepared in 30 minutes. All of these recipes have five ingredients. Water, salt, pepper, and oil used for greasing the pan or the food to prevent sticking do not count. Any neutral oil is fine; in some instances where we think using a more flavorful oil will make a difference, we will suggest it. Generally, we like to use a flavorless oil high in heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, such as canola, when we want the other ingredients in the dish to shine through. For the nutritional information, we calculated 1 tablespoon for "lightly oiled," and 2 tablespoons for "well-oiled," but you're in charge here. If you use a nonstick skillet, you can probably get by using less, or none at all. Or you can use a nonstick cooking spray. When there is a range of servings, the nutritional analysis is based on the larger serving.
The 5:30 Kitchen
As in our recipes, we abide by the less-is-more principle when it comes to stocking our kitchens. So we're not going to try to sell you on every new gadget and gizmo to hit the housewares department.
A clean, uncluttered kitchen is so much more inviting after a grueling day. The same goes for pantries and refrigerators. Yes, it's good to have a healthy stash of staples -- but don't overdo it. If there is an item that's been sitting on your shelf for more than a year, chances are it will be there a year from now too. If it's opened, pitch it. If it's good as new, donate it. Soon you will realize why you just bought that fourth bottle of soy sauce; the other three were hiding behind that giant jar of mincemeat for those holiday pies you never made! Once you're able to see at a glance what you've got to work with, you can make better and quicker meal-planning decisions.
With the following tools, you can make all the recipes in this book with ease. Chances are, you already own most if not all of them.
For these recipes, we've tried to eliminate the need for any major appliance beyond a stove, a grill, and a microwave. A toaster oven is handy for saving energy and preheating time. Only a handful of recipes here call for a food processor, but we'd be reluctant to give ours up for slicing large amounts of vegetables and for pureeing soups.
While nonstick cookware makes cleanup easier and cuts down on the amount of fat needed, unless noted, it's not essential. Here's what we recommend.
To round out the kitchen, here are a few of our favorite tools and gadgets.
Stocking the 5:30 Kitchen
The secret to quick cooking, contrary to what many food manufacturers would have you believe, does not lie in a pantry full of processed mixes. As often as possible, we go for fresh, high-quality ingredients that don't need a lot of doctoring. Which is not to say we're above using prepared products if we don't have to sacrifice taste and nutrition; we just try to be discriminating.
Here are some of our favorite building blocks for time-saving meals.
In addition to these items, these are a few of the staples we try to have on hand at all times.
Spice rack: dried herbs and spices: basil, cayenne pepper, chili powder, cinnamon, cumin, curry powder, crushed red pepper, dry mustard, ginger, Italian seasoning, oregano, rosemary, sage, and thyme.
Pantry: canned tomatoes (whole, diced, pureed), canned beans (black, white, kidney, pinto), canned chiles, bottled artichoke hearts, bottled roasted red peppers, olives, broth (reduced-sodium chicken, beef, vegetable), condiments (mayonnaise, Dijon and yellow mustard, ketchup, barbecue sauce, fruit preserves or jelly, honey, hot pepper sauce, soy sauce), all-purpose flour, sugar (granulated and brown), corn bread mix, breadcrumbs, multipurpose cooking oil, pasta (spaghetti, spiral, macaroni, couscous), onions (yellow, white, or red), garlic, potatoes (new, baking, sweet), peanut butter, nuts and seeds (almonds, walnuts, pecans, sunflower seeds), raisins (and/or other dried fruit), rice, salsa, sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, tuna (canned or pouch), and vanilla.
Refrigerator: carrots, eggs, dairy (butter, milk, cream), fresh fruit (at least two kinds: apples, oranges, pears, grapes, berries, pineapple, melon), Parmesan cheese, fruit juice, lemons, limes, mixed fresh vegetables (bagged broccoli and cauliflower, coleslaw mix), and tortillas.
Freezer: frozen vegetables (corn, peas), frozen fruit (berries, cherries, peaches), chicken breasts (boneless and skinless), ground beef or turkey, and bread (sliced whole-wheat and French).
Copyright © 2005 by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Excerpted from The 5:30 Challenge by Jeanne Besser Copyright © 2005 by Jeanne Besser. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
The 5:30 Challenge and How It Works
How to Use This Book
The most essential tools and appliances you need for speedy cooking
How to stock your kitchen with staples while avoiding clutter
Our favorite quality convenience foods
Flashes in the Pan Sautés, Stir-fries, and Skillet Dinners
Crispy Rye and Mustard Pork Chops with Quick-Fried Cabbage
Mole in Minutes
Beef and Broccoli Stir-Fry
Smoked Pork and Wild Rice with Dried Fruit
Thai Sweet Pork with Browned Shallots
Sole with Bananas and Macadamia Nuts
Uptown Tuna Burgers
Turkey with Lemon and Capers
Stir-Fried Asparagus with Mushrooms
Filets with Onion-Jalapeño Cream and Plantains
Portuguese Thin Steaks with Onion and Tomato Sauce
Filets and Portobellos with Blue Cheese
Tofu, Bok Choy, and Baby Corn in Black Bean Sauce
Chicken Livers in Red Wine Sauce
Pork Scallops with Rosemary-Wine Sauce
Veal Chops with Anchovy-Garlic Sauce
Spicy Scallops with Arugula and Cherry Tomatoes
Corn Chip-Crusted Tilapia
Chicken with Wild Mushroom Sauce
Chicken with Caramelized Onions and Garlic
Steamed Salmon and Rainbow Vegetables
Poached Salmon with Tartar Sauce
Shrimp with Hoisin Sauce
Grilled to Order
Outdoor Cooking at its Speediest
Grilled Open-Face Eggplant Sandwich
Barbecue Portobello "Burgers"
Twice-Grilled Stuffed Zucchini
Brown Sugar-Glazed Salmon
Fennel-Stuffed Trout Wrapped In Bacon
Thai-Style Grilled Beef with Vidalia Onions and Peanut Dipping Sauce
Grilled Lamb Chops with Mango-Lime Salsa
Beef and Pineapple Skewers
Spinach-Stuffed Chicken Breasts
Bacon-Wrapped Chipotle-Glazed Shrimp with Banana-Sweet Potato Mash
Grilled Bratwurst with Onion-Mustard Sauce
Grilled Strip Steaks with Olive-Artichoke Relish
Hot from the Oven
Pizzas, Frittatas, Casseroles, and Anything Baked, Broiled, or Roasted
Tropical Pork with Crispy Sweet Potatoes, Pineapple, and Onions
Broiled Shrimp with Rosemary and Garlic
Pork Tenderloin with Caramelized Pears
Rolled Chicken with Cheese and Greens
Mexican Fish Fillets
Fresh Tomato and Ricotta Pizza
Black Bean Chilaquiles
Crunchy "Oven-Fried" Chicken
Polenta and Meatball Casserole
Barbecued Chicken Pizza
Chile Rellenos Bake
Chicken Breasts with Sage and Onion Polenta
Grouper with Fresh Tomato-Caper Sauce
One-Pot Wonders: Soups, Stews, Chilis, and Chowders
Spicy Broccoli-Cheese Soup
Corn and Crab Chowder with Vanilla
Carrot and Ginger Soup
Cold Cucumber-Yogurt Soup
African Peanut-Yam Bisque
Stuffed Spud Soup
Italian Vegetable and Meatball Soup
Mid-Week Madness Chili
Rustic Chicken Stew with White Beans and Kale
Greek Lemon Soup
Mexican Chicken Soup
From Pasta Pot to Plate Noodles — Topped, Tossed, and Ready to Serve
Cajun Chicken Pasta
Kid-Friendly Asian Beef and Noodles
Linguine with Garlic and Spinach
Pierogi and Spicy Black Beans
Grilled Corn and Red Pepper Feta-ccine
Seashells with Feta, Bacon, and Peas
Linguine with Basil, Tomato, and Brie
Noodles with Greek-Style Meat Sauce
Spaghetti alla Carbonara
Salmon and Broccoli Ravioli
Siciliano Spaghetti with Anchovies and Nuts
Farfalle with Smoked Salmon and Spinach
Fusilli with Sausage and Leeks
Fettuccine with Lemon, Pesto, and Shrimp
Linguine with Gorgonzola Cream Sauce
Angel Hair Pasta with Fresh Tomato-Clam Sauce
Salad Nights: forget the rabbit food
Mixed Field Greens with Pears, Walnuts, and Feta
Strawberry-Spinach Salad with Pecans and Blue Cheese
Steak, Watercress, Radish, and Cucumber Salad
Tuna and Garbanzo Bean Salad
Thai Peanut Noodle Salad
Pasta Salad with Scallops, Peppers, and Pine Nuts
Fried Chicken Salad with Pickled Okra and Cheddar Cheese
Spinach, Smoked Trout, and Plum Salad
Wilted Chicken Salad
Tropical Chicken Salad with Mango and Macadamia Nuts
Black-Eyed Pea and Smoked Turkey Salad with Roasted Peppers
Black Bean-Pepper Jack Salad with Cumin-Lime Dressing
Brown Rice Salad with Oranges and Broccoli Slaw
Wrapped, Rolled, Filled, and Folded Sandwiches, Quesadillas, and More
Smoked Salmon Pinwheels
Italian Rolled Sandwiches
Roast Beef and Boursin Wraps
Turkey Club Rolls
Messy Pepper Sandwiches
Coca-Cola Sloppy Joes
Lettuce Wraps with Moo Shu Pork
Melted Mozzarella, Prosciutto, and Fig Jam Sandwiches
Bacon, Tomato, and Avocado Quesadillas
Sausage and Pepper Calzones
Microwave Meals Without the Plastic Containers
Kielbasa with Sauerkraut and Apples
Lamb Shanks with Tomato and Mint
Simplified Sole Veronique
Tortilla Pizza with Broccoli and Olives
Red, White, and Green Tortilla Pizza
World's Easiest Homemade Lasagna
Grecian Chicken and Artichoke Casserole
Chicken, Asparagus, and Goat Cheese Packets
Turkey Breast with Cranberry Relish
Cheesey Crab-Stuffed Potatoes
Ham- and Chutney-Stuffed Sweet Potatoes
Short and Sweet Perfect Endings
Chocolate-Peanut Butter Swirl Rice Krispies Bars
Fresh Melon with Mint
Gingered Pears in Parchment
Walnut-Raisin Stuffed Baked Apples
Balsamic Strawberries with Mascarpone
Chocolate-Dipped Coconut Macaroons
Brie and Blueberries with Gingersnaps
Harried Man's Rugalach
Ice Cream Mud Pie
Posted July 29, 2011
I looked through this book and decided to buy one entitled "Cheap, Fast & Good" instead. I love comfort food and most of the recipes in this book are a bit gourmet for my family.
1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 13, 2007
Posted April 12, 2012
Posted December 11, 2006
This is an okay cookbook if you don't have any other '30 minute' type cookbooks. Otherwise, you won't find anything new here. Plus, I've seen other 30 minute type recipe cookbooks, for the same price, and they include way more recipes.
0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 11, 2010
No text was provided for this review.