Fridge to Plate in 20 Minutes

And now, a dramatic re-enactment of me, at the bus stop last night. 7:40 p.m., talking on the phone to my mom. We join the action mid-monologue.

“… and I was in meetings all day and had to work late and I’m not going to get home until after 8:00 and there’s nothing prepared in my fridge ’cause I ate all the leftovers in my snacks and lunch today. My sink is full of dirty dishes on one side and a huge pile of clean dishes on the other… and I don’t have anything I can just grab [pathetic hiccup sob thing] and I’m SO HUNGRY and I’m SO TIRED… I ate my last snack, like, FOUR HOURS AGO!”

Major blood sugar/overly-tired meltdown. That last part was so loud, the dude at the bus stop raised his eyebrows at me.

Mom, in her calming Mom voice: Honey, maybe you should go get yourself dinner somewhere.

Me, bratty voice: I forgot my wallet at home so I have to go all the way home on the bus. ‘Til I do that AND get my car AND drive somewhere, I. May. As. Well. Cook. My. Self.

Terrible! I was getting on my own nerves.

Mom is an angel. She chatted with me ’til the bus came, and while I was on the bus, I did the following:

1) I took a deep breath and got a grip. Yes, being overly hungry and tired is challenging, but it’s small potatoes compared to real problems. Seriously.

2) I did a mental inventory of my fridge. I didn’t have anything cooked and ready-to-eat, but I did have supplies that could be made into something. Ground turkey was defrosted and waiting to be sautéed. And there were plenty of fresh veggies… but that was kind of the problem. I’ve never shared my dirty little secret with you: I HATE cleaning and prepping fresh veggies. LOVE eating green beans; RESENT the washing and snipping. Ditto for kale, cauliflower, cabbage… basically all my leafy friends. Anyway… feeling overwhelmed by the idea of cleaning and chopping a bunch of kale, I remembered I had fennel in the fridge. Ah! Relief! Wash, slice, sauté, done.

3) I made a plan. Go in the house. Put down bag. Hug Smudge. Remove high-heeled boots. Turn on stove. Put turkey in pan. Change into comfy clothes (quickly). Return to stove to finish turkey. Etc., etc. Visualization helps me through workouts and through blood sugar meltdowns. Yeah, I had to one-step-at-a-time it. When my blood sugar bottoms out, that’s the only way I know to keep myself on track. (Got other suggestions? Post to comments.)

After I hugged Smudge,  I bent into the fridge for the ground turkey and saw beautiful, tiny organic peaches. Salvation! I ate a peach, changed my clothes, and started on my dinner.

I sautéed the ground turkey with a little coconut oil, garlic powder, and salt. When it was done, I took out a portion for dinner and put the rest away for future meals. In the same pan, I sautéed sliced fennel and when it was soft, added a crushed garlic clove and salt. Then I threw the ground turkey back into the pan and gave it a quick stir-fry ’til it was all hot and carmelized.

I grabbed a bottle of water and parked my sorry ass on the bed (!) with Smudge and watched The Racing Game, a British production of a Dick Francis novel I’ve been trying to watch all week.

Twenty minutes from fridge to plate.

Twenty minutes.

Moral of the story:
If you have a source of protein and a vegetable in your fridge, you are about 20 minutes from a healthy, delicious meal. Make it easy on yourself. It doesn’t have to be a meal worthy of photos and write-up – it just has to be nutritious and tasty enough to not suck. Quick protein options: a few eggs, a hamburger patty, a can of tuna. For the veggies, slice a cucumber and call it success. Defrost a bag of frozen spinach in the microwave then stir-fry it in coconut oil ’til it has brown bits. Eat a green pepper like an apple. Or eat an apple!

Last night, if I’d really not wanted to deal with the stove, I could’ve eaten a can of kipper snacks and a Larabar. Not ideal, but still high-quality food in pretty good proportions.

If you have one protein source and one vegetable in your house, you have dinner.

And I’ll bet you a fresh jar of Sunbutter, unless you live in an apartment on the second floor of a building with a restaurant on the first, you cannot make a run for takeout or get food delivered in under 20 minutes.

Do you have a favorite go-to meal that’s super fast to prepare and never lets you down? Post to comments.

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  • Mary says:

    Eggs and spinach omelet, topped with hot sauce — even on my most lazy night, I can pull that off.

    The other key is NOT having any other less healthy foods in the house. Last week, the leftover burrito my husband brought home won out over the omelet because it took even less time to prepare.

  • Melissa 'Melicious' Joulwan says:

    Mary, you're absolutely right! If I'd had ANYTHING grabbable that wasn't dino-chow in the house last night, I would have snarfed it on the spot. For about three seconds, I considered just eating two Larabars and going to bed, but I rallied just in time.

  • Miss B says:

    Thanks for being an example for us to follow when we have days like this! It would have been so much EASIER to pull over to that local eatery or fast food drive thru and poison yourself when you truely deserve something far better… a homecooked meal!

  • George says:

    One of my favorite quick meals is Wick Fowler's Two Alarm Chili. If you're not familiar with it, it's a kit consisting of just a bunch of spice packets. Add the packets and a can of tomato sauce to a couple pounds of grass-fed ground beef and simmer for 20 minutes. You can adjust the spiciness by tweaking how much of the cayenne packet you use. And you can make it paleo by omitting the optional little packet of masa flour.

    I like to add a can of Muir Glen fire roasted crushed tomatoes to mine.

    I split it up into four individual servings and freeze three of them for even quicker meals later on.

    Quick, easy, and most tasty!

  • Barbara says:

    Oh Mel…I know those hunger meltdowns well.

    I honestly will grab a can of tuna these days and wolf it down if there is NOTHING made or in the fridge. You're right though, can't pick up take out in less than 20..for sure!