Food and Drink

Published on January 21st, 2014 | by Kailei Carr


3 Healthy 30-ish Minute Dinners

30ishMinuteMealsAfter a long day at work the last thing you want to do is waste time figuring out what to cook, and you certainly don’t have the energy to prepare an elaborate dinner. And let’s face it — sometimes picking up takeout gets old, not to mention expensive. So whether you’re cooking for one, two or four, here are some of my favorite quick, guilt free and stress free meals that are delicious additions to your dinner rotation.

Menu #1

Pork Chops

Caramelized Onions and Onions

Apple Sauce with Cinnamon

Cranberry Walnut Salad

Why I love it: The caramelized onions and mushrooms are a decadent compliment to the pork chops. And bagged salads make it so easy to make something that seems more expensive than it is. Don’t like the dressing that comes in the bag? Use your own!

What You’ll Need:

Pre-seasoned pork chops  (I get these from the grocery store’s butcher section — mine has everything from lemon pepper to BBQ to steak seasoned chops)

Olive oil (for the pork chops and caramelized onions and mushrooms)

Jar of chunky apple sauce

Cinnamon to sprinkle on the apple sauce

Prepared bag of salad (already bagged and ready to go from your grocer’s produce section)

1 or 2 large onions

1 package of mushrooms

1/4 cu balsamic vinegar

The Preparation:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Put 1 tbsp of olive oil in a skillet and heat on medium high heat. Add in pork chops and brown for 3 minutes each side. Transfer to a 9×13″ pan and bake for 20-25 minutes.

While the pork chops are baking, slice onions then heat up 2 tbsp olive oil to a sauté pan heated up to medium-high. Add in the mushrooms and onions. Sauté until mushrooms and onions begin to brown then turn the heat down to medium. Continue to sauté, stirring often, until they are a golden brownish color. Add in the balsamic vinegar and turn down to low until you’re ready to serve.

While the pork chops and caramelized onions and mushrooms are finishing, prepare the salad and toss together in a large serving bowl. Also, put the apple sauce in a bowl and sprinkle cinnamon on top.

Once the pork chops are ready (they should be heated to an internal temperature of 145 degrees), plate with the caramelized onions and mushrooms on top with the salad and apple sauce on the side!

Menu #2

Baked Tilapia

Garlic Couscous

Sautéed Kale or Spinach with Toasted Pine Nuts and Cranberries

Why I love it: Couscous is the easiest starch EVER! It’s a great compliment to a dish and once the water boils, it only takes 5 minutes to complete. Also, the flavors of the greens, toasted pine nuts and cranberries just balance each other perfectly.

What you’ll need:

At least 2 thawed tilapia filets (portion out more for more people)

Seasoning (You don’t have to get complicated — whatever seasoning you have in your pantry that doesn’t have a lot of salt will do the trick. My favorites are lemon pepper, Emeril’s Essence or garlic pepper. You can always add more salt at the table.)

1 bag of kale or spinach

1/4 cup of pine nuts

1/4 cup of dried cranberries (can also substitute with regular or golden raisins)

2 tbsp olive oil each for kale/spinach and tilapia (4 tbsp total)


Squeeze of lemon

1 sprig of chopped fresh thyme (optional — I think fresh herbs always make things taste more homemade)

1 box Near East couscous (any flavor would do, but roasted garlic and olive oil would be my preference for this menu)

2 Minced cloves of garlic (or these frozen crushed garlic cubes from Trader Joe’s which are great and so easy!) – 1 for the couscous and one for the sautéed greens

Salt and pepper to taste


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a 9×13″ baking dish with foil (for easy clean up) and pour 2 tablespoons of olive oil on the foil. Rinse tilapia filets and pat dry. Coat with the olive oil in the baking dish and sprinkle seasoning on both sides of the filets. Bake for 25-30 minutes. The fish is ready when it flakes easily with a fork.

While the fish is cooking, prepare the Near East couscous according to instructions on the box and add the garlic (either minced or frozen crushed) to boiling water before adding in the couscous. Add in the sprig of thyme before serving (optional).

While the water is boiling for the couscous, heat a sauté pan to medium-high and add in pine nuts. Turn frequently and toast until they begin to brown. They burn easily, so make sure to keep your eyes on them. Once they’re toasted, put them aside. Add in 2 tbsp of olive oil to the pan. Add in the garlic and let it brown for about 30 seconds (though you don’t want it to burn). Add the pine nuts back into the pan, then add in the greens and dried cranberries. Sauté while stirring frequently until the greens are wilted. Spinach should only take 1 or 2 minutes while the kale may take double that. Add in the squeeze of lemon and some salt and pepper to taste.

Once the tilapia is done, plate on top of the couscous with the greens on the side!

Meal #3

Spaghetti Squash

Meat sauce

Caesar salad

Why I love it: This is a great low-carb dish. Spaghetti squash is my new favorite pasta alternative. It has the consistency of an angel hair pasta and you almost won’t miss the carbs!

What you’ll need: 

1 spaghetti squash (find one that’s pale yellow in color)

olive oil for coating spaghetti squash + 1 tbsp for meat

1 jar of spaghetti sauce (your favorite flavor of your favorite brand, or whatever is in your pantry)

1 lb Italian turkey sausage links or Italian seasoned ground turkey (I usually use Jenny-O brand)

1 can of whole tomatoes (a little trick I learned from my dad — makes any pasta dish seem more like homemade)

Bag of prepared caesar salad or bag of romaine lettuce with shredded parmesan cheese and caesar dressing

Salt and pepper to taste

Fresh basil (optional)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Cut spaghetti squash in half. Scoop out seeds and pulp. Coat inside with olive oil (and rub to distribute if you need to) and place cut side down, rind side up in 9×13″ baking dish. Bake for 30-35 minutes until it’s tender when you pierce with a knife or fork.

While the spaghetti squash is cooking, heat up sauté pan with olive oil. Add in either ground turkey or turkey sausage links cut into chunks. Cook until brown and drain.


While the meat is cooking, open can of tomatoes and drain. Slice each tomato into quarters or eighths and set aside.

In a separate medium to large sauce pan, add in drained turkey meat, sliced canned tomatoes and spaghetti sauce. Cook on medium until fully heated, about 10 minutes.

While that is finishing, prepare your salad. Once the spaghetti squash is ready, use a fork to scrape out the flesh and transfer the strands into a bowl – sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Plate your spaghetti squash strands with meat sauce on top sprinkled with shredded or grated parmesan and fresh basil with the caesar salad on the side!


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About the Author

Kailei is the co-founder of The Vyne. She is an expert shopper, digital marketer and has conducted extensive research on African American women.

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