Meals in 30 Minutes (or Less!)

There are my tried-and-true recipes when I’m pinched for time.  Plus, they’re complete meals (protein, vegetable, and starch), nutrient-packed, and –most importantly– are toddler (and husband) approved.

*Some recipes may have a cook time that’s slightly longer than 30 minutes – I’ve noted when this is the case, but ALL of these recipes require minimal prep.

TFM pasta with italian sausageKale and Sausage Penne with Sundried Tomatoes

  • 1 box Penne pasta, cooked and drained
  • Olive oil
  • 1 pound italian pork sausage (about 1 links) without casing  (my family hates spicy, so I went with the sweet type)
  • 1 package sundried tomates (julienne cut)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/3 c white cooking whie
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1 bunch kale (thick ribs removed, chopped)
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1/3 c shredded parmesan cheese


  1. Cook and drain the pasta and set aside
  2. Put 2 tbsp olive oil in a large skillet and heat 2 minutes, then toss in the sausage, breaking up into pieces and cook until no longer pink
  3. Add sundried tomatoes and garlic and cook for 1 more minute
  4. Remove from heat and add white wine, chicken broth, and kale, then continue to cook until kale wilted and tender (about 5 minutes)
  5. Combine with pasta
  6. Toss on parmesan and VOILA!

(slightly modified from The Fresh Market)

Shrimp and Pork TeriyakiPork and Shrimp Teriyaki (Cook time: 10 minutes)

*Caveat – for this recipe, I “cheated”, in that I shortened the prep as much as possible.  When I bought the pork, I asked the butcher to cut it into strips (so all I had to do at home was toss it into the pan).  I also bought the veggies pre-chopped – many groceries now have washed and pre-chopped veggies that in a pinch now and then, are life-savers.



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Broiled Shrimp and Scallops

Time: SUPER-short.  From fridge/raw to cooked, this takes me about 15 minutes.  Time-saver tip: I buy pre-washed organic spinach so I only have to give the spinach a quick rinse.


  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine (pour yourself some red while you cook!)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice (I buy the pre-squeezed refrigerated)
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 3 garlic cloves, pressed (I purchase the jars of chopped garlic- the label states that 1/2 tbsp equals 1 clove, so save yourself the time of crushing the cloves!)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 pound large de-veined and peeled shrimp (buying peeled and de-veined is KEY for saving time)
  • 1 pound sea scallops (slice them in half if they’re over 1 inch thick)
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • 5 ounces baby spinach leaves
  • French bread (or any other yummy bread for dipping in the sauce)

To cook 

  1. Preheat broiler (keep oven rack approximately 6 inches from heating element)
  2. Combine all ingredients EXCEPT the spinach (set spinach aside for the moment) into the pan, tossing to coat the shrimp/tomatoes/scallops.
  3. Place pan in oven and broil for 3 minutes.
  4. Stir shrimp and scallops, and return to broil for 2 more minutes.
  5. Remove pan from oven and add spinach.  Toss with the spinach for approximately 1-2 minutes or until spinach wilted. (You don’t need to place back in the oven – the heat from the food will cook it fairly quickly).

Serve with french bread for a full meal!

Thank you to Coastal Living for the original version of this recipe.

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The First Salmon My Toddler Ate

Time: 15 minutes. Time-saver tip – I purchase packaged couscous! (see below).


Couscous – Full disclosure, I made this using Near East Pearled Couscous in Basil and Herb (no they don’t sponsor me, but they make this mama’s life easier, so they get a shout-out).

Salmon and Green beans


  • 1 lb green beans
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 4 6-ounce salmon filets
  • 2 cloves minced garlic (I buy Spice World Minced Garlic (no they do not sponsor me, but they save me time!) – 1/2 tsp = 1 clove)
  • approximately 1 cup of balsamic vinegar or balsamic glaze (while balsamic glaze dishes are DELICIOUS, I usually don’t want to take the time to make the glaze, and find that balsamic vinegar makes a great marinade). If you use a more “boutique” balsamic vinegar such as the delicious ones from Oli and Ve (no, not sponsoring me!), you can use less, and just drizzle (or soak, as I like to do) the top.

To cook

  1. Pre-heat oven to 450 F
  2. Toss green beans with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and bake on a flat pan for 10 minutes.
  3. While the beans are cooking, place salmon in a small pan (just large enough to hold the salmon) (Tip: line the pan with a single sheet of aluminum foil to make clean-up super easy).
  4. Pour balsamic vinegar over salmon–enough to cover about the bottom half of the filets
  5. Spoon garlic onto salmon filets
  6. Once the 10 minutes for the beans have completed, put the salmon pan into the same oven, and cook beans and salmon for 12 minutes, or until salmon is cooked through and beans are tender.
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Easy Meatballs (Toss on top of spaghetti with sauce and you’re done!)

TIME: Prep for the meatballs (and forming them) takes about 10 minutes. Oven-time itself takes about 20 minutes.  I like to double the recipe and freeze the extra for later meals.


  • 1 lb lean ground beef (I like to mix half ground beef and half ground turkey)
  • 1/2 cup Italian-style bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 egg

To cook

  • Heat oven to 400 F, line 13 x 9 inch pan with foil and spray with cooking spray
  • In a large bowl, mix all ingredients, and then shape into 1 -1 1/2 inch meatballs.  Place 1 inch apart in pan.
  • Bake uncovered for 18-22 minutes, or until no longer pink in the center.

Toss on top of your favorite pasta and sauce, and you’re good to go!

My Mom’s Delicious Chili

TIME: Prep about 5 minutes (Literally.  You throw it in the pot). Cook-time about 40 minutes.


  • 1 1/2 lb ground turkey or beef
  • 1 onion
  • 1 green pepper
  • 1 can stewed tomatoes
  • 1 can corn
  • 1 tsp chili
  • 1-2 bay leaves
  • salt and pepper (add at the end, to taste)

To cook:

  1. Throw it all in the pot.  That is all.  (Some fancier recipes call for browning the beef before you put it in the chili.  Save yourself another pan to clean!)
  2. Bring to a boil, then put on lid and simmer for 30-45 minutes.

Stay tuned for more recipes (I just started this section!).  In the meantime, I’d love to know your favorites! Write them below in the comments, or reach me on twitter or instagram @DrDarria, or Facebook @Dr. Darria Long Gillespie.

Some of my favorites include:

  • Dijon roast pork (10 minutes prep)

  • Balsamic roasted salmon

  • New Year’s Ham Soup

  • Where I buy something prepared in the store, what’s worth the time to make from scratch