Fast Dinner Ideas From Your Kitchen Cabinet

Fast dinner ideas come from the combination of quick cooking methods and the ingredients you have on hand. Planning and cooking meals for your family can be frustrating when you depend on written recipes that command specific ingredients. Sometimes you have the items, sometimes you don’t.

A quick dinner recipe frees you from the kitchen faster, but a mastery of just a few basic cooking methods will give you endless dinner ideas.

In today’s video, I’m going to let you look over my shoulder as I make dinner in my own home. Why do I do this? Because I want to transform as many frustrated recipe followers into home kitchen masters as possible!

Every night, I hurt my arm patting myself on the back, saying “if everyone could cook like this, they’d look forward to planning dinner and they’d never run out of dinner ideas.” If you agonize over what to make for dinner every night, just watch what I do and substitute the ingredients you desire.

Today’s Shrimp and Cannellini Bean Florentine is a dish I just made up 10 minutes ago. I looked into my pantry, peered into the refrigerator, and created a fast dinner idea from the ingredients I already had.

Here’s what I found in my cabinet to create the dish:
Olive oil
Onions, sliced
Spinach leaves
Garlic, minced
Shrimp, Peeled and Deveined
Cannellini beans
Diced Tomatoes

Stove top sauté is the quickest method for getting dinner done quickly, but the most important part is assuring that the pan is hot first. A few drops of water from your fingers that evaporate immediately on the pan shows it’s hot.

When you add just a tablespoon of olive oil to the pan, swirl the pan to cover the entire bottom with oil. The fat in sauté is used to transfer the heat from the source to your food. Remember, you’re not deep frying. Just a small amount is necessary.

Sliced onions are sautéed in the hot pan, adding their flavor to the olive oil. When they are translucent and sweating, add the fresh spinach leaves to the hot pan. Spinach will break down, releasing its moisture and quickly wilting in the pan. Minced garlic is also sautéed with the spinach.

Now, you can add any protein product you’d like. I use shrimp, but you could certainly choose chicken, beef, or tofu. None of those will slow down our process, it’s still a fast dinner idea regardless of what ingredients you choose.

After adding a can of Cannellini beans and diced tomatoes, I want to change the cooking process from the direct source heat underneath the pan to an indirect moist heat caused by placing the lid on top. The lid traps moisture and begins to steam all the ingredients.

Changing from direct dry heat to indirect moist heat is the most important step in this process. This helps retain moisture and combine flavors in a single pan. Change the ingredients if you’d like, but follow the method and you’ll create your own fast dinner ideas.

Get Dinner Done. Fast.

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Leave A Reply (20 comments so far)

  1. Carol

    Hi Chef Todd! I want to thank you for all of your great videos and ideas! I cook for about 50 3- and 4-year olds here at head Start. We are required to follow the federal Guidelines for meals, so our "menus" have to be pre-arranged and approved... this actually consists of the ingredients (meat, 2 vegetables, fruit, and a bread item) - and we put these together in different ways. It's always a challenge to get the Tots to try new things, so I do a lot of stir fry and casserole dishes. I REALLY appreciate your ideas in preparing and serving foods! Thank you!

    • Chef Todd

      Hi Carol!
      Thank you for your kind words.
      I've cooked for Governors, Senators, and snotty Chefs, but the toughest audience of all is children!!
      You're a brave woman!
      I'm so glad to have been able to give you inspiration for the same "meat, 2 veg, fruit, starch" to appear as different, exciting meals.
      Keep up the good work.

  2. Todd;
    Just watched your video on "Fast Dinner Ideas From Your Kitchen Cabinet." What a great video. Even a guy like me that doesn't cook can put this meal together easily. You make it look so easy and now I am going to put that together myself. Keep up the good work. Grant

    • cheftodd

      Thanks, Grant.
      I find that people "hate cooking" because they are trying to follow celebrity chefs or complicated written recipes.
      Cooking is more fun and productive with basic methods applied to the ingredients you already have.

  3. Ward

    Some day, probably not in my lifetime, they'll develop smell-a-vision! Oh, yeah!

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