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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Real Deal on Dinner Preparation

Are any of you familiar with 30 Minute Meals?  You're supposed to be able to make a delicious meal from start to finish in 30 minutes. This show ticks me off.  Now that my husband is aware of this concept, he seems to think that I should be able to cook perfect dinners in 30 minutes. All the time.  Yeah, like I want to stress out over making dinner. Please. It's painful enough already having to worry about food allergies and who will eat what and who is bothering who and...

So now I'm curious, how long does it take you to make dinner?  Am I crazy that it takes me almost an hour to make dinner, when I add in the prep time and interruptions from children? Or can one really make a tasty 30 minute meal without freaking multi-tasking or throwing a frozen dinner in the oven?

How long does it take you to make dinner? Please click one of the bubbles on the poll, so I can figure out whether I have a leg to stand on in my debate with my husband. Thank you.


sandy said...

About 45 minutes for me. Half an hour would be a dream.

Christine M said...

Usually about an hour will get dinner on the table - but then there are nights like tonight where I cooked frozen ravioli and Prego Spaghetti sauce. That went pretty fast.

I also like meals in the crock-pot - spend 20 to 30 minutes setting it all up in the morning and let it do it's thing all day. I'm good with it.

30 minutes for something prepared mainly from scratch? Only if the meat is already thawed, the vegetables are already peeled/cut whatever - and any other ingredients are ready and waiting - already measured and everything.

AMY S. said...

my dear husband knows it depends on the meal and the day cuz he does at least half the cookin. i'd say it's time your hubby got down and dirty in the kitchen and let him conduct his own experiment on how fast it can be done well....

PJ Hoover said...

My hubby knew he wasn't marrying a chef ten years ago. He still wishes he'd been wrong. I tell him - "Maybe when I quit my day job"

HipWriterMama said...

Yes, half an hour would be a dream, wouldn't it?

My thoughts exactly.

Hmmm. Good idea about a challenge. Perhaps a cooking and housecleaning challenge?

Too funny.

laurasalas said...

We only eat pretty simple meals, because life is hectic. But my thought is, if your husband is convinced good meals take only 30 minutes, then he should be happy to take that 30 minutes and cook for the family!

Elaine Magliaro said...


I'd have to say that it depends. Some tasty meals I prepare take less than thirty minutes--but many take more than that. Sometimes just making one of my special salads can be quite a production.

Besides, I'm not so sure I'd call the meals Ms. Ray cooks gourmet. AND...I think anyone who is that perpetually perky has to be on something!

I'm fortunate. My husband is a great cook. Maybe, as Laura suggests, your husband could whip up some dinners for the family! Get him one of Ms. Rays' cookbooks for Father's Day--or, maybe, Mother's Day.

david elzey said...

My wife's idea of cooking is to nuke food as fast as possible, but she's the breadwinner and works like crazy and just doesn't have any patience in the kitchen or grocery shopping.

I, on the other hand, have the art background and find cooking meditative so that's my job. I'll spend an hour (or more) on big weekend meals but during the weeknights working around the kids activities and homework and whatnot I prefer to keep it under 30 minutes. It can be done.

Rachel Ray's TV show cheats a lot -- it makes meals in a 30 minute epidosde but most of the prep is done off-camera and takes longer. I have checked out some of her books from the library (for ideas mostly) and found that many of them actually run in the 40 minute range.

Better, go to Martha's Everyday Food. Meal prep times vary but tend to sort out accurately in the 30 to 45 minute range, instructions are clear, ingredients are for the most part simple and available, and I've come across very few duds. I've got a trio of very picky girls to deal with (including one vegetarian and one no-carb) and EF tends to be a life- and time-saver.

m. thompson said...

This cracks me up. Your husband and mine must be related. I think I'm going to print this one out, comments and all and put on his dinner plate tonight.

SevenImpossible said...

Oh how I wish I found cooking meditative like David does, but EVERYthing I do -- just about -- makes me resent the time away from reading it's taking. Seriously. I wish I had an interest in learning to knit or garden or make pizza dough myself or fill-in-the-blank, but I always think, ah, I could be reading instead. Life is short. Not enough time to read. My list of books-I-wanna-read is way too long.

Anyway, I hear ya, Vivian. I remarked last night that a simple dinner of salads and break took me forever, mostly due to the child interruptions.

Jules, 7-Imp

adrienne said...

I agree with Jules about the reading time, although I really also love to eat. My ideal world would be one in which I could read with small breaks to prepare food that I could then eat while I was reading some more.

Anyway, if I need a quick dinner, I make eggs (which, you know, ten minutes tops). Other than that, I'm always in for more than a half hour's investment. Those cooking shows always make me feel inadequate.

Jenna said...

I live alone and have no children to interrupt me (although I do occasionally have to remind my dogs that they aren't allowed in the kitchen while I'm cooking). And I specifically look for those "quick" receipes because I don't want to spend my whole evening cooking. And it still takes me up to an hour to get dinner on the table. You aren't alone!

HipWriterMama said...

That's exactly what I'm thinking.

Uh-oh, you can make tasty meals under 30 minutes? Okay, I won't panic here.

I agree, the 30 Minute Meals are definitely not gourmet. And alot of the meals I see on tv are just too rich for my tastes.

You're lucky your husband is a great cook!

You're putting a wrench in my argument here. Although, you do make me happy by saying there's some cheating of time on the show. That's exactly what I've been saying.

Your family must appreciate your cooking. Lucky, lucky.

Thanks for the recommendation on Martha's book. I never would have picked it up for fear it would be too complicated, but if it delivers, that would be appreciated in my household.

M. Thompson,
I'd love to find out what your husband says. I've already told my husband about this post, and he was amused.

I know what you mean. There simply isn't enough time, is there? And a simple salad can take forever to make.

I know, these cooking shows definitely make me feel inadequate, though I love watching them. And the 30 Minute Meals definitely gets me wondering why I simply haven't been able to do it.

Thank you! I'm glad there are other people out there who take as long as I do to make a meal.

HipWriterMama said...

You'll be happy to know my husband decided to take the challenge after reading all of your comments. Though I think that David's comment made him believe this was going to be easy. Stay tuned...

david elzey said...

Should your husband find the going not-so-easy and he wishes to curse my name there are only two things I would say.

First, you could use some masculine analogy as a salve -- basketball players have to practice every day to play the way they do, bodybuilders don't get those bodies overnight, etc. Functioning smoothly in a kitchen takes time, familiarity and organization.

Second, you could mention that I've been the primary cook for my family going on a dozen years, and I started long before that when I was living on my own.

If it turns out he was successful and he likes it there's no telling where it can lead. My father-in-law got hooked on cooking shows after channel-flipping away from fishing shows. Emeril and Bobby Flay gave him a couple of solid role models and he went from a "where's my dinner" kind of guy to a "don't touch my knives" and a "stay away from my grill" and a "do you want me to make you something special" in the kitchen kind of guy. He can't improvise in a kitchen (that's one of my areas) but his wife doesn't do a fraction of the cooking she once did.

Knives, tools, gadgets, these are the things guys really get into as a gateway into better cooking, a sort of "well, maybe if I had a better set of pans..." way of thinking when it comes to improving their culinary art.

Should that happen the 30 minute meal will probably go out the window.

HipWriterMama said...

You're too funny. This is going to be an interesting challenge for me to observe. I'm still giggling over the total look of triumph on my husband's face when he read your words, "It can be done."

"See!" he said, "A guy admits it can be done easily, so I'm not being unreasonable here."

And that is when he realized that he had to accept my challenge. It also helped that our girls egged him on. So, thank you, David, for helping my cause.

Hopefully this culinary event will occur this weekend.

Alkelda the Gleeful said...

I clicked the "go away" button even though it'd be a stretch to call my meals gourmet. I like to prep things ahead of time in order to get things on quickly. When I don't prep things, it's warmed-up leftovers. Uh, where are the left-overs? You mean, we didn't cook yesterday?

Anonymous said...

Figures I'd be in the minority who relies on take out.

Becky at Farm School said...

I've often dreamed of a prep staff to cut everything up and have it handy in little dishes, so all I have to do is dump and stir. Not to mention someone else to do the dishes as Martha, Rachel, Jamie et al. have!

It usually takes me around an hour, though if someone wants a special meal -- such as a roast -- or something gourmet and fiddly, it takes longer, which is why I clicked "Go Away". Then again, if it's a large roast, then I have leftovers for the next day or two (and around 30 minutes of work on days two or three). And I'm big on getting the kids to help, even if it's just to keep me company in the kitchen.

I can do 30 minutes if it's pasta and a salad, etc. but I'd rather have something with decent leftovers for the next day.

MotherReader said...

I was definitely in the "nuke it" category, but the whole thing reminded me of the Dinner Preparation Theory post I did a year ago whereby my kids guess their dinner based on my mood.

Cooking a real meal sounds so heavenly.

david elzey said...

I hope when hubby does the challenge that he's also doing the grocery shopping as well. If he's unfamiliar with that experience, well, there's another eye-opener for him.

My wife also can't stand shopping. Like her cooking she wants to get in and out as fast as possible. do a major run once a week and it takes about an hour. "How can you stand to be in the store for an hour?!" she says. I point out it comes to about ten minutes a meal, I get it over will all at once, and it beats her method f having to deal with spur-of-the-moment after-work crowds when she goes.

I'm kind of fascinated with how this is going to work out. Fascinated in a train wreck sort of way.

m. thompson said...

I'm also curious how this turns out. And besides the shopping, maybe your husband can wash the pots, pans and dishes too. Unless he already does that. I bet he'll be overwhelmed.