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We’ve all been there. You’ve got a stocked fridge, and want to resist the urge to opt for takeout, but it’s 6:30, and you’re starving.

What can you whip up in thirty minutes? Though it often seems like a daunting task, we spoke to Chef and Culinary Health and Wellness Coach Diana Barnett to walk us through her top tips for prepping in a pinch.

“A good meal should consist of four elements,” Diana says. “There’s the backdrop – the subtle but crucial ingredients, like garlic and onion, that give the food its flavor. Then, in most meals, you have the greens, a vegetable, and a protein.” So, how do you create a meal that marries all four elements in half an hour? It’s all about the prep.

Prep and Store Key Ingredients

Chef Diana’s top tip? Take care of your garlic and onions, and a flavorful meal is sure to follow. “Always have onions and garlic pre-peeled and ready,” Diana says. “You’re going to use them in almost everything you cook, and you’ll save on time if they’re prepared in advance.”

Buy Your Greens & Vegetables Cleaned

Another easy way to cut down on cooking time: pre-washed produce. It doesn’t seem like a lot, but you’ll shave a few minutes off of your total time if you don’t have to rinse and pat your greens and vegetables dry. If you prefer to shop at the Farmer’s Market (which we always recommend), then just be sure to ask whether whatever you’re purchasing is washed in advance. If not, give it a rinse right when you get home, so it’s ready to go come dinnertime.

Marinate While You Work

Whether you’re cooking with meat or plant-based protein, marinating it while you cook down your garlic and onions is a surefire way to maximize flavor while minimizing cook time. “If it’s fish you’re cooking, put them in a bowl to the side of your stove with high-quality olive oil, basil, salt, and pepper. Let that sit while you cook the garlic and onions” Diana advises. If you’re working with tofu, a soy sauce marinade will do, and a basic salt and pepper rub works well on most meats. “It’s a step most people skip, but it takes very little time and elevates your meal. I strongly suggest marinating!” Diana notes.

Go the Raw Route

If you want to make something for yourself, but really don’t feel like firing up the stove, you can always throw together something raw. Go to the Farmer’s Market to gather the best tomatoes you can find, and toss them with olive oil, lemon, and vinegar. Add shredded herbs and some cheese, and you’ve got a delicious, flavorful salad in less than five minutes.


If you use any of these kitchen prep tips and tricks, be sure to tag us on social media using #casadesuna.

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