iReport: 5 real, fast, delicious meals from around the U.S.
July 6th, 2011
07:00 AM ET
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Food says so much about where you’ve come from, where you’ve decided to go, and the lessons you’ve learned. It’s geography, politics, tradition, belief and so much more and this week, we invite you to dig in and discover the rich, ever-evolving taste of America in 2011. The week will culminate with a Secret Supper in New York City, and Eatocracy invites you to participate online starting Monday July 11th at 6:30 p.m. E.T.

Rachael Ray, Robin Miller and Martha Stewart all whip up some quick-and-easy meals on TV, but for those of us who aren’t gifted in the culinary sense, they might not be that simple.

Well folks, CNN iReport has answered your cooking prayers. We’ve collected real recipes from real people as part of the cultural census for CNN's Defining America.

For each night of the busy workweek, we’ve selected five fast, delicious meals that won’t eat up too much time or leave you scratching your head.

Arturo Navarro of Chula Vista, California, can make a meal of scrumptious salmon, brown rice, and spinach salad in 15 minutes flat. The salmon cooks in virgin olive oil for three minutes on each side. In the meantime, he washes and prepares the spinach, tomato, bell pepper, and avocado salad – a favorite he makes a few times a week.

“I’ve changed my diet since last May, so I’ve been eating salmon; better nutrition than what I ate before,” he said. He now prepares fresh meals each day.

Michelle Chu’s typical weekday dinners usually consist of a protein, veggies and of course, dessert!

She and her boyfriend, who live in Richmond, Virginia, recently visited Omaha Steaks for the first time and were sold on the tender meat. “It’s something we eat frequently because it’s filling, easy to prepare and tastes great.”

Chu’s meal of steak, asparagus and whipped sweet potatoes took about 30 minutes from start to finish. And, she ended the meal on a sweet note – angel food cake drizzled with raspberries and Biscoff spread. Are we in heaven yet?

Jonathan K. Lee of Minneapolis, Minnesota, likes to make ceviche, which he says is deceptively simple to prepare but must chill in the fridge for three to four hours. The fresh raw fish marinates in lemon or lime juices, the acidity of which “cooks” the fish in a chemical reaction. If you make it in the morning, it’s the type of thing that you can set and forget.

“[It’s] one of the simplest things to prepare, yet visually stunning, and people think you've knocked yourself out to make it,” he says.

When Michelle Jeffcoat has a hankering for something “warm and comforting,” she goes back to the oven pot roast her family used to make in a cast iron pot.

“We eat this frequently because the ingredients are simple and hearty, the leftovers reheat well, and if there is anything left, we can make other things from the meat, such as shredded beef and barbecue sandwiches,” said the Muskogee, Oklahoma, resident.

The prep time is only 15 minutes and she lets the roast cook for three hours at 300 degrees to keep the meat tender.

Even with homemade pasta, Linda Rittelmann’s spinach pasta and herbed cauliflower dish only 45 minutes to make. But what makes the labor of pasta-making so quick? It doesn’t require a pasta machine.

“The Italians call this ‘Orecchiette,’ or ‘Little Ear’ pasta, but mine usually come out a little longer, so I call them Donkey Ears, or Orecchie dell'Asino instead,” says Rittelmann, who lives in Baltimore, Maryland.

What quickie meals do you enjoy after a long day at work? What are your tricks for keeping it simple? Share your photos and participate in the CNN iReport cultural census. We can’t wait to see what you have for dinner.

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Filed under: Cooking • Cultural Identity • iReport • Make • Recipes

soundoff (20 Responses)
  1. drink

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    February 24, 2013 at 4:51 am |
  2. Heather

    I have a cloth steamer bag I can make baked potatoes (sweet potatoes are what we eat in my house!) in minutes. It's super easy to chop some parsley out of my garden, and put it on salmon with salt, pepper, oil, and some lemon juice. Bake that, make a sweet potato, and steam some veggies. Easy peasy, and super tasty.

    Another good one: thinly slice turkey sausage, onions, sweet potatoes. Sautee in a pan (thinner you slice, quicker it's done). As it nears being done, toss in some herbs, drizzle in some orange juice or maple syrup. Or skip the sweet, and go straight for salt and pepper.

    July 12, 2011 at 10:40 am |
  3. Noxious Sunshine

    This dish is delicious & not too complex, but is still fancy. I dont measure ingredients, so just use as much or little as you like!

    Pasta Milano:
    – Chicken Breast, cubed
    – Sun-dried Tomatoes, packed in oil, sliced
    – Baby Bella Mushrooms, sliced
    – Onion, diced
    – Minced Garlic
    – Pine Nuts, toasted
    – Italian Seasoning
    – Alfredo Sauce (either Roasted Garlic or Sun-dried tomato)
    – Farfalle Pasta, cooked al dente

    Pour a good amount of the tomato oil into
    a large skillet & sautee the 1st 5 ingredients over med-high heat -sprinkle with a generous amount of Italian seasoning & cook until chicken is done & mushrooms are tender.

    Toss with the alfredo sauce & pine nuts & layer onto bowls/plates with the pasta. Sprinkle with shredded parm if desired..

    Everyone I've made this for -loved- it. It's also my fiancee's fav pasta dish now!

    July 7, 2011 at 12:40 am |
  4. Jack Allen Harrington

    Call my cousin...1 minute
    4 Hours later...
    Drive to her house...7 minutes
    1 Hour after arrival(AND FIVE COCKTAILS)
    Say Grace...3 minutes
    11 Minutes of prep time, and a Butt-kickin' supper to enjoy...

    P.S. Leftovers are even quicker...
    Hey, Barb, I'm still hungry...Got any I can take with?...1 Minute

    July 6, 2011 at 10:01 pm |
  5. Andrea M

    You mean, cooking is supposed to take more than 45 minutes? Thanks, but I have a life. Pasta with grilled chicken, tofu stir fry, and baked chicken with fresh steamed veg are common favorites for my fiancee and I. Tonight is set to be enchilada night though.

    July 6, 2011 at 5:19 pm |
  6. sandrae

    Beef + cheese and maybe salsa = a meal? minute rice? Wow no wonder Americans are not eating right. no mention of vegetables or low fat options there = unhealthy eating. It's sad to know that many people think this is 'real' cooking. How about a 10 minute meal... stir fry in olive oil: green kale + onions + chopped beet tops. add tofu or scramble an egg in there to finish. eat as-is put it in a whole wheat tortilla with some 0% greek yogurt (tastes like sour cream, no fat). or add BROWN rice from the microwave pak so you get some fiber in there... sigh

    July 6, 2011 at 4:56 pm |
    • Ilovemesomeme

      Chick get over yourself. Your meal would make me barf.

      July 7, 2011 at 12:39 am |
    • Noxious Sunshine

      To be honest, corn tortillas are healthier. If you hit up a latino market & buy some El Milagro tortillas, they ring in at a mere 50 cals, 0.5 g fat, 0 sodium, 12g carbs, & 1g each of dietary fiber & protein for 1 tortilla.

      July 7, 2011 at 12:45 am |
  7. Arlee

    I have a meal that I like which is fast and easy. 1 pound of browned hamburger, 1 cup of cooked Minute rice, 1 jar of salsa, Mix together put shedded mixed cheese over it, put it in the microwave to melt the cheese and eat with Taco chips. Takes less than 15 minutes Good if your just cooking for yourself.

    July 6, 2011 at 3:09 pm |
  8. Ant928

    Two words...crock pot. Yes it's more than 45 minutes but just toss it in and forget it. However a good quick one...Mexican pizza:

    – One large Boboli shell
    – One lb of ground beef
    – One jar of salsa
    – 8 oz of shredded sharp cheddar cheese

    1. Brown ground beef
    2. Stir in salsa and simmer until hot
    3. Place on Boboli
    4. Cover with cheese
    5. Bake in oven as per directions until cheese is bubbly
    6. Eat

    Whole thing takes about 15 minutes.

    July 6, 2011 at 12:43 pm |
  9. Noxious Sunshine

    I actually enjoy making complex dinners for my fiancee on an off day.. I put on a cute dress, pour a glass of wine, crank up my ipod & whip up something fancy.. He appreciates the effort & likes coming home to a good dinner!

    July 6, 2011 at 12:37 pm |
    • Eric

      Every man's dream

      July 6, 2011 at 2:09 pm |
    • eg

      my gf does the same thing! love it!

      July 6, 2011 at 5:03 pm |
    • Heather

      I do this... daily. Ahhhh, unemployment!

      July 12, 2011 at 10:34 am |
  10. beenz

    Fritattas are great and fast too.. also a good way to use up those veggies that are about to 'go'..

    July 6, 2011 at 11:19 am |
  11. Evil Grin

    Most of what I make on a daily basis takes 20 minutes or less. I'm not into making large, time-consuming meals if I don't have to. If it's going to be time consuming, I prefer it to be something like stew or spaghetti sauce that needs to cook a long time, but doesn't need me to stand over it all the time.

    July 6, 2011 at 10:04 am |
  12. American meth-head in Ogden,ut

    I havent eatin in 3 1/2 weeks i forgot what it was like to put food in my mouth and chew and swallow , wow im like a super hero that doesnt need food , sleep , thx Crystal M.

    July 6, 2011 at 8:56 am |
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