Greek Chicken Wraps

I got this recipe from Jorge Cruise's 3-Hour Diet Cookbook. Back when I was first on my own and just learning how to cook, this was the only cookbook I ever used. Though it's a book designed to guide you through a dieting routine, the recipes are a great way to learn basic, tasty ingredient combinations. They are also all incredibly quick- some take only minutes and none will have you slaving over a stove for an hour.

[Prep: 10min / Cook: 0-10min]


- 2 chicken breasts
- 4 flour tortillas
- 1/2 cup cooked white/brown rice
- about 1/4 cup (2oz) crumbled feta cheese
- 8 (or more) leaves of big-leafy lettuce (bib, butterhead, romaine, iceburg etc)
- 1 tomato
- about 1/4 cucumber
- 1/2 an onion
- 1/4 cup Ranch dressing

  1. Slice chicken breast into thin strips and pan-fry over medium-high heat for 5-7 minutes, until cooked through.
  2. Rinse and shake dry the lettuce leaves then layer a couple on each of the tortillas.
  3. Simply slice the tomato, onion and cucumber. Also layer and distribute across tortillas.
  4. Top-off the tortillas with a line of chicken, feta cheese, rice and Ranch dressing down the center.
  5. Roll-up and ready to eat!
[Serves 2]
Recipe based on the 3-Hour Diet Cookbook
Greek Chicken Wrap

  • The speed of this dish varies depending on your stock of pre-prepared items. A great opportunity to use pre-cooked/left-over chicken and rice, this all-in-one meal can be thrown together in 10 minutes with no cooking time at all.
  • If you don't have pre-cooked rice ready, a small amount like this goes quite quickly and easily in the microwave. Put about 1/4 cup in a microwavable bowl with 1/2 cup water and a dash of salt. Microwave for 5 minutes on 75% power. Stir a bit and repeat. If not finished after the second go, heat at full power for 1 minute intervals. *Note that microwave power/cook times vary and the final yield of cooked rice may be more than 1/2 a cup depending on the type of rice. Also, use real rice- not that boil-in-bag stuff.
  • Personally, I don't consider Ranch dressing very Greek, so I actually substitute yogurt mixed with a hefty dash of mint or coriander instead.
  • Also, the original version called for no rice, smaller portions and only 1 wrap each...but that version is diet and this one is one is a meal. That being said, I made the diet portion-sized ones the other night and as you can tell by the pictures, it's all a bit too much filling for just one tortilla each.


Avocado Melt

A simple avocado sauce gives a little gourmet edge to this otherwise ordinary sandwich. Load it up with plenty of veggies and this quick and simple burger is practically a meal!

And, as if to make up for last week, this sandwich turned out nice and ugly...

[Prep: 10min / Cook: 15min]


- 1/2 lb (250 grams) ground turkey or chicken
- 4 slices whole wheat or rye toast
- 1 small/medium avocado
- half a 3oz box of cream cheese (75 grams)
- a hefty dash of garlic powder (about 1tsp)
- leafy lettuce (butterhead, romaine, etc)
- 1 tomato
- 1/4-1/2 an onion
- slice of swiss cheese
- olive oil

  1. Separate the meat into two balls and flatten in out into round patties, as thin as possible.
  2. Put a touch of olive oil in a frying pan and grill the patties over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes on each side. Add a slice of cheese to each when nearly finished cooking.
  3. While the meat cooks, slice the tomato and onion. Separate a few leaves from the lettuce, rinse and shake dry.
  4. Cut the avocado in half, seed and peal. Mash the avocado in a small bowl with the cream cheese and garlic powder.
  5. When the meat is finished, stack the patties on the bread with a good serving of lettuce, onion and tomato and top off with the avocado mixture.
  6. Rinse and dry the frying pan. Return the complete sandwiches to the pan, grill for a few minutes on each side and squish with a spatula.
  7. Ready to eat!
[Serves 2]
Sauce inspired by Taste of Home: Simple & Delicious 
Zesty Garlic-Avocado Sandwiches

  • Once upon a time when I still lived in the US, we had a George Forman Grill. This would be a great little sandwich for a George Forman or a sandwich maker.
  • Like with guacamole, a very ripe, squishy avocado works best to make this sauce. My avocado was not so squishy, but the combination mixed up quite well when I microwaved it at 10 second intervals to soften it up.
  • Though this sandwich is loaded, you may hesitate to call it a full meal. I refuse to serve more carbs with a sandwich, so I served mine with raw, quickly sliced carrots...which I was able to work into the cooking time specified.

  • Those with a keen eye probably noticed that the sandwich pictured was made with beef. Ideally this would be made with ground turkey or chicken, but I had neither at the grocery store this week. For the record, it still tasted lovely with beef.
  • I did, however, want to add bacon and mushrooms after I tasted it. Mushrooms would be a cinch, but bacon obviously would add a lot of cooking time (and not be very healthy...). I have seen bacon cooked in a microwave, though...
  • For the vegetarians out there, this sandwich was originally made the same way, minus the meat. But I say, add a big 'ole portobello mushroom in place of the meat. Yummy.


Ham Pockets

I could not wait to try this recipe and it definitely lived up to expectations! Simple ingredients and a neat trick with refrigerated crescent rolls are the secret behind this speedy all-in-one dinner. No one will ever know you whipped it up in less than half an hour...

[Prep: 10min / Cook: 15min]


- 1 tube of large refrigerated croissant/crescent roll dough (usually 6 or 8 rolls)
- 1 1/2 cups of cubed, cooked ham (about 200-300 grams)
- 3-5 oz plain cream cheese (1 package)
- 1 Tbs mayonnaise
- 1/4 cup shredded cheese of choice
- 1 small can (4 oz) of mixed peas and corn
[or 1/2 of a 4oz can of each]

  1. Preheat your oven to 375F (190C) and unroll the croissant dough. Separate the dough into rectangles (do not split into individual triangles) and place on a baking sheet.
  2. Soften the cream cheese if necessary and mix in a large bowl with the mayonnaise and cheese. Add the ham, peas and corn and stir until evenly coated with the cheese mixture.
  3. Spoon the mixture evenly into the center of each rectangle of dough.
  4. Fold the edges of the dough into the center and seal. Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden brown.
  5. Ready to eat!
[Serves 2]

Recipe adapted from Taste of Home: Simple and Delicious
Corny Ham Bundles

  • Don't worry about how you fold up the dough, just generally close them up. It looks ugly going in the oven, but quite presentable coming out. I was really pleasantly surprised by how pretty mine turned out...almost too pretty for my ugly/messy food blog!

  • The original recipe called for a bit of ground mustard and celery seed to be stirred in with the cheese mixture. These are somewhat "odd" spices for me, so I skipped them. I'm sure they add a bit of punch, but we didn't miss them at my dinner table.
  • The original recipe also only used corn for veggies, but I really wanted this to be a meal, so I added peas and carrots. The peas helped in adding flavor in place of the spices I skipped, but the carrots added a somewhat unpleasant texture since they didn't cook much. If you want to add some chopped carrots, I recommend quickly cooking them (boil, pan-fry or even microwave) so that they're nice and soft. Note this will add quite a bit of cooking time, though.
  • Finally, the original version topped the dough with a bit of melted butter and crushed corn chips. Really not fond of unnecessary carbs, so I substituted grated parmesan cheese instead. Neither are actually necessary.


Ramen Noodle Stir Fry

I know I give ramen noodles a hard time, but I secretly love them. Like many people, they helped get me through college, and since then I've learned to put them to use as the secret ingredient behind many a quick and easy meal.

She doesn't know it, but I first learned the secret of "pumping up" ramen back when we were 18 and I watched one of my very best friends crack an egg in her instant noodles, sprinkle it with nutmeg and call it a meal. There's no rule that says you have to eat your ramen or cup noodles pure and out-of-the-package. Add some meat, or vegetables or even just an egg and suddenly you've nearly got yourself through dinner- or at least a quite decent lunch.

Of course, the best thing about ramen is the speed. Next to heat-and-eat udon, I don't think there's any other noodles out there that are ready to eat after only 3 minutes of boiling. So next time you're unsure what to throw together for dinner and you're reaching for that ramen packet, think about what quick and easy ingredients you have around that you can throw in to pump it up. You might be surprised what you come up with...

[Prep: 10min / Cook: 10min]


- 1/2 lb (250 grams) beef steak, any cut
- 2 packets beef ramen instant noodles (with seasoning packets)
- handful of baby carrots (about a cup)
- handful of snow or snap peas (about a cup)
- 1/2 can (about 4 oz) of water chestnuts
- dash pepper
- dash chili powder
- 1 Tbs soy sauce
- 1 Tbs olive oil

  1. Put a couple cups of water in a pot and set to boil.
  2. Meanwhile, slice the beef into thin-ish strips.
  3. Heat a large saucepan or wok. Once heated, add the oil, followed by the beef.
  4. Add the ramen noodles to the water which should be boiling. Put the seasoning packets aside. If your ramen comes with chili powder, sprinkle it on the beef. Otherwise, add your own pepper and chili powder to the beef.
  5. While the beef browns, rinse the baby carrots and cut them in half lengthwise, then cut them in half lengthwise again. Rinse the peas and throw them in with the beef whole, along with the sliced carrots.
  6. Slice the water chestnuts however you please and add to the pan as well. Stir fry the meat and veggies for a few minutes until the veggies become crisp-tender (about 5 minutes).
  7. Strain the water from the noodles and add them to the stir-fry. Drizzle the soy sauce and the seasonings from the ramen packet on top. Give it a good stir to mix everything up, then turn off the heat.
  8. Ready to eat!

[Serves 2]

Recipe adapted from Simple One Dish
Easy Asian Skillet and Quick 'n' Tangy Beef Stir-Fry

  • Obviously, you can make this with an assortment of meats. Though if you decide to use pork or chicken instead, I recommend using the pork or chicken ramen packets.
  • Part of what makes this recipe so quick and easy is the careful selection of easy-to-handle veggies. When using other veggies (particularly the popular broccoli), keep in mind that it will probably add to the prep time. Using a frozen variety will certainly help, but you may want to nuke the frozen veggies shortly in the microwave first, 'less you will need to stir-fry a bit longer. Alternatively, the original recipe says to use frozen veggies, but to boil them with the ramen before adding it all to the meat. Quite efficient, but boiled vegetables are icky.
  • As mentioned, probably the only thing faster than ramen noodles are udon noodles- yummy, thick [also] Japanese noodles that are easy to find pre-cooked. Udon is most often eaten in soup, but I've used them in a similar manner in stir-frys with great results.  


March Meals in Minutes

miniature fast food
miniature fast food uploaded by shimelle
Naturally, people often come to me and OntheFly in search of quick recipes. Though, I will be the first to admit that my recipes are not always fast. Easy, yes. Fast, ehhhh, sometimes.

Everyone [or, at least, many many people out there] want to whip up their meals as quick as possible. But here's the truth, as you'll never hear it from one of the hundreds of "fast recipe" cookbooks out there: cooking is just not a fast process. Unless you're vegetarian, no matter how simple your dish or ingredients are, the meat still has to be cooked...and if you are vegetarian, odds are you've got to chop a whole lot of vegetables.

I've used a lot of cookbooks, most of them quick-fixes, and after an hour of slaving over the stove, I often wonder how any of these books got published. Turns out I'm not alone in this thinking and even the queen of 30-minute meals, Rachel Ray, gets a bad rap for her meals not actually taking 30 minutes. Turns out you have to read the introduction where she carefully specifies that you "remember to chop up your vegetables" as soon as you get home from the store. Not only does that sound a bit excruciating, but a lot of veggies just are not going to last all week chopped up.

another hobby
another hobby uploaded by havankevin
The other major pitfall of quick-fix cookbooks is that they don't account for side dishes. Sure the main entree may take 20 minutes, but the side salad takes another 20 and the potatoes need to bake for an hour. Oops. So then it turns out that the truly quick recipe books make brilliant use of pre-cooked meat, pre-packaged rice-a-roni and all sorts of other pre-canned, pre-mixed, pre-packaged sauces and flavorings. To each their own, but with today's new age standards of healthy eating, even I'm afraid of overly-prepared and pre-processed foods. Most importantly, many of these things aren't even available outside of big bad USA.

Thus, I have come to the conclusion that quick cooking is a lifestyle. You're going to have to plan a little bit, and be a bit clever in re-using and maneuvering through your meals, but 30 minutes of planning on Sunday afternoon can help make your cooking a breeze all week long. If you can't bear to plan, then just remember to K.I.S.S. Grill a piece of meat (5min each side is a pretty standard bet) with some seasonings or pour on a simple sauce (soup bases are a great start), chop and grill some simple vegetables on the side while the meat cooks and throw a slice or two of toast in the oven. Done in no more than 20 minutes.

In the meantime, if you are willing to plan a bit, here are some tips to get you started cooking real, well-rounded meals fast:

1.  Manage Your Vegetables
Chopping vegetables is probably the single most time-consuming process of cooking. Conquer your veggies, and the rest of the meal is quite painless.
Farts, Eyes, Something
uploaded by trekkyandy
  • For the fastest vegetables, use frozen mixes. Unlike nearly everything else pre-packaged out there, frozen vegetables are actually good for you because they are usually frozen while the veggies are fresh- locking in the nutrients. The downsides are that frozen veggies won't have the nice, crisp texture that fresh do and pound for pound, they're more expensive.
  • Canned vegetables are the worst for you nutrient-wise, but most health experts will tell you that just eating your greens is good for you. My favorite veggies to get out of a can are peas, sliced mushrooms, french-cut green beans, water chestnuts and corn (if you consider it a vegetable).
  • Pre-prepare yourself. Every now and then I do take the Rachel Ray route and chop up a bunch of vegetables in one go-- usually when I notice something (like broccoli) is about to turn or if I'm already chopping a carrot, I may just finish the whole batch while I'm already at it. However, I freeze them when I'm done. Some things should probably never be done this way, though, like tomatoes, cucumbers or onions, but that's subject to opinion.
  • One of the most valuable lessons I learned from my mother was to make (ie: rinse and rip apart) enough salad greens as you'll eat in a week and put it in a salad-keeper. You'll still need to add things like tomatoes and onions the day of, but it saves a good chunk of time.
  • Befriend the easy-to-handle vegetables. Baby carrots are brilliant- just rinse and cook. Snow and snap peas can be just as easy, though you may want to quickly chop off the pointy tips. Baby spinach also just needs a good rinsing- usually no need to tear up. Tomatoes and mushrooms are quick and easy to slice and fresh green beans can be a breeze if you just master chopping off the tips in bulk.

2.  Make-ahead
This is where the planning comes in. If you're less picky about eating the same meal multiple times in a week, this can really help.

Getting Along Like Lemons and Oranges
Getting Along uploaded by Orin Zebest
  • Since most meals take roughly the same amount of time to cook no matter how many portions you make, make twice as much and doggy-bag half for another day. Meals usually last for three days in the refrigerator and weeks to months in the freezer. If you're really not fond of eating the same meal on Monday and Wednesday, then invest in some decent freezer tupperware and stock-pile a whole inventory of your own microwavable meals for future use.
  • You can also make-ahead individual elements. You've probably noticed that I like to say "dump in a serving of rice" in a lot of my recipes. When I make rice, I make as much as the rice-cooker will handle (the size of decent saucepan or about 2-3 bags worth of boil-in-bag rice). Then I either use it all week long, freeze it in meal-sized portions or both. You can do this with pasta, potatoes or vegetables as well.
  • I also like to prepare basic meats in bulk. E.g.: if I'm boiling and shredding chicken for use in one recipe, I'll make two meals worth and pack away the second half for another recipe later. This is most useful for unseasoned/generically seasoned meats that can later go into a casserole, pasta or a stir-fry.
  • Don't forget some of the most useful store-bought "made-ahead" meats: ham and sausage. Though sausage may have some questionable mix-ins, pre-cooked ham is a very reliable meat that need only be reheated.

3.  Make all-in-one meals.
One of my first and favorite cookbooks was Simple One Dish. Though the majority of the meals are not fast and use a lot of pre-packaged goods, the book taught me the highly useful art of turning one entree into a full and balanced meal.
Mmm...ham fried rice
ham fried rice uploaded by jeffryw
  • Sliced, seasoned meat cooks quickly and easily in a pan. Cook with some of the easy-to-chop vegetables and add rice, noodles or pasta for your carbohydrates and your major food groups are nicely packaged and ready to eat.
  • Take some of the pre-cooked meat you've been making from lesson 2 and layer it in a casserole dish with potatoes or rice and a can of soup of your choice. Bake for 20 minutes and you have a nearly instant casserole.
  • Other classic all-in-one meals are stir-frys, fried rice, pasta with meat and veggies (like spinach), soups and big, meaty sandwiches.

Happy Cooking!