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How to Prepare Fast, Inexpensive Family Meals

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Posted: Sunday, May 5, 2013 10:00 pm | Updated: 1:33 am, Mon May 6, 2013.

(StatePoint) There are unlimited excuses you can make to skip cooking. But if lack of time or money is the reason you’re getting take-out yet again, consider this -- plenty of fresh, inventive meals can be prepared quickly and on a budget.

“Just because you can’t get a steak with roasted potatoes on the table in twenty minutes doesn’t mean you’re stuck with cereal for dinner,” says Caroline Wright, author of a new cookbook, “Twenty-Dollar, Twenty-Minute Meals.” “Good ingredients, like cheeses, nuts, spices and oils often don’t require much meddling. They bring a lot to a dish just by showing up.” 

Wright says the key to quick cooking is to think simple where ingredients are concerned and to make inactive time in a recipe work for you. For example, while you boil water for pasta or preheat the oven, move on to the next step.

With those principles in mind, skip the burger joint tonight. Instead, try this homemade twenty minute version from Wright: 

Merguez Burgers with Cucumber Dressing

(Makes four burgers)

• Preheat a grill to medium-high heat or a grill pan over medium-high heat.

• Meanwhile, place 2 teaspoons fennel seeds, 1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds, and 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds in a mortar and crush with a pestle.

• In a medium bowl, combine the spices with 1 pound ground lamb, 2 minced garlic cloves, 1 tablespoon harissa paste (or 1 teaspoon chili powder and 1/2 teaspoon paprika), 1½ teaspoons kosher salt, and 1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper.

• Oil the grill grate or pan. Form the spiced meat into four 11/2-inch thick patties and grill, turning once, until charred and cooked through, 4 to 5 minutes per side for medium doneness.

• While the burgers are cooking, combine 3 sliced Kirby cucumbers, 1/4 cup Greek yogurt, and 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper.

Serve the burgers on rolls topped with the cucumber dressing or with tahini, lemon juice, roasted red peppers and mint.

Want to round out the meal?

“Always keep salad greens and homemade dressing in your fridge for an impromptu side dish,” advises Wright.

More quick, inexpensive recipes can be found at www.TheWrightRecipes.com.

With the right techniques and ingredients, anyone, regardless of time or funds, can make meals spectacular.

*****

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Lodi Unified leaders are moving Lodi and Tokay high school graduations from the Grape Bowl to the Spanos Center at UOP in Stockton. They cite limited seating, costs and unpredictable weather at the Grape Bowl. But others say graduations at the Grape Bowl are an important Lodi tradition, and one reason many supported renovating the stadium. What do you think?

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