Ok, you've got 20 minutes to get dinner on the table, and the table is piled with books, papers, afterschool snack wrappers and a tennis shoe with a broken lace. You're desperate, but dinner can still be delicious, and yes, you can get it done fast! So, you walk into your pantry, grab a few items, and pat yourself on the back for making those wise purchases. Dinner will be a snap! Call The Kids and/or The Spouse (most of the junk on the table is theirs, anyway, right? YOU wouldn't pile stuff on there.) and issue The Ultimatum: "The dining table will be cleared and set in 20 minutes or no dinner tonight." And mean it. Trust me, it works, but they have to know you mean it.
- 3 packages ramen noodles (any flavor since you won't need the seasoning packet) or 2 -3 cups of any leftover pasta (plain)
- 2 (15 ounce) cans chili with beans (use meatless if you swing that way)
- 1 (15 ounce) can diced tomatoes (with or without green chilies)
- 4 -8 ounces shredded cheese or 4 -8 ounces sliced cheese (of your choice, Monterey Jack, American, Cheddar - I usually use extra sharp cheddar - you get a lot)
- Get a 3-quart casserole with a lid, and put about 6 cups of water in it, cover it and stick it in the microwave for about 3 minutes.
- Meanwhile, crush the packages of ramen slightly, carefully open and remove the seasoning packets, which you won't need.
- (Collect'em, trade'em with your friends. I have 47 assorted seasoning packets now!) Set aside the ramen for now.
- Open the cans of chili and the tomatoes.
- Do not drain the tomatoes: you'll need the juice in this or it might be kind of dry.
- If the cheese is sliced or in a chunk, break or cut it up into small bits that will melt easily.
- Take the casserole out of the microwave, dump in the ramen noodles, pushing all the bits down into the water, breaking it up a bit more if necessary.
- Cover and return to microwave oven, cook for 5 minutes, stirring halfway through.
- Check to see if the ramen noodles seem mostly done.
- (You don't want them mushy. Okay, maybe you do, but I don't) If they seem done, drain well.
- The lid on my casserole is not a tight fit, so I just hold the lid on and turn the whole things sideways so the water drains out.
- Dump in the chili and tomatoes, and toss well.
- I used two large spoons to do this.
- Cover and return to microwave, cook on HIGH for 5 minutes or until hot throughout.
- When you remove the casserole from the microwave, put your side dish in to heat up.
- Then sprinkle the chili ramen with cheese, replace cover, and let stand until cheese melts.
- By the time the side dish is hot, the cheese should be melted nicely.
- Now, check to see if they got that table set, or if you're gonna put this in the fridge for tomorrow night's dinner!