Whenever I come home from work, I wonder whether I should pick up something quick drive-through or cook something nice and healthy for two (me and my wife) for dinner that evening using a small toaster oven to make it faster. It usually takes about 20-25 minutes to spend in line after 5 PM in California’s most popular fast-food places during the week. On the other hand, at home, it takes about 10-15 minutes to preheat the convection oven, and you still need to spend another half an hour to prep and cook your dinner, even if you use a cooktop instead of the oven.
A Small Toaster Oven Discovery
Let me tell you about my little evening hack that changed the game. One of the great alternative solutions I found is to use a small toaster oven instead of a cooktop or convection oven when you are in a hurry. I use a toaster from the HeatMate brand. It is an excellent small toaster oven. There is no preheating time and a decent even heating capacity, top and bottom, of up to 550°F. Chef’s kiss!
Tonight’s Menu: Roast Duck & Veggies
Up until recently, duck was something I only enjoyed while dining out. Then, I went to the Costco store one weekend for regular family stuff and stumbled upon a fully cooked, gourmet roast half duck in the freezer from Maple Leaves Farm. Their fully cooked, roast half duck makes serving duck practically effortless – you only cut and warm it up thoroughly, which is all needed.
I brought home the duck package and the Costco Kirkland frozen vegetables blend as a side dish. We’re talking broccoli, snap peas, carrots (regular and yellow – fancy, right?), mushrooms, bell peppers, water chestnuts, and onions. The best part? They’re unseasoned. You can play spice maestro by adding as much or as little spices as you like.
For a side note, I chose the Cranberry Orange Relish – my favorite from Trader Joe’s. This stuff is sweet, and there’s plenty of tartness, too, to accent the duck.
Since the duck is precooked, the main thing is to roast vegetables properly first. Roasting frozen vegetables in the small toaster oven is simple. You don’t thaw the vegetables before roasting them. This toaster oven’s high heat (400-550°F) will cause the moisture to evaporate rapidly, providing a much crispier result than if you were to pre-thaw the vegetables. High heat is the name of the game! For your veggies to gain that delicious exterior while cooking to tender perfection, the sweet spot is between 410 and 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
- A roast half duck (use half of the package), cut into two pieces.
- Four cups of frozen vegetable blend.
- Seasonings: salt, pepper, olive oil, oregano, garlic powder.
- Two tablespoons of cranberry orange relish.
Ready in 20-25 minutes (including prep)
5. Cut a half duck into two equal pieces and set aside.
6. Toss vegetables with a small amount of quality extra virgin olive oil and seasonings in a large bowl until well-covered.
7. Use salt, pepper, oregano, and garlic (if you like garlic, I love it) up to your taste.
8. Take the flat pan that comes with the HeatMate small toaster oven set. It is deep and large enough for two servings of decent size.
9. Put one sheet of aluminum foil on the bottom of the small toaster oven pan and brush lightly with olive oil.
10. Spread vegetables on the flat pan in a single layer. Do not overcrowd them, as this can prevent vegetables from browning.
11. Set the toaster oven to 400-420°F temperature.
12. Roast in the small toaster oven for about 15 minutes or until the edges begin to brown.
13. Add two pieces of roast duck on top of the vegetables, cook for another 10 minutes, and keep the temperature the same.
14. When the timer is off, take the pan out of the small toaster oven and let it cool off for about 3 to 5 minutes. Use mittens when taking the flat pan out of the toaster – it is hot.
15. Plate the duck and veggies, and add a bit of cranberry orange relish next to the meat for a sweet-tart kick.
16. Serve the meal.
I prefer a small toaster oven when making dinner for two since no time is needed to preheat the oven. Cleaning the toaster oven afterward requires minimal effort, which I like too. Of course, I will switch to the convection oven for a larger company, but keep the recipe and timing the same.
I also like the consistency of the roasted vegetables, which I can easily control with the temperature and timer controls, overlooking the results through the front glass window of this small (but mighty) toaster oven.
Wrapping It Up
So there you have it! A quick, easy dinner and a surefire win with a small toaster oven help. It’s perfect for a late dinner for two. And, if you’ve got more mouths to feed, switch to a convection oven, but keep everything else the same. Trust me, this small toaster oven trick is a lifesaver. Let your evenings be as chill as your cooking is hot. Bon appetit!