Seriously Fast Dinner Ideas
I know everyone has their favorite fast stand-by weeknight meal, but what do you make when you're REALLY in a rush to get something hot on the table? I'm talking about 2-3 ingredient quickie meals which may or may not be considered real "cooking."
My old standby is this:
Chicken breasts cut up into bite-size pieces in a pan and coated with oyster sauce and then baked at 350 degrees for 20 or so minutes. It's actually very tasty with some steamed bagged spinach and rice.
What else is out there?
Healthy and quick, short prep time: In a pyrex/oven proof dish cut up cabbage, carrots, fennel - almost any vegetable mix will work - drizzle with (very little)olive oil, salt and pepper. Cover and bake for 30 min at 400. Open the cover, place a salmon fillet over the vegetables and re-cover. Roast for about 20 minutes more. The salmon juices infuse the vegetables with flavor. It's plain, tasty, healthy. Any leftovers - toss next day with pasta and microwave.
Salmon grilled on stovetop - active cooking/prep time less than 15 minutes and idiot-proof.
The evening before take Whole Foods frozen salmon from freezer and defrost in fridge. (Of course, you could use non-frozen salmon, but since salmon isn't in season now, the stuff you buy at the market has probably been frozen and defrosted, so you might as well do it yourself at home and save yourself a special trip to the grocery store).
In the morning, stick defrosted salmon in Pyrex casserole with 3 tablespoons of soy sauce and 2-3 teaspoons of brown rice syrup powder (order brown rice syrup online since it's hard to find - I guess you could use brown sugar also, although I've never tried). Marinate salmon.
When you get home from work, take out stove-stop cast iron griddle or grill. Put a small amount of sesame oil on grill. Heat. Grill one side until done (depends on thickness of fish and how you like your salmon cooked - maybe about 7 minutes). Flip and cook other side.
Idiot proof, healthy and your active cooking/prep time is about 15 minutes.
This is pretty tasty, from LidiaB via Fine Cooking Magazine iirc:
1/3 Cup Olive Oil
8 Slices Bacon -- Chopped
2 Medium Onions -- Thinly sliced
10 Pepperoncini peppers -- Drained and chopped
3 Cups crushed peeled Italian Tomatoes( -- 35 oz can drained)
1 Pound Angel Hair Pasta
3/4 Cup Parmesan Cheese -- Grated
Salt to taste
Cook bacon in 3 Tbs oil until lightly browned, about 10 min. DO NOT DRAIN FAT. Add onions, stir occasionally about 15 min. Add pepperoncini, tomatoes, salt, simmer 10 min. Cook pasta, drain and toss with rest of olive oil. Stir in sauce, add cheese, toss.
This is a deliscious &fast dinner,ready in 20 mins:
ORZO WITH GRILLED VEGETABLES
1 c orzo
2 T. olive oil
1 t. salt
1 bunch asparagus,stem ends trimmed
1 medium summer squash or zucchini,halved lenghtwise
1 bell pepper,seeded,quartered(I like red or yellow)
1 c cherry tomatoes,halved
1/2 c feta cheese
1/2 bottle Italian dressing
Heat oven to 450 deg.Cook orzo according to package directions.In a large bowl,mix oil,salt and pepper add vegetables(except tomatoes Roast in hot oven 10-15 mins.Drain orzo.Combine orzo,veggies tomatoes and cheese.Drizzle with dressing,toss to mix and coat.Serve warm or chilled as a salad
porkchops -- so fast & easy (and great this time of year). i usually rub them with S&P and then fry at very high heat in a cast iron skillet (this may make a little smoke). while they're browning, i make a fake-o bbq sauce with soy sauce, mustard, vinegar, ketchup & honey. when the chops are nice & brown on each side, add the sauce to the pan and let them finish in that.
i often serve with greens sauteed with garlic and finished with a little soy sauce and lemon juice (this also works well with friozen greens -- first defrost in a little salted h20 in a pan, drain & squeeze out xtra liquid, then sautee)
can also make a fast pilaf with rice, couscous, quinoa, or orzo. cook them in broth and toss in toasted pepitas (i always have a bunch on hand for snacking), raisins, and green onions
Another no cook sauce: while the water and 1/2 lb pasta are boiling, marinate a can of tuna in a 1/4 cup olive oil, juice and zest of a lemon, couple tablespoons of capers, any fresh herbs on hand and a lot of freshly ground black pepper. Toss with hot pasta and parm cheese works on this. Of course there are lots of odds and ends that you can toss in whatever you have on hand that goes, olives, tomatoes, any cooked veggie.
Another quick pasta toss: asparagus, pine nuts, basil, olive oil, parm cheese
Lately I keep Yaki Soba stir fry noodles with sauce packet on hand. The noodles are already cooked but keep about 3 months in the fridge. I only have to stir fry an onion cut into wedges and whatever veggies I have on hand. Usually some cabbage, greens or bok choy are nice. Green beans or zucchini. Slivered carrot and celery. Of course bean sprouts or bamboo shoots if I have any. If I have pork or chicken that goes in too, after a 5 minute marinate of soy sauce, sesame oil and garlic.
A quick and easy pasta with broccoli and feta cheese:
Start water boiling.
Chop 1-2 heads of broccoli into small florets, and peel & slice the stems too.
Mince a clove of garlic with salt & put in large bowl with a good amount of olive oil and some red pepper flakes.
Thinly slice a few sun-dried tomatoes and add to olive oil as well.
When water boils, add broccoli and then lift it out with a strainer when it's bright green. Add it to the olive oil bowl.
Add half a pound of pasta (fusilli is good - and surprisingly, whole wheat works pretty well) into the boiling water.
While it's boiling, slice some cherry tomatoes and crumble some feta cheese, and add them to the bowl. When the pasta's done, drain it and put it in the bowl with everything else. Stir it all up & you're done!
Super quick my sister in law fed me her mother's summer spaghetti:
Chop up some romas, add chiff parsley, chiff basil, minced garlic, s/p. Marinate in the juice of one large lemon, and an abundant amount of good olive oil.
Drain pasta. Toss with tomato mixture and and freshly grated parm. The temp isn't really hot or cold. It took me a second to get over that...
I make it for myself often.
I usually make fish or chicken cutlets if I want something really easy, really fast. With fish, I'll just drizzle some olive oil on the fillets, or I'll soak in milk, then dredge in bread crumbs, then drizzle with melted butter, and into the oven. Serve with steamed or braised veggies.
With chicken cutlets, I'll dip in egg, then coat with mixture of bread crumbs, salt and pepper, and cumin, then brown on stovetop. Or I'll take bonesless breast halves and dredge in a mixture of flour and dried fines herbs, brown each side, pour in a cup of stock and throw in the oven (a cast iron pan is good for this) for about 10 minutes. Cook down the juices on stovetop if it hasn't thickened enough to make a gravy. I'll serve this with jasmine rice- which takes 10 minutes to make- and some easy braised veggie.
Three egg tofu dish:
boil up some salted egg, dice
boil up some regular egg, dice
crack open a pack of thousand year egg, dice
add other interesting ingredients (veggies, seafood, meat -- my fave is jellyfish)
toss w/ pack of soft or firm tofu
season to taste
chill, sprinkle w/ toasted sesame seeds & serve
Three egg scramble
boil salted eggs, dice
crack open a pack of thousand year egg, dice
add other interesting ingredients
use this in a regular omlette or egg scramble
Start a pot of water for pasta. While it comes to a boil, and while a pound of pasta (I like large shells) is cooking, make the sauce:
heat a little olive oil and add some garlic (I keep the little cubes of frozen minced garlic around for such occasions. Add a can of drained black olives, a can of kidney beans with its liquid, and a can of diced tomatoes. Cut up a red bell pepper, slice a seeded jalapeno pepper, and slice a bunch of scallions. When the pasta is almost cooked, add two cups of frozen green beans. When the water comes back to the boil, drain pasta and beans and add the sauce and the vegetables. Serve with shredded parmesan. This feeds an army and takes about 20 minutes. You can add shrimp or chicken if you want. Also you can add some finely shredded greens like rabe or kale.
This is serious comfort food. And quick and easy and you probably have all the ingredients.
Nigella Lawson's Lemon Linguine
In separate bowl mix egg yolk, parmesan cheese, lemon juice and a bit of cream (I usually have 1/2 & 1/2 on hand).
Drain pasta and reserve some pasta water.
Toss pasta with sauce. You may have to reheat to thicken the sauce slightly, but not alot or it will split.
Here's a link to the real recipe.
What I call a "cheese tortilla," similar to an Arizona cheese crisp: Take one large flour tortilla for each person (I keep them in the freezer) and place them on baking sheets. Lightly cover with grated cheese -- usually jack or sometimes mixed with cheddar, or whatever's on hand. Dot with some salsa and, if available, some diced green chiles from a can. Place in a 350 degree oven (no need to preheat) and heat until the cheese is melted. To be a proper cheese crisp it needs, of course, to be baked until the tortilla is crisp; personally, I like mine with the soft tortilla. Each person gets one on a big plate.
version of carbonara, always have the ingredients in the fridge for when I can't be bothered (i.e. eggs, cream, parmesan and I always have whole small salamis - until they are eaten!) there's always good long pasta in the house (Cipriani's only takes 3 minutes to cook) dinner is ready in less than 10 minutes. Basically it takes as long as it takes to boil the water and cook the pasta.
Well, since we've resurrected this -- I make a quick-and-dirty version of moqueca -- a small tub of pico de gallo (salsa cruda, salsa fresca), a can of coconut milk, and whatever protein I feel like -- frozen shrimp is a popular one. Simmer it together and eat with rice (and yes, I eat the cooked brown rice out of the Trader Joe's bag...)
You can do it with regular jarred salsa too, just add some lime juice.
Pancakes (from a mix) with yogurt and fruit
Quesadillas (usually with beans and just a little cheese)
Whole-wheat couscous with curried veggies (or just cooked with canned daal and frozen peas)
Lettuce wraps (filled with leftovers or sautéed veggies with canned refried beans)
Shabu-shabu (tofu and veggies dunked in hot veggie broth)
Healthy banana split (banana with Fage 0% yogurt, Kashi cereal and toasted nuts)
Miso soup a la Emme... Throw miso soup (premade) into pan, toss in a few cloves of chopped garlic (I use the frozen cubes), add chopped greens (collards, kale, bok choy), wild mushrooms, bragg's amino acids, a little lemon juice, and pepper, then let simmer and cook. I then either add chopped tofu or will cook some egg white or eggbeaters with garlic and herbs spice mix, then toss in to let simmer and soak up "juices" and flavors." That's my favorite comfort food soup.
Quesadillas are ridiculously easy. Toast tortillas, add cheese, cooked chicken and whatever else you desire. Serve with salsa and sour cream.
Chicken Divan is also easy. Broccoli and chicken layered in a loaf pan. Mix mayo with condensed cream of chicken soup, and pour in pan. Sprinkle with corn flake crumbs and bake. More complex variations with cheese and other stuff exist, but we like it simple.
I made this last week. 15 minutes, start to finish, including prep. This was for 2 people.
1. Cook 1/4 cup Quaker instant grits in 3/4 cup water for about 5-10 minutes, depending on how you like the texture. (If you like it looser, add some water as it cooks) While it's cooking, saute some purchased cleaned shrimp, abnout 1/2 pound.
2.When the grits are done, stir in about 3 tablespoons of purchased garlic-herb-cheese spread. It should take about 2 minutes to melt into the grits. Stir it around.
3. Dice half a small tomato. When the shrimp are done, add the tomato; cook just enough to warm the tomatoes up.
4. Spread the cheesy grits on a warm platter, top with the shrimp-tomato mixture.
5. Also serve some mesclun salad with ready-made dressing.
Voila -- done. 15 minutes, or maybe 20 max.
When it's summer this is divine. Pasta with a fresh tomato sauce. Boil spaghetti type of pasta (linguine, taliatelle etc) until al dente. Saute onions, garlic, and pine nuts in olive oil for about 5 minutes. Add fresh tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Toss with pasta and add torn basil and parmesan on top (if you're so inclined). Another quickie meal I made last night at 11:15pm (because I went to a play without eating dinner) was fried rice. There was leftover rice from the night before when my partner ordered Thai food. I threw an egg in a wok with some oil and scrambled it in the wok. When the egg was cooked through I added chopped ham and forzen peas. I then added the rice with a little water to break up the rice. I stir fried it with soy sauce, oyster sauce and thai chili sauce (all of it was to taste).
I make fake lasagne. Boil your choice of ravioli until just before al dente. Meanwhile, prep your favorite tomato sauce, basil, mozz, parm, and veggies. Preheat the broiler. When the ravioli are done and drained, layer ravioli, sauce, cheese, and veggies in a casserole dish and finish off with parm on top. Stick it under the broiler for 5ish minutes or until the cheese in melted. I love this dish with artichoke ravioli and fresh tomatoes and basil from my garden. I'd say the whole dish can be made in 15 minutes.
this is where a well-stocked freezer and pantry is very helpful.
1. i keep a very very reduced pho stock in the freezer. heat up with added water. boil noodles in another pot. add broth to strained noodles. add any combo of chicken, tofu, chili, leaves, mushrooms, cilantro, basil, mint, sprouts...
2. saute scallions, sliced ginger, and smashed garlic cloves till starting to brown. add chili sauce. maybe a bit of water and soy sauce to thin. add shrimps, cook till just pink. eat as is or add cooked rice noodles right to pan. just don't overcook shrimps!
Grab a couple of handfuls of shrimp from the big bag I have in the freezer (they are raw, shelled, deveined). put them in a big bowl, with cold water running slowly over them. They will thaw in less than 5 minutes.
Melt about 3-4 tablespoons of butter in a saute pan. Get it hot and add in 3 cloves of crushed garlic. 20 seconds later, throw in the drained shrimp. salt/pepper it. cooks for about 1-2 minutes.
Pour the shrimp/garlic/butter mixture onto plates, sprinkle immediately with chopped parsley and serve with a lemon wedge. heaven.
start to finish, done in 10 minutes (including the thawing and all the prep work).
I serve it alone, but you can certainly serve it with pasta.
One word: orzo. Boils up quickly, you can toss with olive oil, s & lots of cracked black pepper and parm. Theother night I added pesto made with asiago cheese/basil and walnuts and baby peas--you could easily throw in a handful of frozen shrimp, leftover chicken, whatever..comfort food, and the leftovers are great for breakfast!
We recently moved to northern VT and I really miss Trader Joes!! There are far too many reminders of all that i loved about that store on this message board.
am even considering a trip to visit my mom in Boston in good part to visit her TJs and bring home some loot.
My fast and dirty dinners almost always start with freezable convenience protein. we like the spinach and feta chicken sausages from Costco (also found at TJs and Whole foods), some other chicken sausages, and the frozen salmon burgers from Costco are surprisingly palatable. Some veggie burgers are really delish (morningstar has some good ones) and iirc, TJs has some good veggie meatballs. Couscous is a really fast starch, and most veggies steam up fast(even pototoes if you slice them thin enough)...or just bread and a salad. There is nothing wrong (and a lot right, in my opinion) with eating tomatoes simply sliced with olive oil, salt and pepper. For that matter, sliced garden cukes with salt and pepper is really a taste treat too...although lately i really love the epi recipe for mustard dill cukes.
The OP did ask how to get HOT food on the TABLE really fast, but I am lucky that i am content to eat cottage cheese and fruit or a hunk of cheese and bread (pref with red wine) and my husband will eat ANYTHING...literally. He survived for weeks on BEAN sandwiches in college (open a can of baked beans, place between bread, eat). we love good food but also prize sanity and with two tots in the house we can't always DINE.
i love some of the ideas here. just wish i had a trader joes around the corner so i could try out some of these yummy sounding products! sorry for the rant. anyone else not have a TJs or am i the ONLY one?
ouch, it hurts!!
just looked back and realized this thread has very few refs to TJs, but this rant has been building over the course of weeks. each time it (TJs)is mentioned that cute little wrinkle on my forehead turns into a furrow and i get more and more sorry for myself...
LOL! I can't agree with you more! I used to live in SF and I think I may have single-handedly increased the chain's sales revenue by, like, 30% while I lived there! I can't get enough of their snack aisle. The dried mixed berries, dried mango chunks, and trail mixes. YUM!
And they have a socially responsible sourcing policy. It doesn't get much better than TJs, I tell ya!
I'm so upset that we don't have Trader Joe's in Canada.
I go when I visit family too -- and at the east coast TJ's I lust after the California TJ's cheap delicious wine selection.
Does anybody on this board work at or with Trader Joes?
I'd love to know How They Do It -- there's a grocery markup thread going on Not About Food right now . . .
I try to avoid chicken breasts, as they dry out. If I have to cook with them, I usually smear them with yoghurt and something else (herbs, mustard, bread crumbs, chutney) to keep them from drying out too badly, then I underbake them and leave them on a plate covered in tin foil for eight minutes to let the residual heat cook them through. Might freak out people who are terrified about undercooking meat, though.
Broiled thin white fish fillets. Usually smear them with pesto, or soy and apricot jam, or just olive oil, salt and pepper. Takes 5 minutes. Served with microwaved green beans or asparagus.
Eggs en cocotte (baked in a ramekin), scrambled eggs with cheese or cilantro chutney, french toast with baked beans, fried egg on toast.
While the weather's been warm, I've been rinsing off tins of organic pre-cooked beans, and lightly tossing with a good olive oil, some crunchy salt and fresh torn herbs. Am always amazed by how good that can be.
I know it's not healthy, and wouldn't reccomend it every night, but there's lots to be said for cheese, sliced tomatoes and good bread, once in a while.
Nuke a big russet potato. While it's being cooked heat up a can of cheddar cheese soup and add a can of mixed vegetables or some chopped broccoli. Pour it all over the potato.
Pasta with your favorite veggies, some meat/tofu and the "cream of" soup of your choice also makes for a tasy quick meal.
I always have the following (mostly non-perishable) items in my kitchen for times when I need to make a quick meal:
- canned of beans; usually chickpeas, but also black beans and kidney beans
- canned tuna
- canned diced tomatoes and tomato paste
- chicken broth and beef broth (frozen in ice cube trays for single servings)
- good quality sausages, which I freeze
- frozen spinach and corn at minimum, sometimes also have brussel sprouts, okra, and other things on hand
- chicken breast, which I freeze
- ground beef, which I freeze
- jar of anchovies
- red and white cooking wine (liquor stores often sell 500mL bottles of wine, which is a great size for this)
- pasta, rice, and on occasion, potatoes
- fresh onions and garlic
- dried herbs and spices; mainly oregano, thyme, chili flakes, ground cumin, black pepper, salt, and bay leaves. I have other herbs and spices on hand as needed.
I buy fresh fruits and vegetables as needed, but lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, celery, and lemons tend to be constants in my fridge.
Quick meals I've made with above ingredients:
- set water boiling for pasta, defrost a sausage in microwave
- chop onions & crush garlic; sautee on low with oregano, thyme, and chili flakes until flavour of herbs and spices are infused into oil
- cut sausage into chunks
- turn heat up on pan to medium, add sausage and sautee until brown
- deglaze pan with a splash of red wine, add half a can of diced tomatoes (save other half for another use), turn heat down to medium-low, and let simmer
- cook pasta and drain
- add salt to sauce as needed and toss pasta with sauce
- serve with side salad
Tuna and chickpea salad
- wash and tear lettuce/salad greens into salad bowl
- add sliced tomatoes, cucumbers, or other fresh vegetables as desired, and add to salad bowl
- open and drain canned tuna and add to salad bowl
- open and drain canned chick peas and add half of it to salad bowl (save other half for another use)
- toss salad with favourite dressing
- serve with bread or crackers and cheese
- set water boiling for pasta
- chop onions & crush garlic; sautee on low along with several anchovy fillets
- add half a can of tomato paste(save other half for another use) and stir in water to desired sauce consistency
- simmer and stir until anchovy fillets have broken down and integrated into the sauce (3-5 minutes)
- cook pasta and drain
- add salt to sauce as needed and toss pasta with sauce
- serve with side salad
Chili con carne
- defrost ground beef in microwave
- chop onions & crush garlic; sautee on low with oregano, thyme, cumin, bay leaf, and chili flakes until flavour of herbs and spices are infused into oil (you can also add chopped celery and carrots at this stage if you have them on hand)
- turn heat up on pan to medium, add ground beef and sautee until brown
- deglaze pan with red wine (I also like to bourbon sometimes)
- add a full can of diced tomatoes turn heat down to medium-low, and let simmer for a few moments
- open, drain and add a can of red kidney beans
- add a handful or two of frozen corn
- let simmer until beans and corn have reached the same temperature as the rest of the chili
- add salt as needed and serve with side salad and bread (make sure you make enough to have leftovers as this will taste better the next day)
Chicken and beans in rice
- defrost chicken breast in microwave, cut into small cubes
- chop onions & crush garlic; sautee on low with oregano and chili flakes until flavour of herbs and spices are infused into oil
- turn heat up on pan to medium, add chicken and sautee until cooked tender
- deglaze pan with white wine
- stir in uncooked rice
- open, drain and add a can of black beans
- add a half can of diced tomatoes (save the rest for another use)
- add 1/2 the water you would normally add to make plain rice
- add salt to taste
- turn heat down to medium-low and simmer until rice is cooked through, adding more water if necessary
- serve rice with a dollop of plain yogurt if you have any, and a salad on the side
There are a million and one other quick combinations you can make with the ingredients above. Use your imagination, but don't forget to add fresh fruits and vegetables to your diet.
My standby is pesto from the supermarket (I prefer Safeway Select's). Boil some pasta and throw in some frozen veggies a few minutes before it's done (I prefer haricots verts from Trader Joe's or broccoli). Drain and toss with the pesto, then sprinkle some pine nuts on top.
Another simple meal I make involves Trader Joe's breaded eggplant slices to make a deconstructed eggplant parmesan. I cook them according to the directions, and then pour heated pasta sauce on top (Classico's spicy red pepper by far works the best for this). I'm done just by doing this, but one could bake the eggplant with the sauce on top and parmesan and mozzarella cheese for a deconstructed eggplant parmesan.
needed: pasta, Trader Joes frozen uncooked tiger shrimp, basil and garlic (the new stuff in the squeezy tube - the only good thing about my local grocery stores in Philly burbs as they generally stink), chicken broth, Muir Glen fire roasted tomatoes.
Ger water for pasta started. meanwhile run warm water over frozen shrimp (8). Put pasta in pot. heat olive oil in sautee pan - put in a bit of basil and a bit of garlic (dried is fine...fresh is better too - tbu these squeeze tubes rock - they are nearly fresh AND they don't go bad, well, not for a while) and crushed red peppers. Add thawed shrimp and toss in sautee pan for about 3 - 4 min and remove. add about 1/2 cup chix broth, 1/2 can fire roasted tomatoes, simmer.
drain pasta. add to sautee pan. toss in shrimp. voila.
Switch it up: use garlic and cilantro in oil, and get diced tomatoes with green chilies and add cumin.
I love those IQF shrimp...get the ones which still have the shell, but are deveined (EZ peel). Much better texture. They defrost in minutes if you put them in a colander and run cool water over them. Good canned tomatoes + seasonings (splash of wine helps, too) = good, fast food. I have cans of the "recipe ready" tomatoes (mexican, italian) for when I'm really pressed for time.
3 packets of top ramen, any kind of bagged veggies, and any protein (2 eggs or cut up chicken breast).
Cook the top ramen as directed without the seasoning packets. Drain noodles and set aside.
Heat 1 tablespoon of oil and stir fry meats and then the veggies. Add just 1 packet of the seasoning to the stir-fry and taste. Add back the noodles and stir-fry for another min or so. Taste again for seasoning and serve.
Not the healthiest, but it is super fast.
Trader Joe's has some good stir fries and the like in the frozen section which are really quick to assemble, and decent-tasting.
If I don't have any of that around, I like to make a tomato-tuna pasta sauce. I generally have all the ingredients in the pantry, and it's quick to put together.
Heat some olive oil in a can. You can add garlic at this stage too if you have some around - I have the frozen cubes of garlic from Trader Joe's that I keep handy in case I don't have any fresh garlic. Add a can of diced tomatoes. Let them heat up a little, then add a can of tuna - if it is the kind packed in olive oil, I only drain it halfway; if it is the kind packed in water, I drain it completely. Throw in some red pepper flakes - I like a lot, but do it to taste. Let simmer until your pasta is ready, then toss it all together.
The last time I made this, I included chopped frozen spinach I had in my freezer, adding it when I added the tuna.
This dish requires very little work other than opening a bunch of cans and stirring every once in awhile.
this is one of the few things that my husband ever cooks, and it is really shockingly good.
for best results, use a good italian tuna in olive oil, and good quality canned plum tomatoes (crush with your hands as you add them). He also adds some minced anchovies at the start (with the onion and garlic) and finishes with black olives and capers. grate some parm-reg over the top once it's plated. SO yummy.
Since I have a 4 year old I almost always have on hand TJ's frozen meatballs, a few Amy's frozen pizzas, frozen veggies, boxes of pasta and jars of sauce. In a real pinch or when the pantry truly is bare those come in very handy- pasta and meatballs, meatball sandwiches, pizza and a salad/veggie are all quick, easy and somewhat nutritious.
I am never without bread, eggs, cheese or milk so what I usually do when not in a real pinch pinch but just rushed is makes eggs/frittatas, french toast, or quiche. All lower in fat and high in protein. With eggs you could eat them every night for a week and not make the same thing twice. Breakfast burritos (great for dinner), western omelets, italian frittatas, quiche Lorraine, eggs benedict, egg Florentine, toad-in-the-holes, french toast......
Progresso lentil soup; add a couple of cut-up turkey hotdogs and some frozen chopped spinach.
Annie's Whole Wheat Mac & Cheese. Add frozen peas to the boiling pasta 2 minutes before it's done.
Soft tacos: Warm some tortillas. Top with mexican-flavored seasoned veggie crumbles, some shredded cheese and either shredded veggies from the salad bar or bagged coleslaw or broccoli slaw.
Pasta with peanut sauce. Add frozen broccoli to the boiling pasta 2 mins before it's done.
I feel the same way about Progresso Lentil Soup - it is always in the pantry. An italian roommate I use to have would crumble a link of italian sausage in a pan and brown it and then add the can of lentil soup with a little olive oil and maybe a few herbs. While that was heating up she would cook some small soup pasta like tiny shells or tiny hollow tubes. When pasta is done just drain and put in a bowl and ladle the lentil soup over for a quick hearty meal....can add a salad and some bread. The perfect quick meal!
something along the same lines, when i don't have the energy to cook and don't feel like going out, i like to make zatarain's dirty rice with ground beef (i grind my own meat, trimming off the fat) with some green olives tossed in. prep time is close to nothing in about 30min you have yourself a quick and satisfying meal. for this reason, i always have zatarains, beef, and olives on hand.
Pasta and sauce, either from the freezer or a jar. Boil some water, nuke some sauce. That's about as fast as it gets. Steak under the broiler with a steamed veggie is another quickie. Grilled cheese and tomato soup, from the freezer or a can, makes people smile. The best trick is to have plenty of leftovers from a great weekend meal to serve again midweek.
Anything involving eggs, especially frittatas. Be sure to brown the top of the frittata under a broiler (preheat the oven while you use the stovetop) so it puffs properly. Only an omelette is faster, but the frittata just seems more delicious.
So, mix up some eggs, throw in some frozen veggies and leftover, some bits of cheese, some bits of bread, and have away at it. Takes perhaps 8 minutes tops, with most of those waiting for the broiler to do its work. Slice and serve with bread and some dressed prepackaged greens. 10 minutes. Done. A balanced and delicious supper that invites countless variations that can never bore you. If you want something more, add some good soup from the larder (preferably heated on the stove or in the oven, rather than zapped in the m-wave, which if done too harshly can ruin a soup in ways people don't often realize).
I won't use boneless poultry, as I find it (unless poached gently in a flavorful stock) tasteless, dry and textureless compared to poultry cooked on the bone. I much prefer the pre-fried triangles of tofu I can get at my local Asian market, which are great to have on hand for last minute meals (and I am no tofu lover).
re: Karl S.
The other classic simple supper is a properly grilled cheese sandwich (including a slice or two of ham or poultry if you like), and then that salad and soup combo. Takes only a bit longer than the eggs, maybe 15 minutes (depending on the type and thickness of the sandwhich ingredients).
re: Karl S.
I have taken note of the many good ideas in this thread but am surprised to see so little use of people's freezers as a way of providing homecooked food...later on. Mr Freezer is Our Friend. A few years ago I bought 500 portion-size plastic microwave containers for $4 at a catering supplies outlet. When I cook, I freeze leftovers in meal size, cover with Saran, label, secure with plastic bag and twistem, and freeze. Before long, the freezer becomes a smorgasbord. Last night, after a grueling day of moving furniture and entertaining the carpet steam-cleaning man, freezer + microwave provided instant hot dinner: roast beef potroast with gravy, mashed potatoes, creamed peas & carrots, [plus non-freezer salad], homemade biscuits, and apple betty. If the commercial guys can freeze it, you can freeze it at home.