Real food needed on tight schedule- help!
- Henrietta Stackpole Oct 7, 2007 09:29 AM
I love to cook by my schedule is intense right now. I'm looking for recipes for good food that are not time consuming to prepare. I have a crockpot. I have no dietary restrictions and I enjoy food from all cultures. I'll eat anything but processed food. Thanks in advance.
One of my favorite super simple delicious things to make is a quick vegetable soup. I start with a boxed premade chicken stock which I always keep on hand. Then use whatever vegetable is good in season. My favorite is asparagus. Just boil it in the stock, puree, add salt & pepper and a little butter if you like. It's so delicious and takes no time or effort. (I use a stick blender so I don't even have to take it out of the pan.) If I want a more substantial dinner, I roast a chicken with it (stuff a little garlic under the skin, rub it with olive oil and and season it with salt & pepper) or pick one up at the market already cooked.
I also like to make simple, flavorful pasta inspired by what I ate in Rome. Boil some pasta. In a saute pan add some olive oil and fry up some pancetta cut into small chunks. When it's crispy take it out and put it aside, but keep leave the fat in the pan. Then you can quickly saute up some leafy green vegetable like chard in the fat and toss the pasta in it with a little of the reserved pasta water. Add some parmesan cheese and you have a very flavorful quick meal.
ktm is on track with soup and pasta.. I will add stir fry to that as well. One key is to learn how to make these soups / pasta / stir fry's with what happens to be in season and in the fridge without a recipe, being able to throw stuff together without finding and referring to recipes really helps cut the time down. here's my favorite pasta non-recipe: http://blog.firecooked.com/2007/03/04...
When you cook a meat (crock pot or other), make sure you have some left for further meals -- omelets, burritos or queso's, sandwiches, salads...
omelettes are quick as well.
george forman grill--veggies and chicken or fish or turkey or beef patties
spaghetti squash is a lower cal and lower carb starch--nuke in micro, pull out strands and toss w/ garlic, olive oil, and parm; serve alongside some blackened broiled fish.
butternut squash is another great quick side, esp since TJ's and other markets sell it prebagged and chopped... i like to nuke and mash it.... or puree w/ a little cream, caramelized onions, roasted peppers and sage and serve it over broiled white fish.
Paninis are good and fast... meat, cheese, spreads (or any combo thereof)... press.
Couscous salads are great since couscous cooks in 5 minutes... Personally, I like to add sundried tomatoes, cippolini onions, currants, arugala, cherry tomatoes, lime juice, seasoned rice wine vinegar, olive oil, and basil.
Whole wheat tortillas make a great palate for quesadillas, burritos (breakfast ones are fast), or wraps.
Forget all that rubbish about grinding your own spices. Get thee some Pataks and some meat-of-choice and cook in your crock pot.
When you get home, throw some rice in a rice cooker and Micro-nuke some pappadums.
Yeah, what PG said, get a rice cooker to go along with your crock pot. You can cook other grains as well as rice, and have a hot meal in the crockpot with some grains to put under it on the plate. This is what I rely on when on a deadline. It saves me from resorting to processed frozen food, which is basically an abomination. Here are a few cookbooks that I use when the need arises:
Frozen tilapia is fast and healthy. A shake of Greek seasoning and 14 minutes in the oven is all it needs.
Maybe boil some egg noodles and toss with butter and fresh parmesan. Frozen haricots verts and you're all set in under twenty minutes.
A thin-cut steak is a wonderful thing. I found some good sirloin ones at my local shop. A minute or so on each side in a really hot pan and it's perfect.
And a recent Nigella Express program gave me the great idea for white bean mash: saute some garlic and dried chili in olive oil, add a drained can of cannellini or other white beans (though I guess any color would do). Heat through, then season with salt and mash up the beans roughly with a fork. Stir in some fresh chopped parsley just before serving. Goes great with the steak (my s.o. raved about it), add a salad and it's dinner done in ten minutes.
Roast chicken parts require very little preparation, though they need an hour to cook: just put them in a roasting pan. Add some small-cut potatoes and sliced onions (you could also add carrot or parsnip, or cherry tomatoes). Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and any other seasoning you want--thyme, rosemary, herbes de provence, zaatar, etc.--then pop the whole thing into the oven for an hour. Again, add a salad and you've got a complete meal.
Salmon in a foil packet is also quick and easy, and requires almost no cleanup. Just double a layer of foil, sit the salmon filet on top. I usually sit the salmon on a couple of lemon slices, and squeeze the lemon juice over. Salt and pepper, maybe some fresh dill. Seal up the foil and put the packet in the oven on 400 for 20 or 25 minutes--time depends on the thickness of the filet.
You could add other things to the packet too, like green beans. Otherwise, I usually boil up some potatoes, then toss with an easy vinaigrette: mustard, lemon juice, garlic, olive oil. Or basil-infused olive oil. Very easy and hands-off.
I was going to mention the foil-packet thingy, but you beat me to it!! ;-) So easy and no clean-up. Make a few packets and keep in the fridge. Last night I did some with snapper and zucchini, fennel, asparagus, garlic, basic, thyme, salt & pepper and dry vermouth - came out very good, but next time I would add lemon juice and capers to enhance and make it more flavorful.
Such tastey suggestions. Three more for the pot:
Hummus is a pretty easy one -- can of chickpeas, couple dollops of tahini, teaspoon of cumin, dash of cayenne, teaspoon of salt, clove of garlic. Whirr in food processor (or does this make it processed?). Eat with pre-made pita flash flamed on gas stove.
Egg-drop soup. Boil up broth. Flavor with soy, red pepper flakes, salt pepper (or whatever you like). When broth boils, crack egg and drop in cook for a couple minutes. Add a bit of spinach toward end if you like. Eat with buttered toast.
Pesto rice. Make or buy the pesto. Mix with warm rice. Mix in a handful of cubed cheese (I like swiss or smoked gouda). Gets nice and melty. Sprinkle parmesan on top.
re: bite bite
I forgot about hummus. But I'd caution about the garlic. For me, a clove per can of chickpeas is way too strong! I only mention this because there are so many CH posts about too-garlicky hummus.
And your pesto rice reminded me of an old college-era favorite: boboli shells (do they even make those anymore?) spread with good pesto, covered with mozzarella and baked for 10 minutes or so, till the cheese starts to brown. Pesto is great to have around when you're short of time!
How are your weekend schedules? Do you have time to make something like lasagna that you can then portion out and freeze for later? We have a random smattering of lasagna, chili, pulled pork, etc in the freezer that I'll reheat for dinner when in a time crunch.
I have to say that crockpot dinners are a godsend if you want to come home at the end of the day and be able to eat right then and there. Even recipes that call for prep work (browning, slicing, etc) are easy because I do the work before bedtime and throw the insert into the fridge. I take it out in the morning, place it in the crockpot, set it to Low and head to work. The best part is that there are usually enough leftover for another meal or for freezing. There are some good crockpot recipes on this board via searching, or the Fix & Forget It and Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker cookbooks.
Foil packets are also good for quick dinner. You can even start with a frozen fish fillet or chicken breast. Layer it with sliced onions, seasonings & spices, veggies, whatever and then fold it up in a foil packet. Throw that into the fridge while you're gone. Come home, preheat the oven (or toaster oven), put the packet into the oven, set a timer and then go about unpacking your bag, taking off your shoes, going through the mail, etc. It's a pretty hands-off meal and then you can do something else while dinner is cooking.
Some meals (like crockpot meals with cream of mushroom soup - I know, but it's comforting!) need rice to sop up sauces and make you happy. I rinse the rice in the morning, let it soak during the day, and then just hit the button as I walk in the door. By the time the rice is done, dinner is usually done, too.
Roast chicken is good, as long as you aren't coming home at 8pm. While it's roasting, you're free to do something else and not have to stand in the kitchen fussing over food. Then you have leftover cooked chicken for other meals AND if you throw the bones into the crockpot with water at the end of the day you have a nice stock. If you're really pressed for time, though, supermarket roasted chickens are good in a pinch.
Frozen veggies steam up quickly and you don't have to chop and clean them. I know it only takes a couple of minutes to do it, but when you're in a rush, any saved step feels like a huge timesaver.
Give an example of what's time consuming. I cook a lot of our meals in an hour, start to finish. Some planing may be needed to help make best use of your time, like taking frozen chicken breast out to thaw the day before and not at the last minute. Again what are your time frames?
I like to cook on the weekend and eat the leftovers during the week, but for a quick weeknight meal from scratch, I too like pasta. For really fast, I like the smaller de Cecco pastas that are cooked al dente in 5 minutes or less (like capellini or farfalline). Then ...
* Asparagus: wash & cut into bite size pieces and steam as your pasta cooks (or cook with the pasta as it finishes, but results are better if you don't do that). Add butter and imported Parmesan. Pour a glass of wine.
* Fresh artichoke hearts: Eat the leaves one night (or more), and save the hearts. Dice, heat in a bit of cream or half and half, add thyme, pour over pasta.
Sometimes I eat part & save part. But if you save it, you don't have to mess with the choke at that moment, which is a reward in itself ;)
Btw, I run into people all the time who've never had a fresh artichoke. Canned certainly have their place, but this preparation really highlights the wonderful subtle delicate sweetness of a fresh artichoke heart. (I must say all this talk of artichokes is really putting me in the mood ... )
I have a subscription to Cooking Light magazine, and every month there are 5 or 6 "quick dinners" at the back of the magazine. We have had good luck with them on busy weeknights. Also, they are full meals, and give a timeline - like "while fish sautes, cut broccoli and put steamer pan on stove."