Summer meals - easy and quick for weeknights
First, thanks for all the help I've gotten so far in cooking during my pregnancy and maternity leave. Now, the next phase is begining and I'm back to work. Pre-baby it was always a bit of a hit or miss to make dinner on a weeknight, now it's even crazier. I feel like the winter is easier, because I could make a lasagna or stew or soup and reheat pretty easily (we don't have a microwave, so all reheating is oven, stovetop or toaster). But now that spring and summer are coming, I find I"m looking for fresher meals and have always had an issue with eating soup in summer (other than gazpacho). All I've been able to come up with is roast a chicken on the weekend, and top salads during the week. But I'm bored just thinking of that for every night.
Its often just me at night as hubby works evenings, so getting home, feeding the LO, bathtime and bedtime around 7:30 means either starting to cook at 7:30/8 or popping something in the oven/on the stove that can be left mostly unattended so I can eat around 8. Anyone have favorite recipes, tips or advice.
There are lots of salad and cold soup options, many of which will keep well for a day or two. So if you make a salad one day, but eat it for two, and stagger what days you make it on, you can cut the work down.
Poached chicken is great for summer meals, and takes less time and heat than roasting. You can do breasts and thighs, or do the whole chicken. I like to cook the chicken after dinner, shred the meat of the bones before I go to bed, and it's ready for the next night or two.
A rice cooker can be very useful - you don't have to monitor it, so you can throw things in when you get in the door, turn it on, and it will turn itself off when it's done.
- Chickpea salad; chickpeas, chopped tomates, thinly sliced onion and celery, fresh mint, dressed with lemon juice, olive oil and garlic.
- Three bean salad
- A can of baby corn, cut into bite sized pieces, a red or green pepper, and some onion, also sliced, dressed with white vinegar and herbs.
- Greek salad
- Tuna salad, either with mayo, or yoghurt, or with a vinegar based dressing. Mix a can of flaked, drained tuna with chunks of chopped vegetables and/or pasta for a more substantial dish.
- Shredded Chicken with a yoghurt based dressing and various vegetables. I like it with celery, onion and lotus root.
- Diced chicken with a mayo dressing and diced apple, walnuts, celery and onions.
- Peel a mandarin orange and cut into chunks. Toss with thinly sliced onion, chopped celery (Chinese celery works well), walnuts and rice vinegar.
- Try Japanese Chinese Cold Noodles (ie, it's called Chinese Cold Noodles in Japan). Cook Japanese Noodles (which cook fast), drain and rinse. Place on a platter and top with julienned carrots, celery, cucumber, shredded chicken, and tofu, and dress with a mixture of sesame oil, soy sauce and rice vinegar.
You can make a lot of these the day ahead, or on the weekend. Use gelatin free stocks.
- Chilled cucumber and dill soup
- Chilled spicy tomato soup (saute half an onion, a few garlic clove and some chopped ginger. Add one can diced tomatoes, one can chicken stock, simmer, puree and season with cumin coriander, cinnamon, cloves and a bit of cayenne pepper).
- Pureed carrot ginger soup.
- Potato leek
- Mexican Style Gazpacho - like regular gazpacho, but with cilantro and lime juice thrown in.
- Pasta with chicken and pesto
- Boil chunky pasta. When done, add a can of diced tomatoes, some chopped black olives, crumbled feta cheese, sliced onion and fresh herbs, and dress with olive oil, lemon juice and garlic. Serve warm or chilled.
- Make a quick sauce of halved cherry tomatoes, garlic and chopped black olives.
- Pasta with cheese sauce - you can make a cheese sauce in the time it takes to boil the pasta.
Other quick dishes
- Broiled or pan fried fish. Fish cooks very quickly. I like doing whole tilapia or snapper. Chop a green pepper and an onion, mix with olive oil, lemon juice, salt and red pepper flakes. Rub over and inside the whole fish and broil (usually about 15-20 minutes). Serve with salad and rice.
- Omelets are fast an nutritious, and go well with bread and salads.
- Frozen Chinese dumplings. You can buy big bags of them in the grocery store, and they can be cooked from frozen in about ten minutes.
- With a rice cooker, substitute tomato juice for some of the water, and throw in some herbs for a quick tomato rice side dish.
Thanks - these (and the other ideas) have helped get my creative juices flowing. Cooking has always been my creative outlet and I'm definitly someone who needs interesting and tasty meals. (My friend lived on pb&j when she went back to work - soooo not me). So this is all good stuff and helping me have a focus. I don't mind doing all the prep on weekends - I just needed the inspiration to get out of the rut.
I've been cooking lately from a book called "Desperation Dinners". The authors also have a website, called Kitchen Scoop. All of the recipes can be gotten on the table in 20-30 minutes, are healthy, and fairly low calorie (I'm following the Weight Watchers plan, and have found several meals to be compatible with the plan) and are not terribly expensive to make. I've made "Tuxedo Chicken" which is a boneless skinless chicken with broccoli and bow tie pasta, in a mustard cream sauce, and "Southwest Chicken on the Spot"..southwest seasoned chicken strips sauteed with onions, garlic and peppers, then tomatoes, salsa and rice are added to the skillet, cook till the rice is done ( use quick cooking rice) and sprinkle the top with cheese, and Chili Cheese Empanadas, using low fat crescent rolls (Pillsbury), All three were really good and satisfying and really didn't take longer than 1/2 hour.
First thing I thought of was panzanella....I can make a full meal of it!
Nicoise salad is great if you have stuff done in advance (e.g. washed greens) Boiling of potatoes and eggs and blanching of beans can happen in the same pot o' salted water. USe (again ) a nice can of tuna if you don't want to use fresh fish.
Poached salmon is quick and nice with equally quick remoulade, couscous and steamed veg. Lately, I've been microwaving ears of corn- husk and all- as a totally low-stress side dish.
For something light that keeps well, consider tabbouleh. Soak the bulgur in boiling water- easy to do in advance. Then toss with lots of fresh chopped parsley, garlic, tomatoes, and lemon juice. Crack open some hummus, add protein of choice (even high-quality canned tuna works great here) and call it dinner.
Just some ideas to get thoughts going....general advice for stuff to keep on hand that's fast and easy are:
Batches of blanched veg (e.g. broccoli, green beans)
Washed salad greens
Here are a few recipes:
Charred Rosemary (Mock) Tuna Salad
1 can of garbanzo beans, mashed
3 TBL mayonnaise
1 TBL + 1 tsp capers
1/4 tsp grated lemon rind
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce**
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 tsp charred rosemary, minced*
1/4 cup diced red onion
1/2 tsp white balsamic vinegar
Cider Carrot and Goat Cheese Sandwich
1 TBL apple cider vinegar
1 tsp light brown sugar
5-6 oz. goat cheese, room temperature
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup minced celery leaves
1/4 tsp lemon zest
sliced red onion
red leaf lettuce
8 pieces hearty sandwich bread
In a bowl, combine the apple cider vinegar and brown sugar. Stir until the sugar dissolves and set aside.
Peel the carrots and cut off the ends. Halve the carrots and using a knife or a mandolin, slice into 1/16-inch slices. Cook carrots in boiling salted water until crisp, about 45 seconds. Drain well in a colander and immediately toss with vinegar mixture. Cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally, then marinate, covered and chilled, at least an hour.
Mince the pickle. In a bowl, combine the goat cheese, pepper, celery leaves, lemon zest and pickle.
Spread the goat cheese on one side of the bread and build with lettuce, carrots and red onion.
1 cup red quinoa
3/4 cup unsalted pistachios
1/4 cup diced green onions
1 mango, diced
2 TBL fresh lime juice
scant 1/4 tsp lime zest
2 tsp brown mustard
1 TBL minced Thai basil
1/2 tsp minced rosemary
2 tsp honey
1/2 tsp salt
Cook quinoa according to packaging directions.
Once cool, combine all ingredients and let sit for half an hour to allow all flavors to come together
How about a dinner plate consisting of a trio of salads? Spend one night doing a bit of prep to make the rest of the week easier. I generally always have a quart container of either egg salad, pasta salad or chicken salad in the fridge. Along with some greens and cut fruit, it's basically waiting in the fridge for you to eat. It doesn't have to be fattening either if you substitute Greek yogurt for mayo.