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Dinner when life is too stressful

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#1 ElainaA

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Posted 27 November 2012 - 07:11 PM

Right now work is taking over my life - as in 2:00 am wakeful list making. And it is still very important to have something satisfying for dinner to bring a stressful day to an end. Tonight I found some Italian sausage in the fridge, sauteed it with onions and garlic, added some (home canned) diced tomatoes and poured it all over pasta. A very basic salad and a glass of wine made things feel better - even though I admit to grading two term papers while the pasta water came to a boil.
So - what do you do when life comes down like a ton of bricks but you still want something satisfying for dinner? (I can use some ideas for tomorrow.)

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#2 radtek

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Posted 27 November 2012 - 07:24 PM

Sounds good actually. Sorry to hear life is piling up.

Well I either want something effortless or something complicated to take my mind off things. Rarely though do I choose the latter option. For me though braised dishes or pasta like you've done. I can whip up short-ribs in the pressure cooker within 30 minutes of getting home. Follow it with potatoes and carrots. Or do a slow cooker/pot full of pork-chops, sliced onions and apples with mushroom soup as a sauce and have it ready 8 hours later when returning from work. Steamed rice can be ready in 20 minutes or about the same with egg noodles as an accompaniment.

#3 nibor

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Posted 27 November 2012 - 07:43 PM

Nights like that, well, I had one tonight. We went out for a quick burger and a couple of glasses of wine.

#4 SobaAddict70

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Posted 27 November 2012 - 07:44 PM

Things that don't require a lot of thought to put together -- carbonara, amatriciana come to mind. Dal, rice, chatni or pickles, with a plain sweet lassi or fruit lassi. Congee.

Notice there's a pattern? That's because I like carbs. :laugh:

Although sometimes, Korean fried chicken fits the bill but for that, I need to travel.

#5 patrickamory

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Posted 27 November 2012 - 08:47 PM

Pasta definitely seems to be the theme here. My default is puttanesca, I nearly always have the ingredients in the house. I find that the olives can be whatever so long as the anchovies and the tomatoes are good.

I also recently found this orzo with sausage and peas and I think it's incredibly easy and satisfying.

Hope things ease up for you Elaine. This time of year can be stressful.

#6 ChrisTaylor

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Posted 28 November 2012 - 02:06 AM

A lot of 'steak and salad'-type things. Often with bread as the starch as I can't be fucked boiling potatoes or even washing rice. I will admit that an sv rig has been a life saver here. I mean, I come home and one of the big time sinks of prepping a meal is ready to go.


There are also a lot of really basic pasta dishes that serve this. Pasta w/ eggplant that's been browned and then simmered w/ canned tomatoes. Pasta con sarde. Or with tuna, even. Simple.

Edited by ChrisTaylor, 28 November 2012 - 02:09 AM.

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#7 Mjx

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Posted 28 November 2012 - 05:10 AM

When I can't spend a lot of time of meals, a stir fry is my first choice, and I try to keep roughly two days worth of prepped meat and vegetables handy. Another alternative, when I know a hectic period is looming, is to to make a good sized braise or stew, both of which reheat very well, and don't involve any real work to get on the table. I try to make sure that I've got some easily prepped vegetables (bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, carrots) around, too since eating no fresh produce does not work out well for me.
Still, if things land on me all at once with no warning, and no end in site, breakfast/lunch is usually frozen peas/maize (meaning, I don't even bother thawing), tinned beans, possibly some bresola actually earmarked for my boyfriend's lunch, and insane quantities of Wasa and sweets. My boyfriend then comes home, expresses amusement/mild horror at all the empty sweets packets, and makes dinner. I'm lucky.

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#8 HungryC

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Posted 28 November 2012 - 05:49 AM

Good cheese, bread, and a green salad. Or something homemade, excavated from the freezer...

#9 SylviaLovegren

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Posted 28 November 2012 - 06:42 AM

A nice pot of leftover stew or split pea soup or some such. Or a quick small steak, nice piece of bread or micro'd potato, salad, glass of wine.

#10 Emily_R

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Posted 28 November 2012 - 06:49 AM

I have the world's easiest and most delicious recipe for black bean soup. It is almost ridiculously easy, but I personally have rarely tasted a black bean soup I liked better. When life has wiped me out I often make it and a pan of cornbread, which can usually be into the oven in just about 5 minutes. Here's the soup recipe (my own -- it has been heavily adapted from an old cooking light recipe)

2 15 ounce cans black beans, drained
1 15 ounce can of low sodium chicken broth (I usually use homemade chicken broth from my freezer, but its not essential)
1 cup of good salsa, whatever spice level desired (I also use homemade salsa here, but its not essential.)
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp chili powder (look for salt-free chili powder, because otherwise with salt in the canned beans this can get too salty)
Handful of cilantro, if you have it in the house

Dump all the ingredients in a pot. Whee! Simmer for about 10 minutes, then partially puree with an immersion blender. Serve with shredded cheddar cheese or sour cream.

#11 Panaderia Canadiense

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Posted 28 November 2012 - 06:56 AM

My go to when I'm this stressed (as I am right now) is either to raid the leftovers or to have a giant green salad with plenty of chochos (lupini beans) on it, and possibly also a can of tuna.

Then again, if I'm feeling really stressed I go straight for the Volquetero, which is a carb-protein bomb. That's a layer of plantain chips, a layer of chochos, a layer of popcorn, a layer of tostado, a nice hit of encebollado (onion and tomato, finely chopped, with lime juice), and a whole can of tuna in olive oil overtop, oil and all. Takes about 5 minutes to assemble one, and it's crazy satisfying.
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#12 Shel_B

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Posted 28 November 2012 - 07:28 AM

Last night I poured some chicken stock into a small saucepan, added some chunks and shreds of rotisserie chicken, a handful of orzo, crushed and diced some garlic, and chopped a few vegetables. Bingo! Chicken vegetable soup.

Sometimes I'll take a handful of pasta and throw it into the same small saucepan, get it to where it's just about done, and then add whatever veggies are around and which seem apropriate. Dress it with sauce of some sort, and there y' have it.

It's easy to make a meal of salad and a baked potato ... likewise, whipping up some eggs is a no brainer.

 ... Shel

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#13 lindag

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Posted 28 November 2012 - 07:59 AM

I like the recipe for Teriyaki Chicken with Bok Choy.
It doesn't require any real hands-on time. (I LOVE my Zojirushi rice cooker).

Teriyaki Chicken with Bok Choy
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/4 cup Teriyaki sauce (or Yoshida sauce), plus 1/4 cup for glaze
4 bone-in Chicken Thighs
1 cup long grain rice
2 bunches baby bok choy
Combine garlic and 1/4 cup teriyakii sauce in ziplock bag. Add chicken, turn to coat and marinate several hours.
Cook the rice according to directions.
Meanwhile, heat oven to 450°. Place chicken on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet and roast, basting with the reamaining 1/4 cup of teriyaki sauce, until cooked through, 25 to 30 minutes.
Ten minutes before the chicken is done, add the bok choy, pour the 1/4 cup saude over. Serve chicken and bok choy over rice.

In fact, this is what's on the menu for tonight.

Edited by lindag, 28 November 2012 - 08:01 AM.

#14 rod rock

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Posted 28 November 2012 - 08:34 AM

Baked pancakes with nut can get me out of stressful life for dinner. And also, this Teriyaki Chicken recipe seems interesting!

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#15 Baselerd

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Posted 28 November 2012 - 08:55 AM

My go-to easy meals are spaghetti and rice stir fry. Nice and easy, doesn't take more than 20-25 mins to prep.

#16 FrogPrincesse

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Posted 28 November 2012 - 01:53 PM

Some of the things I do when I don't feel like cooking something elaborate: a big salad (with some nuts or cheese, or prosciutto to make it more substantial), a large bowl of soup with country bread, pasta (I keep a few frozen homemade sauces in the freezer - Bolognese, pesto, marinara), pressure-cooker risotto (you can easily customize it based on what you have at hand). Steamed clams or mussels are delicious and just take a few minutes. Anything that can be done quickly on the grill (sausage, steak, shrimp, or a nice piece of fish) requires little effort and minimizes cleanup. If I am really exhausted, I will just grab a rotisserie chicken from Whole Foods and eat it with white rice and a green salad.
Eggs in any form are also a life-saver - omelette (good way to use leftovers), soft-boiled (with mouillettes aka soldiers, topped with butter and ham), hard-boiled, poached (with a salad), fried with bacon and toast, scrambled, cocotte, etc...

#17 Charcuterer

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Posted 28 November 2012 - 03:13 PM

Our go-to don't have the energy or mental stamina to cook dish is something we call "Pork steaks ala Jewel". (Jewel is my wife.) You take a pork steak (they can be hard to find outside of the deep south. But are simply bone in Boston butt cut into 1/2 inch steaks.) and put it on a sheet of aluminum foil. On top of the steak you shingle sliced (1/8 inch thick) red potatoes to cover then on the potatoes shingle onions sliced the same way (a v-slicer is handy for this). On top of the onion put 1 TBS butter and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Seal the packets tightly and put in a 375 oven for 1 hour on a cookie sheet. The pork is meltingly tender and the potatoes and onions pick some of the "porkiness" Its lovely and I can put two together in 10 minutes and then leave them to cook!

#18 maydd

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Posted 28 November 2012 - 03:20 PM

Here's my recipe for 'Poor man's osso buco':

Dust off your slow cooker, throw in a couple of beef shanks (sear them first, if you like), then throw in a bottle of passata, roughly chopped shallots, 2 or 3 cloves of garlic, a sprinkle of dried italian herbs, salt and pepper to taste. Leave on low heat for about 8 hours, will smell great when you get home from work. Serve with a risotto, save some of the sauce to go with pasta the next day...

#19 FrogPrincesse

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Posted 28 November 2012 - 03:21 PM

Charcuterer's pork steak dish reminds me of the things that I cook in an aluminum pouch - salmon with cherry tomatoes, basil and olive oil; chicken breasts with mushrooms and white wine, etc. These are great for busy weeknights.

#20 Creola

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Posted 28 November 2012 - 03:25 PM

My go to when I work late or don't feel well are hot sandwiches, like a Philly cheesesteak, roast beef in gravy ,or I take roast pork and make Bahn Mi.I like to do quick stir fries with ground turkey,a bag of shredded coleslaw mix and Thai seasoning. The bottles of curry you add to chicken and throw in some vegetables ,serve with rice and bought naan is good for something different.

#21 haresfur

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Posted 28 November 2012 - 04:29 PM

My strategies are highly varied depending on hunger levels, time, and stress level. Range from fish & chips from the shop to prepackaged horrors. Actually we get some prepack Indian dal etc. that is decent and jars of butter chicken sauce.

But sometimes the best way for me to de-stress is to take the time to cook. It might not be cutting edge gastronomy, but some sous vide chicken breast in the fridge is really versatile for whipping up something from a salad to pasta.

You might want to look at Jamie's 15 minute meals for ideas.
It's almost never bad to feed someone.

#22 haresfur

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Posted 28 November 2012 - 04:32 PM

... or you could try a nourishing flip :smile:
It's almost never bad to feed someone.

#23 ElainaA

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Posted 28 November 2012 - 05:36 PM

There are great ideas here.I wish I could be organized enough to have made multi-serving meals for too busy times.
I'm considering Charcterer's pork steak tomorrow. (My sweet husband is cooking tonight - salmon risotto, roasted broccoli and green salad. I'm de-stressing here before I go back to the paperwork while he stirs the risotto.)
If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need. Cicero
But the library must contain cookbooks. Elaina

#24 pastameshugana

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Posted 28 November 2012 - 05:43 PM

I 2nd (6th?) the pasta dishes. Carbonara happens in a flash.

Although, when under mega pressure (I do month long projects that are literally 16-20hrs/day), I'll take one day off in the middle and cook something ridiculously complicated and long that I've never cooked before. For some reason that kind of resets me...
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#25 OliverB

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Posted 28 November 2012 - 05:48 PM

quick chicken and rice. this can go curry or Asian with a marinade (bottle). I prefer thy meat, but breast work as well. slice into 1/2 inch or so pieces, add marinade or curry (or just s&p or...) and put in frying pan, cook rice. I often add a dash of Turmeric to rice, mainly for the nice color, not enough to taste it. It's actually what we'll have tonight.
In summer you can grill the meat.
Add a quick salad (usually arugula and/or spinach here). This can be put together in no time and varied easily.

Of course, there's also always the pasta with ketchup thing though :-)
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#26 LindaK

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Posted 28 November 2012 - 06:47 PM

When busy, stressed, but with a little time to cook, I almost always choose fish. Under the broiler or as a saute, it's done in minutes. Steam or stir-fry some veggies to go along. Drizzle with your favorite vinaigrette or miso dressing and you'll be happy.

I'm also a big fan of eggs, whether hardboiled and part of a composed salad or made into a tortilla or frittata. Quick and versatile. Almost as easy is a souffle. Though not as quick, most of the time is in the oven while you can be enjoying an aperitif. It makes you feel very special to have a souffle in the middle of the week.

Finally, I like to have good canned tuna on hand. Whether it's added to a green salad, tossed with rice or beans, or whatever, it can turn something simple into something that feels like a meal.


#27 dcarch

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Posted 28 November 2012 - 09:45 PM

When life gets nerve-racking, the last thing you should be doing is cooking and washing dishes.

Go get some sushi and warm sake, and let some soothing music reset you tense rhythm.

Sushi, it’s so simple, elegant and calming just like a Japanese garden. Zen.


#28 liuzhou

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Posted 29 November 2012 - 12:39 AM

Last night was a disaster. I got back really late and very tired but started to prepare a simple curry using a bit of beef, some mushrooms and some South African curry mix a friend from SA had recently given me to try. I should have known better than to try something new when I was so tired.

I had just chopped stuff up and got a basic garlic/onion/ginger mix frying when my cell phone rang. An old and very good friend - but she was on a major downer and feeling ridiculously, self-indulgently sorry for herself. But I felt obliged to let her whine on, although I was getting very impatient towards the end.

While being distracted listening to her diatribe against the world, I somehow managed to add three times the amount of the curry mix that my friend had suggested then, ignoring its obvious redness indicating its chilli content, I one handedly chopped a couple of Thai chillies and threw them in. (The other hand was still holding my cell phone to my ear as friend rattled on and on.)

Finally she went off, no doubt to call someone else to whine at, and I added my beef and mushrooms and left the mixture to simmer.

Of course when I went back to test the beef for tenderness, I found the whole shebang utterly inedible.Of course. By now it was 10 pm and I was seriously drained of energy and starving.

Canned sardines on toast then bed in a less than joyous mood. The end of a perfect day. Not.

(I seldom have such disasters - can't remember the last one and I do love my friend really.)

Edited by liuzhou, 29 November 2012 - 12:42 AM.

#29 annachan

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Posted 29 November 2012 - 03:30 AM

Pasta is always easy. I found prepping to be the key though. I tend to shop for easy to cook protein and veg on the weekend for weekday meals. Meat that can be cooked up quickly (meat for stir fry, chicken ribs, etc.) or can be left alone to cook (duck legs for confit, pork neck roast, etc.).

I also love my Korean BBQ grill. From thinly sliced meat to flank steak, it cooks up easily alongside with some veg.

Soup noodle is also quick and easy - stock, noodle and top with whatever you want: meat, veg, tofu, fish balls/fish cakes, corn, egg, etc. If I don't have premade stock, I just use the box stuff, and maybe add some miso.

Edited by annachan, 29 November 2012 - 03:36 AM.

#30 radtek

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Posted 29 November 2012 - 06:31 AM

... I found the whole shebang utterly inedible.Of course. By now it was 10 pm and I was seriously drained of energy and starving.

I'm sure you tossed it. But IME the heat often fades significantly after an overnight in the fridge! Often to my disappointment. :laugh: And a little served with a lot of steamed rice is a good way to combat over-spiced curries and 5-alarm chili's. I treat it more like a condiment in this situation. Not to say I'm above trashing a fail!