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Chris Amirault

Good Weeknight Family Fare in 30 minutes or Less

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I was pretty good at looking in the fridge and putting something together on the spot in around 30 min after I got home from work to feed the family. As empty nesters I take more time to prepare meals now.

Prepping for quick cooking is an important step. Slicing BSCB into paillard will allow them to cook in a couple of minutes although you can cook a full breast in under 10 min on the stove. I also made the most of left overs. I could transform leftovers into new dishes that didn't resemble the original dish very quickly. Not only putting food on the table quickly but help to get the most out of your food purchase without feeling like you are eating left overs.

I now use a pressure cooker and find I can really do a lot in short order. If beans are soaked ahead you can cook them in around 10 min + cool down. Meat that would take a few hours to braise in the oven can be done in around 30 min stove top with the pressure cooker. Opens up a lot of possibilities.

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Something else to consider is making dinner the night before. I've done this a number of times with long braises that I wouldn't otherwise have been able to do. Plus, stews and such often taste better the next day.

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I work under similar time constraints; even worse, in a typical Chinese kitchen with no room for anything other than my two-burner gas hob. Obviously we eat a lot of wok-based dishes. For that, Prepping/chopping veg after the dinner is done for incoming meals is a great strategy - one I hadn't thought of before. I kind of do it accidentally sometimes, when I get a whole bundle of long beans and prep the lot of them, only to use half. I'm going to start working that into my plan deliberately from now on.

Two things that I have found very useful:

Nabe/hotpot - everything goes in a pot at the table and cooks while you sit around waiting and snacking on (pre-prepared) side dishes. You need a table-top burner for this, which can be had rather cheaply at an Asian market if you don't already have one. Great in winter, although supervision necessary for the younger set, of course.

Side dishes - kind of a Korean panchan thing. On Sunday, I usually make a quick pickle of whatever vegetable's on hand. This goes into a bowl on the table when we get home for snacking while dinner gets prepared. The other good thing to do is get a miso or vegetable soup or similar out to the table right away - something you made earlier and that can be nuked and put out to quell grumpiness/hunger pangs - even if it's just for the cook!

Rely on some pre-prepped items. I have one or two good quality Japanese salad dressings and pickles; a good bottle of olives and feta cubes; a pack of hummus and baby carrots when I'm in Canada - boom, onto the table for everyone while I'm in the kitchen getting the main dish together. Has saved family relationships and feeling numerous times.

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The underlying goal being to have not only a nutritious meal, but also an enjoyable family experience reminds me of a plan that someone once shared with me. As hunger is sharp after a commute and after school activities, they had a rotation of "first courses" or appetizers if you will. Those were able to be on the kitchen table within minutes of arrival home. Things like hummus, pita chips and cucumber slices, charcuterie, olives and the like. With the edge off, there was a buffer zone of time to prep a simple meal. The kids munched and did homework at the table while the parents also munched, joined in conversation or assisted homework while cooking some of the wonderful suggestions above. A bit of a re-think on traditional meals, but it made sense to me.

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For just over 8 years now I have had a commute/job combo which sees me leave the house just before 7am and get home just after 7pm – and that’s on a good day where I haven’t been asked to stay back at the last minute, the trains haven’t stuff up etc, etc, etc. My husband gets home at the same time I do.

One thing we did was to rethink supper (or whatever you call the evening meal in your neck of the woods – here it’s often called ‘tea’). Breakfast foods have already been mentioned and are great. An omelette served with green beans or broccoli is a healthy and very quick meal. We’ve also found a light main followed by a more substantial dessert works well and is satisfying. Say soup followed by a something like self-saucing puddings, eve’s pudding, crumbles, baked custard, etc that don’t take too long to put together but do take a while to bake and can do so while you eat. You can have the soup prepared, or do a last minute one from frozen veg (corn or green pea are our favourites).

We regularly take the German Abendbrot approach: a variety of cold meats, cheeses, sliced tomatoes and cucumbers and hearty breads eaten with a knife and fork – that’s a dinner that’s basically an exercise in table setting. Of course, you’re not getting a lot of veg there, so we like to follow it up with a bowl of homemade applesauce (nice with some granola on top) or fruit with a chocolate sauce (cream + dark chocolate melted together – holds for ages in the fridge).

As summer approaches we also like to keep a rotating variety of salads in the fridge (potato, pasta, lentil, cabbage, cucumber, etc) that hold well and can be quickly put on a plate with either some freshly grilled or cold meat (especially the never-ending Christmas ham). The trick is to have a variety and make them in small enough amounts that you’re only seeing them a maximum of three times in the week – because you’ve got a variety on your plate, it’s not like eating the same meal over and over. On a really hot evening (and I know you’re looking forward to winter right now, but we’re about to hit summer) veggies, pita triangles and dips are also fantastic, and no cooking required.

A couple other ideas:

Pierogies. I make homemade ones in large batches which I then freeze. They cook from frozen in no time and the ones I make have a soft dough and are lovely eaten just boiled. Lately we have taken to topping them with greek yoghurt and those asian fried shallots.

Potato pancakes with applesauce. Again, quick prep, using things (potato, onion, eggs) you are likely to have on hand with long storage times. If you make enough apple sauce it can accompany pork chops later in the week or serve as dessert.

Grilled chicken, rice & ‘asian’ coleslaw. We thinly slice chicken breast (or pork or beef fillet) then marinate in soy, garlic & ginger wine, then grill in a ridged pan – the meat should be thin enough that it only needs a minute or two per side. The meat is cooked almost before the rice is.

Fried Rice. Someone above noted it’s never the same twice and it’s super quick. We always bulk the veg content by serving sliced cucumbers, and lettuce/cabbage salad with it. A fried egg is a quick addition if there’s no protein in it. Recently with leftover basmati rice I've been making a spiced fried rice using butter instead of oil with dried fruits and nuts, topped with yoghurt and fried onions.

Parmesan Chicken. From one of Nigel Slater's fast food cookbooks. Essentially cheesed & crumbed chicken breast cooked under the grill and served with a sauce of parsley, anchovies, capers, dijon mustard & olive oil. Quick & delicious and no frying.

Actually, I’m leaving my job early next year to finish up a degree and move onto a new phase of our lives, so expect a new topic soon titled “Help me learn how to cook slowly again”.

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Apart from freezing individually wrapped boneless chicken breasts which can then be quickly made into many different dishes - panfried, grilled, baked, stir-fried, even slap on some mozz and have chicken parm - I also try to keep a big Costco bag of fresh broccoli so that you don't even have to spend any time prepping that - either as a side veggie or in stirfry. In addition - I have now enjoyed making very large batches of meatballs in sauce then fill up many quart freezer bags with about 4-5 per person (depending on the size of your balls) (not a joke!) and that is such a treat to pull that out and spend little time for pasta. And then, of course, you need to expand your recipe box of quick recipes. Also, I buy the big slab of salmon in Costco and then cut into individual portions and freeze so that I can pull a couple out at a time with no prep time to pour over low sodium soy sauce and a thick coating of fresh ground pepper and broil.

Enjoy your new chapter in life!

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I cook big meals on the weekend, and then warm or "repurpose" leftovers; i.e., leftover pot roast and veggies become vegetable soup. A good grilled cheese sandwich, maybe with some bacon if you need a protein infusion, pairs well with most soups.

I couldn't function without my crock-pot. Prep happens the night before, all is stashed in bags or bowls in the fridge, combined in crock pot that morning. I also have been known to do the prep for a pot roast -- brown the meat, peel the veggies, everything in the pan -- and stick it in the fridge, then into the oven with the timer before I leave for work. That would work with braises as well. The key to quick weeknight dinners is truly the ahead-of-time prep, no matter how you're cooking the next day.

Leftovers get incorporated into pasta sauces or thick soups that go over rice, or get wrapped in tortillas. As long as ONE dish is new, the rest doesn't feel as much like leftovers, particularly if disguised in some different presentation.

If I'm grilling on the weekend, I'll typically grill a bunch of extra burgers or chicken breasts. Burgers can be just burgers on a bun during the week, or a chopped steak with onion gravy. Chicken breasts can be most anything -- topper for a salad, in a wrap, in a sauce over pasta or rice, or wherever your imagination takes you. Frozen tilapia filets, moved from freezer to fridge in the morning, broil or pan-fry in minutes. Leftover grilled tuna makes a great addition to a pasta salad.

Finally -- fried rice! The ultimate repository for leftovers. Chunk 'em all in. Hard to beat.


Don't ask. Eat it.

www.kayatthekeyboard.wordpress.com

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Prep on weekends. I do this occasionally. If there's anything that can be chopped, par-cooked, boiled, sauteed ahead of time without a huge drop in quality, that's the way to go.

Prep meat that needs to be cut into pieces when it's bought. I tend to do this. I freeze pound and pound and a half packages of prepped chicken, pork and beef for fajitas, stir fries, or casseroles and then freeze in separate quart sized bags. You have a rice cooker so this one probably isn't as much for you, but pre-cooked rice freezes well. I don't do it often, but when I have extra it's a way of keeping it good for another time. I tend to keep soy sauce, ginger, garlic, rice wine, sriracha (now, anyway) sweet red pepper sauce, balsamic, rice, and apple cider vinegars, tomato paste, cans of tuna, canned beans, dried beans, pasta, and tomato sauce (home canned or commercial, your pick), and all the spices my cupboard can hold. I keep eggs, milk, and a relatively large selection of cheese in the fridge. There's always a good stash of frozen meats and veg in the deep freeze. I could eat for a couple weeks without buying anything if I wanted, and cook it all in 30 minutes.

As to specific things?

Steak sandwiches are something I go for when I need to be quick. Main dish salads as well. Pasta with any kind of sauce that takes less than 30 minutes to cook. Chicken and gravy over rice. Baked potato bar (cook 3-4 minutes in micro, then finish in oven). Risotto would actually work, though that's a lot of standing and stirring and wouldn't be too appealing after a full day's work. Breakfast for dinner. Stove top mac & whatever (because you can do more with elbows than just put cheese sauce over them). Main dish pasta salads.

Elaborating on the chicken gravy over rice is...somewhat embarrassing, though I don't really make it the way my mother did anymore. Can of cream of chicken, can of mushrooms, cup of milk, can of chicken. Warm. Serve over white rice. Now I make my own gravy with chicken stock or broth (whichever I have on hand at the time as, with two small kids, stock gets made once in a blue moon around here anymore). Brown the chicken in about a tablespoon of butter. Brown chicken in butter. Remove from pan. Add two more tablespoons of butter and 3 tablespoons (or so) of flour. Cook the roux to medium-blond or so. Add 1.5 cups chicken stock. Simmer until thickened. Put chicken back in pan. Add a dash (quarter cup of so) of cream for richness if you desire, otherwise leave as is. Warm through. Serve with rice, pasta, or potatoes, bread, and a green veggie on the side. You can season the chicken, and thus the resulting dish, with about any type of spices and herbs you find appetizing. You can saute the mushrooms after you've finished the chicken. You can add other veggies. You can keep it as a plain chicken gravy with chicken chunks. You can simmer the chicken in the gravy until almost falling apart if you actually have time (it's great, by the way). It's a down to earth, homey meal, much like Jewish Pennicillin from a non-Jewish household. Heh.

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On busy days I rely on dishes that are very fast or very slow. The very fast are pastas and stirfries. While the pasta or rice is cooking, I prep the meat & veg, then do whatever quick cooking is necessary. While prepping I start munching on raw vegs, and believe me, that helps ease the hunger pangs!

The very slow are braises, stews, and hearty soups. Those are cooked at least the day before, & they actually taste better with 24 hrs to mellow. As others have said upthread, not everybody wants to cook after dinner. But I find it relaxing recreation. I cook more patiently when I'm not hungry and anxious to get a meal on the table. Braises in particular can be assembled quickly. Sometimes I don't bother browning the meat. I simply set the meat on the bed of vegs & cook the braise in the oven. At the end of cooking time I drain off most of the juices and pop the pan back into a hot oven, 400-450 degrees, for about 10 mins. The cooked meat browns beautifully.

I suggest that you look into the variety of Asian-style steamed dishes that are possible. My mother worked full-time, and often cooked Chinese steamed dishes for dinner. Now I know why. Those dishes are quick to assemble and usually quick to cook. They don't take much tending, either. Fish fillets with a sauce of garlic, ginger, soy, & green onions can take only 10 mins to steam before the dish hits the table.

If you have a steamer with multiple racks, you can cook a meat or fish dish on the bottom rack, with a veg side dish on an upper rack. Think of the multi-level steamer as an oven, with the hottest area closest to the water--there are many possibilities for cooking an entire meal in a steamer.

Once a friend made a hearty dinner soup of Trader Joe's potstickers in chicken broth with veg & shittake mushrooms. It was very filling and very good! Like a super-wonton soup.

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There are a lot of great suggestions here. I like Heidi H's suggestion of a "first" course to take the edge off the hunger. I recently stopped working to finish up a master's program. Prior to that, as Stephanie Brim suggested, I did 95% of the prep on Sunday afternoons. Always triple or quadruple freezeable meals to save effort (meatballs, chile, sauces, meatloafs). I make a szechuan turkey meatloaf my family loves.

Stock quick thaw seafood and chicken/turkey breasts in freezer (currently have flounder, cod, shrimp, scallops, and swai). Used to not like frozen fish but new freezing is outstanding. Can throw together many quick healthy meals like last night's dinner with pantry items and frozen fish: Baked Flounder with caper sauce.

Even though I recently stopped working, I still make a big salad "base" on Sunday that last's us 3-4 days. I add the more perishable things each night (e.g. tomatoes) which also allows me to change it up. Still blanch vegetables on Sunday nights too - blanch 4-5 vegetables in succession in one pot (sometimes have to change the water, sometimes not). Ditto roasted vegetables. Only one pot/pan to cleanup. Then can do quicker stir frys, veg dishes. Blanched broccoli raab might get sauteed with shallots and red pepper one night and then leftovers used another night in a pasta sauce with tomato and turkey sausage or in a frittata. We also like tofu - that is always a quick stir fry one night a week with very little prep, again maybe with some already blanced broccoli or green beans to speed up cooking time.

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I make a szechuan turkey meatloaf my family loves.

LLC - Could you share your recipe for the szechuan turkey meatloaf please?

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I'm a student and regularly have evening classes that let me out at 8pm...by the time I get back to my apartment, I'm usually not in a mood to stand over a stove, so I understand where you're coming from. I've been meaning to invest in a crock pot but am terrified of the stories of them sparking, so for now, I alternate between the heat n' eat and quick cooking methods.

I make several gallons of sauce each month, complete with meatballs, sausage, and pork ribs. These get frozen in 2-serving portions of meat & sauce, which I move to the fridge the morning I want pasta. That translates into a nice 20-min meal. I also bake a lot of bread on the weekends, so meatball hoagies (albeit not the healthiest option) are occasional Monday or Tuesday fare. Sometimes I'll make up a casserole ahead of time to bake later, but that's a rarity.

For the quick cooking, I'm a big fan of pan-searing. My grocery now stocks deveined but in-shell shrimp, which is fantastic for butterflying and pan-searing...I deglaze with some wine & lemon and serve over rice or on a salad. We do chicken this way too...so quick and so delicious. We also cook our veg this way...maybe not as nutrient-rich as poaching/steaming, but it's quick for broccoli or asparagus.

Happy cooking!

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Once I pick up my kids (10 & 8) from school it's a mad dash to have a snack with them, help them with homework, care for the baby (9 months), make dinner and get ready for work by 5:45. So, this is something new for me (my schedule for the last 6 months) that I'm getting used to as well. I've started assembling a list of our favorite meals that are quick and easy to prepare so that I can start using a rotating meal plan, planning more time consuming meals for days off or weekends and still have a variety.

Some ideas: Pasta with various sauces are great and as mentioned earlier, thinner pasts which cook fast are key. Water goes on to boil first thing, with lid on. Seasoned rice is common, which eliminates the need for gravies or sauces and quick cooking meats (boneless skinless chicken breasts, pounded thin or sliced in half also boneless or thin pork chops or steaks.) I also love the individually packaged, frozen fish fillets like salmon or tilapia. Run unopened packs under water, then open and quick season while cast iron pan heats or oven heats. 5 to 10 mins to cook. Frozen veggies like corn, sweet peas and green beans are common and cook quickly in the microwave or saucepan. Add a pat of butter and seasoning. Or, steam whole green beans in microwave, 5 mins, then quick stir fry with sesame oil, garlic and soy sauce. To accompany a stir fried dish. Stir fried cabbage also quick with stir fried dishes. Soups, quick chili, corn muffins or drop biscuits are quick. also, I sometimes keep refrigerator roll dough on hand and just shape and put in oven with bowl of boiling water to rise. My 10 and 8 year old also help do things like make the salad (which we have several times a week), make the sweet tea, butter the rolls, stir things, fetch things and open packages, set the table, etc.

Some of our favorites are: Garlic chicken with sesame green beans or stir fried cabbage, beef with broccoli, Honey Black pepper beef, quick Thai chicken (all stir fries served with white rice). They love a dish made with ramen noodles (briefly cook and drain, discard seasoning packets, stir fry leftover thinly sliced meat of choice, thinly sliced onion, garlic, ginger, cabbage, carrot, etc. Add bottled sauces, usually soy sauce, hoisin sauce, oyster sauce, and sherry with dash of sesame oil and garlic chili paste. Last add cooked and drained noodles and toss to mix. One of their favorite meals, top with sliced green onion and chopped roasted peanuts.) I guess you could use rice noodles or vermicelli but the ramen noodles cook in about 2 minutes and their cheap and I keep them on hand for this dish. Also, pasta carbonara, usually with leftover vermicelli (I cook a whole pound and plan on carbonara couple of days later). Red Hots (red potatoes, sliced and cooked with plenty of creole or cajun seasoning, drained and fried in very hot wok or cast iron with butter and more creole seasoning (Tony Cacherie's) often served with quick tilapia and salad. etc...

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I did that for some twenty years. The crock pot and freezer and microwave are your best friends.

In addition to the many great tips here, I'd say my number one bit of advice is to cook one or two large meats on the weekends: a big ham, large beef or pork roast, couple of chickens, etc. Even fire up the grill and cook a big batch of hamburger patties for later in the week. One thing I did was to buy at least two extra turkeys at Thanksgiving, when they're loss leaders, and have the butcher saw the frozen turkeys into halves; then I'd wrap them separately and stick them back into the freezer. Over a weekend, I'd smoke one of the halves.

I found that generally speaking, the protein is the most time-consuming. If you've got a big ham or roast beef or pork roast or turkey or whatever ready to hit the table, it just doesn't take that much time to toss a salad, or steam some fresh veggies either stovetop or in the microwave.

And toward the end of the week, it's easy to chop up whatever bits of meat are left over and then combine them with some frozen stock and some noodles or rice for a hearty soup.

Sam's and Costco sell large bags of individually-frozen chicken breasts and fish filets. You can pull out however many you need for that night, put them on a sheet pan, cover with some sort of sauce (we use my tomato salsa a lot), and pop them into a hot oven for about 10 minutes for fish, 15 for chicken. You can also do this with thin pork chops, or they saute in a skillet in no time flat.

Whole potatoes only take a few minutes to bake in the microwave - about five minutes each. Bake either white or sweet potatoes, then wrap them tightly in foil to continue to steam and heat through evenly while you prepare the rest of the meal.

Another huge time-saver for me was the salad bar at our local megasupermarket. All sorts of veggies already prepped: shredded carrots, chopped onions, mushrooms, green peppers, etc. These things can go into a salad at home, or into a soup or stirfry.

Try to use more imagination than time when it comes to side dishes. Especially salads. Buy the shredded cabbage at the store and toss it with cole slaw dressing. Open a cold can of pears and serve them over cottage cheese with a sprinkle of grated cheddar cheese. Toss leftover veggies like peas and beans in with your salad. If you have tasty nutritious sides, it's easier to fill out an entire meal.

And don't discount breakfast for an occasional dinner: scrambled eggs or omelets, pancakes, etc. It all works.

In Texas, we've got a great late-night, busy-night dish: chili and eggs. Quick, easy (if you've already got the chili in the freezer, which we always did) and delicious. My family loved that.

And we still do.

______________________


Edited by Jaymes (log)

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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I'd like to add that you definitely should go get that crockpot. After all, if there were another kitchen appliance, or pot, or pan, or whatever, that you needed and didn't have, you'd go get one, right? So why should a crockpot be any different?

There's nothing quite like coming home on a cold dark night when you're tired and hungry and opening that front door and inhaling the aroma of a comforting stew or tacos de lengua or whatever that is already prepared and waiting for you.

And the first time that happens, you'll thank your lucky stars that you bought that crockpot after all.


I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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I'd like to add that you definitely should go get that crockpot. After all, if there were another kitchen appliance, or pot, or pan, or whatever, that you needed and didn't have, you'd go get one, right? So why should a crockpot be any different?

There's nothing quite like coming home on a cold dark night when you're tired and hungry and opening that front door and inhaling the aroma of a comforting stew or tacos de lengua or whatever that is already prepared and waiting for you.

And the first time that happens, you'll thank your lucky stars that you bought that crockpot after all.

I second her recommendation. A crock pot will expand your options greatly.

I know you asked for tips not books but you could get inspiration from "The Dinner Doctor" by Anne Byrn. Sometimes she's a little Sandra Lee-ish in resorting to canned soups, etc, but some of her suggestions are quite good. She gets you thinking of meals over multiple nights instead of one at a time. Like starting with a rotisserie chicken one night, then making chicken burritos or enchiladas the next night with the leftovers. And maybe a pasta chicken salad the third night if you still have any chicken left, etc.

Edited to add: Check it out at your local library first, instead of just buying it.


Edited by Toliver (log)

 

“Peter: Oh my god, Brian, there's a message in my Alphabits. It says, 'Oooooo.'

Brian: Peter, those are Cheerios.”

– From Fox TV’s “Family Guy”

 

Tim Oliver

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Second freezing one-serving sized portions (I use plastic Ziploc bags or Gladware), individually quick frozen shrimp (the precooked kind is even more of a time saver if you remember to defrost the night before, as it just needs 1 min of warming up in a sauce), miso marinated salmon/cod, chili, curry, and soups.

We always have shelf stable gnocchi (you can get this at Trader Joe's), a variety of short pastas, and cans of artichoke hearts, diced tomatoes, chickpeas, and white beans in the pantry. In the fridge, prewashed baby spinach is very versatile and can be easily thrown into a pasta sauce or tossed into a side salad. Pasta with chickpeas/white beans, tomatoes, spinach, fresh herbs, topped with pecorino/parmesan/fontina/etc. is quick and easy.

Lately I've been making these three recipes a lot:

Chickpea, Spinach & Squash Gnocchi - with aforementioned shelf stable gnocchi, and don't omit the splash of balsalmic

Orzo with Lamb, Olives & Feta - add more lamb for a higher protein content

White Beans, Spinach & Tomatoes over Parmesan Toasts - the topping for the toasts freezes well

This casserole also freezes nicely. I throw in some shredded chicken, more cumin than called for, some cayenne pepper and salt.

Chilaquiles Casserole

See also Mark Bittman's 10 Minute recipes.


"I'll put anything in my mouth twice." -- Ulterior Epicure

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We always have shelf stable gnocchi (you can get this at Trader Joe's)...

That just reminded me of Trader Joe's shelf-stable Tortilini.


Porthos Potwatcher
The Once and Future Cook

;

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I'd like to add that you definitely should go get that crockpot. After all, if there were another kitchen appliance, or pot, or pan, or whatever, that you needed and didn't have, you'd go get one, right? So why should a crockpot be any different?

There's nothing quite like coming home on a cold dark night when you're tired and hungry and opening that front door and inhaling the aroma of a comforting stew or tacos de lengua or whatever that is already prepared and waiting for you.

And the first time that happens, you'll thank your lucky stars that you bought that crockpot after all.

Not to mention that if you're the only one cooking for the family of four, and you get held up a little at work, or on the commute home, and you've got dinner all ready in the crockpot, you can tell the rest of them to go ahead.

And you'll be home shortly.

I'm totally telling ya....


I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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We use Heidi H's suggestion too. Its a terrific way to increase fruit/vegetable consumption, or whatever nutrient you are pushing that week.

Whatever goes on the table in a little bowl at 5:30 gets disappeared during the 5-30 min to finish up dinner.

Grape tomatoes, carrot sticks, cheese cubes (will 'spoil dinner' if too many), apple slices, olives, whatever.


"You dont know everything in the world! You just know how to read!" -an ah-hah! moment for 6-yr old Miss O.

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Crock pot. Oh definitely. I wish I had one here in Japan. You don't have to cook stew. With a ceramic insert you can cook a whole chicken and some vegetables in its own moisture.

We've been through that stage and are practically at the other end. Often, son has to run home, get his dinner, and leave for cram school before I'm even home. I leave cooked green vegetables and grilled salt salmon in the fridge, and set the rice cooker so he can make ochazuke, the ultimate in healthy fast food. Actually, boiled green vegetables will keep chilled three days and can easily be refreshed in some boiling water from the kettle.

Meal-style pancakes like Spanish tortilla or Japanese okonomiyaki are fast and fun, and combine vegetables, starch, and protein.

Nakji's nabe plan is good too, and if you toss noodles (cellophane noodles quickly soaked in warm water, fresh udon) or vacuum packed mochi (rice cakes) into the broth at the end, you don't need rice either.

I agree with the appetizer idea, in fact, we sometimes gave our kids dessert or fresh fruit first while we cooked dinner!

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Did anyone mention microwave defrosting yet ? Another string to your bow.

And how about bread ? Bread is your friend in this situation - rice, spuds and pasta all need last-minute attention (and in these save-the-planet-and-delay-the-inevitable-energy-crisis times I laugh heartily and stick another pin in my voodoo doll of the earth every time I pour a pot of hot pasta water down the drain).

Bread just waits for you. For days, depending on the bread, and I've found myself gravitating towards it when I'm looking for speed, efficiency, and no fuss. Think like the French and Italians - who have bread pretty much with every meal (and don't the Italians call everything else 'accompanatico' - "what goes with the bread" ?).

We tend to default to 'authentic' accompaniments - for a long time I despaired of naan bread at home, till I found that plain wholewheat toast, buttered, was a far better partner to take-away curry than the naan that'd be soggy and only a shadow of itself by the time I got it home.

So, bread. It freezes. It even freezes as dough (and if you can match the timing with the warmth of your home, you should be able to set out freezer-retarded pizza dough in the morning and find it just right for use when you get home). You can make it at home or buy it, both cheaply, and it's always available.


Edited by Blether (log)

QUIET!  People are trying to pontificate.

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Thanks for all the ideas -- keep 'em coming!

Made two massive batches of chili, one meat, one beans & veg. Details here. Bagging them up in small batches today.

Can't understand why I need a crockpot when I have a Sous Vide Supreme, which can do everything a crockpot can and much more, with far greater precision. Made that chili with it, for example.


Chris Amirault

camirault@eGstaff.org

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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