Thursday, June 20, 2013

Quick Meal Ideas

The schedules at my house are crazy.  My day job is a typical 8 hour day, while the boyfriend works 12-14+ a day which usually ends late at night.  I know it sounds crazy, but I stay up most nights and try to make sure he has a fresh, hot meal when he comes home from work.  It can be really hard to make dinner and not fall into the fast food trap when we’re both exhausted, it is late and we’re hungry.  So here are some tips for quick meals, links to recipes I’m using at home, and a couple of quick and easy meal suggestions:

Kitchen Prep.  Clean and slice your fruits and vegetables when you buy them and store in a prepared state…you’re more likely to snack on them if they are ready to go.  You can also do your preparation for meals like slicing onions, browning hamburger, ect ahead of time.  If you do it all in one day, then you have one day of dishes and cuts down on it the rest of the week too.

Separate Bulk items into serving sizes.  This is a great way to make sure you get your serving size, but it also makes it really easy to grab something as a snack on the fly or add a yogurt to a lunch.

Make the lunches in one swoop.  When my boyfriend worked construction and ate a lot of sandwiches, I would line the bread up and make all of his sandwiches at once.  I also like to make turkey wraps this way.  This isn’t for everyone (soggy bread factor), but I was using butter only.  The other solution I have for that person who needs Mayo/Miracle Whip is to buy the packets-not super cost efficient, but if you gotta have it…

Make large batches.  This goes with my next suggestion, but when I make meatballs I make an extra large batch and buy extra plain french bread.  We have spaghetti and meatballs with garlic bread the first night, and the second night(after the sauce has gotten thicker overnight in the refrigerator) I toast the extra bread in the oven and we have meatball subs.  This also works great for tacos one night and taco salads for lunch or dinner the next day.

Repurpose Leftovers. Baked chicken one night, and make leftover chicken noodle soup or easy chicken pot pie the next.  Cook leftover steak with peppers and onions for a quick fajita.  Mashed potatoes mixed with a bag of mixed veggies, beef gravy and browned hamburger makes a quick Shepherd’s Pie.

Here is Betty Crocker’s Chicken pot pie recipe (with a photo courtesy of Betty Crocker)-you can make this recipe healthier by making your own cream of chicken, or chicken gravy and using less chicken and more vegetables.

Go Semi-Homemade and keep quick cooking items in the pantry/freezer.  I’m all about cutting costs by doing things at home from scratch, but many of my own “eat dinner quick” recipes incorporate things like frozen or canned seafood, veggies, dehydrated foods in place of fresh ingredients. 

 I almost always have these staples on hand for quick meals in a pinch: frozen beans (see bean burrito recipe below), pasta, shirataki noodles, rice, frozen veggies, jarred/canned sauce (alfredo/tomato/stir fry/soy), canned tuna/salmon.  I also really love Philly Sliced beef steak from Schwan's...I use it to make steak sandwiches, and fajitas on the fly. 

CROCKPOTS!  Have I told you how much I love my crock pot?  Toss it in and forget it for 8 hours, what could be easier?

Making a roast is super easy.  Peel your carrots ahead of time, season your meat (I don’t brown it ahead of time, but I suppose you could), and the next morning peel some potatoes, make a quick broth from bouillon and toss it all in before you leave. 

Chicken tacos: Toss in 2-3 chicken breasts, chicken taco seasoning, chopped onions/peppers (if you like), pour over it a jar of salsa and cook on high for 4-6 hours or low for 6-8.  Pull out the chicken and shred with a fork, scoop out the veggies with a slotted spoon to drain excess liquid, and serve with the usual garnishments (shells/wraps of your choice, cheese, sour cream, lettuce, fresh peppers, onions, guac).  You can add/omit what veggies and peppers you like.

Buffalo Chicken Sandwiches….my family really LOVES this recipe from Emilybites.  I recommend using thawed breasts if you can, but they are delicious and easy…you can’t beat 4 ingredients.

I love this bean burrito recipe.  These beans can be eaten with some onions and cheese, made into burritos with all the fixins, or add a cup to some taco meat for extra substance.

Other Quick Meals

Hungry Girl Alfredo (double for 2 people, of course).  I also like to sauté some garlic, onions, and add veggies (broccoli, spinach, ect).

Veggie Rice: Bring 1 cup water to a boil.  Add 1 chicken boullion cube. Add dehydrated onions, garlic, and 1 cup mixed veggies, return to boil.  Add rice.  Sprinkle with paprika.  Cover.  Serve with a piece of pan fried, grilled or baked chicken or fish. 

Fish Patties: Mix a can of tuna or salmon (drained) or a packet with breadcrumbs, onions, garlic salt or sea salt, and one egg.  Make patties and fry in your choice of oil.  Serve with a salad. 

Cous Cous and Shrimp: Saute garlic and onions in some butter or margarine.  Add water (1 1/4 c per 1 cup of cous cous) and bring to boil.  Add Israeli cous cous.  Add frozen veggies.  Then add precooked shrimp.  Cook per directions for cous cous (8 minutes I believe).  Add fresh veggies according to cooking time.    Here's  mine made with shrimp, garlic, frozen corn and asparagus: 

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