My first line of defense is that I almost always cook more than we are going to eat at one meal. So, for a week of cooking, I am never cooking more than 3 or 4 dishes, counting on a second meal from each recipe. I'm cooking for my husband and myself, so any recipe for four will yield two meals. When I'm making soup, or a recipe we like that can readily be doubled, I'll put aside the extra in the freezer. A typical week of meals is three things cooked new and one meal taken from the freezer. Or, instead of taking something from the freezer, an almost-as-simple meal is one of the following:
1) I heat up a can of Indian food (e.g. Jyoti Madras Sambar), and serve it on top of brown rice, with a side of plain yogurt and condiments like raisins, chopped nuts, chopped hard-boiled egg, scallions, chutney. I usually have brown rice on hand in the freezer, so I don't need to wait for that to cook. (Whenever I make brown rice from scratch, I make more than I need and freeze it in 2-person size portions.) Or, you could make white rice, and be ready in 20 minutes. This is really a good entrée, even though it comes in a can!
2) Even simpler than #1, use a can of garbanzo beans instead of the can of Indian food. For this you'd really want brown rice, not white. Same condiments.
3) I heat up a package of Hormel beef tips (in the refrigerator section of the meat department), and serve them over egg noodles. This needs a side dish--generally some carrots, or a frozen vegetable, or a salad. I've tried a couple of other of the Hormel prepared meats, but none is up to the beef tips, which are really good. An unopened package lasts quite a while in the refrigerator; I generally have one on hand.
4) I make up some matzah fry and serve it with canned soup to round out the meal. To make matzoh fry for 2 people: Break 4 eggs into a bowl and mix until blended. Break up 3 sheets of matzah into the eggs and stir until the matzah is moistened. (Pieces about the size of a quarter or so--not crucial how big or small.) Add salt and pepper and cook in a frying pan. For a nice ready-made soup, I like the Campbell V8 soups in boxes, with the butternut squash soup and the red pepper soup favorites, but all are good.
5) Many of these meals are enhanced with a quick salad. For this I use a bag of mixed lettuces (spring mix is my favorite, but mostly I choose by the latest "use by" date on whatever is in the store), a chopped red pepper, and chopped scallions. For a bit of flare I add a handful of dried currants or some calamata olives, sliced. To make a full meal from this salad, I add a can of tuna fish. Oh, another time saver: I make a big bowl of salad with the whole bag of greens, and then we have a ready-to-go-salad for 2-3 meals.
6) A couple of grocery-store available products that are also good for quick sides:
- Uncle Ben's Ready Whole Grain Medley (e.g., Vegetable Harvest). This product is on the shelves with rice, in a bag--precooked rice, so just heats up in the microwave.
- Birds Eye Steamfresh Frozen vegetables--we especially like "Beans with a Twist" which includes green and yellow beans, carrots, and dried cranberries.
If you have quick low-prep meals you'd like to share, do send me the recipe or write it up in the comments!