Sunday, June 10, 2012

What to cook when you don't feel like cooking?

My friend Laura recently asked, "What do you cook when time is short and you don't feel much like cooking?"  Good question!  It seems a little heretical to write about the most simple things I put on the table on just that kind of day, but why not?  I'm sure Laura and I aren't the only people who enjoy cooking, but don't always want to cook. . .  So, in this post I'll write about the things I do that involve the most minimal effort.  Then I'll do another post or two on things that are a little more work, but still are ready within a half-hour or so.

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.
So, once a week or so, one of these is likely to be on our menu.  Very simple fare, but to me preferable to going out or ordering a pizza on nights I don't want to cook.  I like going out to eat to be a special treat, and on occasions when I want to take a little longer at the table.

If you have quick low-prep meals you'd like to share, do send me the recipe or write it up in the comments!

1 comment:

  1. Penny, I've been waiting for a post like this. Thank you.