Tag Archives: quick cooking

Dinner in 10: 5 Quick Meals for Busy Weeknights

15 Mar
Image sourced from diligogames.blogspot.com.

Image sourced from diligogames.blogspot.com.

Ever gotten home itching for dinner … only to see that it’s 8:30, nothing’s cooked, and your stack of takeout menus looks awfully appealing?

We’ve all been there! And while I’m a big advocate for meal planning when you grocery shop to avoid these kinds of “Egads! What the heck can I eat??” moments, time crunches, schedule shifts and last-minute snafus are inevitable. Who knows when you’ll have to stay late at the office, attend a last minute meeting, or hit traffic on your way home? And with a growling stomach, it’s a wonder we don’t have an epidemic of hangry* Americans on our hands.

Image sourced from etsy.com. Yup, that's me at about 5 pm every day.

Image sourced from etsy.com. Yup, that’s me at about 5 pm every day.

* Hungry + Angry. You know what I mean. 🙂

For these nights, I’ve whipped up this list of 5 Quick Meals for Busy Weeknights. Don’t worry, they aren’t just PB & J (well, one of them is — with a twist!); instead, they’re hearty, healthy meals that you can put together in about 10 minutes flat. Wallet-friendly, healthy food in less time than it takes to wash your hair. Win.

Tex-Mex Egg Scramble: Spray a microwave-safe cereal bowl with Pam or other cooking spray. Crack two eggs into the bowl, mixing lightly with a fork. Add 1 tsp of salsa, a sprinkle of chili powder, and a dash of garlic salt. Microwave in 40-second spurts until mostly cooked through. Scramble again with the fork and microwave for one final 20-30 second stretch. Serve over salad greens with a sprinkling of Mexican-blend cheese.

Deluxe ABJ: Toast two slices of whole-grain bread. Spread one slice with 1-2 tbsp almond butter. Spread the other slice with 1 tsp peach or strawberry jam. Sprinkle the almund butter slice with ground flax seed meal, and slice 1 banana to add to the sandwich.

Spicy Tuna Wrap: In a small bowl, mix 1 drained can of albacore tuna with 1-2 tbsp mayonnaise, a dash (to taste!) of Sriracha chile sauce, a dash of garlic salt, a dash of ground black pepper, and 1/2 tsp parsley. On a whole grain wrap, spread tuna mixture; top with chopped tomatoes and cucumbers. Add a slice of cheddar or Swiss cheese (optional). Roll into a wrap or burrito as you prefer.

Quesa-Quicka: On a whole grain tortilla, sprinkle 1/4 cup Mexican blend cheese. Add 1/2 cup drained and rinsed black beans. Mash the beans slightly with a fork. Top with 1-2 tbsp salsa of your choice, chopped tomatoes (optional), and 1/2 a chopped jalapeno (also optional!). Fold in half. Toast under a preheated 500° F broiler for 5 minutes, or until tortilla is brown and cheese has melted, flipping once. Cut into wedges and serve with salsa and sour cream.

Microwave Croque Monsieur: Toast a piece of whole grain bread. While the bread is toasting, set aside a slice of Swiss cheese. Spray a microwave-safe bown with cooking spray. Add 1 tsp water and 1 whole egg. Cover with Saran wrap or other plastic wrap. Microwave in 30-second spurts until the egg appears cooked to your liking. Place slice of Swiss cheese on toast; top with fried egg. Season with salt, pepper, and a drizzle of Sesame oil for an Asian twist on a classic French sandwich.

The possibilities for quick meals are pretty much endless, but these are among my favorites when I’m feeling like a hungry-hungry-hippo at the end of a work day. What are your quick and easy go-to meals for busy weeknights? If you folks are vegan (i.e. no tuna, cheese or eggs, as I make liberal use of in these recipes), what are your solutions for quick meals? Happy eating!

Easy Dinners: Tortilla Pizza

11 Dec

late.oct.nov2012 047

Love pizza? (Who am I kidding? If you didn’t love pizza, I suspect you wouldn’t be on this pizza-loving woman’s blog.)

Don’t have the time to roll out fresh dough or whip up your own? (I.e. like every 20-something on a weeknight.)

Hunting through your fridge for some semblance of nutritious food, and coming up a bit short? (Again, like a lot of us. Unless you work at Whole foods. I bet their employee discount is ridiculous.)

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Get Busy Baking, or Get Busy Eating: Easy Pumpkin Cupcakes and Brownie Bites

6 Nov

Those little puffs of dessert-o-rific joy? Those would be Two-Ingredient (-ish) Pumpkin Cupcakes. I dove into sweets this week with two different adaptations of mixes, in the spirit of my earlier post about doctoring pre-made and store-bought products. The results were downright delicious, and — now that I’ve devoured them, as have my ravenous coworkers — this post was ripe to be written.

First on the menu? Those cupcakes, which I baked to a) experiment with the 2-ingredient (ish) method seen here. I had no idea that this was even a thing, a technique, a recipe, but then, I decided to try it. And it was fabulous! So easy, and surprisingly light, given that the recipe contains no oil or eggs. (With that in mind, I suppose it’s also, technically, vegan? Bazinga!)

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Fluffy, Tasty, Griddle-y? The History Teacher’s Family Pancakes

26 Oct

First, before I address those pancakes — and trust me, my dears, I WILL address those pancakes — I have to point out something so hilarious and wonderful that I just can’t keep it to myself. Apparently, to celebrate the upcoming release of the first film in the new “Hobbit” trilogy (inner nerd-girl says “Yessss!”), Denny’s is putting together a Middle Earth Menu.  In case you’ve ever wondered what was actually on the Second Breakfast or Elevensies menu (C’mon, you know you’ve thought about noshing on lunch with some hobbits whenever you get the mid-morning munchies.), mystery solved. #dennysforthefirsttime?

Image sourced from l-o-t-r.tumblr.com. “I don’t think he knows about second breakfast, Pip.”

And now, back to the breakfast goods! This week, I’m serving up some breakfast for dinner in my good ol’ galley kitchen for The History Teacher and myself, and THT has a family pancake recipe that just can’t be beat. (Except by my mom’s, especially for nostalgic value. Sorry, baby!) For your viewing and eating pleasure, here are some delicious pancakes whose ingredients and directions are so simple, you’d be crazy not to give ’em a try. (Even for dinner!)

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Budget Eats: If You Grill It, They Will Eat (On the Cheap!)

14 Oct

My favorite sound in the kitchen? The “hissssss” when something delicious hits a griddle pan. Chicken cutlet, chopped onion, a marinated mushroom — whatever it is, there’s something powerful and sensory about that sound. Food meets grill, a love story that ends with my full belly and awakened senses of smell, taste, sight, touch and sound.

The best way to awaken this sound and sensation, I think, is a humble one — the basic grilled sandwich. Some call it panini. Some call it grilled cheese. Some call it lunch. (That would include myself.) But in the end, it’s called delicious, and you can make one in myriad ways. Most versatile budget meal ever? It’s definitely in the running. Continue reading

Slow-Roasted Tomato Frittata: Nothing, What’s-a-Frittata With You?

15 Sep

This post’s punny title was brought to you by The Lion King. Thank you, Nathan Lane’s Timon, for filling my childhood with wit and grub-eating. And fart jokes. “Pumbaa! Not in front of the kids!” “Oh, sorry.” ba-DA!

As you lovely readers have probably gathered from this recipe and other mentions, I’m kind of a big fan of Gwyneth Paltrow’s cookbook My Father’s Daughter. In hindsight, I think this comes from her approach to food and the kitchen — meals are, in their own way, the heart of a home, and the food you make can and should reflect that special, homey, come-together quality. Use good ingredients, be healthful (and let yourself indulge), and have fun. If you do, you’re usually left with something pretty darn tasty.

Which is what I found when I adapted Gwyneth’s Slow-Roasted Tomato Frittata for dinner last week. Oh my heavens, this was one tasty meal. And so, so simple — it’s perfect for a weeknight supper, and a great way, if you’re cooking for one, to make enough food to portion out and eat for several meals.

The basic principles of frittata are, as outlined so cutely by Harrison Ford in the final scene of “Morning Glory,” pretty simple, as all beautiful Italian dishes should be:

  1. Get your pan really, really hot.
  2. Add butter.
  3. Add eggs and other fixins.
  4. Bake until the frittata becomes a fully set, crust-free quiche-esque pillow of tasty eggness.

Gwyneth adds another ingredient to the mix — her slow-roasted tomatoes, a staple in her recipe book. To slow-roast your tomatoes, follow these easy steps:

  • Slice tomatoes in half and drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper

  • Roast for 3-5 hours in a 275 degree oven, or until the tomatoes are caramelized, almost free from moisture, and a deep red color.

Oh yeah. Need some ice for that burn … BURNING AWESOME.

The frittata uses slow-roasted tomatoes (which you could easily subsitute for sun-dried or just thinly7 sliced fresh tomatoes), mozzarella cheese (Gwyneth uses smoked; I used the shredded cheese I had on hand), and fresh basil. The basic recipe is easy to tweak, easy to cook, and easy to enjoy. Try it for brunch with friends, or just a simple Tuesday supper. Happy eating!

Slow-Roasted Tomato Frittata, adapted from Gwyneth Paltrow’s My Father’s Daughter — serves 4-6, or 2 with leftovers!

You’ll need:

  • 1-2 shallots or 1/2 white onion, sliced thinly
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • Salt & pepper, to taste
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk (or 1/2 cup unflavored soymilk)
  • 2-6 slow-roasted tomato halves — adjust to taste — or 2 medium raw tomatoes, thinly sliced into rounds
  • 3/4 cup (ish) shredded mozzarella cheese, or 6-8 oz. sliced mozzarella
  • A handful of fresh basil leaves, torn

Here’s what you do:

  • Preheat the oven to 375
  • Heat butter and olive oil over medium heat in a 10-inch oven-safe skillet. (I used cast-iron, which is probably your best bet.) Saute the onions until soft and slightly brown, about 6 minutes. Season with salt & pepper to taste.

“Hissssssss.” — The Onions

  • In a medium bowl, beat the eggs & milk until well-combined. Pour over the onions in the hot pan. Add tomatoes, cheese and basil to your liking. (The eggs will definitely still be funny in the middle!)

Ready to bake! Mmmmm.

  • Let the frittata cook for about 5 minutes, until the edges are set (ish). Move the pan to the oven and bake for 8-10 minutes, or until fully set.

Are you folks fans of eggs for dinner? Do you prefer a crusty quiche to a lighter frittata? What else might you add to the inside? Get creative!

PS: To easily make this a vegan recipe, omit the butter before frying up your onions; use soymilk and egg subsitute; and indulge in some delicious soy cheese, rather than traditional mozzarella. To add a carnivore’s twist, add pan-cooked and crumbled pancetta, cubes of cooked chicken, or even slices of ham. Mmm! Love breakfast like whoa.

Budget Eats: Scrambled Eggs Master Recipe with 3 Variations

27 Aug

You WILL make this! Scrambled Egg Fried Rice? Mmm!

One of my best friends from college is starting a new graduate program at Vanderbilt University in Nashville. (Shout-out to Laura, the woman who first introduced me to the wonders of kimchi. You are amazing – miss you so much!) She and I were chatting recently about the big move – how a Minnesota girl like her was going to adapt to a slower, Southern pace of life in Tennessee.

As we were chatting, she posed a question to me and to my blog: How can a grad student – or, really, any young professional who’s just starting out on a somewhat limited budget – afford to feed herself semi-nutritious food, using some prepared items (frozen foodstuffs, canned and dried goods, etc.) and some fresh ingredients? Are there tasty, filling recipes that suit this kind of budget and lifestyle? What’s a food-loving girl to do?

Determined to rise to the challenge, I’ve started writing and testing a Budget Meals series. I’ll post meal ideas with average pricing based on my market research, including tips for stretching a dollar, basic nutrition advice (hey, a girl’s gotta get those vitamins) and ideas for multipurpose cooking. (I.e. how can I creatively twist one recipe into 3 or 4 different dishes?)

Today’s topic: Scrambled Eggs, an easy master recipe that we’ll be converting into 3 different budget meals: Egg Panini, DIY Fried Rice, and Breakfast Burritos. How yummy does that sound?

Grocery List (prices according to Peapod.com)

  • 1 dozen eggs –  $1.93
  • 1 quart skim milk – $1.49
  • 1 loaf of wheat bread – $2.50
  • 1 pkg tortillas – $2.09
  • 1 pkg sliced deli cheese – $3.59
  • 1 jar salsa – $3.00
  • Produce (tomatoes, frozen veggies, carrots, 1 bag spinach) – $8.20

Total Cost (excluding condiments, oil/butter and spices): $22.28

How doable is that? 3 meals and then some, using these ingredients in 4 different recipes listed below. Check ‘em out. Happy eating and happy shopping, my budget-friendly friends!

Scrambled Eggs Master Recipe – serves 1 (easily doubled, tripled, quadrupled, etc.)

You’ll need:

  • 1 tsp oil or butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp milk
  • Salt, pepper & spices to taste

Here’s what you do:

  • In a small bowl, lightly beat together eggs, milk & spices. I recommend garlic powder, dill, or even some cumin.

Leggo my egg-o! Heh heh heh, I kill myself.

  • Heat oil or butter in a small sauté pan over medium-ish heat (4 or 5 on your stovetop). When the oil is hot, add the beaten egg mixture. Using a rubber spatula, stir egg mixture constantly, folding it over onto itself and “scrambling” the contents. Cook egg mixture this way until completely cooked through, about 1-2 minutes (Max.)

This will all happen …

… very, VERY quickly. I think about 1 minute elapsed between the previous pic and this one.

  • Use your rubber spatula to additional “chop up” or “scramble” the egg contents if any pieces are too large or chunky for your taste.

Variation One: Egg Panini – serves 1. This sandwich is a delicious way to use those scrambled eggs for lunch or dinner. Dried herbs – great to stock your budget pantry – really take this to the next level.

You’ll need:

  • 1 Master Scrambled Eggs Recipe
  • 2 slices Swiss, Cheddar or Provolone Cheese
  • 2-3 slices tomato
  • 3-5 basil leaves or baby spinach leaves (optional)
  • 1-2 tsp butter or margarine
  • 1 tsp dried oregano or basil
  • 2 slices bread (whole grain is great, but buy what you can afford)

Here’s what you do:

  • Butter both slices on one side; sprinkle the buttered slices with dried herbs. On one slice’s unbuttered side, stack one slice of cheese; basil or spinach leaves; scrambled eggs (spoon gently onto bread); tomatoes; and your final slice of cheese. Top with 2nd bread slice, buttered side out.
  • Heat 1 tsp oil in a small skillet over medium heat. When pan is hot, add sandwich. Cook until pan side is golden brown, about 4-5 minutes. Flip, and cook until other side is also golden brown. Remove from pan, slice along the diagonal, and serve.

Variation Two: DIY Fried Rice – This is great for using leftovers lurking in your fridge. It can also be as gourmet or as simple as you like.

This is you, adding soy sauce LIKE A BOSS.

You’ll need:

  • 1 Master Scrambled Eggs recipe
  • 1 cup cooked rice (type and grain are totally your choice)
  • ½ to 1 cup frozen or fresh veggies (I like broccoli, peas, and carrots)
  • ½ cup cooked meat (chicken, pork, beef), if desired. (Leftover pork chop or steak, perhaps?)
  • 1 tsp vegetable or olive oil
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • Additional spices to taste (salt, pepper, garlic powder, red pepper flakes)

Here’s what you do:

  • Heat 1 tsp oil in a medium-sized sauté pan over medium-high heat (7-ish on your stove dial). When hot, add the rice and frozen vegetables. (If your veggies are fresh, cook them first for 5-7 minutes, or until cooked through to your liking.) Stir the mixture frequently for 3-5 minutes, or until all frozen veggies are warm and rice is heated and starting to brown.
  • Add scrambled eggs, cooked meat, and additional spices as desired. Continue stirring the fried rice frequently with rubber spatula; drizzle with 1 tbsp soy sauce, and continue cooking for another 3-5 minutes. Scoop the mixture into a large bowl, and enjoy.

Variation Three: Breakfast Burritos – This is as easy as it gets. Take a tortilla; fill it with scrambled eggs, deli cheese, salsa, and anything else you feel like adding (whatever’s in the fridge). Give it a quick nuke in the microwave to melt the cheese / reheat the eggs, roll it up Chipotle-style, and you’re off!

Next time in Budget Eats, we’ll talk about making a big batch of something economical – like vegetarian or turkey chili – and storing / freezing individual portions to eat throughout the week. Nom nom nom!