Monday, May 12, 2014

What works for me: 5 last-minute meals

How was your Mother's Day? I hope it was wonderful! Mine was great!

I've been kind of burned out on menu planning for a while. Too many decisions, not enough time, and most of all, no idea what to make for dinner for one night, let alone thirty.

So we've been doing a lot of last-minute meals lately. Naturally, that's a lot harder than just planning the meals, but I still can't make myself do it. Instead, after the great advice of a friend, I've been relying heavily on the easiest meals I have, especially these five favorites.



"Mexican"

Cook corn, diced tomatoes, black beans, onions, peppers, and garlic with spices (salt, pepper, cumin, basil) to taste. Serve with lettuce, cheese and other toppings on tortillas or tortilla chips.

For some extra flavor, char the corn, tomatoes, peppers and other vegetables. Above, I used cubed sweet potatoes (steamed and then sauteed) and a little pineapple salsa.

Bonus: I often skip meat for this meal, and we hardly miss it. Mexican meatless Mondays ;)

Stir-fry

This is based on a recipe from How to Cook Without a Book, but it's the version I make when I don't feel like pulling out the book.

Heat oil in a wok. Add sliced onions, cooking until they're translucent. Add minced garlic, ginger and chopped meat and cook, stirring occasionally, until cooked through or browned, your preference. Remove from wok. Heat a little more oil. Add chopped vegetables like celery, peppers, carrots, (whole) snow/snap peas, or whatever else you like in a stir-fry. Cook until tender. (If you're really lazy like me, you might use canned meat, in which case, you'll cook that after the veggies.)

You can use soy sauce to season it or make a cornstarch thickened sauce, but then I start pulling out the recipes.

Serve with rice.

Breakfast

Pancakes, waffles, sausage, bacon, eggs, fruit—everything you love about breakfast, only at dinner time!

Frittata
If you've got a lot of eggs and a few other things on hand—for example, when you didn't end up making nearly as many Easter eggs as you were planning—this is a great alternative.

Again, this formula comes from How to Cook Without a Book. You can use all kinds of veggies in this, but my favorites are always ones with potatoes and diced ham or crumbled bacon.

Preheat the oven to 425. In a large, oven-safe skillet, saute the meat first (if raw), then the vegetables. (Cooked meat, like ham or bacon, is added after the veggies have begun to brown.) In a bowl, mix 8-12 eggs, up to 3/4 c cheese, salt, pepper and spices. Pour the egg mixture into the skillet and let cook on the stovetop until the edges are set (about 1 min), then transfer to oven for 10-20 minutes.


Spaghetti
It's hard to go wrong with this favorite! Boil spaghetti, brown ground beef (or skip for a vegetarian meal), warm up a jar of sauce, add spices and combine them all.

If you want to go a little more homemade, saute garlic and onions in olive oil until just tender, then add a can of fire-roasted tomatoes, salt, pepper and basil, and let simmer for 20 minutes. Tasty homemade sauce (via Rachael Ray & 30 Minute Meals AND How to Cook Without a Book).

What's your go-to meal when you don't know what to make?

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