For Nights You Want To Cook But Don't Feel Like It
There are nights I don't feel like working too hard to assemble a dinner for the family. I'm sure every home cook responsible for preparing meals daily feels this way occasionally. That's where shortcut meals come in.
I believe finding "shortcut" meals that you and your family enjoy is an essential part of planning your week's meal schedule.
In my case, I don't usually plan out the week, but it's an excellent idea if you can manage it; I make sure I have enough "shortcut" ingredients in the house at all times.
What do I mean by "shortcut" meals?
These are dinners you put together where one or more ingredients are already prepared, and you build the meal around it. For example, one night this week, I served Ravioli with Carrot Fennel sauce, fresh mozzarella & tomato basil salad, and baby peas for the kids.
Sounds pretty good.
The kids wanted their ravioli without sauce, just a little butter. My wife added some of the peas to the ravioli and carrot fennel sauce, making it a better dish—creating a meal on the fly.
This was a two-ingredient "shortcut" meal. First, the ravioli are a commercial four-cheese brand I purchase in Costco's frozen section. My kids love this brand, and they are pretty good.
As good as homemade? Of course not, but making homemade pasta is time-consuming and not always possible when you rush to assemble a meal in the middle of the week.
Carrot Fennel Soup for My Sauce
The sauce was a creamy Carrot Fennel Soup from Whole Foods on sale that I picked up that day, not knowing what I would do with it. Could I have made a homemade carrot fennel soup/sauce myself?
Sure and I did after I tried this one from Whole Foods and enjoyed but at dinner time, when I had to think of something to prepare, this combination sounded good and turned out to be an excellent choice. (See my carrot fennel soup recipe here)
The fresh mozzarella, tomato, and basil salad were quick and easy, and the peas were frozen and needed to be heated up. The whole meal took less than ½ hour and the family enjoyed what they were served—a success in my book.
So in the future, you will see me post some of these "shortcut" meals. There will even be a category for them.
They are an indispensable part of your cooking repertoire if you cook every night and survive. I also believe in "quickie meals," take-out meals, and going out for dinner occasionally to break up the week.
By the way, a "quickie meal" differs from a "shortcut meal" as it is one step, and you don't prepare the rest of the meal around it. For example, throwing a frozen pizza in the oven is a quickie meal.
Mac and Cheese is another example. Heating up some commercial chicken wings is another. When a babysitter comes over, we usually make these meals for the kids, or they won't eat something I prepared for my wife and myself.
The trick is to have a well-stocked pantry and freezer with products that are quick and easy to prepare, good quality, taste good, and affordable. Over time I will show you some of my favorites and ones that saved me numerous times when I needed to get a meal together in a hurry.
If you have favorite shortcut meals or products you love, please post them in the comments section. I'm always looking for more ideas.