For Nights You Wanna Cook But Don't Really Feel Like It
There are nights I just don't feel like working too hard to put together a dinner for the family. I'm sure every home cook responsible for preparing meals every day feels this way once in a while. That's where shortcut meals come in.
In fact, it's my opinion finding "shortcut" meals that you and your family enjoy are an essential part of planning out your week's meal schedule.
In my case, I don't usually plan out the week but it's a really good idea if you can manage it; I just make sure I have enough "short cut" ingredients in the house at all times.
What do I mean by "shortcut" meals?
These are dinners you put together where one or more of the ingredients is already prepared and you build the meal around it. For example, one night this week I served Ravioli with a Carrot Fennel sauce, fresh mozzarella & tomato basil salad and baby peas for the kids.
Sounds pretty good, yes?
The kids wanted their ravioli without sauce, just a little butter. My wife took some of the peas and added them to the ravioli and carrot fennel sauce making it a better dish. Kind of creating a meal on the fly.
This was a two-ingredient "short cut" meal. First, the ravioli are a commercial four-cheese brand that I purchase in the frozen section at Costco. My kids love this brand and they really are pretty good.
As good as homemade? Of course not, but making homemade pasta is time consuming and not always possible when you are rushing to put a meal together 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 was going to do with it. Could I have made a homemade carrot fennel soup/sauce myself?
Sure and 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, basil salad was quick and easy and the peas were frozen and just 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 be seeing me post some of these "short cut" meals. There will even be a category for them.
I think they are an indispensable part of your cooking repertoire if you are going to cook every night and survive. I also believe in "quickie meals", take out meals and going out for dinner once in a while to break up the week.
By the way, a "quickie meal" is different from a "shortcut meal" insofar 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 another. These are usually meals that we make for the kids when a baby sitter is coming over 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 have saved me numerous times when I needed to get a meal together in a hurry.
If you have a favorite shortcut meals or products you love, please post it in the comments section. I'm always looking for more ideas.