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.
First off, can I just say thank you for this great resource you've created. I'm just starting to get into cooking and reading your articles and suggestions is really helping a lot.
I have a question I've been trying to find the answer for but simply can't seem to get a reply from. My family can't eat anything cooked using alcohol, so I was wondering what a good replacement for wine would be in cooking? I realize there's no perfect replacement for any ingredient, but any suggestions would be much appreciated. Any help is much appreciated, and once again thanks a bunch for all these great ideas!
Hi Bisha, if you go to my ingredient substitutions page at http://www.reluctantgourmet.com/substitutions/
I think you will find what you are looking for. - RG
Lois Mc Laughlin
I found your comments on Short-Cut Meals interesting...I have one myself ..as a matter of fact my son visited me unexpectedly last night and I prepared it for him in one half hour....It is pesto linguini with large shrimp. Shrimp is frozen, cooked and ready to eat........ , whole wheat linguini and commercial pesto sauce....Toss all to-gether and serve! Maybe too simple? It is delicious!!!
The best products to enhance any "shortcut meals" and are quick and easy to use are from a small family owned company, Wild Thymes Farm. I love the versatility of their vinaigrettes, marinades and dipping sauces.Â I know you will find them to be an essential part of your pantry - I sure do! Enjoy
Sounds great. I myself was searching your site for a carrot soup recipe. I think I'll try creating one myself with some Fennel. One recipe i found online suggested roasting half the carrots and simmering the other half for more depth. I'll let you know how it comes out!
You have awesome site, very interesting.
Well, I have to try some shortcut meal recipes in here. Quite interesting! thanks for sharing..
I love every recipe you have in this site. Thanks for sharing! My husband thinks I'm a really good cook now...for all he knows.
Thanks Alma, much appreciated!
this is my first time getting in to your site and the recipe seems very nice i am going to try some tonight.
Pasta with a jar of Truffle butter. Top with grated cheese, chopped parsley and bacon. Super simple.
Great ideas Claudia, thanks for sharing.