Anne-Marie says: “I’d be interested in hearing your ideas on ‘OMG I have 20 min to make and eat something’ recipes, or ‘I seem to be on the highway, am starving and no end to the errands to do in sight’ solutions….”
Excellent question, I have a few basics I can do quickly. Before I start though, I will state for the record that my husband does the majority of the cooking in our house. I am not a chef, I am what could be best described as an Extremely Reluctant Cook. I know lots of people like my husband who can make gourmet feasts, who can whip up a delicious meal from an seemingly-empty cupboard, people who enjoy cooking and can be considered artists in the kitchen. That’s not me, I am very aware of my shortcomings in the kitchen. So the things I whip up quickly are based on culinary fumbling, low expectations, and are extremely basic.
That being said, I’ve learned to put together a few quick default meals for when I’m stuck cooking for myself without much time to spare. The first point about cooking without a lot of time is that the kitchen has be stocked and ready beforehand. This is part of the planning process, I keep some of the basics on hand so I can whip something up when I need to. Here are the things I try to keep on hand all the time:
-frozen lean meats – pre-cooked and peeled shrimp, chicken breast, etc
-fresh veggies of a wide variety
–Boca patties (more of a last resort)
-a collection of spices
-a collection of sauces and salsas
With these basics on hand, I can do a pretty good fast meal. When I was learning to maintain my weight, I did a lot of experimentation. I had a great fruit and veggie market near my house, so I would make a point to grab items I wasn’t familiar with and try them out. This allowed me to come up with some rules of thumb for cooking most veggies. Here’s my ultra-quick default:
Grab whatever veggies are handy, for example, broccoli, fresh green beans, or asparagus (so many possibilities!) and trim them quickly. Spray the bottom of a skillet with cooking spray like Pam, and heat. Throw the, for example, green beans in the pan once it’s hot, then go mix up some sauce while the veggies start cooking. For a long time I was doing equal parts soy sauce and vinegar, a spoonful of sugar, some corn starch and a bit of water in my sauce. Lately I’ve been making a dry paste by throwing in a half cup of water once the beans a sizzling nicely, then start shaking a Penzey’s spice mix over it till it is good and thick. (I recently received a gift box of mixed Penzey’s spices from a very thoughtful friend as a birthday gift. This was possibly the most considerate and prescient gift I’ve received in a very long time – I am tearing it up trying those spices out on salads, in veggies, in soups, etc.) The sauce thickens up while the veggies cook, I toss in water (only if needed, I like a dry sauce on my veggies that’s more like a paste), throw in a handful of frozen pre-cooked shrimp to heat up, and it’s dinner!
This works with most veggies and meat combinations, or without meat at all. Another option if I’ve got eggs on hand is an omelette. I’m an unrepentant breakfast lover, I’ll happily eat an omelette for breakfast, lunch or dinner. 2-3 egg whites, one whole egg, a handful of diced veggies (tomatoes and basil is a favorite) and a spoonful of greek yogurt or feta on top and dinner is served. A little salsa is also great for topping an omelette. I don’t eat meat with every meal, because I don’t personally crave it much and I don’t like preparing it because I’m not very good at it. I maybe eat it 3-5 days a week, and it plays a role more as a garnish or flavoring than as a main in my meals.
And, as always, if worst comes to worst, I can heat up a frozen dinner or a can of stock-based soup in less than 5 minutes. They’re ready fast and since I only buy entrees or soups with fewer than 300 calories per package, they’re already portion controlled and I know they won’t break the calorie bank. Maybe not my preferred option, nor an every-night kind of meal, but great in a pinch.
On the road, with nowhere to cook and no snacks on hand I’m at the vagaries of what I can forage. Off the top of my head, I know that Subway has some passable quick options and they’re everywhere, if I can find a fruit and veggie market I can grab something to tide me over, and if I have time to stop for dinner I’ll use my restaurant eating techniques wherever I end up.
What sorts of healthy meals do you make when you don’t have much time?