Sunday, April 4, 2010

(Sort of) Home cookin'

I thought when I moved to a neighborhood filled with little shops and restaurants, I was going to be in takeout heaven. As it turned out, not so much. All the restaurants are overcrowded and overpriced, and the only place with reasonable prices is the supermarket, so I've found myself cooking at home most nights.

Top Chef, I am not. At the end of the day, I'm usually too tired for an elaborate meal, and if I spend more than 30 minutes cooking there's threat of a revolt. Plus I don't have lots of what you chefs might call "raw ingredients."

So I try to be resourceful. Most of the time, that involves a bag of frozen pasta and sauce "for two" (that is usually enough for one), then add frozen meatballs/chicken and frozen vegetables. It all sautees into a reasonable meal for three.

Lately, I've been slightly in love with my $20 crockpot though. That is the ultimate for those of us who can't really cook and don't have much time. I toss in carrots, potatoes, celery, green beans (all vegetables optional), lean beef stew meat, a package of Lipton's onion soup mix, and a cup of water, then I turn on the crockpot and go to work. When I come home, either the house has burned down or I have a delicious beef stew cooked that people comment on (favorably) in the hallway. Pour it on some instant rice. You cannot screw this up... it's not possible!

And the best part is, there's usually tons of leftovers, sparing me having to eat lunch in the hospital cafeteria the next day.

All right, so I've divulged my secret. What is your easy 30 minutes or less recipe?


  1. My pressure cooker rocks my world. 1.5 - 2 lbs chicken breasts, boneless, skinless and thawed. 1 can reduced fat cream of chicken soup, 1 envelope italian dressing mix, 1 bar reduced fat cream cheese.

    Put all ingredients except the cream cheese in the pressure cooker. Add 1/2 cup water and lock on lid. Bring up to the regulator rocking gently and keep at pressure for 15 minutes. Let depressurize naturally. Remove chicken and shred. Add block of cream cheese (yes the WHOLE BLOCK).

    I usually just nuke some broccoli to go along with this, or pour it over bread and add some broccoli. It goes well over rice, too.

    To make it in the slow cooker, just reduce the water to 1/4 cup and premix that with the italian dressing mix prior to pouring it all in. I haven't done it in the crockpot in ages, but I'd guess 8 hours on low or so? Then shred, add block of cream cheese, etc.

    When I can't bear looking at the stove even as long as this takes, grilled cheese sandwiches with a bowl of tomato soup rocks.

  2. My favorite ...anytime we have chicken I save the carcus (whether I've baked the chicken or we've bought a rotis. from the grocery store). I save all of the bones, any left over meat drippings the whole thing. Throw it into a pot and boil the fire out of it, as long as I have but at least 6 hours.
    If I don't have 6 hours the day after I cook the chicken, I throw it into the freezer till I am home for 6 hours.
    Then I let it sit over night in the fridge, the next day strain it and devide into 1 or 2 cup freezer containers
    Chicken stock tastes sooo good when homemade. (I have one friend who asked me if it could be set to cook in a crock pot, dont' know why not. will be trying that next time we have chicken)

    The stock can be used to make soup, boil rice in, throw into any dish that calls for stock.

    10 Can soup is a favorite around here.
    1 can stewed tomatoes
    1 can tomato sauce
    1 can stewed tomatoes and zucchini
    and 7 cans of whatever you want ...corn, green beans, carrots, garbonzo beans, black beans, peas (although I refuse to use canned, here and throw in some frozen)
    whatever floats your boat ..10 cans of veggies ...include the water they are canned in (that makes the soup)

    Sometimes we add hamburger (1 pound) sometimes polish sausage, sometimes no meat ... ground turkey when I can get away with it.

    you'd be surprised at A) how good it tastes and B) how EASY! (heat through and it's done!)

  3. I love to cook. Love. to. cook. Love it!

    I am spoiled because I am on a research fellowship right now, and I have time to do it. But, even tonight with lots of time, my meal took less than 30 minutes, and it was fancy.

    I marinated lamb chops in balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, chopped fresh rosemary, diced garlic and soy sauce. I reduced about 1/4 cup more of balsamic vinegar to a syrup in a small pan over medium high heat, stirring occasionally and with the fan on! Delicious and fragrant but powerful.

    I roasted a orange pepper brushed with olive oil in the toaster oven under the broiler(you can easily substitute a jarred roasted pepper).

    Preheated the broiler of the full sized oven and put a cast iron skillet about 6 inches under it. About five minutes later, I took the lamb out of the marinade and put it in the hot pan with some olive oil.

    I sauteed some sliced red onion in olive oil for a few minutes in a larger pan while the pepper was roasting, the lamb chops were broiling, and the vinegar was reducing, added some garlic and sauteed until it was fragrant. I threw in a bag of baby spinach and stirred it until it wilted.

    Wilted spinach salad - on serving plate. Chopped up roasted orange pepper, fresh tomato, and fresh mozzarella cheese on plate. Put broiled lamb chops over it when they were done, about 10 minutes later or so (I flipped them once). Drizzled with balsamic syrup. Yummm, Easter fancy dinner! (I will be posting pics later on my food blog because I'm a dork like that.

    I don't go all-out fancy every night. I find fish cooks really quickly. Here are two fish recipes of mine: tilapia and salmon.

  4. Heh, I'm in a research fellowship too, which explains how I'm able to post so often :)

  5. I'm in the middle of a divorce. For me, it's either take-out sushi, mexican, or pizza or mac-n-cheese and hot dogs.

    I've discovered some great frozen foods, lately. Sausage and biscuits, and there is an awesome corn dog variation made by Jimmy Dean that is pancakes (corn) and sausage (dog). John loves it.

    I cook a mean breakfast. Biscuits, sausage, scrambled eggs with cheese. Eggs are egg-specially good with honey drizzled all over 'em. I like to add crushed red pepper to mine. Or spicy pecans, homemade by a good friend.

  6. I'm in medical school - and what I have found helps immensely is a freezer group. Once a month, we exchange meals. Granted, you make a ton of the same exact meal - but because I am making 10 of the same item, it doesn't seem to take as long, and it eats up maybe 4-5 hours for me once a month. In return, I get meals that last me more than a month - sometimes I have to back out of the group for a month because we are one of the smaller families in the freezer exchange group.

    I am the only mom in the group who is in school - most are stay at home mothers and 2 others work. It is nice to be part of a group of NON medical related women - they ground me when all my classmates are 20 year old kids who talk about how their mothers come over during exams to cook for them. They forget that I AM the mother in this equation, and I have to feed not only myself, but a family!

  7. My life is nowhere near as crazy as yours, but my "go to" quick fix meal is pasta.

    Basic recipe is 1 box pasta + 1 bag frozen veggies (boil together), drain, add 1 can diced tomatoes OR leftovers OR 1 jar sauce, add a protein, call it good.

    Of course, it makes a million different variations: wagon wheel pastas plus frozen okra&corn, diced tomatoes, link sausage = jumbalaya flavored.

    Elbows + peas + cheese + ham = totally different meal.

    Penne + spinach + alfredo sauce + leftover chicken = another totally different meal.

    There's a book called Saving Dinner that has 30 minute (or less) meals AND it gives you the shopping list for the whole week. It's awesome and written by a nutritionist, too.

  8. I've done this recipe twice in the last two weeks. It makes a TON of food. (A 4 1/2 lb roast fed seven with leftovers!) I didn't add the extra chicken broth. It's juicy enough on its own. I don't have time to mess with taking it out of the crockpot and cooking it in the oven too. I just shredded it in the crockpot and called it good. Also, I did two jars of the salsa verde, and think it still needs some extra spice. Served it w/ tortilla shells, diced up avocado and a little sour cream. Easy and delicious!

    Great find!


  9. Fizzy -- This is a great topic. Do you mind if I post some of my quick go-to meals on my blog? There are really too many to list here.

  10. Whoop,s maybe I blew the semi-homemade theme with my recipe, looking at the other comments. Not that mine was long, but it wasn't basic.

    I have a super quickie five minute salad recipe that I used for potlucks all the time. It's a canned salad. I put in:

    1 can garbanzo beans / chick peas
    1 can hearts of palm, chopped
    1 can black olives, chopped
    1 can artichoke hearts, chopped

    This is the base, and you can just put bottled vinaigrette over it and it's a healthy salad. It is great with any of these optional additions:

    Fresh chopped herbs like basil
    Chopped roasted or fresh bell pepper (that orange pepper I was talking about before was an orange bell pepper)
    Chopped fresh tomato or sun dried tomato
    Spinach or baby greens

    OK, that's a little more like )sort of) home cooking. It's not a dinner, but it makes a good bring- to-work lunch that doesn't need to be heated up.

    And anonymous, the freezer group sounds great! I bought a book called "Make Ahead Meals" when I got into medical school, and I haven't had to use it yet. I am starting clinical rotations in July, so let's see if that all changes soon.

    Gizabeth, I want your eggs with honey this morning. That sounds delish!

  11. Non-doc here, but especially when I was gone for 12-13 hours each day for work, I appreciated doing a "big cook" every 2 months or so. I would take an entire weekend, and just make giant amounts of everything good. Chicken and dumplings, spaghetti sauce, sloppy joe mix, chili, chicken chili, hotdog chili, meatloaf, chicken soup, black bean soup, curried broc soup, orange-baked ham, gumbo, pesto, penne bake, quiche, mashed potatoes... Put everything in individual storage containers, and put it in the deep freeze. Of course, it helps that my husband took complete care of the kids except nursing :).
    I would come home from work, pull something from the freezer, and that was dinner. I took individual servings for lunch. That weekend sucked, but then I didn't have to do it for a long time afterward!

  12. For non-frozen and quick - see You can pick by main ingredient, time of the day, and time to table. The recipe generally begins with one of their soups but then you dress it up with additions and seasoning. One of my son's favorites involves chicken breast - just brown it lightly. Remove from pan, make a sauce with cream of chicken soup and chopped red and green pepper add the chicken back and in a few minutes you are ready to go. pounding the chicken breasts first speeds it up and adding a little very dry sherry to the (any) sauce makes it a little more sophisticated. I generally keep a bottle of sherry in the fridge. If you do this, don't buy cheap cooking sherry. Buy the expensive stuff. It lasts forever at only 2 tablespoons per sauce. After all, all you want is the flavor...

  13. My go to quick meal that even my kids will eat.
    about 4-6 cans of chicken broth
    1 package frozen cheese tortellini
    1 10oz package fresh spinach

    boil the tortellini in the chicken broth. When the tortellini is cooked add the package to the broth. Cover the pot with a lid Let simmer for a minute until the spinach is wilted in. Serve in bowls as a soup and sprinkle grated parmesan cheese over the soup.

    I usually make a "fresh baked" pre frozen crusty bread to dip in the soup. Seriously, it is so fast, it takes longer to pre-heat my oven for the bread then any other part of the meal. LOVE IT!

  14. My go to quick meal that even my kids will eat.
    about 4-6 cans of chicken broth
    1 package frozen cheese tortellini
    1 10oz package fresh spinach

    boil the tortellini in the chicken broth. When the tortellini is cooked add the package to the broth. Cover the pot with a lid Let simmer for a minute until the spinach is wilted in. Serve in bowls as a soup and sprinkle grated parmesan cheese over the soup.

    I usually make a "fresh baked" pre frozen crusty bread to dip in the soup. Seriously, it is so fast, it takes longer to pre-heat my oven for the bread then any other part of the meal. LOVE IT!

  15. My go to quick meal that even my kids will eat.
    about 4-6 cans of chicken broth
    1 package frozen cheese tortellini
    1 10oz package fresh spinach

    boil the tortellini in the chicken broth. When the tortellini is cooked add the package to the broth. Cover the pot with a lid Let simmer for a minute until the spinach is wilted in. Serve in bowls as a soup and sprinkle grated parmesan cheese over the soup.

    I usually make a "fresh baked" pre frozen crusty bread to dip in the soup. Seriously, it is so fast, it takes longer to pre-heat my oven for the bread then any other part of the meal. LOVE IT!

  16. Just realized I didn't post the link to my recipe. :)

    Salsa Verde Braised Pork

  17. Two quick "go to" items for those of us with limited culinary skills and limited time for excessive chopping or prep-work (i.e., me).

    Mexican Chicken

    1 pound boneless/skinless chicken breast halves
    1 tall jar of P.ace Picante Sauce or Salsa(mild, medium, or hot, you choose...we use medium).
    1 package of shredded cheddar or taco cheese (can be reduced fat or fat free, but that does not melt as well)
    Non-stick cooking spray
    Salt and pepper
    Adobo seasoning (optional)

    Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
    Lightly spray non-stick cooking spray on the bottom of a 9 x 11 baking dish.
    Place the chicken breasts in a single layer in the baking dish and lightly season with Adobo, salt, and pepper.
    Bake uncovered for 20 minutes.
    Remove from the oven, pour picante sauce over each chicken breast and sprinkle shredded cheese over the top.
    Replace in the oven and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes (your ovens may vary slightly).
    Serve with pre-packaged boil and serve yellow rice (will also cook on the stovetop for 25 mintues, allowing concurrent cooking times). We prefer Go.ya brand.

    Easy Yogurt Pie

    2 "fruit on the bottom" style containers of yogurt fat free or regular, any flavor will work (I prefer regular Dann.on Strawberry)
    1 package of Cool Whip
    1 ready made graham cracker pie crust.
    6 strawberries (optional)

    Combine yogurt and cool whip ina bowl until well mixed. Pour into pie crust. Let set in the refrigerator for at least one hour. Garnish with sliced strawberries (if desired).

    The pie above is my standard fare for any occasion requiring me to bring food. It is light, tasty, really easy to make and transport, and so far, I have not gotten a bad review yet. :)

  18. Mom TFH, I make that delicious salad for potlucks (and other things) too! The cans of chick peas, hearts of palm, black olives, artichoke hearts... and I often put it over fresh white sliced mushrooms and/or fresh sugar snap peas, and I use a soy-ginger dressing. Yum.

    The other thing here on the home front, I'm a vegetarian and the rest of the family is not, presently.

  19. We love stuffing things. So my goto meals when I get home late are:
    1. TACOS
    lean ground beef, diced tomatos, smashed-up avocado w/ some lemon (or lime) juice, shredded lettuce (only romaine since I need some good greens), and shredded cheese. We'll then sometimes go w/ spinach as well or some yoghurt (instead of sour cream). My kids love it and it takes less than 20min to prepare.

    2. FALAFEL
    our CostCo has these awesome frozen falafel packets you can microwave and I keep some pita bread in the freezer. Bake the pita in a low setting in the oven, microwave the falafel. Then stuff w/ shredded lettuce, diced tomatos, hummus, avocado (b/c we love avocados) and top w/ yoghurt. This one takes even less than 15min.

    These two are perennial favorites and we usually have one of them every week.

    P.s I love all these recipes and have already printed them out for future use. Thank you so much everyone.

  20. We like to stuff things in our famiy so two favorites are tacos and falafel

    lean ground beef w/ some salt and pepper (if I'm feeling up to it, some sauted onions first). Then we stuff the taco shells w/ the beef, diced tomatos, shredded lettuce, some smashed up avocado w/ lemon juice, and shredded cheese. Sometimes we'll add spinach too or use yoghurt instead of sour cream

    our CostCo has these awesome frozen falafel that microwave in a couple minutes. I keep some pocket pita bread in the freezer and thaw in out in the oven on a low setting. Then stuff the pockets w/ the falafel, shredded lettuce, diced tomatos, avocado (b/c w/ love avocados), hummus, and yoghurt (b/c we also love good yoghurt).

    These two meals are always met w/ smiles from my picky eaters and we'll usually have one of them every week.

    BTW, I love all these recipes and have already printed out some of them for future use. Thanks so much everyone.

  21. Anonymous- I LOVE the idea of a freezer group. I'm starting medical school, after just completing a post-bac program. So, I already know some of the other students in my program who I think would be interested. Not all of my fellow classmates cook regularly, as we do. But, they do have a few great dishes that I'd love to have in my house (without having to make them myself!!). I'm going to suggest this when we start school.

    Anyway, here are 3 quick, healthy recipes:

    1. Salsa Chicken
    1 lb. frozen chicken breasts
    1 large jar salsa
    1 red onion (optional)
    1/3 cup water

    Toss all ingredients into a Crockpot/slow-cooker on medium/low for 8 hours (we have a timer on our Crockpot, so we set it to medium for 8 hours & then it switches to 'warm' until we turn it off). The chicken shreds easily & can be used to make taco salad, chilequiles, burritos, tacos, etc.

    2. BBQ Chicken Black Bean Quesadillas
    1 1b. diced chicken (or use salsa chicken from above!)
    1/2 c BBQ sauce
    1 can black beans
    red onion, tomatoes, spinach (whatever veggies you'd like)

    Cook chicken for about 5 minutes in a skillet; add all other ingredients into same skillet & cook until chicken is done. Spoon chicken mixture onto one-half of a tortilla, cover with cheese (we use 2% cheese to reduce the sat'd fat, but still get all the yummy flavor/nutrients), and fold; flip to even out quesadilla. Garnish with avocado for some healthy fat, light sour cream, salsa, etc.

    3. Pesto Pizza Pitas
    6 pitas
    1 can pesto sauce
    1 bag mozzarella cheese
    vegetables (spinach, tomatoes, chopped peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, mushrooms, whatever, etc)
    artichoke hearts (preferably in olive or other oil*)
    meat (optional)
    feta (or other 'soft' cheese; optional)

    Preheat oven to 400. Spoon about 1-2 TBSP pesto sauce onto each pita; cover with about 1/4 cup mozzarella. Top with peppers, tomatoes, artichokes, meat; top with spinach & put feta as the top 'layer'. Bake for about 10 mins.

    *You can then use the oil & any leftover artichokes as a dressing for a salad; just add a balsamic (or white balsamic) vinegar to it for a healthy/easy dressing

    I'm excited to try some of these other recipes!


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