Cooking School: Quick Dinners

It’s 6:15pm, you just walked in the door to your home, you’re starving, and you don’t have dinner planned.  What do you do?

A) Order pizza or Chinese take-out

B) Stick a Lean Cuisine in the microwave and hope for the best

C) Rummage around your fridge, pantry, & freezer and come up with a reasonably healthy and tasty meal.

This happens to all of us from time to time (less if you’re meal planning and grocery shopping on a regular basis, but still – it happens!)  Sometimes you’ve just had a crazy day and pizza or a take-out sandwich is all you can handle.  But I think a homemade meal (that would be C!) can do a world of good for getting me back to feeling normal, especially when I’ve been traveling (or eating out a lot already).  Here are a few go-to meals that can be made with inexpensive pantry or freezer staples.

Stir-fry with noodles

  • Food: spaghetti noodles, some vegetables (fresh or frozen), onion & garlic if you’ve got it, leftover cooked meat (optional), soy sauce, hot sauce if you like spicy food (sriracha is great, but Tabasco or anything hot sauce will do!), vegetable oil.
  • Tools:  Pot to boil pasta noodles, large-ish frying pan
  • How to: Get a pot of water boiling.  While you’re waiting, chop your veggies & meat into smallish, evenly sized pieces (about the size of your thumb).  Defrost frozen veggies slightly in the microwave.  When the water is boiling, put the pasta in to cook, set a timer for 8 minutes.  In a frying pan, heat a glug of vegetable oil over medium high heat.  Cook onions and garlic first, stirring often.  after a couple of minutes, add other veggies, stirring often.  Add meat last, if using.  Strain pasta and add to frying pan, pour in a couple of glugs of soy sauce and a bit of hot sauce to taste.  Stir it all together & eat!

Hearty scrambled eggs

  • Food: 2-4 eggs, any combo of the following: veggies (fresh or frozen), cheese, beans, leftover cooked meat, vegetable or olive oil
  • Tools: Non-stick skillet, rubber spatula (don’t use metal in a non-stick pan, it will flake off the coating!)
  • How to: Scramble eggs in a bowl with a little salt and pepper. Chop your meat & veggies into smallish, evenly sized pieces (about the size of your thumb).  In a frying pan, heat a glug of oil over medium heat. Defrost any frozen vegetables by cooking quickly in the frying pan.  Add the remaining meat, beans or veggies and cook/heat through.  (This is pretty similar to the stir-fry recipe if you haven’t noticed!)  Add egg mixture to pan and allow to cook on bottom (it will turn white or lighter yellow).  Scrape the cooked part off the bottom of the pan and stir, breaking it up.  Repeat “cook a little while then stir” process a few more times, until eggs are almost cooked (not too shiny).  Stir in the cheese & eat!

Popcorn dinner

  • Food: popcorn, cheese, fruit, veggies (drag out those wilty old carrots from the crisper, celery & peanut butter, canned green beans aren’t really that bad!)  You know — eat your food groups!
  • Tools: popcorn popper (or — did you know you can pop popcorn in a plain paper bag in the microwave, without all those sketchy chemicals in the regular microwave popcorn.
  • How to: Eat up!

Welcome to my Cooking School series, which is designed to share what I’ve learned as an experienced home cook with people who want to learn how to cook healthy, homemade food. If you have a topic you’d like me to address, please leave a comment!  I try to post a new Cooking School installment on Thursdays.

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8 thoughts on “Cooking School: Quick Dinners

  1. I like the noodle idea too-I do a quick fried rice sometimes, so it’d be an easy change up. Quesadillas are my go to quick meal with a carrots & and sliced apples for sides (finger foods!). The variation depends on my leftovers…cheese, veggie, BBQ chicken, bean, pizza. On the griddle I can have dinner ready for 4 fast! !

    Congrats on the upcoming birth of baby boy! Will be looking for pics! May be years before I make it back to Spfd (my brother is moving away from there), so we need to meet in Columbia again!

  2. Popcorn dinner, I love it! Our version of “hearty eggs” is egg burritos – which basically means add salsa and wrap in a tortilla. But to me the best answer is when you have option D available: leftovers (either from the fridge or the freezer).
    Michelle recently posted…Second Saturday in JulyMy Profile

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