Pasta is about as close as you can get to "instant dinner." But instead of just adding a jar of sauce to the pasta, add in extras from the pantry and freezer for a more unique dinner.
- Use tomato sauce, cream, and stock as a base for pasta with frozen vegetables and leftover chicken.
- Use a can of tuna, chicken stock, and cannellini beans for Pasta y Fagioli, or make a Southwest-style pasta with black beans, chiles, and diced tomatoes.
- Sun-dried tomatoes, mushrooms, and any fresh or frozen vegetables can be sauteed together and tossed with pasta.
Stir-Fry on the Fly
Thinly sliced meat, some fresh vegetables, ginger, garlic, and rice are all you need to get a great stir fry for dinner. In the time it takes to cook the rice, everything else can be prepared and ready to go.
- Slice and chop the vegetables and any meat.
- Mince or grate garlic, ginger, and scallions together, then add to the stir fry just before it is done.
- Scrambled eggs, peanuts, or cashews can also vary the texture and flavor if added.
- Keep soy sauce and sesame oil in the pantry for great stir fry flavor.
You don't need to resort to canned soups for a quick meal. Homemade soup is the original one-pot dinner. Make them as thick or thin as you like, with almost any ingredients.
- Saute the aromatics (onions, carrots, celery, leeks, bell peppers, etc) in oil or butter.
- Add any meats or longer-cooking ingredients and saute.
- Use stock, milk, cream, or any liquid you choose to turn the soup into a meal.
- Adjust seasonings to taste and serve.
To go along with soup, what could be better than a sandwich? Change up those regular cold cuts by grilling the sandwich. If you have a panini press, by all means use that, otherwise, use a pan on the stovetop.
- Select meats, cheeses, bread and vegetables for the sandwich.
- Butter the outside faces of the bread, or spray with oil.
- Heat a skillet on medium-low heat. A cast-iron pan is perfect for this, as it retains heat well and can toast the bread perfectly.
- Cook on the first side for five minutes, or until the cheese starts to melt. Make sure the burner is low enough the bread doesn't burn. Flip, and grill for three to four minutes more.
Store-bought or homemade, pesto makes weeknight dinners a breeze. Add basil, sun-dried tomatoes, or olive pesto to pasta, fish, chicken, or pizza dough for an easy meal.
- Heat up the pesto, mix with cream, and toss with your favorite pasta and a small amount of the pasta water (1/4 cup or less is fine).
- Broil lightly marinated chicken breasts or fish, then coat with pesto just before they are finished.
- Make your own pizza dough, or use a pre-made pizza crust, and use pesto instead of regular pizza sauce. Chicken, cooked shrimp, goat cheese, or vegetables all make great toppings.
Speedy solutions for the dinner rush: