It is possible to avoid the after-work-urge to cruise through the corner drive-in restaurant. This is especially true if you are armed with the knowledge that there are plenty of easy-to-make meals that come together in just a few minutes.
Experts agree that there are numerous benefits to cooking at home including stress free family time together, substantial food dollar savings and improved meal nutrition. Here are a few tips to make weekday suppers as easy as 1 - 2 - 3.
Tip 1 Plan in advance: Have a weekly meal plan and grocery shop when you have free time. Try not to jam in a stop at the market on your way home from work. Pencil in simple supper recipes on days that you know you will be busy. Save the challenging stuff for the weekends.
Tip 2 Make extra: When you do have extra time to cook, make enough for more than one meal. Prepare foods on the weekend that you can reinvent into a fun meal on weekdays.
Tip 3 Keep the cupboard stocked: Make sure that you keep your pantry stocked with your favorite easy-to-substitute staples. This will allow you to create meals that include whatever fresh ingredients you have purchased with stored preferences.
Tip one - plan ahead. Here's how:
Identify your favorite easy to prepare meals. Take a blank calendar and fill in each day with one meal. Place the easiest recipes onto your busiest days. Reserve more difficult meals and involved desserts for weekends. Try to vary the meals so that you avoid serving heavy foods two days in a row. By the same token, you won't want to eat chicken Tuesday through Thursday. Allow a "day off" for pizza night or dinner out with friends. Shop in advance and make use of perishable items early in your weekly meal plan. Save the pantry specials for the end of the week. Take a look at this easy - yet sophisticated main dish that comes together in minutes.
Simply Sauteed Fish Fillets
There is a basic difference between fish and poultry or meat. The feature of fish is that it is tender before you cook it. Therefore you do not need to make use of a long cooking process that is designed to tenderize or break down the food. You can prepare fresh fish in minutes - translation - fish is a great midweek entrée. For an everyday preparation, simply season the fish with your favorite fresh herbs, lemon or even lime juice. Quickly cook the fish in 1 to 2 tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat turning once. Remove the fish to a platter and keep warm in a low oven. In the same skillet make a sauce for the fish by adding 2 tablespoons chopped green onion, 1/4 cup white wine, 1 cup canned diced tomatoes and 1 tablespoon drained capers. Season the sauce with salt and pepper. Pour the sauce over the fish fillets and serve with a fresh veggie and rice or pasta.
Tip 2 - when you do cook, cook enough for an extra meal.
For example, serve steamed broccoli on Monday and broccoli rice cakes on Wednesday. Make a double batch of chocolate chip cookies and freeze some for next week's out of town business trip. Make extra grilled chicken for your grilled chicken Caesar salad. Days later add strips of grilled chicken to a favorite pasta dish. Look how easy a super salad supper comes together.
Chicken Caesar Salad
Use a grill pan or skillet to quickly grill four chicken cutlets that have been seasoned with your favorite spices. (Try fresh lime juice, dried oregano, salt and freshly ground pepper.) While the chicken cooks, wash and dry a large head of Romaine lettuce. Tear the lettuce into strips and place in a large bowl. Remove the cooked chicken to a cutting board and cut into thin diagonal strips. Add fresh Parmesan cheese and croutons to the salad. Add the chicken and toss with your favorite Caesar dressing. Serve with warmed rolls for a very simple, healthy salad supper.
Tip 3 - keep your favorite pantry ingredients on hand.
For instance, store a jar of sun dried tomatoes packed in oil in your pantry because you can include them into tons of meals. You might also choose to store a jar of roasted red peppers - which are great as a substitution in similar recipes. Stash boxes of dried pasta to use when you create a meal that combines pantry items, extra cooked foods and fresh ingredients. The recipe below is a great example of one that is easily used as a guideline and encourages ingredient substitution. It works as well with just purchased asparagus tips and goat cheese, roasted red peppers from the pantry, and extra slices of grilled chicken. See how you can make the most of what you have on hand with what you have prepared in advance?
Pasta with Broccoli, Sun Dried Tomatoes and Sausage
Steam 2 cups broccoli flowerets in a microwave oven. Prepare 1 pound pasta (like penne) according to package directions. Drain the oil from a 7 ounce jar of sun dried tomatoes. Put the oil in a small bowl. Chop the tomatoes into bite size pieces. Brown 1 pound mild Italian sausage links, sliced into rounds, in a skillet over medium high heat. When the sausage is cooked add the sun dried tomatoes and broccoli to the pan. Drain the pasta and place it into the same pan. Toss well. Add as much of the oil from the sun dried tomatoes as needed to coat the pasta lightly. Toss again. Shave pieces of Parmesan cheese over top. Serve the pasta from the skillet with garlic rolls and a toss salad.
Jorj Morgan is the author of "At Home in the Kitchen: The Art of Preparing the Foods you Love to Eat." For more easy-to-make, step by step recipes visit her website at www.jorj.com.