Quick Easy Meals
For Those Who Don't Like to Make a Meal Out of Cooking
I'll be honest from the start - I don't like cooking. I don't hate it, it's just not something I enjoy so I've become an expert in quick easy meals. I see cooking as a bit of an interruption of my day, so it's something I get done as quickly and painlessly as possible.
Now, don't get me wrong - I love eating. I love good food, and I love tasty, interesting food, so when I say quick and easy, I don't mean fast food or re-heated food. I mean quick, easy freshly prepared, very tasty and reasonably healthy food. ;)
So, the recipes I'm sharing here are quick, easy meals which are also fresh and very tasty - some of them may not sound all that special, but do try them, they are delicious! Enjoy! :)
Ridiculously Tasty Quick, Easy Pasta
This is one of my favourite quick easy meals. And it's one of those dishes that sounds nowhere near as delicious as it tastes! You really do have to taste it to believe it.
Preparation Time: 12 minutes
Cooking Time: 5 - 9 minutes
Effort: More than brushing your teeth, less than dusting
* Pasta (I like to use spaghetti, but you can use any pasta)
* Olive oil (or butter if you prefer)
* Smoked salmon
* Fresh chilli pepper or cayenne pepper
* Fresh baby spinach leaves (optional)
1. Boil the kettle then add the water to a large pot and bring back to the boil.
2. Add a little salt to the water, and once the water is boiling enthusiastically, add the pasta.
3. While you're waiting for the pasta to cook (check the packet - should be about 7 to 9 minutes, unless - like me - you're using "quick cook" spaghetti, which takes 5 minutes), chop the garlic.
4. Drain the pasta, and return to pot.
5. Add olive oil, salt and garlic.
6. Using scissors, cut the salmon into pieces over the pot, then do the same with the coriander and chilli pepper (or sprinkle the cayenne instead)
7. Add baby spinach leaves if you'd like - but the dish doesn't need them, it's only if you want something green in it.
Serve and enjoy.
You could add: chopped black olives; chopped green or red peppers; spring onions/chives, and/or mushrooms to vary the dish.
Image by: Maciej IWinski
Quick Easy Salmon Pasta Tip:
Substitute for fresh coriander - do not use dried coriander, it's a completely different flavor, instead use flat-leaf parsley.
More Tips for the Quick and Easy Salmon Pasta
Although the spicy addition of fresh chilli peppers or cayenne pepper really makes this dish fabulous, if you don't like anything hot or spicy, you could substitute with paprika or fresh, chopped red peppers.
A squeeze of fresh lemon juice adds a yummy tang to the dish. For speed, ease, and looks, you could add a quarter slice of lemon to each plate so people can add their own.
Tools to Make Meal Prep Even Quicker and Easier...
I haven't been a fan of garlic crushers in the past (despite my sister insisting it's the only way to get all the flavor) because they're such a mission to clean! However, this one is a fabulous invention - you can crush the garlic effectively, and then, not only is it easy to clean, but you can use it (being stainless steal) to get the smell of the garlic off your hands! Perfect.
This is another great invention. Although I prefer the Royal VKB above, this is a great option for those who prefer "twisting" to "rolling" - it's also pretty easy to clean - much easier than the usual garlic presses and crushers.
How to do a Roasted Chicken Meal Quickly and Easily
Now, when I say "quick and easy" I'm referring to time and effort spent in the kitchen, not necessarily how long the food takes to cook. The salmon pasta dish above of course involved very little actual cooking time as well as not much preparation, but it takes a little longer for chicken to cook if you don't want it to kill you ;)
Preparation Time: 14 minutes (you'll notice I seldom spend more than 14 minutes on preparation ;) )
Cooking Time: 1.5 to 2.5 hours
Effort: More than putting on a sweater, less than washing the dishes
* Chicken (naturally ;) ) - You can use a whole chicken, or chicken pieces - works the same
* Olive oil
* Black Pepper
* Peas or Green Beans or whatever green vegetable you like
* Baking tray
* Tin foil
* Cooking pot (not deeper than the distance between your thumb and small finger - explanation coming up later)
1. Line baking tray with foil (shiny side up).
2. Place chicken on foil and rub with a little salt and olive oil, and add a sprinkle of paprika.
3. Cover baking tray with foil (shiny side in), leaving space between the chicken and the foil.
4. Place chicken in oven at 200 degrees Celsius (400 deg Fahrenheit or gas mark 6).
5. Check packaging for cooking time guide - I usually do a whole chicken for 2 hours in my fan oven (I like it very soft, and this is how long it takes for it to be very soft).
6. Boil the kettle, add the water to a medium pot and bring back to the boil on the stove.
7. Chop potatoes and carrots into quarters (you can peel them first if you like, but I leave the skins on - it's healthier, adds extra flavor, and of course saves preparation time) and place them into the boiling water.
8. Once you can stick a fork into them, drain them, return them to the pot, and add a little olive oil, salt and black pepper.
9. Using a dish towel, hold the pot closed (thumbs on lid and fingers underneath) and shake gently to "fluff" potatoes.
10. Add potatoes and carrots to baking tray, around chicken (under the foil of course).
12. Go and have a cup of tea, chat with a friend, play online, watch TV, do the ironing... whatever you fancy at the time.
13. Once the chicken's cooking time is up, remove the top foil and leave in for about 30 more minutes - you do need to keep an eye on it at this stage, check it every now and then to make sure it's not going to burn... in other words, now's not the time to go and have a bath - should have done that earlier! ;)
14. While waiting for the browning to happen, add boiled water to a pot and place the greens into it with a little salt. Let them boil until cooked but still firm.
15. Remove chicken from oven, let it stand for a few minutes while you get the plates and silverware out and call everyone to the table... then serve and enjoy.
Quick, Easy Mushroom Tetrazzini
I once worked as a waitress in a vegetarian restaurant, and part of the deal was that the waitresses got to have a meal there after their shift - anything from the menu. I have to say, I became addicted to this dish! This is exactly the way they made it....
Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 10 minutes
Effort: More than peeling a banana, less than vacuuming
* Mushrooms - the Portobello mushroom (also know as Giant Cremini) are best for this dish
* Pasta Shells
* Olive Oil
* Single Cream
* Black Pepper
* Cheddar Cheese
1. Boil the kettle, add the water to a large pot, and bring to the boil again.
2. Add the pasta shells and a little salt to the water.
3. While you're waiting for the pasta to cook, slice the onion, heat a little oil in a frying pan, and fry the onions until juuuust see-through.
4. Chop the mushrooms and add them to the pan, along with a little salt and cook until tender.
5. While you're waiting, chop the garlic and grate the cheese.
6. Drain the pasta once it's cooked, return to pan, add a little olive oil, the mushroom and onion mixture, garlic, cream and black pepper.
7. Just before serving, add a generous squeeze of lemon juice and the grated cheese, and mixed gently. Top with parsley.
Quick, Easy Risotto
This is another of those dishes that tastes soooo much better than it sounds! It's also one that is very versatile - you can make this as frequently as you like, and just keep playing around with the combination of ingredients.
Preparation Time: 14 minutes
Cooking Time: 10 minutes (unless you're using brown rice - I believe that would make it around 25 minutes)
Effort: More than making a cup of tea, less than walking the dog.
* Olive oil
* Baby spinach leaves
* Fresh chilli peppers or cayenne pepper
* Bacon or sausage (vegetarians could substitute with mushrooms)
1. Boil the kettle and add the boiling water to a large pot.
2. Add rice and a little salt to the water, and leave to boil uncovered.
3. While you're waiting for the rice to cook (I use Basmati rice, which I think is the most delicious of rices and which takes 10 minutes to cook) chop onion and add it to a frying pan with heated oil. Then cut sausages or bacon (could use both if you like) with kitchen scissors over the pan, so the pieces join the onion. For the vegetarian version, of course don't do this! ;) Instead, chop the mushrooms and add them to the pan. Add a little salt.
4. Once the onion and meat (or mushrooms) are cooked and browned, set aside, and chop garlic.
5. Drain rice and return to pot.
6. Add onion and meat (or mushrooms) directly from the frying pan, including any juice or oil from the cooking, and the chopped garlic.
7. Using scissors, cut the coriander and chilli peppers over the pot (instead of chili peppers you could sprinkle cayenne pepper - or if you don't like hot and spicy, use paprika instead).
8. Add the baby spinach leaves, toss, and serve.
A Few Ideas for Variations:
You could also add: corn; peas; green beans; prawns; red, green and/or red peppers; mixed herbs; pieces of grilled fish; olives...
Quick, Easy Risotto Tip
* Use some of the left-over chicken from last night's roast chicken meal in place of the sausage or bacon.
* I find the consistancy of the risotto is perfect as it is, and I would definitely recommend trying it like this first, but if you want to, you could add a little more olive oil.
Quick, Easy Steak Meal
Okay, this isn't the healthiest of meals, but it is delicious, and quick and easy!
Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 15 minutes
Effort: More than it takes to get into bed, less than it takes to do a small grocery shop.
* Steak (whichever cut you like best)
* Black Pepper
* Butter (told you it wasn't the healthiest of meals!)
* Green beans
* A little bit of milk
1. Switch the kettle on (with water in it of course ;) )
2. While you're waiting for it to boil, cut potatoes into quarters - or eighths if they're large. (You can peel them first if you like, I leave the skins on as it's healthier, tastier and of course, quicker ;) ).
3. Pour the boiling water into a pot, add the potatoes with a little salt, and cover to boil.
4. Go and put your feet up for 15 minutes.
5. Add the green beans to the potatoes, for the last couple of minutes of cooking time.
6. Once the vegetables are cooked, drain, return to pot, and add some butter, salt and black pepper.
7. Using a dish towel, hold the pot with the lid closed - thumbs on the lid and fingers underneath the pot - and shake vigorously.
8. Put pot of veg to one side, and in a frying pan, heat enough butter to cover the pan when it's melted.
9. Wait until the butter is sizzling hot, then add steaks.
10. Sprinkle salt on top side of steaks, then turn over and sprinkle a little salt on the other side. (You can add black pepper as well if you like)
11. Once steaks are cooked to your liking, serve onto warmed plates with the vegetables, then switch off the heat and add a little milk (very little - maybe two teaspoons) to the mixture left in the frying pan.
12 Stir with a wooden spoon, and pour over the steaks and veg.
How to Make Spaghetti Bolognaise from Scratch, Quickly and Easily!
I was really surprised to hear that many people use a jar of pre-made bolognaise sauce for ease and speed... and yet bolognaise is one of the quickest and easiest sauces to make from scratch - it takes longer to buy the jar than it does to make the sauce from scratch!
Preparation Time: 12 minutes
Cooking Time: 20 minutes
Effort: More than it takes to eat a slice of toast when you're really hungry, less than it takes to get your kids to clean up their rooms.
* Minced beef
* Tomatoes (I use a can of tomatoes, but you can use fresh ripe or sun-ripened if you like)
* Tomato paste (or puree - depending on what country you're living in)
* Olive oil
* Mixed herbs or oregano... or whatever herbs you fancy
1. Chop or slice the onion, and add to a heated pot with a little olive oil. (I understand most people use a frying pan - I find it much easier to make bolognaise in a pot)
2. Once the onion is a little see-through, add the mince and a little salt, and brown.
3. Add half a tube (or a small can) of the tomato paste, and mix it all in.
4. Add the tomatoes and, if you're using dried herbs, add them now.
5. While it's cooking, boil the kettle, add the water to a large pot, and bring to the boil again.
6. Add the spaghetti and a little salt.
7. While you're waiting for the spaghetti to cook, chop the garlic.
8. Once the spaghetti is cooked, drain, return to pot, and add a little olive oil.
9. Add the garlic and any fresh herbs to the sauce, stir, and serve.
Tips for the Bolognaise:
Although the sauce actually only takes about 15 minutes to cook, it tastes better when you leave it simmering for a bit.
Add a little cayenne pepper, chopped chilli peppers or paprika to the sauce for extra flavor.
Chopped black olives are also a tasty addition.
World's Fastest Cooking Segment - Gordon Ramsay and Conan O'Brien Makin' a Mess! :)
Clean Up as You Go? Or Leave it All to the End?
My sister and I have very different styles of cooking. She (being more artistic than me) will use what she needs, and leave everything to clean up at the end. I try and end up with as little to clean up and put away as possible. Which method do you subscribe to?
Do you use as much of the kitchen as possible, and leave all the cleaning to the end, or do you clean as you go?
I like my kitchen to look like Costco threw up in it by the time I've finished.
I Would Jog, But...
Quick, Easy Chicken Cacciatore
This is one of the first dishes I learned to make, and it's amazing how much people love it still. And it's sooo simple and quick and easy!
Preparation Time: 6 minutes
Cooking Time: 20 minutes
Effort: More than it takes to watch TV, less than it takes to fold the laundry
* Chicken (you can use chopped breast, or thighs - whichever you prefer. Chicken on the bone will take a little longer to cook than breast, but is usually tastier.. and ... um.. with a few more calories....)
* Can of Tomatoes (or fresh ripe tomatoes)
* Tomato paste or puree
* Oregano (or whatever herbs you prefer)
* Fresh Coriander
* Black Pepper
* Red wine (optional)
* Olives (optional)
* Mayonaise (optional)
1. Slice the onion and saute in a pot with a little heated oil.
2. Add the chicken with a little salt, and cook until browned.
3. Add the can of tomatoes, oregano, and a table-spoon of tomato paste (and the olives if you're using them), and let cook until soft.
4. While you're waiting for that to cook, boil the kettle and add the water to a pot with the rice and a little salt, bring back to the boil and then leave to simmer.
5. Chop the garlic.
6. Once the chicken is soft, add the garlic and coriander (or flat-leaf parsley if you don't like coriander) - and the wine if you're using it.
7. Drain the rice, add a teaspoon of mayonaise to the sauce and stir, just before serving.
You could serve it with pasta instead of rice. You could also add cayenne or chilli peppers to it, to spice it up a little.
More Suggestions for Quick Easy Meals...
Quick and Easy Cookbook - Over 300 Delicious Low-Fat Recipes You Can Prepare in Fifteen Minutes or Less
Now, this is my kind of recipe book! Over 300 healthy recipes that take 15 minutes or less to prepare - love it! It's full of tips from shopping to cooking and everything in between, to save time. And on top of being fast and tasty, these meals are low fat and low cholesterol too.
I have a friend who actually enjoys cooking. He doesn't cook often, but when he does, he gets a glass of wine, puts on some music, hauls out allllllll the ingredients and lays them out like they do on a TV cooking program... and we eat at 10pm. But hey, he enjoys himself, and as long as I've had something to eat before I go round there for dinner, I'm happy that he's happy. ;)
I will generally spend no longer than 15 to 20 minutes in the kitchen when cooking dinner. Even when I have a dinner party.