Sometimes there’s just not enough time to do all the things we want to do, and that includes cooking. Things like InstaPots and slow cookers help — if we remember to do all the prep beforehand. However little time we have, we still want to make delicious nutritious weekday meals that don’t include pizza delivery!
People have asked if I always cook multi-step and complicated recipes. The answer is decidedly and absolutely not! I cook tons of simple, quick, and easy recipes — especially back when my kids were in three schools in three different towns! Those days often meant super-fast, super-simple meals. I had one kid in high school, one in junior high, and one in elementary school. Meals were very stressful. One was on a diet, one was always hungry and my youngest ate nothing but pasta. At the same time, I was completing another degree and was constantly working on papers. My poor husband, who shouldered so much of the load, was an absolute self-identified disaster in the kitchen. I had no time to make complicated dinners.
I developed a strategy that was about common sense and getting food on the table. I often gave them their veggies raw with hummus or a yogurt dip when they came home, so the meal was reduced by one item. I also made tons of veggie-based soups that we ate all fall and winter, still more vegetables without cooking another side dish for the meal. By the time the meal was ready, we could have things like chicken fingers with dipping sauces, and sometimes rice or couscous. Later in the evening, the older two could take fruit or a bowl of berries to munch on while they did their homework. I learned that a full meal did not have to arrive on a single plate all at once.
Quick and easy cooking is the survival tactic we all must have when we are hurried and harried and too stressed to read a recipe and follow all the steps. We need an arsenal of quick-to-make dishes and meals to get us through those busy days. I hope these help!
Quick Chicken Fingers (meat)
10 minutes prep, 20 minutes cooking. While the chicken is cooking, make some rice or boxed pilaf, the apricot sauce below and other dips.
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into finger-sized nuggets
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. paprika, divided
1 cup breadcrumbs or Panko breadcrumbs
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with foil, then spray with non-stick spray. Place a sheet of parchment over the foil. Set aside.
Place the oil in a medium deep bowl and set aside. Place the crumbs in another bowl and set aside. Mix the spices in a small cup using half the paprika. Add half the mixture to the oil and mix very well. Place the chicken piece in the oil and use a slotted spoon to mix.
Take a spoon of chicken pieces, let the oil drip back into the bowl, and toss into the crumbs. Mix gently with another spoon and place on the prepared pan. Continue until all chicken pieces have been used. Add more crumbs if needed.
Sprinkle the remaining spice mixture over the chicken and place in the oven for about 20 minutes, until cooked through. Serves 3 to 4.
Orange Apricot Sauce
for Chicken Fingers (Pareve)
1 can mandarin oranges
1 clove garlic
2 tsp. canola oil
1/2 cup apricot preserves
Bottled teriyaki sauce (thick, not liquid)
1/4 to 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 cup orange juice
Drain the oranges and set aside. Reserve the liquid.
Mince the garlic. Place the oil in a small saucepan and heat. Add garlic and stir for 1 minute. Add the apricot preserves and mix well until softened and thinned. Add orange juice and ginger and mix well. Add teriyaki sauce to taste, about 1/2 cup or more. Mix well and bring to a strong simmer. Cook, until slightly reduced and thickened. Taste and add garlic, teriyaki sauce, or even some red pepper flakes, if your family likes heat. Add the oranges and heat through. Use as dipping sauce or pour over the cooked chicken, or pour over rice with the chicken. Makes about 1 cup.
Filet of Sole Parmesan (Dairy)
1 lb. filet of sole, flounder or other mild, thin fish filet
2/3 cup flour
1 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/3 cup canola oil
1 jar prepared marinara sauce
Shredded mozzarella cheese
Grated parmesan cheese
Lightly grease a 3-quart Pyrex dish. Set aside. Preheat oven to 350. Break the eggs into a shallow bowl or pie plate and mix well. Place the flour in another flat bowl or pie plate and add the spices. Mix well.
Place a large skillet over medium-high heat and add half the oil.
Dredge the fish in the flour and then dip into egg. Let excess drip off. Place in hot oil and repeat with more pieces so you have 2 to 4 filets in the pan. Do not move the fish for 2 to 3 minutes, until golden. Carefully flip the fish and cook until golden, another 1 to 2 minutes.
Place the fish in the prepared Pyrex baking dish and finish cooking, adding more oil to the pan if needed.
When the fish is cooked, pour the sauce down the middle of the filets, then sprinkle mozzarella over the sauce. Bake for 5 to 10 minutes, until bubbly and the cheese is melted. Sprinkle with Parmesan before serving. Serves 3 to 4.
NOTE: You can make this with any thicker fish, such as cod or halibut. Bake as you like. For the last 10 minutes, add sauce; then cheese for the last 5 minutes. Sprinkle with Parmesan.
Quick and Simple Salmon Croquettes (Pareve)
My kids still love these! They are simple, not spicy and delicious cold for a lunchbox. The mild flavor appeals to children.
2 to 3 scallions, white and green parts
1 extra-large egg
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 can salmon, liquid and bones
2/3 to 1 cup breadcrumbs
OPTIONAL: Panko breadcrumbs
Coarsely chop the onions and scallions and place in a food processor. Pulse until finely minced. Add egg, salt, and pepper, and pulse to mix.
Pour in the liquid from the can of salmon. Place the salmon in a bowl and remove the bones to the food processor. Pulse to blend. Add the salmon in pieces and pulse once or twice to barely blend. Add the breadcrumbs and pulse once or twice to blend. Let sit for 5 minutes to thicken. If too thin, add more breadcrumbs and pulse to blend.
Form into patties and dredge in Panko crumbs, if desired. Place on a plate.
Heat a large skillet and add canola oil, about 1/4 of an inch deep. When shimmery, add patties into the pan, leaving a bit of space between them. Let cook until deep golden brown. Flip and cook until the second side is golden brown. Makes 7 to 9 patties.