On Fast Food (a call for ideas)

Although I love to cook elaborate meals, there are times when I need (or want) a meal quick & easy. Since traditional convenience foods are basically garbage, I've been working on developing a repertoire of fast real food.

Two mornings a week I work at my husband's business; often, I don't eat before I get the girls out the door and dropped off at camp/school/grandparents. There was a time I regularly picked up breakfast on-the-go (oh, the shame). But now, I pack a quick breakfast if I need to. A favorite: one hard-boiled egg (I keep a bowl in the fridge), fresh seasonal fruit, a piece of whole grain bread spread with homemade butter (I toast it at the office) and fresh-brewed coffee. Another easily-totable breakfast is homemade granola, yogurt & fruit.

I've also been working on developing go-to fast real-food dinners for those nights when "I just can't cook." A regular this summer has been a Rose-inspired meal of fresh gazpacho and a fritatta. The one above is filled with roasted veggies and goat cheese. Coupled with a buttery chardonnay, it tastes near gourmet and is ready in a flash (this dinner is fastest when you use gazpacho made ahead of time & leftovers as filling for your fritatta).

It's not so much coming up with ideas for fast meals that is challenging, it's the execution of quick meals made from real food ingredients (seasonal vegetables & fruits; fresh eggs, dairy & meat; minimally processed whole grains) that typically take an investment of time to prepare. I've acquired and implemented a few tips...
  • Make double recipes of meals and freeze half for later
  • After shopping, clean & prep produce and store it for the week for easy access
  • Make a big batch of things like soup and granola for quick meals & snacks throughout the week
  • Use the seasonal things you've preserved/frozen in quick meals (think canned or sundried tomatoes on pasta; or pureed frozen berries or jam on pancakes)

...but I'm in search of more. What are your favorite fast real-food meals? What tips & tricks do you use? I'd love to hear your thoughts...


SwedeLife said...

I have the same problem, for me it is mostly at lunch.

My quick ones are

A can of cannelini White Beans with butter and sage, or with basil, tomatoes (fresh or canned) and sniped basil. or just with canned tomatoe sauce and parm. You can grate zuchini into it too.

Sandwich maker (like the sandwich press) hot cheese sandwiches with tomato soup (open can and mix with milk or cream and some onion, garlic, and celery salt and basil if you are in the mood)

Curry chicken Salad - keep cooked chopped chicken on hand or in freezer, or bake some chicken breats. Toss with curry powder, plain yogurt, raisins, apples, cashews, celery, and eat over salad greens with any other veggies on hand.

Hummus and red peppers or chips, or in a whole wheat tortilla with lettuce and tomato for a wrap. I have a small food processor that makes this easy, it is just the right size for one can of beans. One can garbanzos, one spoon of tahini, one garlic clove, a squirt of braggs aminos or soy, and a teasppon or two of lemon. Add fresh basil and coriander powder if you have some for a variation.

Dahl. Red Lentil Dahl from Shoshoni cookbook .... no quick link but red lentils cook very fast and with some indian spices and a pan of rice are not hard to pull off. I cook papadams in the microwave and serve with mango chutney.

for the kids, Noodles with cream and parm, and whiz cottage cheese and a pack of frozen spinach defrosts and sqeezed in blender. Add basil or pesto if you like.

Pasta salad, ziti, sun dried tomatoes in oil, sliced black olives, chopped red pepper, small bits of chorizo, cubes of parm, and white beans with some itailian dressing or oil vinegar and fresh italian herbs.

If you have those chicken slices frozen or on hand, Chicken cesear salad is easy. My kids will eat that.

I am in Sweden, meatballs are always on hand so the kids can eat rice and meatballs and red peppers if they do not like what we are eating.

Stir fry or fried rice. Put the rice on and chop whatever veggies and protein you have and stir up with some soy, honey, garlic and ginger for teriaki. Rice noodles cook quick and are good with stir fry. Mix with left over rice and and egg for fried rice.

Look forward to seeing what else!!

SwedeLife said...

Oh, and get yourself in the protein smoothie habit if mornings are busy. I like to get something in my stomach in the morning but am not always ready for breakfast yet. Protein powder (egg white or whey) plus peanut butter and milk and stevia, or frozen banana protein powder and peanut butter fills you up for a long time and gets your metabolism kicking in . The key is a hand blender of shaker so the clean up is not too invloved so it is truly quick, then you can drink on the way to your day.

Liz ~ A Natural Nester said...

Wow, SwedeMama! This is great stuff... thanks for the input. Definitely, those protein smoothies should be on my list. And I love the idea of a white beans in butter or tomato sauce.

Lunch is somehow easier for me; I eat lots of salads (veggies prepped earlier) or leftovers remade in some fashion. I love just pulling out a handful of random items in my fridge and making it into a lunch...

Rose said...

Wow, those are some great ideas, SwedeLife! I'll come back and post when I have more time...

Glad you liked the gazpacho and fritattta/omelet combo. For me, eggs and tomatoes just belong together.

SwedeLife said...

Happy to talk food. Another great technique is to make one or two big cold salads to keep in the fridge for the week for back up food, lunch, sides, or combo plates. Moosewood daily special is a great cookbook for ideas like that. LOoooove that book, my favorite of my moosewood books as it is all soup and salads. The curried rice salad, kale salad, and louisiana black pea salads from that book are so yummy to have on hand they will make your fridge look like the deli counter at whole foods.

Hullabaloo Homestead said...

We struggle with this too. We are vegan and gluten free, so there is virtually very little, if ever, fast ness to our meals. A lot of times we just do steamed veggies over rice pasta or quinoa over a big salad made with lots of veggies. Sometimes it just has to be easy!


Dree M said...

I have to agree with the red lentils. They are a favorite here. An onion, some garlic, red lentils, a can of coconut milk, a can of diced green chiles (unless I have a fresh peeled one here, which does happen!), some turmeric and salt. Yum! Add a side of sliced raw cucumber and whole wheat toast.