Go-to Dinner Ideas

Let’s share our go-to dinner ideas, the ones we use when we have no time and energy to cook. Mine used to be boiled hot dogs with mashed potatoes but hot dogs cause diabetes, so I gave them up.

The current go-to is the one I came up with the help of my sister who is not into cooking as much as I am into it.

I dump a bunch of vegetables – asparagus, broccoli, baby carrots, Brussels sprouts – into a baking sheet and place them in the oven. Fifteen minutes before they are ready, I put in another baking sheet with one of those slabs of salmon they sell at Sam’s for $16. The salmon doesn’t even need to be salted, so there’s zero prep.

It’s dinner and lunch for two days.

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24 thoughts on “Go-to Dinner Ideas”

  1. I have “quick” meals but they involve some kind of rice/pasta/grain/frozen or preprepped vegetables. I don’t think they fit into your ideas of a meal.

    Ex.
    Breakfast (or whenever):
    1) Put two frozen high protein and or high fiber toaster waffles in toaster according to package directions. I like Vans. Cut 1/2 cup strawberries, handful of blueberries, 1 medium banana and combine. In another bowl, combine 1/8 cup ricotta cheese with drizzle of honey and drop of vanilla extract. Put ricotta mixture on top of cooked waffles, and plate with fruit mixture. Serves 1 or 2.

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  2. Here’s a thought:
    You could use the pressure cooker to cook tough vegetables (kale, but I use frozen spinach) and lentils. That’ll take some of the cooking time off. If you use broth of any kind I would put that in the pressure cooker too. Then you would just add it to your vegetables and protein when you make your soup. Make a big batch, portion it in freezer bags and then freeze the leftovers. To reanimate, defrost in the microwave and then put it on a pot in the stove.

    My mother freezes saaru all the time. [I didn’t give a recipe because it involves ingredients you don’t really keep on hand, like tamarind extract, chilis, split pidgon peas, mustard seeds, these podis which my mother makes a big batch of ,etc.]

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    1. You just put it in the oven at 375F for 15 mins. And that’s it. You can sprinkle some olive oil and put some lemon slices on top if you feel like it but it’s not even necessary.

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  3. Like Shakti, not sure if these fit your diet restrictions, but they are quick and not labor intensive and at least 4 out of 5 members of the family will eat them, which, trust me, is an achievement in its own right.

    a) Savory corn bread: 1 lb of feta cheese, crumbled; 2 cups corn meal; 1 cup flour; 2 cups milk; 1 cup oil; 1 tsp salt; 1 tsp baking powder; 3 eggs. Mix everything together, pour in a (greased) large baking dish (glass preferable) and bake for 35 min at 425 F. We eat it as dinner, often served with a side of pickles or some deli meat.

    b) Lazy pasta Bolognese: 1 lb of ground beef, a few garlic cloves (minced or crushed), fry in a bit of oil. When meat is done, add a couple of teaspoons of flour (like you’re making roux) and add a large can of tomato sauce; mix; add water to consistency. Salt, oregano, and basil to taste. This sauce is done in the time it takes to cook a pot of pasta (you want short pasta with chunky sauces, like elbows or rigatoni).

    c) Beef polska kielbasa with steamed broccoli and/or steamed carrots and/or steamed cauliflower and/or cooked corn. I usually make a simple salad (e.g., a head of cabbage or a head of green lettuce/radicchio/ with some oil and vinegar) and sometimes make instant mashed potatoes or oven-baked frozen fries (if no corn or other starch).

    d) Rice with stir-fry. Stir-fry involves whichever vegetables I have in the fridge and may or may not involve meat (sausage, salami, or ham chunks will do in a pinch); if no meat, usually mushrooms. All fried with very little oil at high heat in a wok. When finished, add stir-fry sauce (I use a tasty store-bought brand, but it could be made at home from a soy sauce and corn flour base if you’re up for it).

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    1. I don’t have dietary restrictions any more! I can eat what I want!! In moderation.

      These sound fantastic. I’ve never made anything like this corn bread, and I definitely want to try.

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  4. // the ones we use when we have no time and energy to cook.

    Cook enough rice with your favorite spices to last a week at least and either buy cooked meat or cook for a week too.
    To be used daily.

    For breakfast, buy frozen baked (not fried!) piroshki with cherries and unfreeze in a microwave. Or reheat the above-mentioned rice with meat.

    Another possibility is buying baked piroshki with meat, potatoes or cheese inside. 🙂

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  5. Chopped up Kielbasas, shredded cheddar cheese, O’Brien potatoes, can of cream of mushroom soup, can of tap water — takes about 25 minutes to chop up and slop together, then just let it cook in the crock pot on “low” for 8 hours. Serves at least four people, depending on appetite.

    If you live alone, divide what’s left after the first supper into single-portion sizes, wrap them individually in plastic wrap, and put them in the freezer to thaw later in the microwave and eat over the next week or so at your leisure.

    Maybe I’m actually a “chef” and not just a “cook,” after all.

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  6. Steam whatever vegetables you have while cooking pasta in another pot. When both are done, drain and toss together with a little olive oil, sea salt, and grated parmesan.

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  7. Most of mine are similar to yours – bake or steam a vegetable (depending on the vegetable) and bake a piece of fish. Slight variation is “fish tacos” which takes a couple minutes more prep. I start by baking some sliced bell peppers and onions. Then I cube a white fish (usually tilapia) and add a ton of spices (paprika, chili powder, cayenne, garlic powder, salt, pepper) and shake them together to coat in a lidded bowl. Add the coated fish on top of the veggies to bake. I usually just eyeball the times, but your numbers seems about right. Serve with tortillas and any other Mexican toppings (cheese, microwaved beans, salsa, etc) and you have easy fish tacos. Though I usually skip the tortillas and toppings when I’m being particularly health conscious – the spices on the fish are usually plenty.

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  8. Y’all are talented, and more energetic than me at the end of a long day.
    My go-to can’t deal with cooking dinner is frozen tortellini with pre-made pesto.

    It’s fast and easy, if not full of healthy veggies.

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    1. UDR- You could steam the frozen vegetables with the frozen tortellini and then toss it with the pre-made pesto.

      I have tried “one pot pasta” recipes [because you’ve still got to deal with dishes afterwards.]. It really isn’t worth it because the pasta turns out to be gummy and sad and it doesn’t keep.

      If you’re going to make rice ahead, just remember to re-heat it in the microwave with a sprinkle of water, cover the dish, and stir halfway through. Rice doesn’t freeze well, and in my experience rice doesn’t really last more than a couple of days even if you keep it in the fridge.

      I don’t recommend pre cut vegetables unless you’re going to use it within 1-2 days, max.

      Clarissa, have you thought of taking some of the stock you make and freezing it into cubes and then putting it into a freezer bag (if you don’t already.)

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  9. What a fun thread. Here are a couple of my go-to quick dishes.

    1) Plain chicken and salad.
    Take chicken quarters (you can also use breast), squeeze some lemon, sprinkle some salt, put in oven. When finished, pull pre-washed spinach out of a bag, toss on two dinner plates, sprinkle olive oil and some nice vinegar directly on top of the spinach (toss in blueberries if they are around), add cooked chicken to the plate. And dinner is done!

    2) A spin on Mexican fideo.
    Chop about three cloves of garlic and saute in olive oil until you can smell it (this happens quickly, add about two chopped fresh tomatoes. Saute until tomatoes begin getting soft and and a bit “saucy”. Take some raw angel hair pasta, break it in half or thirds with your hands and add to saute pan. Saute the raw pasta until bright bright golden. Then add broth: (I recommenced chicken or beef. But vegetable will work too. Just don’t use plain water.) You want to add the broth until the pasta is covered. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat. Just before the pasta is done, add in 2 -3 good handfuls of washed baby spinach and cook. Dish is done when pasta is soft and most liquid is evaporated. (You can also add any vegetables you want to this dish and it all tastes great. I especially like to add summer -type squashes (zucchini, yellow, pattypan) when they are on hand. It may seem like a lot of steps but because it’s angel hair, this dish cooks very quickly and tastes delicious.

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  10. Also, it takes a bit more organization but do you have a slow cooker? They can be wonderful tools. Since I know you like Indian food, I would recommend this cookbook: https://www.amazon.com/Indian-Slow-Cooker-Healthy-Authentic/dp/1572841117 All the recipes are by and large very healthy and they all come out great. (They are also easy to do little variations on if you don’t want spicy food for N or Klara.) I can’t tell you how wonderful it is when I’ve had a long day and I come home to a wonderful pot of delicious Indian food. It’s like somebody gave me a gift. 🙂

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