18 December 2008

Best, fast, from-scratch meals

My kitchen in the late afternoon.

Hanno and I were out free ranging yesterday. I wanted to have a day off. It was the first day of my 3½ weeks holiday. The Centre will close on Friday for three weeks and apart from Hanno, Kerry and I helping out at the Christmas breakfast, I have no away from home work to do until mid-January. My plan was to have the morning out, then return home to knit and watch the cricket. I should know by now not to make such plans. ; - )

Early in the day, before what I expected to be big crowds of Christmas shoppers, we travelled over to a nearby town to do the shopping. I wanted to buy a cookbook for my son, meat for Christmas lunch and sewing supplies for me. I bought Crust: Bread to Get your Teeth Into which is a very good all-round book on how to make all manner of interesting yeasted breads and sourdoughs. I'm going to try some of his recipes and I'll pass on those that work well. We had to go to the mall for the book and I was surprised to see less people there than I expected. Anyhow, I got my fabric and some buttons and we called in at the butcher shop on the way home.

Great, that done, now for the cricket! Driving down our street, Hanno stopped to speak with our electrician who was working two doors up. He asked if he could come and finish off the work he started at our place last week. Pffffffft there goes the cricket. I ended up doing a little bit of work on the book.

It's strange how the mind works sometimes. By the end of the day, when the workmen left, I didn't feel like making dinner for us so after looking in the fridge we ended up having leftover potato salad, from the night before, with a toasted cheese, tomato and onion sandwich each and a cold drink. Often, my standby can't be bothered meal is pasta from the pantry with a quick sauce, but I didn't want to boil water for some reason, so sandwiches it was.

While I assembled that meagre meal I wondered what my friends out in blogland would make for a quick and easy meal at the end of a busy day. I think it would be a good idea for us to share our best, quick, cooked from scratch meal. Gone are the days when we run out to buy takeaway or convenience food. Remember, in keeping with our cook from scratch focus, all these recipes should be made using fresh food or pantry staples with no cans of soup or anything with preservatives in it. It can be healthy AND fast. I'll devote tomorrow's post to compiling what you give me so all of us will have an easy to print out collection of fast recipes. I'll add a couple of my favourites and we'll see what you come up with. So thinking caps on ladies and gentlemen, it's over to you.



  1. I had one such dinner myself last night. Ballet rehearsal's until 5.30 and then battling the traffic all the way home (45 minutes) didn't leave me in the mood for cooking the shepherd's pie I had planned, so we had Fried Rice instead. Just boil any amount of rice (takes 10 minutes so you can do your other ingredients while waiting), if you want meat, chop it up small and cook in a pan with onion and garlic and ginger (if you have it). Add whatever vegetables you have on hand - I had some frozen beans/corn/peas, broccoli, a grated carrot, splash in some soy sauce and heat in the pan with all the other ingredients. Fry some lightly beaten egg and water and add to the top of the fried rice. If you have walnuts, they're good too. It's really quick, easy and yummy!
    Have a good day, Rhonda.
    Rachel L

  2. Hello Rhonda! I've been enjoying your blog silently for a while now, and I really enjoy it enormeously. Your posts are always beautiful and inspiring, and the pictures of your home look like just that - home! Well, that said, I'd like to share my own "from-scratch" meal. I work parttime, and on work-days am often so totally tired out that I can't be bothered cooking. Usually I cook for two days the day before, but if for some reason I fail to do so, here's my safety-net recipe. I suppose it's kind of gross, but I grew up with it and have retained a perverse liking for it.
    I take slices of bread (this is a good one for using up old bread - you won't notice the stale taste once it's done), about 3 or four per person, and cover them with any kind of cheese I have at hand (if it melts well so much the better). Pop into the microwave until the cheese is all bubbling, take out and cover with ketchup. Voila! It sounds less than inviting, but it does taste good, and takes all of 3 minutes to prepare.
    Best wishes, Claudia

  3. My quick and easy meal is hamburgers. I always have some mince in my freezer made into hamburgers (just mince and onion a bit of bread crumbs and an egg). You could put whatever you like in the mince to your families liking and flatten them out and freeze them so you can separate the amount you need for your meal. Cook on the bbq or get your husband to cook them on the bbq while you get the tomato, lettuce, beetroot, anything you prefer could include egg, cheese, pineapple, bacon and sauce.

  4. Good old reliable Frittata. Our eggs and what ever veges I grab from the garden Shallots, Zuchini, Carrot, silverbeet even some corn cobs and I take the nibblets off and add them. Served with the ever present slads I make sure I have ready all summer.

  5. This is my tasty, simple, go-to meal for times when I'm not inclined to cook anything complicated. It's fast, nutritious, and surprisingly tasty.

    Chop up one medium onion and a few tomatos. Toss into a pot with eight cloves of chopped garlic, two cups of dried red lentils, and six cups of broth. Leave the whole thing to cook for 30 minutes at medium on the stove. Stir occasionally to make sure that it’s not sticking or burning. After 30 minutes, add two and a half teaspoons of cumin, some fresh-ground black pepper, and chili flakes to taste. This is good as is, or you can add in one and a half cups of chopped cabbage or other greens, one cup frozen corn. In either case, let cook for another 15 minutes and then serve.

  6. we also had a "can't be bothered" meal here last night -- my oldest standby is to slice up whatever produce i have on hand & give it a quick saute, and top it with a sliced fried egg and a bit of good cheese. very quick & healthy, and soooo tasty. last night's combo was broccoli, brussels sprouts, garlic & some frozen corn; really i use whatever i have available. for some more variety it can be served over any starch (couscous, quinoa, brown rice, etc). another staple of mine, even more can't-be-bothered, is simply a fried egg on toast, typically gussied up with some veggies & cheese.

  7. We too had one of those nights yesterday! Must be going around.

    One of our favorite quick dinners is making up a batch of organic black beans which we buy dry in bulk from maryjanesfarm.com. Reconstituted with boiling water, and served with left-over brown rice and a sprinkling of shredded cheese it is a delicious and nutritious meal. We had some home-made salsa and left-over greens on the side.

    We've used the beans on tortillas when we have them, with a quick pan of stone-ground corn bread (a really short baking time) or even all by themselves for a good portion of legumes. A very valuable staple in our pantry.

    We also really enjoy sesame kale. We rinse, rough chop, steam for about 5 minutes until softened but still bright green and then saute in olive oil for about a minute whatever kind of kale we have from the garden or the farmstand, then we toss in about 2 Tablespoons of sesame seeds, 1 teaspoon of brown rice syrup, 1 teaspoon of sesame oil and 2 teaspoons of rice wine vinegar. Heat for another minute or so, until most of the liquid has cooked off and enjoy. They are delicious as a side, or served with brown rice or noodles, or featured as the whole meal. They are very nutritious and delicious prepared this way. And under 20 minutes to prepare from start to finish.

  8. Our favorite is grilled cheese, we always have local cheese and homemade bread around. If we are in the mood we'll steam whatever vegetables we have around or roast up potato wedges. The potatoes take a little while but require little effort.

  9. Cheese on toast, under the grill until melted but not too much, then splash or Worcester sauce. Delicious!

  10. French toast...Egg bread whatever you like to call it,
    Whip eggs and cream and soak /dip each slice of bread heat pan with plenty of butter and fry...
    Can serve sweet with Maole syrup or savoury as is or with chickenor onion salt or good old tomato sauce.
    My Kids love this brekky.lunch or tea.
    Or what we call breakfast in a pan.
    Fry up,mushrooms zuccini tomatoes or whatever comco you like and crack eggs over top whilst on heat and then serve with hot buttered toast!

  11. Oh I can think of dozens but thought I would pop back with one though it involves a can of baked beans.
    Steam whole jacket spuds,I do in the microwave,Split and fill with the beans and top with grated cheese.
    This is filling and nutricious,
    You can also dress it up more by microwave together Bacon and onion together to add to the topping and even a dob of sour cream.

  12. Pasta is my quick-fix. Whatever pasta I have in the drawer, with half a bottle of passata (pureed tomatoes from a bottle- is that OK?), and a tin of tuna or salmon. Its a pretty bad night if I don't chop in an onion and some garlic. I have Italian parsley, oregano and basil growing so a combined handful and there you go.
    I've also found that sometimes I can push through that "can't do it tonight" mental barrier by putting on some music & putting the brain in neutral- ie. don't think about it, just do it. ;-)

  13. Hello Rhonda,
    What a wonderful idea - I'd love to add to this because I love quick meals and appreciate all the ideas that are coming though. One quick and easy meal I like is simply get a pot boiling with water - add some salt to it. Then chuck in a head of broccoli that has been slightly chopped. Once cooked which will only take a few minutes, drain and sit aside. In the same pot don't drain out the water but chuck in some spaghetti pasta. While that's cooking separate the broccoli a bit with a fork and add a little butter a mix around (maybe a teaspoon is enough). Once the pasta is cooked drain and toss the broccoli though and drizzle with olive oil. Top with cheese if you like. This is so simple and tastes so yum! I'm sure it'd work with other veggies too :)

    Thank you for such a wonderful and inspiring blog. Today I plan on starting my 2 lists - one to complete this year and my goals and plans for living more simply next year. I have time off work visting my parents on their farm after Christmas so I will have time to really stop and think and plan for the year ahead. Thanks again Rhonda!

  14. Late this summer, when the tomato harvest was at it's peak, I oven roasted dozens of my heirloom tomatoes. When they had cooled a bit, I pureed them in the blender and put them in freezer containers for winter. Now, when I am just not up to cooking, I take one out, simmer on the stove, add a carton of chicken stock and we have the freshest tasting tomato soup ever. For real decadence, add a slosh of half and half, or a dollop of sour cream. Might make a grilled cheese sandwich to go along with the soup...or I might not!

  15. Rhonda, I have lots and lots of quick healthy whole foods meals. The quickest of ALL for me though is just bread pizzas. I slice my homemade bread, put some tomato sauce or diced tomatoes (and wish they were from MY tomatoes instead of the store) put some grated cheese and whatever veggies I have and just pop in the oven. Takes me minutes and is delicious!

  16. Noodles & sauce. I boil pasta & make the sauce with canned tomato sauce fixed up with fresh garlic, basil, oregano. I used to use bottled spaghetti sauce, but since reading your blog I started using plain tomato sauce & fixing it up myself. We always have fresh parmesan on hand, so I top it with that. Fast & good!

  17. Oh wow, such a lot of great idea so soon! Thanks everyone, please keep them coming and we'll make a wonderful resource for all of us to use. I'll also plant the link to the post on the main page for easy reference.

  18. Good morning Rhonda,

    It's Peas with Pasta for us. (really easy)

    Cut up a couple of tomatos an onion and some bacon or ham (optional)
    Put a little olive oil in a saucepan and add the above and cook. You may need to add water as you are making a quick sauce.
    While this is cooking put some pasta on to cook.
    When pasta is cooked, drain and then add tomato sauce .
    Add a cupful of frozen peas and mix them through. The heat from the pasta will cook the peas.
    Serve in a pasta bowl with grated cheese on top.

    Blessings Gail

  19. Hi Rhonda,

    Mine probably isn't very healthy, but it sure is good!

    I cook up some angel-hair pasta. In the meantime, I chop a handful of parsley, a tomato or two, and when the pasta is done I combine with the veggies and drizzle olive oil over it. Sprinkle some salt if it needs it and a pinch of pepper, and voila! Pour yourself a glass of wine and enjoy.

  20. Easy I always have bags of ratatouille in the freezer ( I make it from our garden, line a plastic container with a plastic bag pour it in freeze it - the plastic bag then stacks neatly in the freezer )

    So our standby meal is ratatouille heated in the microwave, couscous and salad from the garden.


    I slice some bread rub it with garlic and pop it in the oven until crunchy and have that with ratatouille on top (and natural yoghurt)


    frozen chips with ratatouille and natural yoghurt.


  21. Take 4 slices of bread and toast on one side, grated cheese, ham if you have it. Butter 2 slices of bread on the toasted side, put the ham, add mustard if you like it, spread the grated cheese on the top and slide the two pieces back under the grill. when the cheese has melted, put the other two slices toasted side down onto the cheese, allow the one side t toast and then using a fish slice turn the sandwich over and toast the underside.......serve with a side salad if you can be bothered....known as croque monsieur in France, taost ham and cheese snadwich anywhere else. Makes a fast nourishng, filling replacement for a meal if you just cannot be bothered to cook.

  22. Probably my fastest is couscous salad - I chuck some dried fruit, frozen peas, a little bit of garlic, olives, sundried tomatoes, pine nuts, baby spinach, cooked chickpeas if I have some in the freezer - anything which doesn't need cooking (defrost anything frozen first). I add 1/2 cup couscous and a bit of butter, season with pepper and maybe some spices, pour over 1/2 cup boiling water and leave for five minutes.

    This makes a substantial side for two adults and two kids, or add some more couscous and make it a main meal.

  23. I have a young child and last minute dinners are quite common for me. I try to make some mini-meatballs in the freezer - made with local pork and beef, breadcrumbs, garlic, onion, and seasonings and freeze them raw into tiny meatballs. Then I can make pasta with meatballs, quick soup with meatballs, pasta, and kale, or just plain meatballs as a little side dish. I tried this with lamb once and it worked well for gyros. I also try to make buttermilk biscuits and then freeze the dough once it is rolled out and formed, and homemade buttermilk biscuits with honey or jam is wonderful especially hot out of the oven. Either of these isn't quick since you have to plan ahead of time, but one day of work allows me at least a month of quick meals!

  24. tomato pasta: Fry onion and garlic
    (and bacon, sometimes), add chopped peppers and mushrooms if available, add tin of chopped tomatoes and basil; simmer until thickened, maybe 10 minutes.
    Meanwhile boil pasta, drain, add sauce, top with grated cheese.

    My other standby is the same, but with beef mince, made in huge quantities and frozen in portions. We have it on pasta or with baked potatoes, done in the microwave.

  25. I typically have something I can pull from the freezer and microwave, soups, casseroles and that sort of thing. If I'm not in the mood for any of that it's either what can a forage to stuff into a tortilla or make a Fritatta. Both are easy and quick.

  26. One of our favorites is toasted mushroom sandwiches. Slice some mushrooms and an onion(thinly sliced) and saute until done. Take some homemade bread and spread some mustard on each slice place mushrooms,onions and some cheddar cheese on the mustard side of the bread and then butter the outside of the bread and cook like grilled cheese sandwiches until bread is toasted. Serve with a simple Greek salad of feta cheese,cucumber,tomatoes,bell pepper,onions,olives and vinegar,olive oil and whatever spices you have on hand.

  27. I tend to search the fridge for 'remnants' and make a frittata type meal. I tend to just throw in all the bits that need using up, ham, peppers, bits of cheese, anything that will taste good.

    If I feel like putting in a little extra effort then I will add small salad potatoes that are thinly sliced or just boil them and serve them on the side with a bit of butter and herbs. The best thing is that the kids can now cook frittata when I'm having a bad day, I have poor health, and it's always good.

  28. I have a few don't feel like cooking recipes. I'm Italian so pasta is always a staple. If I'm feeling really lazy it's any shape cooked pasta with butter and parmesan cheese. If I'm feeling a bit more enthusiastic then I sauté mushrooms, minced garlic, Italian parsley and mix in the cooked pasta, again with butter and parmesan, hold back some of the pasta water because if the pasta is too dry just add a little pasta water to make it saucy. Don't have mushrooms?? I've used broccoli, green beans, zucchini, asparagus, or a combination of whatever is in season or whatever I grew and froze. I do the same thing with risotto, just add whatever veggie is available, substituting barley for risotto also works well.
    I have chicken broth in the freezer so veggie soups with some type of carb like pasta, rice or barley is really easy and fast.
    I always have salad fixings of some sort and add a salad to any of the above to complete the meal.

  29. My first thought was quesadillas. Pop a tortilla in a skillet, spread on some shredded cheese, fold it in half and flip it after a bit to brown the other side. It's probably not the healthiest thing in the world. But it can be filling if you throw in some leftover chicken, beef, beans, etc. seasoned with homemade fajita seasoning.

    We (even my children) generally call those nights "scavenge nights."

  30. Wow- these comments are as useful as a month's worth of blogs! Thanks!

  31. Hello, so I'll add in with these wonderful ideas.
    so fast and easy and healthy...
    Basmati rice, sushi and jasmine are all staples here, as is chicken broth or beef broth saved from roasting. Veggie broth (roasted root) is also useful to keep on hand.. by boiling my rice in a broth It gives it a lot of good flavor. So I then will add in the left over meat and veggies in the refer.
    By keeping a good variety of herbs and spices available I can take this into any culture. For I use the interest in culture to whet my appetite.

    Spanish rice: Jasmine rice, beef broth or use basil,add cumin and cayenne pepper with beef scraps and diced green onion

    Asian: us a soy, tamari with five spice, chicken goes well with bok choy or snap peas and carrots.

    Far eastern...Use a curry with chicken,lintel,peas carrots and such

    European: Use chicken or shrimp, shushi rice, with a savory of basil and thyme... Diced tomato broccoli Rab, garlic onion.

    Polynesian: Use a Basmati rice, pineapple, mandarin oranges (canned), snap peas, add brown sugar and ginger and clove.

    Cajun: use a jasmine rice...jambalaya by adding these types of things cooked smoked kielbasa, shrimp or chicken. Make it spicy with red pepper flakes,sage is good here. Diced finely greens can be added. Corn.

    Re fried pinto beans)I make mine ahead in the blinder.Basmati is a nice full bodied rice,a beef base with cumin, chili pepper, Taco type seasonings

    Put your rice and broth(herbs toward the end) on to boil while your veggies and seasonings are being gathered.
    If veggies are added in the dish good if not as a side dish, green beans from the garden or corn and the like. Kids eat it all up!

    Super 45 minutes to table. Or less.
    When I am above the day, I cook rice and freeze it in family size packages.
    Each of these has additional spices in them but for brevity I listed these.

  32. Hi! Great idea for a compilation of recipes. I'll be back soon to print them! Thanks to all who are sharing.

    Mine, well, I have a few.

    Quick defrosted (microwave) chicken breasts, pounded, and stuffed with leftover veggies, ham, cheese, etc.

    Clean out the Cupboards Pasta Toss: Toss your favorite pasta with fresh, frozen, or leftover veggies, plenty of Parmesan, roasted red peppers, leftover meat, you name it. Yum!

    Toasted ciabatta bread topped with roasted asparagus spears, poached eggs, and fresh Parmesan cheese.

    The Old Standby: Breakfast for Dinner. I make my own pancake/waffle mix and always have it on hand. Or I cook double batches when we have them for breakfast and just reheat. We also like eggs, bacon, cereal, French toast, fritatta, etc.

    We love sandwiches at our house. Cheese toast dipped in tomato soup is a favorite. I love to cut a loaf of bread in half and then stuff with whatever I have on hand. Turkey, roasted red peppers, provolone cheese, chopped olives, you name it. Wrap in foil and heat until hot in the center. Let stand and then slice.

    Baked Potato Bar: Bake some potatoes, then top with leftovers from the fridge, defrosted homemade chili from the freezer, steamed vegetables, cheese, etc.

    Ham Steak heated with brown sugar and spicy mustard served with baked sweet potatoes and steamed veggies. You can also heat sausage with brown sugar and mustard.

    Chili Maple Glazed Chicken breasts. Real maple syrup and chili powder to taste bakes up great on quick defrosted chicken breasts.

    Fried rice is a favorite of ours, but I'll defer to the other poster. Our "recipes" are about the same. I like to add mushrooms and garlic/ginger paste.

  33. My fast meals are

    1 Cheese on toast or toasted cheese sandwiches...( add chopped onion, worcester sauce, other seasonings...)

    2 Baked spuds...with toppings

    3 Home made soups from the freezer ...I freeze them in 2 portion concentrated sizes, so on defrosting I have either 3 "normal" portions or 2 " hearty" portions...

    which could be stretched to 3 normal ones by thinning down.......

    add some home made bread and butter ( and if very hungry some cheese) and it is a very filling lunch!

    in Compostland the ingredients are home made or home grown, but all are easily purchased......

    and my word verification is "store" !!

  34. one of our favs is something i saw on a simple blog...i wish i could remember where??

    in the oven for an hour or so
    tomatos, potatos, onion, some herbs, garlic - if your not allergic like me, carrots and corn have been known to hit mine, olives from the trees in our yards when we get more fruit, really whatever feels italian to me at the time. drizled in olive oil. sometimes some homemade tomato paste is added too...depends what ive got.

    fresh homemade pasta
    and maybe some cooked bacon if im in the mood (a few rashes as in like 2 will make my kids eat the veg to get to the bacon)
    toss together and serve with parmesan

    im sure someone will know what blog i saw this on because its not mine...but its a fav

  35. What a useful post Rhonda! I'll come back and read what you compile from this. We have at least one standby meal a week; some of them use tinned food (tomatoes, chickpeas) but many are from the garden + fridge/pantry :

    1. Mash potatoes and stir through chopped steamed veges + grated cheese. Add a tin of tuna or leftover meat if wanted.
    2. Frittata type thing - parcook a few potatoes/kumara, chop into cubes. Sprinkle over cooked oniony equivalent of a large leek and 1 clove garlic. Pour over 6 beaten eggs and 1/2 cup milk. Bake until set then sprinkle over cheese and grill to brown top. Serve over salad from the garden, with home pesto if you have it.
    3. Mixed salad, cucumber, beans, tomatoes, anything fresh from the garden. Boil a few eggs then quarter over salad. Grate tasty cheese or sprinkle fetta over. Dress with vinegar/oil and herbs. side of bread to mop up dressing.
    4. Halve fresh tomatoes into a baking tray and bake until starting to collapse. Stir through a tin of chickpeas (I use my own prepared frozen), crumbled fetta and a handful of fresh basil leaves. Serve with bread.
    5. Omlette with cheese and salad.
    6. Stirfry of whatever veges are available, dressed with soy and sesame oil - add any leftover meat if wished - serve over couscous made by pouring boiling water over dry couscous, add a little stock powder stir and leave. Fluff/fork through some oil or butter before serving. Or serve over ricestick noodles cooked by pouring over boiling water and leaving for 10 minutes.
    7. Toasties - slice bread, spread with pesto, tomato paste or similar; scatter over anything tasty on hand (fridge leftovers are great); grate cheese over and grill.
    8. Pasta - Cook a few cloves crushed garlic (with fresh chilli if you want), add quite a bit of olive oil then fresh bread crumbs. Cook till golden. Stir through drained pasta and lots of grated parmesan.

    But quite often our standby meal is whatever leftovers we can rustle up - leftovers are fabulous!

  36. Pasta alla carbonara. We had it for dinner tonight with a salad.
    And eggs are always quick with many easy variations.
    Chicken caesar salad is also popular around here.

  37. Quick and easy, and great for any time of year- our Tostada's. Chop up some onions, a hot pepper, a little garlic all in a drizzle of olive oil. Throw in a can of or left over black beans (lentils, kidney, whatever beans would work) and some diced up tomatoes. Warm all up, throw on tostadas, nacho chips, or in a flour tortilla if you want a soft wrap, add a sprinkle of cheese (and I like a little fresh cilantro) on top, and tada! Very yummy, fast, easy, and pretty decent for you. :)

  38. I sit next to the toaster and toast slices of bread....laid out on the bench are every kind of condiment (often home made) that I love, possibly cheeses, preserved and pickled things,smoked stuff and salad veggies...whatever makes up a sort of bench smorgasboard and I usually read a book in between creating various mixtures of things lol

  39. My favourite is also frittata with home grown eggs and any veges you happen to have, raw or left over. Another easy one is spaghetti with good olive oil, toasted pine nuts, some steamed pumpkin and parmesan. Of course that assumes you can be bothered to boil water.

  40. Must have been the day for it yesterday after a day of finnished Christmas shopping I came home and made my quick meal...
    I call this chilli beans....
    I use 1 large tin of four bean mix i tin corn 4 chopped up tomatoe or 1 tin of diced tom,1 onion 1 hot chilli,garlic.Fry chillie.onion and garlic till onion soft.add tomatoes and stir untill cooked. Add drained tins of corn and four bean mix. Allow to simmer gently for at least 10 minutes. Great on its own or with toast.
    I have used chilli sauce if there is no fres chillies in the garden.

  41. Great recipes in the comments! I laughed about the "breakfast for dinner" one...we do that often...pancakes, eggs and toast...or using eggs in some way for the main dish, as they cook so fast.

    Huevos Rancheros is awesome. In a large frying pan saute half an onion and a clove of garlic in a Tbsp. of olive oil, throw in half a jar of tomatoes (we use our own canned ones, but about half a 28 oz. can), a Tbsp. of chili powder and cook down for about 10 mins. until thickish. While that's cooking down, take a corn tortilla for each person, and brush olive oil onto the top...crisp up in a moderate oven. When the sauce in the pan is thick, carefully crack eggs onto the top...for this amount of sauce, about 6-8 eggs, put a lid on top and cook to desired doneness over med. heat (About 5 mins. for us.) Put a crisp corn tortilla (or some corn tortilla chips if you don't have tortillas) on each plate, top with an egg or two and the sauce underneath it and sprinkle with some grated cheddar cheese...the hot eggs and sauce will melt the cheese. Add hot sauce and salt to each person's taste! A piece of toast out of homemade bread and a quick and dirty fruit salad of a couple of fresh fruits cut up and mixed with a splash of lime juice (for tang and to keep fruits from browning) are great additions to this meal.

    Or we have my husband make omelettes...he makes fabulous thin French ones and we eat with some greens (frozen swiss chard in the winter) and some toast.

    Or egg burritos...We always have packages of flour tortillas in the freezer. When I'm ready to start I get out a pack and pry apart as many flour tortillas as I think I'll need and after about 15 mins. they're thawed. Turn your oven on hot. Scramble up a few eggs with a little chili powder, a little oregano if you have it and some salt and pepper in a frypan; set aside. Cut up a little green pepper, a little onion, a tomato if you have it. I grab out some beans I already have cooked and frozen...and run some hot water over them to "thaw" them. (Black beans, pintos, kidneys, garbanzos, whatever.) Grate some cheese. If I have leftover rice, I use this, too. Spray a baking pan with non-stick spray or oil it. Take a tortilla, scoop on a Tbsp or two of beans, add a couple of spoonfuls of egg, sprinkle on some of your chopped veggies (rice, if you have it), and a Tbsp or two of grated cheese. Fold in ends and roll up. Place seam side down in baking pan. Repeat until pan is full. Take some salsa (we use our homemade canned stuff) and glob a spoon or two over each one and spread around a bit for a light "sauce". Cover your baking pan and put in oven for about 15 minutes (oven is really hot...about 425 degree F or so)...take lid off for another five mins. to crisp up the burritos a bit. Serve with some more salsa and some sour cream, if you have it. Fabulous! Kids love these. These are great to clean out little containers of leftover veggies, etc. in the fridge.

    I have tons of quick meals (well, half an hour of cooking or so), but I don't want to take up all your space here! :) We don't have a microwave (conscious decision), but we haven't found that has added to our cooking times.

    We save ourselves a lot of time by having containers of cooked beans in the freezer, ready. Whenever I cook dried beans, I always make sure to cook extra for future meal "bases". If you have some beans, a doz. eggs, a loaf of bread, a couple of veggies, and some cheese on hand...well, you're set to make a multitude of quick meals! :)

  42. Rhonda, I have posted a link over to you. I made a post about the herb,spices and thickeners. It is a pantry list that has a list of herbs/spices and their uses/dishes that they serve well in.

  43. Our standby dinner is super easy if you can boil water and only takes as long as the pasta takes to cook. Put some spaghetti on to cook. Meanwhile (in the ~11 mins it takes to cook) put some olive oil, oregano, basil, chilli (optional), garlic and salt/pepper into a bowl. Halve or quarter some cherry tomatoes and add them to the bowl. Squish some of them with your fingers or a spoon to release the juice. Stir around and add the cooked spaghetti. Done! Add some parmesan to serve.

    This works with fresh and dried herbs, depending on what you have. A variation is to add a can of tuna in olive oil rather than the olive oil - I find a bit of extra chilli is good with the tuna.

  44. Rhonda, our favourite all-round, in a bleary eyed hurry cook from scratch meal is....FRENCH TOAST.

    Beat a few eggs in a bowl and add some milk.

    Soak slices of bread in the mix and lightly fry each piece in a pan until golden and cooked.

    Serve with: plain salt (my favourite), maple syrup, golden syrup, honey, stir fried leftovers, chopped banana and apple, or whatever you fancy. Sweet or savoury is fine. Really good with homemade chutney.

    Takes 5 minutes and uses eggs, bread & your topping of choice. It is a very light meal and can easily be followed with yoghurt and fruit or something to fill those tummies.


  45. this is great rhona jean!

    1. egg & cheese sandwiches w/ whatever fruit i have on hand sliced up to go along with them.

    2. grilled cheese/tomato/dijon mustard sandwiches.

    3. i always have things in the freezer ready to go, from full pans of quiche and lasagna to quarts of soup and sweet treats. getting into the practice of filling the freezer if you have the room is a saving grace on these nights. there is such satisfaction when you pull homemade 'convienence foods' out of your own freezer. :)

    4. pasta and sauce (homemade sauce, from the trusty freezer). it's funny how i feel like i'm cheating when i serve spaghetti. i'm not sure why, it was my favorite meal as a kid and my daughter is always excited if it's a spaghetti night.

    oh my, i could really go on about this topic! thanks for posting, i'm looking forward to your post about this.


  46. I did this twice today - once for lunch and then again for dinner.

    The lunch version was pasta boiled as usual. The 'sauce' is a mix of 1 fresh avocado, chopped into 1cm-ish cubes, a couple of tomatoes chopped likewise, a dollop of oil out of the sundried tomatoes jar, some salt and pepper and green herbs of your choice. Mix the 'sauce' together.

    Dollop some more tomato-essenced oil onto the pasta and mix. Top the pasta with the avocado/tomato mix and grate a little cheese over the top.

    My preschoolers and I thought this was terrific (well, one of the preschoolers did - the other spat out all the pasta but ate the sauce and the cheese)

    Dinner was more or less the same but on a baked potato instead of pasta, with mayonnaise instead of oil. Both kids liked it this way.

  47. This is a super simple meal that our family loves...I boil up a pound of shelroni noodles, add a can of chopped tomatoes and a pound of cooked crumbled sausage. Mix it all together....so easy and we have bread and butter with it. Hope you and yours have a wonderful Christmas! Valerie

  48. breakfast for dinner is our favorite.
    Omlettes are quick and easy, with whatever fresh veggies and cheese I have around.

    And sometimes I'll look for leftover baked potatoes in the fridge (I always make too many because they make lovely snacks) and slice them up for hashbrowns, sauteed in oil with some onions.

  49. I have several of these-

    1 cup of cous cous with two cups of water, a chopped carrot a chopped zuccini/courgette, peas if I have them and usually a few pine nuts and a little olive oil and a bit of salt all in one pot. I cook that according to the the cous cous directions and the veggies come out perfectly steamed (and only one thing to wash!) I'll usually have it with whatever cheese, yoghurt, nuts I have on hand for some fat/protein. Some find this bland, so you could add a stock cube or rosemary, oregano, tyme, basil or cumin can be added.

    If I'm cooking for heavy meat eater I marinate some lamb in 2 parts soy sauce 1 part worchestershire (not sure if this counts as non-packaged!) sauce a handful of rosemary and 2-3 cloves of garlic and then bake that in the marinade till done. A fairly fatty cut comes out the most tender and the sauce is great for spooning over the cous cous and vegetables.

    I also keep dry chinese egg noodles (soba) around, they only take 2 minutes to boil. (I'm often too lazy to boil pasta) I'll frequently take whatever veg I have on hand, stir fry that with olive oil, rice vinegar and soy sauce and add the noodles. I'll put in tofu or meat if I have it, or this a great peanut stir fry sauce:

    1/4 cup olive oil
    1/4 cup rice vinegar
    1/8 cup soy sauce
    3-4 cloves garlic, chopped
    2-3 tsp. peanut butter
    1 tsp fresh ginger or equivalent of powdered

    This goes well with tofu, but not meat.

    Eggs and pasta are also frequent visitors for my plates.

  50. We had it tonight - little egg tarlets: made in a muffin tray, pastry on the bottom topped with a mixture of eggs and whatever veges we have (tonght it was corn, tomato, beans, capsicum and peas) with a little parmesan on top. Kids and grownups alike love them.

    So easy to make and delicious!

  51. My It's-late-I'm-tired-&-cannot-be-bothered meal is usually poached eggs on toast.

    Other options I choose from are: toasted sandwich, melted cheese on toast, baked beans on toast or toast spread with avocado and tomato slices or onion or both, salt & pepper. Yum!

    Toast obviously features heavily and needs to be a nice sourdough!

  52. For a quick and tasty meal I like to fry off a finely chopped onion in some butter, add three or four large tomatoes (deskinned and roughly chopped), a clove of garlic finely chopped, a good splodge of tomato puree, some basil and a pinch of sugar and salt. Cook until the tomatoes have turned to mush and spoon over plain penne pasta.

  53. For us it is pizza. Using flat bread or lebanese bread as the base (I always have some in the freezer). Then tomatoe sauce (homemade) or pesto made from herbs in the garden ground in the mortar and pestle with almond or pine nuts and olive oil and parmesan cheese. I usually make two for our family. A simple cheese and meat one for the boys and another with veges or what ever left overs on it. When I have a little more time I make the pizza dough by hand or in the bread maker.

  54. When I just can't be bothered, it's usually pizza that saves us. The bread maker does the hard work (45 minute cycle) and we put what ever we've got on top; that's the great thing about pizzas. We use BBQ sauce or tomato ketchup from the fridge nowadays (usually BBQ) often have mozzarella cheese in the house, the girls like Hawaiian so I chop bacon or ham for them and we keep a tin of pineapple in the fridge for these occasions. One small tin of pineapple pieces does two pizzas for us.

    Along a similar vein, when I feel really lazy and start thinking about takeaway, or even seeking takeaway approval from DH, I've decided to go the baked beans on toast. As legumes and vegetables too if you're looking at the food pyramid, the right variety are super healthy and loaded with protein. Not so cooked-from-scratch, I admit, but they are the forced consequence of my verbalising a desire for takeaway LOL! And DH says "beans on toast" too which makes me cranky when I'm feeling like that, of course, but it was me who gave him the instruction to do just that LOL!!!

  55. Hello secret lurker here! Hi.

    Toast. Had that the last 2 nights where I couldnt be bothered with anything.

    Other than that microwave a potato, 6 mins or so. depending on size. Whilst that is cooking, turn oven on, when cooked in micro, throw potato in oven and crisp for 10 minutes. Cant bare funny micro nuked potatoes. Kind of weird skin... top with heinz beans. My only product that must be brand make.

    Also, bag of crisp thrown between 2 pieces of bread. Or even a brown sauce sandwich. with a cup of tea.

    Love this post.

  56. Our kitchen is in upheaval, right now, what with renovations and such. So, tonight I threw some of everything...a small bit of leftover lamb roast (center cut, at the rarest point), half an onion, half a tomato, a quarter head of cauliflower, half a pepper, some leftover mashed pumpkin with brown sugar, and a bit of homemade chicken stock...all in together, microwave-steaming the vegetables first in the same dish, sprinkled bits of cumin, turmeric, and garam masala. Threw it in the oven for an hour, and tada! Curry casserole! I served it over couscous and it was easy as could be, taking maybe 10 minutes prep, using up many things before they spoiled, and letting me forget about it while doing other chores. Super tasty! The whole thing could be simmered on the stovetop, or in the microwave, for quicker prep, and also can be premade and reheated beautifully.

  57. Another vote for omelette here with whatever you have to hand in the fridge or freezer. Serve with salad and bread.

    Scrambled eggs. Just before the egg sets stir in some smoked fish pieces(salmon or mackerel is good) or ham/bacon. Great with hot buttered toast.

    Or Leftover Soup. If I don't have soup already made in the freezer I can make some quickly with my Leftovers Box. Every time I have some cooked pasta, rice or veg leftover at the end of a meal I put it in a 1 litre box I keep in the freezer.

    When the box is full I use it to make soup. I add the contents to a litre of stock (from freezer or good stock powder). Since everything is already cooked it takes minutes to come to the boil. If it doesn't look very appetising I blitz it with a hand blender and add a bit of cream. It's never failed me yet :)

    Some fab ideas above!

  58. My favourite is egg dishes. When I have more time and am more hungry, I add potatoes or mashed potatoes. My mother's (or someone else's from whom she received it) improvememnt on mashed potatoes: save the water from boiling (that is, if you have peeled them before boiling) and mash them at first with water, then add some milk. It's smoother and softer this way.

    Another favourite of mine is a quick soup. You start with chopped or grinded vegetables (I use mostly root vegetables, leek, something like that - something solid and not very juicy) warmed up on a bit of butter. Then you add some flour so that you create a roux enriched by the vegetables. Add an egg, stirr and add a glass of cold water, stirr again. Then you just gradually add the water, until you have the desired amount, and keep stirring at least in the begining; boil for about ten minutes. You can add some spices according to your liking - it is very mild on its own, but I love the taste. It used to be one of my favourite soups when I was a child, and I used to hate most soups, so I suppose children would love it. Just make sure you have enough vegetables, so it's not only water... We used to have our own vegetables pre-chopped and freezed. Somehow we have dropped this practice by now, but I'd like to come back to it, it was very convenient.

  59. I always keep corn tortillas in the freezer and cans of beans in the pantry. the beans are either pinto or black beans. With onions and some chili powder (not cayenne but the kind you use to make chili) and cumin, the beans get made into a filling that I then smash with a potato masher for our own nonfat version of refried beans.
    We then make up the tacos by putting the beans on the tortilla and add cheese and broil for a few minutes until hot and melted. I make a diced salad on the side with salsa as dressing. Add to that some yellow rice (turmeric and rice cooked together sometimes with peas thrown in for color), we have a full Mexican meal that nobody realizes is made in a hurry.

  60. Here's what we do when we don't have time or don't want to cook. The first is a recipe a young friend from Honduras gave me. It's a rice dish and it's so good that my husband who doesn't care for rice eats it right up. It does take a right big skillet.
    Chop up one onion and lightly saute in a little butter or oil. Dump in your rice (I make 1 and 1/2 cups) and saute. Add double the amount of stock ( in this example I would add 3 cups) and cover and allow to simmer 20 minutes or so.( I make stock and keep a portion of my freezer to store it. It thaws well fast in the microwave.)Salt and pepper to taste.Also I like to throw in any herbs I have on the windowsill that go well with the flavor of my stock. About ten minutes before the rice is done add a couple handfuls of frozen mixed vegetables or you could add any cooked veggie you like. Enjoy
    The next is a recipe my kids call "homemade hamburger helper". You put some salted water on to boil. When the water boils dump in some pasta I use elbow macaroni or whatever is on sale. In your skillet you again saute a finely chopped onion in a little butter until translucent. Add hamburger or ground turkey and brown. Drain off any fat and add a can of tomatoes, a half teaspoon of oregano, a half teaspoon of thyme ans a half teaspoon of basil. Reduce heat and simmer until pasta is done. I add the pasta to the meat with a slotted spoon. Mix well. I like to serve on a big platter with a bit of cheese grated over the top. My kids and their friends think this is fine dining. No leftovers ever.
    Both of these dishes cook in thirty minutes or less.
    I want to add i have learned a lot from your blog.I'm very grateful for the tools you give us.
    Happy Holidays! Debbie M.

  61. I think we are going to have this for dinner tonight. I have a feeling (at 7am) that it is going to be one of those days. Eggs. The kids like theirs scrambled with a little cheese and a side of toast. I think I will have mine sunny side up, and my husband prefers to fix his own eggs. Easier for me!

    Deb in the PNW

  62. curry in a hurry
    boil up some red lentils and add chopped onion,garlic and potatoes,2 teaspoon garum masala spice and a teaspoon of chilli powder(adjust to taste),cook this down,about 10 mins then add a can of baked beans,we like it with toasted pitta bread.this is my favorite standby,and my hubbie and 3 children love it and like me to be a bit disorganised so i make it!!
    alison young

  63. Since we usually have eggs and some kind of cheese in the fridge, and bell peppers, onions, and tomatoes (either fresh, frozen or canned, as appropriate for the season) an omelet is one of my go-to meals, the other is a stir fry with veggies from the freezer and brown rice.
    Another one is saute chicken and add salsa, serve with taco fixings, or wrap in a tortilla for a burrito or wrap in a tortilla and heat in the oven with salsa and cheese for an enchilada wannabe.

  64. Cutest kitchen ever. I feel like pulling up a chair and staying a while.

    This is such a busy time of year we've been eating a lot of meals like you suggest. I can't promise that there haven't been a meal out a bit more than usual but we're availaing ourselves of grilled cheese sandwiches and fruit and, you know what, it hits the spot. :)

  65. One of the dishes that I fall back on is referred to in my house as succutash(which it is not). Take a brick of frozen ground meat (beef) and start frying it in standard 8-10 frying pan with the lid. When it is ready to turn over shake about a tablespoon of worchestershire sauce over the cooked beef, put the lid back on. Open a can of tomatoes, chop coarsely, prepare some brocolli. When the second side of the beef is done, cut into little cubes with your turner throw the tomatoes over all and put the brocolli on top. Cover and simmer about 5 minutes. From start to finish about 40 minutes. We serve it over rice. The great thing about this recipe is that you can start with frozen or unfrozen beef, left over rice, canned tomatoes or fresh, frozen or fresh brocolli. It never stays around. Karen G.

  66. we do stir fry with rice and any vegetable, left over or fresh we have. We also add cubed beef. I have a potato soup recipe this is pretty quick and it can simmer for a bit if you want to start it ahead of time.

  67. Ok, my best made from scratch, quick comfort meal is:

    Rice and stir fried veggies.

    I dump a couple of cups of rice in the rice cooker and then prepare myself some veggies. We actually had this last night in our house.

    The veggie was bok choy which is so easy to cook. Simply, get a wok or non-stick pan very hot, add a little sesame oil then the bok choy. (Cut up as small as you would like it.) Then add 2 tbsp of sugar and salt to taste with a splash of soy sauce. (Cook for 4 mins.)

    As a side dish, I cut up small seedless cucumbers, added soy
    sauce, salt, hot peppers and garlic. You close that in a tupper ware and shake shake.
    It's the Chinese version of pickles.

    Was very humble and yummy!


  68. I have 2 good standbys.....baked beans, stir in a good spoonful of tahine (extra protein)serve on homemade bread toat, sprinkle a handful of toasted seeds on top....pumpkin,sesame, sunflower, tossed in a little temari. I always have some of these in the fridge to add to salads.

    Second is stir fried bokchoy...plenty in garden...garlic, ginger, temari, served on top of soba noodles....these cook in a bowl with some boiling water poured over while bokchoy cooks. Add a sprinkle of toasted seeds.

    I'm vegetarian, so the addition of seeds ensures some protein.

    Don't forget to save the noodle cooking water for the garden or potplants.


  69. Just this morning my partner commented on my ability to turn simple, humble food into yummy meals, when he had a bite of my breakfast, which was stewed apples made with a pat of butter, cinnamon and maple syrup, with just a splash of water to keep it from sticking to the pot. I left it on the stove to simmer while I got ready for work. I added toasted sunflower and pumpkin seeds on top. With a slice of toast, it made for a quick and easy, warm and yummy breakfast on a cold snowy morning! Simple and nourishing. (When I have such things on hand, I will also add raisins, yogurt, buckwheat...)

  70. Recently I made the decision to involve my children in the making dinner process, they are more than old enough at 16 and 13. Last night I was busy so got them into the kitchen to prepare dinner. My daughter cooked steak and package macaroni/cheese while my son prepared and cooked the vegies. I was able to concentrate on cutting out quilt squares and still be available to answer questions. In the new year we will concentrate more on cooking from scratch meals, I am a beginner at that as well. But with the advice I get from you, Rhonda I am sure we will do it and both my children will have the experience for when they are out on their own.

    Late last night (early this morning more like it) had the urge to make your lemon cordial recipe. I now have a bottle of delicious cordial in the fridge and am sipping it right now. I am so glad to be drinking something I know is healthy - no vitamins were boiled away in making and there is nothing I can't pronounce in the ingredient list. Nice.

  71. Pasta Puttanesca
    put pasta on to boil. then, in pan chilli oil, chopped garlic, fry 3 mins. add tin of chopped tomatoes. Add tin of tuna, olives and capers. Pour over cooked pasta. add parmesan.

    good store cupboard food!

  72. Great all those lazy ideas, thank you all!!

    In our family, we also like pasta a lot, and every time I make macaroni, or penne, I tend ti make a lot, and freeze the whole thing (pasta and all, it freezes well!). A favorite one is, macaroni, with shawarma meat, macaroni herbs ,add some oignons and other veggies. I freeze the whole thing, and when I'm tired, get it out of the freezer, put it in the microwave and top it with cheese, once on my plate. Yummie!!


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