How often do you get in from work or taking the kids to yet another club, you need to eat, but you just don't have the energy or desire to cook something healthy from scratch? I know it's great if you can cook a meal from scratch using 'real' ingredients, but let's face facts, it isn't always possible, you just want Dinner in a Hurry. When this occurs it's very easy to turn to takeaway food (fine as an occasional treat, but not as a habit) or ready made frozen meals, which only have to be heated, full of transfats, sugar, salt and other unwanted ingredients!
I'm lucky I learnt to cook at a young age and grew up in a house where my Mother cooked from scratch every night, so I learnt a lot of tricks along the way to make quick meals even easier. Here are my top 5 tips for saving time when cooking a healthy nutritious meal, even if you only want to spend 10-15 minutes making it.
- To save time prepping veg use frozen. This include onions, mushrooms, peppers and herbs (dried are also good) all of which I tend to use as a base for most dishes. There is a wide range of frozen veg out there to choose from, it's always fresh (possibly fresher than some so called 'fresh' veg) and tends to retains its vitamin and mineral content. It also doesn't take quite as long to cook. Use lazy garlic from a jar to save time peeling and crushing garlic - Time saved 10 minutes
- Use ready made sauces where appropriate. Sometimes a good quality shop bought pasta or curry sauce will do just as well as making a sauce from scratch - Time saved - 15-20 minutes
- Cook one main meal. If the children eat earlier than you, cook a meal for them and keep the rest for you and your partner later on- all you will need to is reheat the food - Time saved at least 30 minutes as you only have to cook one meal and not two.
- Use a slow cooker - chuck all the ingredients in the night before and put the stew pot in the fridge ready to be put on in the morning or assemble everything in the morning (use frozen veg - see No 1), pop in the slow cooker and leave for the day. You will come home to a lovely meal ready and waiting to be served. If you add some potatoes to the pot you won't even need to cook extra carbs -Time saved 1 hour as it takes time to make a stew/casserole
- Batch cook. If you are making a mince dish for instance, when you have more time, cook double the quantity (it won't take much longer than normal) and then freeze the extra in portions so that they can be taken out and reheated in a few minutes when you are short of time. You can batch cook all sorts of things such as stews, casseroles, roast meat and veg (chicken thighs roasted on top of veg is good), pasta, rice, burgers etc etc. All extras can be portioned up and frozen ready for when you need them most.
Below are some ideas for really quick nutritious meals than can be made in around 15 minutes.
This is a nice simple recipe using ingredients from your storecupboard. However, to make it really quick fry off some frozen onions, mushrooms, peppers add 2 jars of your favourite curry sauce (use the best quality sauce you can with the least amount of ingredients) and 2 400g tins of Chickpeas. Heat through and serve either with some frozen rice that you have in freezer, chapatis or a lovely green salad (if you use bagged salad it takes seconds)
A favourite with the kids. Beat some eggs together in a flat dish (2 per person), season with salt & pepper, dip a slice of bread (sourdough would be great, but whatever bread you have otherwise) into the mixture (coat both sides) and then fry until each side is golden brown (wrap any servings for later in foil and leave at the bottom a low oven until required). For the kids serve with peas and sweetcorn or other favourite veg (and a good dollop of tomato ketchup!) and for the grown-ups add some sliced avocado and watercress. This is a great way to use leftover bits of bread or slightly stale bread up.
Turkey Pesto Patties
Take a pack of turkey mince, mix through a jar of your favourite pesto, form into small patties, fry on both sides until golden brown and cooked through. Serve in a bun for the kids with slices of tomato, little gem lettuce and gherkins if liked, with a salad (don't forget the avocado!), on couscous (can be soaking while you are cooking the burgers) with some sultanas, pumpkin seeds and your choice of frozen chopped herbs stirred through. The image link will show a slightly different variation to this recipe using mozzarella cheese.
Homemade Baked Beans
Fry some frozen onions, mushrooms, peppers, add garlic and herbs. Chuck in a couple of tins of chopped tomatoes and tinned beans of choice and you're done. Serve over a baked sweet potato (that you had in the freezer from the last time the oven was on) or with rice (from the freezer) or even pasta (from the freezer). This is also lovely on toast with grated cheese on top.
Last, but by no means least - Omlette. Takes minutes to whip up and everyone can have their favourite fillings. This can be a great way to add extra veg. Onions, mushrooms, peppers (use the frozen ones for speed), herbs (dried or frozen), green salad on the side (rocket, watercress, spinach etc), cheese, leftover roast meat from the weekend, tinned tuna etc etc.