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laureth's avatar

What do you cook on weeknights? (Not a salad.)

Asked by laureth (27073 points ) July 20th, 2010

Hi! After we get home from work, all I want to do is sit down and fluther, but I have to make dinner. Hopefully you have some quick, relatively healthy recipes (or recipe sites) to suggest. I looked for this sort of question and didn’t find exactly what I needed.

In the best of all worlds, the recipe would fit these specs:

1. Makes enough for four portions. (We pack two portions for lunch the next day at work.)

2. Reheats well the next day (see #1). This tends to rule out things like “grilled cheese,” for example.

3. Isn’t greens-based (like lettuce salad). My guy can’t eat that too often.

4. Is quick and relatively easy to prepare. You know, in that slot of time between getting home and crashing.

5. Tends to avoid “pre-fab” food (like “can of cream of cholesterol soup” or “refrigerated biscuit dough”) in favor of fresh ingredients.

Thanks for reading. :)

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27 Answers

SamIAm's avatar

An quick and easy dinner to make is some sort of pasta (I like fettuccine) with a light tomato based sauce, or my favorite, just EVOO, s + p, and some red pepper flakes… then you can add some veggies that are easy to prep like zucchini, onion, tomatoes(?)—just saute them lightly before adding to the pasta. Just toss the veggies in the pasta, top with some freshly grated Parmesan… voila!

Blackberry's avatar

Bake chicken in a pyrex with pears and pineapples and throw it on a bed of spinach.

Cruiser's avatar

Spinach lasagna or steak, pork or chicken stir fries with fresh veggies fit that bill nicely!

nikipedia's avatar

I’m a big fan of lentils + rice or beans + rice. I cook the lentils with sauteed onions and it’s surprisingly delicious, plus you can make as big or small a portion as you want. (I tend to make a big pot and eat it for several days.)

There’s always pasta, which you can do a thousand things with. One of my favorite dinners lately has been egg pappardelle noodles from Trader Joe’s tossed with asparagus and pine nuts.

I also have taken lately to making some sauces on the weekends (green curry paste, peanut sauce) that I can keep in the fridge and throw on noodles/tofu/vegetables during the week.

laureth's avatar

@nikipedia – Neat idea! How long do sauces last before you don’t trust them to be edible any more?

@all – thanks for the ideas! Sadly, I’d like to cook more with spinach, but it falls under “greens” that he can’t have. Also, I have done much with pasta, but am open to offbeat pasta dishes. Thanks!

nikipedia's avatar

@laureth: I think they have a good couple weeks in them in the fridge, or indefinitely in the freezer. Good luck! (And I love this question… looking forward to seeing the other replies!)

jaytkay's avatar

My thing lately is cook a bunch of beans and a bunch of pasta one evening. So for a few days I have a big bowl of pasta and a big bowl of beans in the fridge.

Then I can throw together something for dinner or lunch, like:

Pasta, beans, broccoli, carrots, salt, pepper, oregano

Pasta, meat, tomato sauce

Pasta, grilled chicken, garlic, green beans

Pasta, beans, oil, vinegar, dill

Pasta, bacon, peas, cream sauce

Pasta, ground beef, beans, corn, red pepper

Substitute rice for pasta if you like.

Yes it is repetitive, but I don’t mind. YMMV

Austinlad's avatar

My favorite easy-to-make dish is pasta (almost any kind) mixed with feta cheese and stewed tomatoes, with black olive pieces thrown in. Great hot, even better chilled.

MissAusten's avatar

Homemade pizza! I buy the dough in the grocery store deli, where they make it daily. The dough has directions right on the package, and while the oven heats up you roll out the dough and top it any way you please. Last time I made pizza, I made sauce like this:

Roughly chop 1–2 tomatoes. Heat about a tbsp of olive oil in a small skillet, then add a clove or two of minced garlic. Cook the garlic for a minute, then add the tomatoes, chopped fresh basil, and chopped fresh oregano. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Continue to cook at a light simmer, breaking up the tomatoes with a wooden spoon.

Spread that mixture over the dough, then top with thinly sliced tomatoes and thinly sliced fresh mozzarella cheese. Bake according to the directions on the pizza dough.

You can also try grilled pizza which literally cooks in less than five minutes (some toppings, like sausage or veggies, would need to be precooked). We’ve been addicted to grilled pizza this summer, so pm me if you want to try it and have specific questions!

Edited to add: You don’t need a special pizza pan to make pizza in your oven. Just a cookie sheet, lightly brushed with olive oil, will work fine. If you make it on the grill, you don’t need a pan at all.

perspicacious's avatar

Stir fry and a loaf of homemade bread.

Aster's avatar

I don’t know if these would be considered “quick” meals because with the stir-fry you have to slice the meat. And the onions and peppers and garlic. But I make beef stir-fry often and stir cooked pasta into it.
I make fajitas often too. I put the stir fried chicken or beef inside the hot & softened flour tortillas with fried onions and peppers then put shredded cheese and guacomole on top; roll them up. In fall I make chili quite often with ground turkey, garlic, sugar, onions and peppers, garlic. Served over rice.
On rarer occasions I make spaghetti with tomato sauce/paste, ground turkey, garlic, oregano and basil. I have a unique parmesan chicken recipe: you take chicken parts (thighs , breasts) and after melting a stick of butter in the baking pan you roll the chicken around in the butter, then dip it in a mix of bread crumbs and parmesan cheese, then back into the baking pan and bake it. Sprinkle oregano on top before baking. The easiest thing to make by far is fried pork chops or Shake n Bake ones (not too crazy about those). After you fry them quickly , you take them out and pour a cup of orange juice mixed with 2 tablespoons of orange marmalade into the pan drippings and pour that over the chops. I love this recipe. I’d like some “this is really good” remarks afterwards, please, and some assistance in the kitchen . good luck with that, Aster
I’ve been cooking most of my life and it holds no joy for me without Some appreciation.

laureth's avatar

@MissAusten – Lurve for homemade pizza. We eat that every Thursday night! :) Leftover pizza is like a party for Friday lunches.

And yes, stir-fry is awesome. That’s another dish in our regular rotation because it’s healthy, quick, and flavorful.

MissAusten's avatar

I’m trying to think of things I made for dinner when I was working…

Do you have a crock pot or slow cooker? I used to throw a chicken into the slow cooker in the morning, along with some chopped veggies and half cup of liquid (water, broth, or white wine). It only took a few minutes to get it set up, and it would cook on low all day. When I got home, I’d take the chicken out and put it under the broiler to brown the skin. You can skip that step if you don’t mind the chicken being pale or if you don’t eat the skin. The leftovers are great for making soup, and you can use the bones to make your own chicken stock.

I also used to make this great pork chop dish because it was so fast and easy on weeknights. I’d put a bit of olive oil in a small pan with chopped garlic and whatever other seasonings I had on hand. Warm it over low heat until the garlic becomes fragrant. Stir in about a teaspoon of paprika, and remove from heat. Cool slightly, then pour over thick-cut pork chops, turning the meat so it is evenly coated. Cover and refrigerate overnight. The next evening, cook them under the broiler for a few minutes on each side, or until they are done. Something about the warm olive oil rubbed on the night before keeps the chops very moist.

If you’re a steak person, you can easily whip up a quick dinner. I let the steaks marinate for a day or two in a mixture of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, chopped garlic, fresh ground pepper, and soy sauce. I don’t measure any of it, just dump it all together. Then broil or grill the steaks to whatever doneness you prefer. I like to saute some green peppers and onions to go with the steaks, and maybe boil some baby potatoes (takes less than half an hour).

I only made this once, because my husband would probably die if we didn’t have MEAT with dinner, but I brushed some portabella mushrooms with olive oil and grilled them, then topped them with a chopped caprese salad (chopped basil, tomatoes, and fresh mozzarella tossed with olive oil and balsamic vinegar). It was soooooo good! If you don’t have a grill, I’d imagine you could just broil the mushrooms.

If you’re a fish person, there are so many quick and easy recipes for different kinds of fish.
Maple Salmon (Even my kids gobble this up!)
Baked Flounder
Scallops (You can cook the scallops in the sauce instead of bothering with the broiler.)
Grilled Shrimp
I’ve made all of the above recipes, and they were big hits with the family.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

My favorite is to buy a big rib eye or new york steak and broil it in the oven. On the side we usually have some Rice o Roni wild rice mix with sliced vegies cooked into it. A big steak feeds 3 of us or two of us for dinner and then sliced leftovers to take over rice for lunch the next day. I like to put zuccini, spinach, mixed bell peppers and carrot chunks in the water as it boils for the rice and I either don’t use at all or use just a pinch of the seasoning packet.

WestRiverrat's avatar

I like to cook for the whole week on Sunday afternoon. Then I just have to heat and eat the rest of the week. It also helps me keep better track of my diet, which as a prediabetic is very important.

Facade's avatar

We almost always have a protein usually fish, a veggie, and a starch (e.g. salmon, broccoli, and rice). Pretty simple, and very versatile.

AmWiser's avatar

@MissAusten said what I was gonna said say. Crock pot meals are perfect for those days you really don’t want to cook. Prep the night before, start the next morning, be ready to eat when you come home from work.

Seaminglysew's avatar

Can’t get by without a crock pot. It is so easy to prepare in the morning and come home to the house smelling of a good meal for dinner. Beef with potatoes, onions and carrots, chicken over rice or pasta with broccoli or asparagus. Pork in a cream sauce. Yummmm.You can cook your meat in the crock pot and the veggies steam nicely in the microwave, quick and easy!

ETpro's avatar

I don’t end up cooking all that often, but here are a few of the things I can whip up quick and stil enjoy eating. I’m concerned with healthy eating and getting a balanced diet, so that limits my choices.

I keep some frozen Talipia fillets in the freezer. You can defrost one in lukewarm water in minutes. I bake the fish in a toaster oven at 235 degrees for about 10 minutes for a thin fillet. Drizzle the tin-foil and top of the fish with some extra-virgin olive oil, fennel seeds, and pepper. Sale if you like. I cook without it. And lime or lemon juice. If you like rich tasting sauces on your fish, switch some heart healthy brand of mayonnaise for the olive oil.

Pasta and meat sauce are a snap to prepare so long as you use store-bought marinara sauce. I like Ragu plain sauce and brown a bit of ground turkey in some olive oil in a hot skillet to add the meat. The meat they put in the premade sauces sucks and is almost undetectable anyway. I like whole grain pastas, ratatouille, elbow macaroni or angel hair spaghetti are my favorites. Making sauce from scratch is a whole other thing. That’s a weekend project when the Haymarket is dumping off 50 pound boxes of tomatoes for $3.00 just before closing.

I always have some vegies already at hand. Spinach, broccoli, pickled beets, beet greens, kale, collards, Swiss chard. Have some precooked and in containers in the fridge. Cooked cabbage goes great with marinara sauce so it’s a must with pasta. You can whip up some brown rice, red potatoes, white or Yukon gold.You can slice potatioes thin and boil them in 15 or 20 minutes. Just test with a fork to see when the centers are soft. There’s your carbs—and you can always throw in some tasty while-grain rolls or bread. Garlic bread for pasta, of course.

I’ve got lots more, but those are two of my favorites that are super easy, and there are tons of others already posted here.

laureth's avatar

Thanks everyone! This is good stuff!

ETpro's avatar

@Seaminglysew Ah, asparagus. I left that off my veggie list, but I cooked up a batch two days ago. The Haymarket had purple asparagus this past weekend, which is sweeter than the green variety. It has to be really fresh. Don’t buy it if the tips are starting to wilt and feel soft to the touch.

I microwave it in a covered Pyrex container. Drizzle it with olive oil and be sure to cover it with lime or lemon juice, or a tasty vinegar. The acid keeps it nice and purple. Without it, it starts to turn green in cooking. And the acidity tastes great with it too. Some Mrs. Dash and mix it all up and you are ready to go. Cook it for about 2:30 on high, then take it out and mess with it a little to distribute the juices, recover and give it another 2:30 spin. That should have it done. I like it a bit al dente. Overcooked, mushy asparagus is a turn off. But if you like it really soft, a total of 8 minutes instead of 5 will give you that.

rooeytoo's avatar

I just bought one of those stoneware pieces that can be used on the stove top, microwave and oven. It is wonderful. I take a piece of chicken right out of the freezer, defrost it in the microwave, put it aside, throw potatoes, assorted veg into the stoneware and nuke it until almost done. Pour on oil, salt, pepper, whatever spices you like, put the chicken (now cut into bite size pieces) back in, add some chicken stock if you want it as a pie or stew or none if you want it like a roast dinner. (I use pumpkin or red lentils to thicken it if I add stock) and put it in the oven to finish. Sometimes I put a piece of pastry on top, more often just plain, sit down for 20 minutes while it bakes and there you go.

Asian foods are often quick as well, stir fry.

Starting things in the microwave really speeds up the cooking process.

And all are great the next day left over.

gorillapaws's avatar

Get a rice-maker. They are incredible because they take the thinking out of cooking rice. It comes out perfect every-time and will keep it warm while you finnish cooking the rest of the meal without having to worry about burning. There are very few meals that rice doesn’t complement (pastas being a notable exception).

Nullo's avatar

Awesome Nachos.
Black beans, canned chicken, grated cheese, tortilla chips, and cheese sauce, all cooked in your favorite baking dish.
Mix the beans, the chicken, and the cheese sauce (and some sour cream!), and layer it with chips. The top layer should be chips with the grated cheese on top.
Pop it in the oven until it’s warm all the way through. Let it sit a minute, and serve.

Yes, it’s horribly unhealthy. It’s quick and tasty, so what else could it be?

SamIAm's avatar

I made a pizza last night and t was surprisingly easy & there wasn’t much to clean up:
– pre-made pizza dough (from Trader Joe’s)
– pasta sauce & pizza sauce (both from Trader Joe’s, a little of each mixed together)
– mushrooms (I used ugly shiitake & crimini), sliced
– asparagus, each stalk cut into 4 pieces
– ½ onion, sliced
– 2 cloves of garlic (or use already minced garlic to save time)
– 2 precooked chicken sausages (any flavor, I got the garlic herb ones from Trader Joe’s), sliced
– EVOO
– s + p to taste
– fresh basil, if you have
– shredded cheese (I used a mix of 4 Italian cheeses & added some grated parmesan)

You have to let the pizza dough settle for 20 minutes, so I put it on a baking sheet (I don’t have a pizza stone, my pizza was a little ugly and oddly shaped) on the counter, with some flour and set the oven to 450. While letting the oven warm up and the dough rest, slice the mushrooms, onion, sausage, and garlic… put in a frying pan with a little bit of evoo, s + p, and saute lightly (you could probably skip this step). Slice the asparagus & basil. After 20 minutes, roll out the dough on a lightly oiled baking sheet or pizza stone, and top with equal parts of each sauce (pizza and tomato), then top with the mushroom, onion, sausage, garlic mixture & asparagus & cheese. Put in hot oven for 15–20 minutes (which gives you enough time to clean up everything). Top with fresh basil when it comes out of the oven!

You can make this pizza in any way but the bottom line is, I was shocked at how easy and quick it was, although it may seem like a long recipe. And it was surprisingly so delicious.

laureth's avatar

@Samantha_Rae – thanks! I’ve tried using pizza dough before, but every time I go to flatten it out, it sproings back as close as it can get to the original lump shape. Perhaps that 20m wait is what I needed to do!

SamIAm's avatar

@laureth : maybe? Mine was not a good shape at all, or evenly spread either… but it tasted great! I ended up splitting the dough in half and made two smaller rectangular pizzas… as long as it’s yummy :)

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