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13 August 2008 @ 07:36 pm
The Cheating Cook  
One of my LJ friends was talking about the need for quick meals that employ mixes and other short cuts--she has a small child and is finishing up her medical training as a resident. (Can't imagine that with a small child, my hat's off to you!) You can imagine how tired she must be in the evenings. I remember the years I was in school and working at the women's center and was too tired to do anything elaborate when I got home.

I thought I'd share my slightly embellished response because I suspect you all know something about quick and easy meals for a young mom. Maybe you can share some! I realize I was fortunate also to have a family of women who all cooked, both from scratch and from mixes, so I got a head start in seeing the possibilities. That's no longer necessarily the case for the younger generations.

I had a number of easy recipes that used mixes and stuff when I was going to school and raising my kids alone. I'd get home after a full day of classes and work-study (I did twenty hours on top of my full course load) and I certainly wouldn't be cooking anything from scratch.

You can make a really nice cream pie with a store bought crust and Jello instant pudding mix. :) Mmmmmm, pistachio! You just add less milk for a thicker pudding. For banana cream pie, I use vanilla because the banana tastes too fake, but I put bananas on the bottom before I pour the pudding in. Just refrigerate and voila! A cream pie! You can even make it lower in fat by using 1 per cent milk.

I also have an easy no-bake cheesecake recipe involving cream cheese, sweetened condensed milk, and lemon juice, which get blended and poured into a baked pie crust. I used a canned pie filling for topping--cherry or blueberry or even a combination. Top with sliced fresh fruit for a fruit tart. I'll dig that one up and post it.

I intend to have a little section of my family cookbook that I will call "cheating." I'll post a copy of that section when I'm done.

The basic staples of the Indian meal, rice and dahl (bean soup) are quick and easy to get on the stove--5-10 minutes or so--and then they simmer for awhile, filling the house with a beautiful scent. Steam or microwave some veggies and you have a whole meal. Make a big pot of soup and you have leftovers for another night. I'm a big believer in using leftovers--why cook twice when you can cook once?

I'll post a recipe sometime soon. You can use yellow split peas or lentils in dahl if you don't have the more exotic mung or urad dahls from an Indian store. Dahl simmers for about an hour, and rice takes 20 minutes, so you start the dahl first and get it simmering. You can add veggies to the dahl as well as having veggies on the side. Instead of making chapatis or naan, you can use whole wheat tortillas or pita bread with the meal. You can also get frozen naan, parathas, or roti from an Indian grocer.

Living with a man makes it harder to have leftovers, but I've found a strategy that saves my husband from gaining extra pounds. I put some of the meal into storage containers in the fridge before I serve him. I may leave enough for a small second serving. I let him believe that there just isn't any more than that--without lying out right. Basically, guys often eat so fast they don't know they are full yet, and they often just gravitate to a second and third helping they don't really need.

In a pinch, we certainly are spoiled by having a lot of healthy, organic frozen dinners in the health food section of our supermarkets or in health food stores. As a vegetarian I relied on Amy's dinners when I was working overtime. These days they are a luxury, though. I have more time than money so I'm cooking more from scratch. It's the best way to weather a recession, too!

Frozen vegetables have been proven to have more vitamins than most produce at the store which has been picked days earlier and shipped long distances. There are lots of frozen vegetable mixes and even some with good sauces--I saw one recently that has a rosemary sauce that is really good. You steam it right in the microwave. You also don't waste a bunch of vegetables because you are too tired to carry out the good intentions you had when you bought them on the weekend. Less waste equals money saved!

What are some of the easy things you make using short cuts, mixes or prepared foods?
litlebananalitlebanana on August 14th, 2008 04:43 am (UTC)
Thanks for posting!
Tapatitapati on August 14th, 2008 08:16 am (UTC)
You're welcome!
Tapatitapati on September 2nd, 2008 04:03 am (UTC)
looks pretty easy
Spiced salmon with mustard sauce
Serve with sauteed spinach and couscous.

2 teaspoons whole-grain mustard
1 teaspoon honey
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 (6-ounce) salmon fillets
Cooking spray

Preheat broiler. Combine the first 6 ingredients in a small bowl, stirring well with a fork. Rub mustard mixture evenly over each fillet. Place fillets, skin side down, on a jelly6-roll pan coated with cooking spray. Broil 8 minutes or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork or until desired degree of doneness. Makes 4 servings. Each serving: 324 calories, 18.9 g. fat, 34 g. protein, 2.9 g. carbohydrate, .1 g. fiber, 100 mg. cholesterol, 268 mg. sodium.

Source: Cooking Light magazine
Tapatitapati on September 2nd, 2008 04:01 am (UTC)
From my friend Mari, with permission
Tonight for dinner I'm making an Impossible Cheeseburger Pie. Preston's never had one. My grandmother raised me on food stamps, so stuff like this for dinner was fairly common now and again. She made hers a bit backward from how the recipe on the Bisquick website has theirs, which is:

1 lb lean (at least 80%) ground beef
1 large onion, chopped (1 cup)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese (4 oz)
1/2 cup Original Bisquick® mix
1 cup milk
2 eggs

1. Heat oven to 400°F. Spray 9-inch glass pie plate with cooking spray.
2. In 10-inch skillet, cook beef and onion over medium heat 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until beef is brown; drain. Stir in salt. Spread in pie plate. Sprinkle with cheese.
3. In small bowl, stir remaining ingredients with fork or wire whisk until blended. Pour into pie plate.
4. Bake about 25 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out clean.
High Altitude (3500-6500 ft): Bake 30 to 35 minutes.

My grandmother's version:

1 lb ground beef
1 large onion, chopped (1 cup)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 cup shredded Cheddar or American cheese
3/4 cup Original Bisquick® mix
1 1/2 cup milk
3 eggs
2 sliced tomatoes

1. Heat oven to 400°F. Grease pie plate (10x 1 1/12).
2. In 10-inch skillet, cook beef and onion over medium heat 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until beef is brown; drain. Stir in salt and pepper. Spread in pie plate.
3. Beat Bisquick, milk, eggs until smooth. Pour over beef and onions.
4. Bake about 25 minutes
5. Top with tomatoes and cheese
6. Bake until knife inserted in center comes out clean.

Cool five minutes before serving.
Tapatitapati on September 2nd, 2008 04:04 am (UTC)
Mexican Turkey Salad Over Baked Sweet Potatoes

4 large sweet potatoes
12 oz cooked boneless, skinless turkey breast, shredded
1 medium red onion, chopped
1 medium bell pepper, chopped (I used yellow)
1 cup grape tomatoes, chopped (I used red and yellow)
1/2 cup cilantro, fresh, chopped (I LOVE cilantro)
2 Tbsp canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (use less if you can’t handle a bit of spiciness)
3 garlic cloves
2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup fresh lime juice

Preheat oven to 400°F. Place potatoes on rack in middle of oven and bake until tender (when you can stick a table knife into them VERY easily), about 45 to 65 minutes. It’s sort of hard to OVER cook the delicious sweet taters. So then put the turkey, onion, tomatoes, and bell pepper in a medium bowl; stir and set aside.

Put remaining ingredients in blender container or bowl of a food processor and blend until smooth. Pour dressing over turkey mixture and toss to coat.

Cut a slit in each potato and top each with a 1 cup of turkey mixture.
Tapatitapati on September 2nd, 2008 04:10 am (UTC)
slow cooker recipe
Lentil Soup with Ribbons of Kale

Collards, chard, or other dark greens may be substituted for the kale. I prefer to cook the greens in advance and add them when the soup is ready to eat because cooking the raw greens right in the soup can impart a bitter flavor.

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 large yellow onion, chopped

1 celery rib, chopped

1 large carrot, chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 1/4 cups dried brown lentils, sorted and rinsed

6 cups vegetable stock or water

1 tablespoon tamari soy sauce

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

4 or 5 large kale leaves, tough stems removed

1. Heat the oil in large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, celery, carrot, and garlic. Cover and cook until softened, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer the vegetables to a 4-quart slow cooker and add the lentils, stock, and tamari. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

2. Tightly roll the kale leaves like a cigar and cut them crosswise into thin ribbons. Cook the kale in a pot of boiling salted water until tender and add to the soup when ready to serve.

Serves 6
Tapatitapati on September 2nd, 2008 04:12 am (UTC)
Easy Mini Pizzas
English Muffin Mini-Pizzas

One package English muffins
Jar of PizzaQuik or your favorite pizza sauce
(and/or all the things you love on a pizza!)

Preheat the oven to 400*

Open the muffins into halves and place them on cookie sheets. Dress them like you would any pizza. Bake until the toppings are bubbly and the cheese is melted.

Tapatitapati on September 2nd, 2008 04:16 am (UTC)
Drunken Refrijitos

1 can pinto beans (Goya is my preferred brand...)
1 can beer
onion powder
garlic powder
salt (optional)
Chicken broth

Drain the nasty clear stuff off the beans. A little left wont hurt.

Put beans in pan

Add beer

Onion powder, Garlic powder, cumin much more heavily than you would think. About 1tbsps cumin, 1-2 tsps each onion/garlic

Bring to boil and boil down until there is little to no liquid left, and the beans have split their skins.

Add chicken broth and boil down again, this time leaving some liquid in the pan.

Mash pintos, (fork) although by this time it will be pretty easy. If you start early you can just boil them down a couple more times resulting in better beans, but I typically don't have the time or the patience.


Mexican Rice

1 cup rice
1 can chicken broth
1 can crushed tomatoes
onion powder
garlic powder

Heat pan

Put rice in pan, without liquid. Stir vigorously until it smells "toasted" If you were really going for it you could dice a white onion and toss it in at this point, and brown it as well before...

Add can of chicken broth

add can of crushed tomatoes

1tbsp cumin

1-2 tsp onion/garlic powders respectively

This will cook to a risotto like texture rather than a "rice" texture.

It is HEAVENLY with cheese on top.
Tapatitapati on September 2nd, 2008 04:17 am (UTC)
another from Mari
anybody who's ever seen Steel Magnolias knows this one


1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 14oz can "fruit cocktail with the juice"

Mix together well, pour into prepared pan (I use my brownie pan), and "bake at 350* until golden bubbly!" (about 35 minutes). I let it sit on the counter about 15 minutes before attempting to serve it, too. Truvy in the movie served hers with vanilla ice cream "to cut the taste".
Tapatitapati on September 2nd, 2008 04:18 am (UTC)
Last-minute lasagna
26-ounce jar pasta sauce
1 bag (18 or 20 ounces) refrigerated or frozen large cheese ravioli
1 box (10 ounces) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
8 ounces shredded mozzarella
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
Heat oven to 375 degrees. Spoon a thin layer of sauce over the ­bottom of a 9- by 13-inch baking dish. Cover with a single layer of ravioli. (Thaw if frozen.) Top with half the spinach, half the ­mozzarella and half the ­remaining sauce. Repeat with another layer of ravioli and the ­remaining spinach, mozzarella and sauce. Sprinkle with ­Parmesan. ­Cover with foil and bake for 30 ­minutes. Uncover and bake until ­bubbly, 5 to 10 minutes more.
Tapatitapati on September 2nd, 2008 04:29 am (UTC)
starving student recipes
Eggs in Purgatory
1 jar spaghetti sauce
3 eggs
Heat spaghetti sauce over medium heat until sputtering. Crack eggs directly into sauce and cook until whites have set. Serve on top of bread or spaghetti.


Frito casserole
1 lb. ground beef
1 sm. onion, minced
8 oz. can red enchilada sauce
1 large bag fritos
1 large bag shredded taco cheese
8 oz. sour cream
Preheat oven to 350. Brown ground beef in a pan with chopped onion. Drain juices. Combine with enchilada sauce and fritos in a casserole. Top with sour cream and cheese. Bake for 30 minutes. Serve.


This is not exactly a gourmet delight, but it is easy, will feed a small crowd, and is generally liked by college students.
--Break up two tubes of refrigerated biscuits (I warned you that it wasn't gourmet!) and spread around a 9x13 greased pan
--Brown a pound of ground beef and sprinkle over biscuits
--Pour over a jar or two of spaghetti sauce
--Add whatever other pizza toppings you like or have around: onions, peppers, etc.
--Top with shredded mozzarella cheese and bake at 350 for about 40 minutes.

This is a very forgiving recipe: kids can add or subtract ingredients, alter the amounts, and still end up with something fairly edible. The good news is that they become better cooks and eaters as time goes on!

Container of pop-open pizza dough.
Un-roll this out over a loaf pan with the sides draped over the long edges.
Tip: I'd get a disposable aluminum one if I was taking it to a party...then I could leave it and not have to remember to take home my dish.

Then fill this cavity with any toppings you'd put on a pizza along with a bit of spaghetti sauce and shredded mozzarella cheese.
Suggestion: I'd usually get a few links of mild sausage at the grocery, take the outside casings off and brown in a skillet. Then add in black olives and mushrooms...but it'd also work with ham & pineapple or whatever combination you like.

Then wrap the edges up over the filling and press together with your fingers. Then bake according to package directons on the dough wrapper.

I usually let it cool a bit while everyone was devouring chips & salsa or other appetizer. Once it's almost room temp I'd take the whole 'loaf' out and slice like bread. Serve one hearty slice (~1.5" thick) with a side of salad-in-a-bag per guest.


Easy Easy Chicken and Vegies
3 carrots, sliced, 3 stalks celery, sliced, 1 large onion, cut into thin wedges, 3 cups cubed cooked chicken, 1 (10 3/4-ounce) can condensed cream of celery soup, 3/4 cup chicken broth - Place vegetables in the bottom of slow cooker. Top with chicken. Add the soup and broth. (No need to mix). Cover and cook for 4 to 6 hours on low.

Really Easy Pot Roast
6 small potatoes, 6 small onions, 6 medium carrots, 1 boneless beef chuck roast (approximately 3 pounds), Salt and pepper (any other favorite seasonings), 1 cup water or beef stock. Combine all in crockpot - low for 8 hrs.


Tuna Casserole - Mix canned tuna with cream of celery soup, cooked noodles and frozen peas. Top with Velveeta and something crunchy. (Saltines, cereal, etc) Bake at 350 until bubby.

Cheese Souffle - Tear 2 loaves of old french or italian bread into chunks and soak in a mixture of 2 cups milk and 6 eggs, salt and pepper and mustard. Mix in lots of Velvetta and bake at 350 until bubbly.
litlebananalitlebanana on September 2nd, 2008 04:45 am (UTC)
Re: starving student recipes
Wow thanks, I'll have to bookmark this..
Tapatitapati on September 2nd, 2008 06:04 am (UTC)
save the whole topic and I'll keep adding recipes
Recipe: Red Lentil Soup With Lemon

Time: 45 minutes

3 tablespoons olive oil, more for drizzling

1 large onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, more to taste

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Pinch of ground chili powder or cayenne, more to taste

1 quart chicken or vegetable broth

1 cup red lentils

1 large carrot, peeled and diced

Juice of 1/2 lemon, more to taste

3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro.

1. In a large pot, heat 3 tablespoons oil over high heat until hot and shimmering. Add onion and garlic, and sauté until golden, about 4 minutes.

2. Stir in tomato paste, cumin, salt, black pepper and chili powder or cayenne, and sauté for 2 minutes longer.

3. Add broth, 2 cups water, lentils and carrot. Bring to a simmer, then partially cover pot and turn heat to medium-low. Simmer until lentils are soft, about 30 minutes. Taste and add salt if necessary.

4. Using an immersion or regular blender or a food processor, purée half the soup then add it back to pot. Soup should be somewhat chunky.

5. Reheat soup if necessary, then stir in lemon juice and cilantro. Serve soup drizzled with good olive oil and dusted lightly with chili powder if desired.

Yield: 4 servings.
Tapatitapati on September 2nd, 2008 05:07 am (UTC)
more from a starving student topic (not mine)
here's another soup - very fresh tasting and surprisingly good. i'll still make in a pinch with staples. it was a classic in med school when i had no time or money but wanted things that tasted good..

"pam" the bottom of a saucepan and add a teaspoon - tablespoon (depending on taste) of cumin
add a cut up zucchini and yellow squash and saute until golden
add some cut up carrots
pour in 2 big cans chicken broth
add a can of diced tomatoes with chiles (or you can do them separate)
add a can of red or kidney beans, drained
add leftover, canned or shredded rotisserie chicken
let cook 15 minutes
add a can of corn
let cook 5 minutes more
add a whole bunch of cilantro shredded and just warm through

i serve with sour cream garnish and chips/salsa/guac on the side
the original recipe had tortillas and cheese stirred into the soup - i like it "fresher" than that but college boys might like it that way.


Here's what got me through my senior year of college:
I took some canned black beans, heated them up on the stove with a half jar or so of salsa, and served over white rice (from the local takeout place, although if he can handle making his own, that's great). If frying up an onion isn't out of the question, that adds some great flavor, too. If they like spicy, adding some hot sauce or using extra spicy salsa will work well. Leftover beans are great as a snack with tortilla chips.


Here's an easy recipe that took me through college and the first years of my marriage and on to fussy toddlers. :)

Brown a pound of ground beef, drain
add a box (8 oz.) of your choice of pasta - elbows, penne, etc., cooked
add a 2 cans of stewed tomatoes with onions, green peppers and celery.
You can also added extra onions, peppers and celery for a more "fresh" taste. Onions and peppers are readily available here in Boston already chopped in the frozen food section in supermarkets. I never met anyone who didn't like this.

When I went to college my mom got me a cook book called Where's Mom Now That I Need Her. It was very helpful and had many easy recipes (as well as household hints and basic first aid tips).


Easiest crockpot recipe possible:

1 lb boneless chicken breasts
1 can of cream of mushroom or cream of chicken soup
1 small can of mushrooms
1/4 cup white wine
a dash of pepper

Cover the chicken with soup, mushrooms, and wine mixed together. Add pepper. Cook on low for about 8 hours. Serve over rice.

Take a chicken boneless breast wrap in bacon cover with cream of mushroom and sour cream bake for an hour serve over buttered egg noodles
Tapatitapati on September 2nd, 2008 05:07 am (UTC)
Re: more from a starving student topic (not mine)
and more

Another easy crockpot recipe:

1 package of skinless chicken thighs and/or legs, depending on the size of your crockpot
1-2 cans of diced tomatoes (the kind with garlic and Italian seasoning is best)
1 can of tomato paste
1-2 cans of canned corn
Whatever other vegetables you like
Additional seasoning if it's not already in the diced tomatoes

Dump everything in the crockpot, stir to cover chicken with tomatoes. Cook on low 6-8 hours. Serve with rice or noodles.

Note: boneless chicken tends to get dried out in crockpots, so bone-in is best for this recipe. Skinless is best because there's no way for skin to get crispy; it just gets kind of slimey.
1) beef or pork butt/roast-1 can of beer-1 pkg of lipton onion soup mix. put in crockpot and let cook 8-10 hrs on low. 1 large roast should last 4 boys 2 meals worth. one day serve shredded meat on sandwiches, next day serve with juice over pasta and if any left add vegis and make soup.

Chicken and Dumplings-
1 can chicken stock
1 can chicken gravy
1 bag frozen veggie mix or fresh of their choice
boneless chicken or chicken pieces
1 tube Pillsbury biscuits- each cut into 4 smal squares

Bring stock and frozen veggies to a boil.
Once veggies are getting soft, add all the gravy.
Stir to combine.
Lower heat and allow to simmer.
After 5 minutes, ad chicken
Stir again.
When chicken begins to cook ( ie-starts to look white), add small squares of biscuit.
Allow to simmer until chicken is cooked through, veggies are soft and biscuits are firm.
Makes great left-overs, too.

6 english muffins - split

1 tomato - diced
1 red pepper - diced
1 jar of marinated artichoke hearts - chopped
about 1-1 1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
couple of handfuls of pine nuts - toasted (I just toast mine in olive oil in a skillet since I know I'd forget them if I put them in the oven

Mix above ingredients together and sprinkle on top of split english muffins. Bake at 350 for 10 minutes or until cheese is melted.


another page

Tapatitapati on September 2nd, 2008 05:49 am (UTC)
lentil soup
lentil soup

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 cup finely chopped carrot
1/2 cup finely chopped celery
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 pound lentils, picked and rinsed
1 cup peeled and chopped tomatoes (or stewed from a can minus liquid)
2 quarts chicken or vegetable broth
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground toasted cumin
1/2 teaspoon paprika

black pepper to taste

Place the olive oil into a large 6-quart Dutch oven and set over medium heat. Once hot, add the onion, carrot, celery and salt and sweat until the onions are translucent, approximately 6 to 7 minutes. Add the lentils, tomatoes, broth, coriander and cumin and stir to combine. Increase the heat to high and bring just to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and cook at a low simmer until the lentils are tender, approximately 35 to 45 minutes.


for lentil dal, use peanut oil (not olive) hold the spices until the end, increase amounts of coriander, cumin, and paprika to 1 tsp, add also 1/4 tsp ground ginger or half a tsp grated ginger and 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes, 1/2 tsp turmeric and 1/2 tsp black mustard seeds. Using a separate little pan over low medium heat, add oil and then seeds. As seeds start to pop add ground spices, swirl in oil to coat evenly. Just as mixture barely begins to smoke, add to pot of cooked lentils and veggies and stir. (Be cautious as the oil mixture will sputter as it hits the water.) Let simmer a few more minutes before serving.


For a greek-style variation lower the amount of salt by 1/2 tsp, omit tomatoes, and add the juice of one lemon, some chopped spinach just before serving, and oregano, thyme, and basil. Sprinkle a bit of feta on top of each bowl.


Mexican style

omit celery, increase cumin to 1 tsp, add tomato salsa at the end just before serving, also a few drops of liquid smoke, 1/2 tsp chili powder, and top with cilantro and grated cheddar cheese. You can serve on top crushed tortilla chips or serve chips on the side for dipping.