I figured I'd switch things up and give you an easy idea for protein. One of the least respected quick meals is a protein and a can of vegetables or frozen vegetables. I like to buy large packs meat and separate the meat into the amounts needed for individual meals and freeze them. My mother in law was a chef and after we got married, my husband let me in on one of her secrets; she remakes individual hamburger patties, wraps them individually and freezes them. We don't eat beef much anymore but you can steal that if you'd like.
When I need a portion to make a meal, I just pull the freezer bag out and defrost the meat. If it's chicken, I toss some olive oil and butter and spices into the bag and let it marinate for overnight or for a few hours. If it's fish, steak or pork, I usually do a dry marinate with some spices. If it's a burger, I usually season it with season salt as I'm about to cook it.
Did you know George Foreman grills are still a thing?! I don't use one anymore, it either grill in a pan or I fry or we grill on the barbecue pit. But since we're all about easy meals, why not take your meat and cook it quickly and easily on a Foreman grill?
However you cook, honestly protein can be the basis for a quick easy meal. I try to keep plenty of canned and frozen vegetables on hand at all times. Canned vegetables can be as simple as opening the can and microwaving. Frozen only requires a few minutes on the stove to warm.
Even on the worst flare days, I'm able to take my individually wrapped fish, season it and toss it on the stove for a few minutes; bonus points to me if I make vegetables with it.
You could even make an extra portion or two of any of these proteins and put it in the refrigerator for your next meal or a quick meal a couple days later. Be sure to label the container with what it is and the date you are putting it until the refrigerator so you are wondering how long it's been in there.
Each Friday or Saturday we make pizza. We have made pizzas many different ways with many different ingredients, steps and procedures. I'm going to give you some suggestions for quick, easy, inexpensive pizza that are a great alternative to frozen pizzas. It takes me about 30 minutes or less start to finish.
First, we need to chat about crust choices. I have made my own dough in the past but I just don't have the energy anymore. Here is a quick and easy pizza dough recipe if you feel like tackling it. In the past, we have also bought pre-made pizza crusts. These are usually in the same aisle as spaghetti sauce. We discovered pre-made pizza dough about two years ago and we love it! They are a few dollars cheaper than the pizza crusts and not too much more expensive than getting the ingredients to make our own and the convenience is worth the difference. We find the best price at that huge discount store slash grocery store super center that most people consider the devil; it's only $1 there. We also find them at the local grocery chain but they are a little over $3 there. In both places, the dough is in the deli section. I don't have to rank these as to how much energy they require, I'm sure you've done that already.
The ingredients will vary based on which dough/ crust choice you make and what toppings you want on your pizza so I'll explain what we do. My kids are all old enough now to prepare their own pizzas so I make my own as well; sometimes my husband does it for me. My pizza:
• ½ pre-made dough (I like thin crust. Use a full dough for thick)
• pizza sauce or spaghetti sauce* (Italians don't judge me; look away)
• cheese (I use mozzarella and Italian)
• olive oil
• Italian seasoning
* you likely have spaghetti sauce already and will use it for other dishes. This is just easier than dedicated pizza sauce and it tastes fine. I'd stick with traditional flavored/style sauce.
Preheat your oven to 425 or so. I gather all of my ingredients before beginning because my hands get very messy. I take a ramekin and I mix 2 parts butter to on part olive oil and melt it in the microwave. Then I add Italian seasoning and garlic to the mixture and set it aside. I put about a half cup of flour on a clean counter and spread it around bigger than my pizza will be. Then I rub the flour all over the front and back of my hands and between my fingers then pile the remaining flour out of my way. I take half of the dough from the package and begin to flatten it out with my fingers, adding flour as needed. I shape the dough as desired. (generally make a rectangular thin crust, my daughter usually makes a perfect circle with edges like at a pizza parlor, my husband and sons aren't pretty but are utilitarian.) when my pizza is almost the size I want it, I grab my baking sheet and smear my butter/ olive oil mixture on the pan so the crust doesn't stick then put the crust on the pan. Then I smear the butter/ olive oil mixture over the top of the crust; this adds flavor and makes it easier to finish spreading. I continue to spread my crust out on the baking sheet; it's much easier to spread with the oil on top and bottom. Then I wash my icky hands. I place the crust in the oven until it is very lightly browned. I do this because I want the crust cooked and it may not cook as quickly as the cheese will melt. After removing it from the oven, I add sauce and desired ingredients and put the pizza back into the oven until the cheese is melted. I don't over brown my cheese because this makes enough for two meals. I cut the pizza in half, eat half and let the other half cool. I place the remaining pizza into a bag, label it and put it into the refrigerator. When I reheat the pizza in the oven, my cheese won't burn because I didn't overcook it the first time.
I make my pot pie using my easy stew. I make them after the stew cools and freeze them or eat them immediately. This is how.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Pour the stew into your frozen pie crusts until the filling is slightly below the rim. If you choose, add a top crust by laying it over the pie and pressing the dough into the bottom dough. If you add a top crust, slice about a 1 inch long slice in the top crust or poke holes with a fork. This will allow heat to escape and prevent a mess. Whether you add a top crust or not, rip foil into half inch or so strips and wrap around the edges of the crust so that it doesn't burn. Bake for 25-40 minutes or until the crust is golden brown.
*If you choose to freeze these for later, be sure to label the pies beforehand with what it is and the date.
I made this stew yesterday. It's a great meal you can make ahead or make extra then freeze. I also use it in another recipe I'll share soon. If you are preparing this days before you want to eat it, put the pot or crock pot on low. If it's being prepared early on the day of, put the slow cooker on high.
First, you will need to make the stew base. Pour a small amount (about 2 cups) of water or broth into the crock pot. Whisk in the envelop of brown gravy into the pot. Then whisk in flour slowly until the mixture is slightly pasty. (gravy thickens naturally) Now pour in more water / broth until the pot is half full and mix. Dump the meat and vegetables into your slow cooker. Add water/ broth until the pot is full and stir.
Cook for at least a few hours. I remove all except what I plan to eat that day from the slow cooker and I let it cool in a bowl to prepare it for bagging. Bag the food in a freezer bag the sized bags needed to feed your household. Be sure to label the bag before you fill it with what it is and the date you are bagging it.
I use my chili recipe to make this recipe I'll share soon. You can assemble this, cook it and freeze it or eat it immediately.
• cooked chili
• about 3 cans of corn (may need more or less)
• about 4 boxes of corn muffin mix
• milk (amount required by muffin recipe)
• eggs (amount required by muffin recipe)
Mix the corn muffin mix. Pour enough chili to cover about ½ inch into a dish. (I use these pie dishes for several recipes like this because they're easy to clean.) Then pour enough corn to cover the chili. Finally, pour about ½ inch of corn muffin mix on top; do not over fill. Bake following corn muffin instructions. Reduce bake time by about 10 minutes if you plan to freeze it to eat it later. Partially cooking it makes for better freezing and will ensure the cornbread doesn't burn when reheating. Cover the food with plastic wrap and aluminum foil and freeze. Be sure to label what it is and the date before freezing it. Whenever you fully cook it, I enjoy rubbing butter over the top of the cornbread as soon as I pull it out of the oven.
I mentioned frozen onions and peppers in my chili post. I freeze many foods that many people don't thinks of freezing. I hope this post helps you. I also did a video a couple years ago. I freeze
I make this chili and I freeze some and I also use it in another recipe I'll share soon. If you are preparing this days before you want to eat it, put the pot or slow cooker on warm. If it's being prepared early on the day of, put the slow cooker on low. If you plan to eat some within two hours, put the slow cooker on high.
• pack of chili seasoning
• can of tomato paste
• canned (or fresh) tomatoes
• onions and peppers
• canned beans (I use black, dark red, kidney)
• browned ground turkey/ ground beef/ caramel colored tofu
* add other seasoning and ingredients to taste
* you may like to substitute tomatoes and onions and peppers with salsa.
Dump all of the above ingredients into your slow cooker. and stir. You will want to add water. I put a little water in the cans so that I'm getting all of the ingredients out of the can as I'm adding water. Do not make the chili too watery.
After the chili has been cooking for at least a few hours, I remove all except what I plan to eat that day from the slow cooker and I let it cool in a bowl to prepare it for bagging. Bag the food in a freezer bag the sized bags needed to feed your household. Be sure to label the bag before you fill it with what it is and the date you are bagging it.
I have some essentials that I must have on hand at all times so that I can prepare meals ahead of time. I have previously made a video about this but here are some of my essentials. This is a living list...
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