Dinner time

What is your fallback plan for nights when you just can’t get your act together to cook a “dish”? Takeout? Frozen pizza? Spaghetti with jarred sauce?


I admit that we have a Mama Cozzi frozen pizza about once a week, here. Something about chasing Mimi around all day has destroyed my ability to plan for dinner. My backup plan is a “basic” dinner–a basic vegetable, a basic starch, and a basic protein. I have these things, or at least some of them, in the house all of the time and they can be cooked in the hour before dinner without any forethought required. My usuals are:

PROTEINS (all frozen, and speed-thawed in warm water or the microwave)
Ground beef, in burgers or kefta or added to jarred spaghetti sauce
Chicken breasts
Pulled beef or pork from previous roasts

Potatoes, sliced and skillet-fried or baked in the microwave
Rice, plain or with butter, bouillon and Rotel for Spanish rice
Pasta, if I can find a sauce like marinara or pesto to dress it up
Wheat berries, dressed with oil and vinegar and salt and pepper
Bulgur wheat, with whatever herbs or cheese I can find to make it interesting

Broccoli, fresh, steamed in the microwave
Asparagus, fresh, roasted in the oven
Green beans, canned, simmered with onion, salt, and pepper
Lettuce, with Good Seasons Zesty Italian or Ranch dressing, both made from the packet
Tomatoes, fresh, with salt and pepper (when they’re good in the summer)
Spinach, frozen, “creamed” with garlic and parmesan and half-and-half or sauteed with garlic and balsamic vinegar
Peas, pureed with pesto
Cabbage, as coleslaw in summer, sauteed with fennel seeds in winter

4 thoughts on “Dinner time

  1. Ooh, some good ones! Some others I’ve resorted to when there’s no time or I need to shop: frozen cheese tortellini (with quickie marinara and added fresh or frozen spinach), tinned tuna or salmon mixed with whatever you have, fruit and veggie plates, beans with brown rice, eggs, grits, cheese bread and salad, lentil soup (cooks quick), spaghetti carbonara, quiche, or Triscuits and cheese with fresh veggies and/or fruit, Vietnamese summer rolls are a lifesaver too. Peanut sauce for protein, or shrimp if you’re fancy like that. I try to make a salad every night, so at least there’s that. I have picky vegetable eaters, but they all enjoy a green salad.

  2. I have a few backups. There’s always the frozen pizza, or the spaghetti with jarred sauce. Then, a major fallback is a protein pan fried or roasted with rice and one of those frozen steamer bags of veg. (If I am truly, truly, truly lazy it could possibly be frozen chicken nuggets or wings, but I usually save that for when I am not feeling well). A bowl of canned pineapple or mandarin oranges suffices for a little dessert on these nights, too. Also, I often cook some spaghettini, and while it’s cooking slice up some cherry tomatoes and a clove of garlic. I toss them in a serving bowl with about a quarter cup of olive oil and a couple healthy splashes of red wine vinegar. I rip up some oregano or marjoram and throw that in there and season it all with some salt and pepper. Throw in the drained noodles when they are done, and that’s about as easy as cooking gets.

    Another lazy meal: – if I know it’s going to be a long day, I throw a chicken, cut up, in a freezer bag with about a half cup of olive oil and a tablespoon or two of zaatar. Then, all I have to do is dump it in a roasting pan later. It might be my husband’s favorite meal.

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