Do You Do Quickies?

by tinareale on December 6, 2011

When looking at our schedule for this week, I noticed that I have something going on every night. It’s all fun activities, but still a bit overwhelming. Who else can relate to suddenly facing a night where you don’t have the time or energy to cook up a crafty dinner?

Luckily I have had ample practice at keeping dinner simple and quick, while still remaining healthy. I used to think that I could only resolve these types of situations with fast food pit stops, take out menus, bowls of cereal, plain old pasta, or a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Bland, boring, and/or not the most balanced choice out there.

Over time, I got fed up with the same old habits. I realized that as a self-proclaimed impatient diner (and with the Hangry Boy as my child), pretty much every night in the Reale household needs quick meals. Here are some of my standby ways to make quick dinners happen:

Meal Plan Quick Options

pasta salad dinner

Whole Wheat Pasta with Artichokes, Tomatoes, Olives, Mushrooms, Onions, and Feta Cheese

When planning my weekly meals, I always plan in a couple of quick fix recipes to whip up on nights I suddenly run out of time for dinner. It never fails that at least one night per week I realize I don’t have the time to cook what I intended. It is such a stress relief to already have back up options available.

Use quick cooking methods.

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Eat your veggies either raw or slightly steamed. Go ahead and use my best friend the microwave for quick cooking. If eating meat, cook up ground beef or turkey or thinly slice your chicken breast before cooking. Use eggs! You can cook breakfast for dinner, since those meals tend to be less time consuming. Make a “kitchen sink” salad where you just toss together things you have at the ready in your fridge or pantry. If you know it will be a busy night, prep the slow cooker in the morning for a ready-to-eat meal at night. After tonight’s outing we will come home to some of that delicious chili pictured above all ready to eat. Open-mouthed smile

Don’t feel bad for using packaged.

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Sure, fresh foods are better. We all know that, but sometimes there is a need for frozen or canned products like Kashi pizzas, Morningstar/Boca/Quorn products, Amy’s Organics burritos and meals, bags of frozen vegetables, canned soups, etc. I do try to choose the option with the best stats and shortest ingredient lists, but there is a time and place for these things in our lives. And sometimes they are a dinner saver. My favorite? Annie’s Shells + a bagged salad mix. Yum!

And last night’s dinner saver…LEFTOVERS!

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This recipe is a favorite of mine and we usually end up with an extra serving or two leftover, which I felt very thankful for last night. I posted this recipe on the old blog, but it’s worth sharing again.

Mexican Black Bean Tortilla Casserole

Prep Time: 15-20 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes

    • 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
    • 8 oz package button mushrooms, trimmed & quartered
    • 1 small zucchini, chopped into 1/2” pieces
    • 1/2 small onion, chopped into 1/2” pieces
    • 1 cup yellow corn
    • 1 tablespoon minced garlic (I used about 1 Tbsp)
    • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
    • course salt & ground pepper
    • 15.5 oz. can black beans, drained & rinsed
    • 8 corn tortillas, halved
    • 2 cups marinara 
    • 4 oz. Monterey Jack cheese, shredded

Preheat oven to 400. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms, zucchini, onion, and corn to pan. Cook until softened, approximately 7 minutes. Add garlic and cayenne; season with salt & pepper. Add black beans and stir to combine. Cook until beans are warmed through.

Arrange 5 tortilla halves in an 8×8 baking dish. Top with half the bean & vegetable mixture and 1/2 cup marinara, then sprinkle with one-third of the cheese. Repeat with another layer (5 tortilla halves, other half of the bean/veggie mix, 1/2 cup marinara, 1/3 of the cheese). Top with remaining tortillas, salsa/marinara, and cheese. Cover with foil and bake for 15 minutes. Remove the foil and bake another 10-15 minutes, until cheese bubbles. Serve and savor…despite its non-photogenic qualities.

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Leftovers are the best! Our favorite options for leftovers are any type of casserole dish, soups, roasted veggies, meats cooked in the slow cooker to easily shred/chop to add in other meals, and pasta dishes.

So those are my quick fix meal ideas…but, let’s face it, a bowl of cereal or a stop at Subway sometimes is just fine too. Winking smile

How often do you resort to quickie meals? Any suggestions you can share?

{ 47 comments }

1 Claire @ Live and Love to Eat December 6, 2011 at 8:15 am

I’m not that great at quick meals – especially since I usually cook two versions of whatever I choose – one with meat and one without.

2 Lee December 6, 2011 at 8:20 am

Since I’m unemployed at the moment, I’ve been doing lots of cooking, but back when I had a job, I relied on quick meals all the time. Tortilla/pita pizzas were one of my go-to easy meals.

3 Tiff December 6, 2011 at 8:45 am

I am allllll about quickie meals. I would make myself cereal or something if it were only me, but I feel I “need” to feed the hubs something more substantial. We both don’t get home until 6 pm, and since we’re both starved and cranky, it has to be quick & easy.

4 Brittany (A Healthy Slice of Life) December 6, 2011 at 8:45 am

We always have quickies on hand, but they aren’t super creative. Last night, for example, I threw together whole wheat penne, jarred mushroom marinara and frozen turkey meatballs. Hubbs loves it and the ingredients are always on hand :)

5 Mellissa December 6, 2011 at 8:54 am

I love that casserole, I’ve made it a few times. I do a lot of quinoa salads, pasta, chicken for quick meals.

6 tinareale December 8, 2011 at 1:33 pm

I have fallen in love with quinoa for quick cooking meals!

7 Laura @ Sprint 2 the Table December 6, 2011 at 9:16 am

I feel you on the busy schedule – I looked at my calendar and had NO idea how every night filled up!

Quickie meals are a must – I re-purpose leftovers, make giant grain bowls quite often. One way I like to change up flavors is to use a sauce like hummus (thinned with cider vinegar) or the pesto I made today. It take 5 mins to throw together and you can add it to anything!

8 Lenae Crumley December 6, 2011 at 9:32 am

I love my slow cooker. Put the food in in the morning and then go about your day. By dinner time its ready and so yummy. http://crockpot365.blogspot.com/ is a great website for meal ideas. Another thing I love about it is I can cook large chunks of meat and then get two meals out of it. Last night I did a large pork loin with potatoes and carrots and tonight we are going to have shredded pork tacos with the meat. Another fast fav in our family is breakfast for dinner…pancakes/waffles and eggs. By the way…love your new website.

9 tinareale December 8, 2011 at 1:34 pm

Thanks, Lenae! Both for the support and for the link to that crockpot site. I’m always looking for great ideas to use it for. It’s seriously the best kitchen tool.

10 Anna @ On Anna's Plate December 6, 2011 at 9:40 am

I am ALL about quick dinners…most of our meals take 20 minutes or less to cook!

11 Ashley @ My Food 'N' Fitness Diaries December 6, 2011 at 9:43 am

I’m all about quickie meals!! We have them once or twice a week – always on Wednesdays because we have church, and then sometimes one other day if I’m feeling lazy or we’re in a rush for something. I’m a huge fan of using up leftovers, stovetop or microwave quesadillas, or grilled sandwiches.

12 chelcie @ chelcie's food files December 6, 2011 at 9:43 am

quick meals are my favorite to throw together! these are awesome tips!

13 Sarah December 6, 2011 at 9:44 am

I have two boys under the age of three. If it’s not quick, it’s not getting done!!! I’m big into my crockpot lately. I’ve also started meal planning (yuck) but it has been really effective in making sure that I’m getting healthy meals on the table for the kids! I always have quinoa or couscous on hand- easy to throw in a can of chick peas, some spices and call it a meal!

14 Kelly @ Laughter, Strength, and Food December 6, 2011 at 9:52 am

I am usually home every night after 7 so I’m always looking for quick meals. I’m a big fan of using the ‘kitchen sink’ method and seeing what I can make with the stuff I have in my fridge. Pasta dishes, like the first one you have pictured, are usually a staple, because it fills us up while giving us awesome flavors from all of the different things we add to it!

15 Katie @ Peace Love & Oats December 6, 2011 at 10:14 am

I get exhausted trying to find something for just me to eat, I can’t imagine a whole family! Good tips!

16 Khushboo December 6, 2011 at 10:29 am

Im all about the quick meals even on weekends when I do have time on my hands. Fortunately they are just as delicious as elaborate meals! Love that tortilla recipe!

17 jobo December 6, 2011 at 10:29 am

Hehe, I was thinking quickies in a completely different manner, not that I thought you would blog about *that* ;-P

I am a pro at quick dinners too! I get home late from barre n9ne, so the quicker, the better!! Leftover homemade soup is a fave, had that last night (curried corn soup! and grilled cheese!).

18 tinareale December 8, 2011 at 1:35 pm

You should have seen one of the replies I got on Twitter…

“nooners are the best quickies” Bahahahaha!

19 Lauren @ What Lauren Likes December 6, 2011 at 10:48 am

I love making big batches of soup or chili! They are so quick to make and you have leftovers for the week! Great recipe :)

20 Sarena (The Non-Dairy Queen) December 6, 2011 at 11:11 am

I’m all about quickies these days. Between work, studying, the holidays and the boys…there is no time for anything. We do a lot of omelets for dinner since we can get a lot of veggies in the boys that way too. Casseroles and the crockpot are my new best friends!

21 tinareale December 8, 2011 at 1:36 pm

LOVE omelets for dinner. They are so easy and, like you said, great way to sneak in extra veggies.

22 Sabrina @ Radioactive Runner December 6, 2011 at 11:21 am

After seeing the picture of the tortilla caserole, I am soo hungry. Look so good!

23 Cara December 6, 2011 at 11:39 am

As much as I love to cook a good meal, quickie meals are a fact of life. I always keep whole wheat tortillas, cheese, black beans and salsa on hand to make quick quesadillas or taco salad (I always have a bag of salad). I’m also a big fan of a frozen bag of veggies, some pasta, and frozen shrimps.

24 Alayna @ Thyme Bombe December 6, 2011 at 11:47 am

I have 3 quickie dinners that I always have the stuff on hand for in case I just do not feel like cooking. Frozen tortellini, fried rice, and fancy grilled cheese with tomato soup. I make at least one of those every week and there’s no shame in it. :)

25 Jamie @ Don't Forget the Cinnamon December 6, 2011 at 11:52 am

Tuesdays and Thursdays I have nutrition class until 5:15 and let me tell you, nothing makes me hungrier than sitting through 3 hours of nutrition before dinner time! My go to meals are savory crepes, easy veggie soup, and grilled sandwiches!

26 Lindsay @ Lindsay's List December 6, 2011 at 12:12 pm

You titled this post for me, didn’t you? ;) You knew my mind would go there.

27 tinareale December 8, 2011 at 1:36 pm

Hehehehe. I like to have fun with plays on words. :)

28 Shannon ~ My Place In The Race December 6, 2011 at 12:20 pm

I used to hate leftovers! But as I’ve gotten older, I get excited when I have them. I don’t have to think about dinner when they are around :D

29 Lauren December 6, 2011 at 12:29 pm

LOVE quick easy dinners. Especially on those crazy nights. Eggs are my go-to meal on nights like that but I often love make-ahead like casseroles or soups.

30 Paula @ lipstick and lunges December 6, 2011 at 12:39 pm

I’m all about the quick meals! I do love to cook, but making something elaborate every night just isn’t in the cards. I try to always keep staples on hand that can combine for quick meals (like whole wheat pasta and frozen veggies). The slow cooker is another go to!

31 Heather @ Better With Veggies December 6, 2011 at 12:42 pm

I almost always make enough for two meals (which is only 4 servings in our house), because I love the convenience for leftovers! So it’s either 2 days of lunch or a dinner & lunch the next day – much easier than cooking all the time and still tasty! :)

32 Brittany @ GOtheXtraMile December 6, 2011 at 12:57 pm

These all look soo good. I am all about quick meals! Sometimes there is just not enough time to do a full on recipe for a couple hours.

33 Kris @ Eclipsed December 6, 2011 at 1:07 pm

Yum! I can’t wait to try that Mexican casserole. It looks delicious! Thanks for the recipe.

34 Parita @ myinnershakti December 6, 2011 at 2:35 pm

Great tips, Tina! If I need quick meals during the week, I’ll make a casserole on the weekend and just freeze individual portions to take out and eat throughout the week. I also love soups because they’re quick, easy, and filling.

P.S. Love love love the new blog. I’m so excited for you about this new journey. :)

35 Heather @ Run Eat Play December 6, 2011 at 3:06 pm

Those recipes look great! With two Ida, I always need quickie meals! Pasta is usually quick and easy.

36 Holly December 6, 2011 at 4:28 pm

I totally thought you were talking about the other type of “quickie”, and I would be proud! We always have leftovers in the cooper fridge! I still haven’t learned to cook for 2, I usually cook for 3 or 4 by “mistake”!

37 Denise December 6, 2011 at 5:29 pm

Egg sandwich is my go to quickie!!

38 Gina @ Running to the Kitchen December 6, 2011 at 6:11 pm

Am I the only one who laughed at this title? PLease say no!??
We have “quickies” at least once a week, more often though twice. I use pasta a lot and just add a ton of veggies that I always have on hand. Nothing easier and quicker than cooking pasta!

39 Heather (Where's the Beach) December 6, 2011 at 6:56 pm

Great tips and that pasta with the artichokes….yummy. I agree, packaged isn’t ideal, but if you choose the right product then there is no need to feel guilty. I’m actually going with a quickie dinner tonight. Sometimes you gotta do yourself that small favor.

40 Rosa - Fitness Food Fulfilled December 6, 2011 at 7:00 pm

We nearly always have to have quick meals in our house because by the time we get home from work, we’re all too tired and hungry to spend an hour in the kitchen cooking. Also, having hungry kids always makes getting something cooked quickly is key.
I sometimes buy a rotisserie chicken and make enchiladas, salads, sandwiches, or chicken tacos with it. Oftentimes we get two days of meals from this bird. I also like to fancy up sandwiches by adding more gourmet ingredients and grilling them. And roasting frozen, chopped veggies is just as nutritious without all the work of chopping.

41 Maryea @ Happy Healthy Mama December 6, 2011 at 10:07 pm

I am getting better at quick meals. Tonight was my favorite kind of quick meal–frozen! I need to find more freezable meals so I can make 2 dinners in one night. Eat one and freeze the other. The night when all I have to do is thaw and reheat a meal is freaking amazing. :-)

42 Alexa @ SimpleEats December 6, 2011 at 10:26 pm

I love making extra soup and storing the rest in a freezer bag. That way, when I’m busy, I can just defrost it in the fridge starting in the morning and simply heat it up when I get home.

43 Lauren @ Forward is a Pace December 7, 2011 at 11:49 am

Your quickies look so much more delicious than mine! Sadly, mine usually involve a takeout menu or a PBJ. Tucking these ideas away!

44 Sara @ Nourish and Flourish December 8, 2011 at 1:33 am

These are all great ideas, Tina! Since I’m a single gal, I typically only have to worry about myself, meaning that most of my meals are quickies. To make things easy, I always keep eggs, spinach, frozen veggies, frozen chicken breasts, salmon burgers, several varieties of cheese and beans on hand. It’s amazing how many different meal combinations you can whip up from these items in 15 minutes or less!

I LOVE cheesy Mexican casseroles, so I’m planning on trying your recipe! I’ve recently discovered that I can freeze portions of casserole and reheat one on a particularly crazy night. Have you ever tried freezing this one? I know some hold up better than others.

45 tinareale December 8, 2011 at 1:38 pm

This one holds up pretty well to reheat after being frozen. The texture gets slightly different, but still really good. I’m also very anal about food texture so it may not even be noticeable to people who aren’t picky about textures.

46 Yolie @ Practising Wellness December 10, 2011 at 7:04 am

I absolutely do quickies – although like you in the past, I have tended towards cereal etc. Though I have learned recently, with a new job, that quickies can be balanced, healthy and green! Like, for rushed days, I like buying packaged vegetables (very rare for me to do this) that I can pop in the mocrowave, and make sure I have some frozen salmon I can grill up while the greens cook. I always have some packaged salad in the fridge, to have with either a frozen Amy’s meal, kidney beans on toast (love this fast feed), and I also keep some ready-to=eat grains in the cupboard – you can just heat in the microwave for two mins and eat – they’re amazing, albeit a little pricey!! I just add hummus or tinned salmon, and a big salad, and I have fast food in a flash! :-) xyx PS: LOVE your new look! <3

47 tinareale December 10, 2011 at 7:18 am

Isn’t it amazing how good quick meals can be? All it takes is a little thought, pre-planning, and you’re good to go. Your options sound fabulous.

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