Monday, November 18, 2013

Confessions of a Newlywed Cook Part III: 10 warm easy NO RECIPE meals

As promised a few days ago, today’s post in my “Newlywed Cook” series focuses on easy meals that don’t require recipes.
I think that the BEST meals probably take a lot of work and prep, but many good meals are easy and not difficult at all. When it comes to weeknight cooking, I am all for good, not best J And sometimes these good meals don’t even require recipes!!
The best thing about the meals I am about to list is that you can cook them in 30 minutes or less, there’s no recipe to follow and very little prep work and many ingredients are ones you can easily keep on hand and may already have in your kitchen.
There’s no reason to pick up subs or eat frozen pizza when you can easily make these hot meals….and frankly, some of these meals are my favorites (yay, breakfast for dinner!) So, here are some of my FAVORITE quick dinners -- keep a few of these options on hand for nights when you know you aren’t going to want to be in the kitchen long (HELLO Mondays!) or when you forgot to plan or prepare a meal!

(1)  Mexican Fiesta!

It takes just a few ingredients to make tacos, taco salad, quesadillas, etc. I almost always keep taco seasoning and tortillas at home so I can throw together some type of tacos or quesadillas in a hurry! The step that requires the most work in this dinner is cooking and seasoning the meat. Occasionally, we have not had meat, so I have been creative – mozzarella and black bean quesadillas, yum! So pull out your frozen beef or chicken, grab some cheese and veggies and claim the night as taco night!

(2)  “No Brainer” chicken seasonings.

There are several seasoning packets (ranging from spices to actual bread crumb mixes) that you can literally, just add to chicken and have an easy dinner!

Our favorite is Shapley’s seasoning (from a famous Jackson restaurant) – we marinate the chicken in a little oil and seasoning, occasionally some lemon – not hard at all! You can also use Sautee Express by Land o’ lakes…it’s butter and seasoning mixed together. You place the seasoned butter in the skillet and then can cook your chicken on the skillet. So simple and tasty.

Finally, a little more than just seasoning: Kraft fresh takes is seasoning, bread crumbs and cheese that you toss the chicken tenders in, then bake!

These premade seasoning mixes and packets take the guess work out of seasoning. No measuring out different spices or panko and cheese, just add chicken and you’ve got a main dish!

(3)  Spaghetti. (No need to explain this one!)

(4)  Breakfast for dinner.

Are you ever too old for breakfast for dinner? Really? Few things make people happier than a good weekend brunch of pancakes, French toast or eggs. Dave and I both LOVE breakfast food, so I am thinking about doing this more often. In fact, I must admit that while thinking about this blog post last Thursday, I decided I had to have Dave’s amazing fried eggs for dinner (he makes them way better than I can!). At first I told myself that I could wait until Saturday morning, but I couldn’t. I had chicken defrosting to make chicken and quinoa, but that idea got scratched and we had toasted cinnamon bread, fried eggs and bacon instead!

As I said, people LOVE breakfast, so serving breakfast for dinner rarely gets complaints AND we usually feel like it’s a treat because it’s out of the norm!

(5)  Soup Mixes

You can get fancy soup mixes at nice stores where you just add water, milk or meat – and cook. The noodles, potatoes, veggies, seasoning, etc are already in the bag!

But, my mom taught me about Bear Creek Soups a few years ago – you can buy this at the grocery store for a cheap price and its so good. These soups and stews give off the homemade (not canned) appearance (probably because you add some fresh products - like ground beef or veggies) and are so simple to put together!

In fact, bear creek minestrone beef soup is sitting in my fridge right now for tonight’s dinner. I have a meeting and will be home late, and it was easy to just cook this soup ahead of time  so Dave could eat when he got home (just add ground beef and diced tomatoes)

(6)  Brown Rice in a bag
Clearly, brown rice is not a meal, but it is a quick side that you can throw together. I often buy the bagged rice (which some people hate) because the serving size is usually enough for just Dave and me. Having a box of brown rice in the pantry helps me if I cook chicken and forget that I needed a side or something to pour the meat on top of!

(7)  Frozen or premade entrees

Let me clarify, by frozen or precooked entrees, I don’t just mean frozen lasagna…there is so much variety these days. Trader Joes and Whole Foods both have precooked or frozen meals – like shrimp dishes, pumpkin or lobster ravioli (my sister loves Trader Joes Ravioli!), barbeque (we did this the other day!), etc. Honestly, I find that the nights we do the precooked meals is often Sunday evenings after I went grocery shopping and spent the afternoon making freezer meals, etc. At that point, I want to pop something in the oven and reheat.

(8)  Premade pizza dough from Trader Joes or Whole Foods

We love pizza—which is a great thing to love in DC because there are so many gourmet pizzerias so we have tried  many places. We also like to make pizza sometimes which is so simple! I suppose we could make homemade dough --- but we choose to let Trader Joes do it for us! We buy dough for 3 dollars, spread it out and then put whatever toppings we want on it, so easy and much better than a frozen pizza - and its possible to pick healthier toppings and make healthy pizza....

(9)  Stir Fry
Cook some meat and veggies in a skillet with whatever toppings and seasoning you want! You can also cook some rice to serve the stir fry over.  We don’t do this easy dish ever – because well, Dave is picky about veggies, but at one time (law school), this was my week night staple!

(10)         Grilled cheese (and soup!)
We do grilled cheese and canned/boxed soup every few weeks….usually for lunch on the weekend or on a busy weeknight. You can make grilled sandwiches  with meat and fancy cheeses – or go for the good ole fashioned American cheese! And it’s good comfort food, so if you have had a long day, it might cheer you up a bit!

So, there you go – 10 easy warm “no recipe” dinners you could cook tonight. Not every night can be a feast – in fact if you work or are busy raising babies, most nights can’t be – but it’s possible to have dinners prepared for a majority of the nights!  It’s easy to make a few warm quick “no recipe” meals .  Every time you go shopping, plan ahead and have ingredients for a couple "easy" dinners– for evenings when you are out late at a meeting, work or happy  hour – or just for evenings when you don’t want to cook!

 The other Newlywed Cook posts:



  1. I love breakfast for dinner! And stir fry is totally my go-to meal...easy and healthy!

    1. ha, well my bacon wasn't healthy, but its all we had. But I agree, eggs, wheat toast and fruit is so simple and healthy and delicious!

  2. Quinoa cooked in chicken broth makes for a nice substitute for rice with stir fry, beans, or just on its own as a complete protein and cooks quickly. TJ's sells 10 min. farro, barley etc. which is similar to the fast cooking brown rice. Love the pot - I have lots of cherry red.

    1. I'll have to try, made parmeson quinoa last night and Dave liked it! We will call that a success!

  3. Katy,
    These are all great suggestions! Costco has some WONDERFUL pre-packaged pasta choices and some other frozen meal options that are not-your-typical-frozen-dinner.

    ~Emily from The Orange Slate

    1. I will check them out when I tag along with you to visit cosco!