Life’s going to get nuts soon. It will be way too easy to pick up a pizza or make dinner out of a supermarket cheeseball spread on Triscuits with smoked sausage and pickled jalapenos. Don’t ask.
Stocking up is key. I make sure I have the makings for a quick dinner in my refrigerator or freezer just in case I don’t have the energy or time to make what I’ve planned. I keep one of those big frozen fillets (or sides) of wild Alaskan salmon, cut up into portions, in the freezer. And I do the same with boneless skinless chicken thighs. You can quickly and safely thaw what you need for dinner in a bowl of hot water.
But my real plan B is pasta. And I secretly love when that happens. As long as I have onions and garlic, some kind of pork stashed in the freezer for just this occasion – pancetta, hog jowl, bacon, sausage, ham, whatever – some breadcrumbs and parmesan, I’m good. I usually also have a can of diced tomatoes or a package of sun-dried tomatoes and some herbs to take it to the next level.
If you want a real recipe that will only take 30 minutes, here are some of my favorite quick pastas:
- Penne with gorgonzola, spinach, mushrooms and walnuts
- Linguine with walnut pesto
- Pasta with Italian sausage and peppers
- Friday night spaghetti sauce
- Pasta carbonara with corn and cherry peppers
- Linguine with white (canned) clam sauce
- Shrimp pesto pasta
A few more Italian favorites:
Fish cooks quickly. Try one of these preparations using whatever fish you can get at the market or, even better, have in your freezer:
- Chipotle salmon
- Cod with pistachio-crumb coating
- Citrus pesto salmon
- Baked flounder with parmesan crumbs
- Sweet spicy glazed salmon
- Coconut citrus tilapia
- Sicilian tuna and potatoes
- Braised fish Asian-style
- Fish with coconut red curry sauce
- Almond-crusted mahi mahi
- Salmon with sweet and spicy rub
In an Asian mood? Try one of these:
- Thai-style spicy peanut butter sauce pasta
- Sticky sweet spicy Chinese takeout chicken
- Hoisin ground pork or chicken with Napa cabbage (or regular cabbage or other greens)
- Thai-style ground chicken (or pork) with basil
- Malaysian shrimp with pineapple
- Stir-fried shrimp with spicy orange sauce
- Pork chops with cranberry-thyme pan sauce
- Shrimp enchiladas verde
- Chicken with cranberries and apples
- Chicken with tomato herb pan sauce
- Apple cider chicken
- Cheddar and cracker chicken
- Chipotle sloppy Joes
Wow. With all these quick meals, I really have no excuse for that cheeseball.
I hope one of these dishes will help make these holiday weeks less stressful and more enjoyable for you.
What about you? What’s your go-to, quick (but good) emergency meal?