Food

Instant dinner fixes from the Canadian Living team

Canadian Living
Food

Instant dinner fixes from the Canadian Living team

It's Tuesday at 6:30 pm. You've had a really long day and it started before the sun was up. Your car started making a funny noise on the way home. Traffic was terrible. You were late picking up your kid. And now you're faced with the ultimate challenge finding the energy and inspiration to make dinner. [caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Pizza Night!! (Image via Wikipedia)"]English: A pizza from the oven. Français : Une...[/caption] We've all been there. We've all shuddered at the thought of cooking, or just been too pressed for time to figure it out... and had nothing leftover in the fridge or freezer to rescue us. So I asked our Canadian Living team what they do on those nights when they just can't face making a proper meal from scratch. Here's what they had to say: 1. Grilled cheese. "My classic standby is a gooey grilled cheese sandwich with whatever bread I have on hand.  If I'm feeling indulgent, I'll make it with rye, old Cheddar and a good slather of raspberry jam.  I will also fry an egg over-easy and eat it on top of leftover steamed rice with a bit of soy sauce. If there is no way I can be nudged into the kitchen, my go-to is either sushi delivery or a family-run Greek restaurant near our house." – Irene Fong, Test Kitchen Food Specialist AW: I love rice with a fried egg on top! That is one of my stand-by dinners. Sometimes I throw some peas in with the rice. 2. Restaurant rescue. "If I can't stand the thought of cooking, we'll go out for ethnic food in our neighbourhood. Our favourites are Japanese, Thai, and Indian, but Swiss Chalet is a big standby in our house! Sometimes I'll make pasta with a really quick passata based tomato sauce with sautéed onions, garlic, oregano, hot pepper flakes, salami (if we have any on hand). If I don’t have to feed anyone else, it's cereal – hot or cold!" – Adell Shneer, Test Kitchen Manager AW: I admit it. I love Swiss Chalet. Huge standby at our house, too! 3. A quick curry. "This is my go-to for nights I want (a) flavour, (b) something quasi-exotic that I can also serve up to a buddy who's dropping over and (c) is fairly quick. I quickly stir-fry pre-cut chicken bits, add a few good dollops of (PC or other brand) korma sauce and serve it in a ripped-open pita pocket. I'll look in the crisper for whatever veggies I have (zucchini, alfalfa sprouts, ...) and add that. I can have this put together and on the plate in less than 20 minutes and folks love it. If I decide I want veggies on the side, I buy the tiny bag of per-shredded carrots or coleslaw mix, toss with whatever salad dressing I have – et voilà! I have a salad." – Doug O'Neill, Executive Editor AW: I do something similar... I'll stir-fry sliced meat and pre-cut veggies in a skillet, then add a spoonful of curry paste, 2 heaped spoonfuls of peanut butter and enough water to make it saucy. I serve on leftover rice. It's so delicious and tastes like take-out! 4. Eggs. "I'll have an egg, poached soft in a saucepan of quick tomato sauce (crushed tomatoes, olive oil and spices). I eat it with hot, buttered toast. Quick. Easy. Healthy-ish." – Tasia Rivero, Web Editor AW: Aren't eggs awesome!? Eggs on toast is my instant dinner choice 9 times out of 10. That, or beans on toast. 5. A leftovers casserole. "I usually make "magic casserole". It gets my creative juices going and uses up all the bits in my fridge and cupboard. Maybe it's pasta with some chicken and frozen peas baked in a light sauce. Maybe it's sautéed cabbage, beans, fennel seeds and a can of tomatoes topped with cheese. Maybe it's Tuesday night's Chinese takeout stirred together with some frozen peas and baked all together. If I ever have kids, I expect they'll hate Magic Casserole night. But I personally get a kick out of it." – Colleen Tully, Web Food Editor AW: I love the idea of "magic casserole". I can just see it now. Leftover pasta sauce poured over chicken breasts and frozen spinach, topped with cheese and baked until bubbly? Yum. 6. Antipasti. "We have a 'Tuscan picnic'. Open a jar of artichoke hearts and marinated mushrooms, grab the olives and whatever cheese or cured meats are in the fridge, and put out some crackers and fresh bread. Oh, and a nice beer or glass of wine! It's our fave go-to, last-minute dinner. Easy to pull together, almost no clean up and it's always delicious. If we don't feel like putting any work into it, we head up to the local Lebanese joint for a falafal. Yum!" – Daniela Payne, Web Editor AW: I love that this idea requires absolutely no cooking. The only dishes you dirty are your dinner plate and a wine glass! That's my kind of dinner. 7. Sandwiches. "Maybe it's my recent Downton Abbey marathons, but when I can't bear the thought of washing any pots or pans, I've been reaching for – yikes! – cucumber sandwiches. Never boring (I never whip them up quite the same way twice), they're a refreshing reminder of summer on a chilly winter's night... And there's only one plate to clean-up after." – Brett Walther, Home & Garden Director AW: This idea is adorable. I love being inspired by the stuff I see on TV and in movies. I dare you to watch the Korean movie Tanpopo without craving noodles or Big Night without needing to have Italian food. 8. A rice bowl. "If I'm in a rush or just lazy, I make a rice bowl. I usually steam jasmine rice, throw in some microwaved sweet corned niblets and tofu cubes (already marinated in curry sauce), add soya and then toss in a giant bowl. Instant comfort food." – Julia McEwen, Fashion & Beauty Editor AW: I love rice bowls. I will heat up some leftover brown or jasmine rice with broccoli florets (fresh or frozen), corn, a scrambled egg or cubed tofu, chopped green onions and then drizzle with soy sauce, hot sauce and sesame oil. Instant healthy "fried" rice. 9. Noodle soup. "I try to keep my fridge stocked with a few things to save me in this situation, because really, I feel like this eight nights a week. My best solution: I bring 1.5 cups chicken stock to a simmer in a saucepan. Dice leftover veggies (carrots, celery, pepper, whatever) and simmer in the broth till tender. Meanwhile, thaw a handful of frozen cooked shrimp in the sink and cook 1/3 of a package of ramen noodles – without the “spice” packet. Pop the shrimp in with the soup to heat up. Drain the noodles. In a soup bowl, layer noodles, veggies, shrimp, then pour the broth over. Season to taste with hot sauce, if you like that sort of thing." – Austen Gilliland, Senior Editor, Crafts & Food AW: I do this, too! Only, I use soba noodles instead of the ramen. See my instant noodle soup recipe here. 10. Bread and cheese. "Whole wheat bread and cheddar cheese is my go-to dinner when I really don’t feel like cooking. Add a side of green olives and a glass of red wine and your quick dinner fix seems almost special." – Jennifer Melo, Senior Web Editor AW: This is something I do, often. I also love hummus and crackers or vegetable sticks added into the mix. 11. Cereal. "I have a slight cereal addiction, so I just reach for a box of whatever I have open and pour myself a nice big bowl. I’ll have some yogurt or fruit to top it off." – Wendy Graves, Senior Editor, Life AW: Pretty sure we've all done this! Cereal rocks! 12.  A big salad. "I make my fabulous Surprise Salad. It’s always a surprise because it consists mainly of what’s in the fridge. I usually start with any greens – arugula, spinach, lettuce. Then add any leftovers ie: a sliced chicken breast, leftover shrimp or cheese or throw in a can of tuna or a hard-boiled egg if I don’t have anything else in the fridge. Then I add yummy extras – veggies (tomatoes, cukes), sliced hot pepper rings, olives, pickles, pickled artichokes or eggplant strips. Then it’s all doused in my favourite dressing: 3 parts olive oil, 1 part balsamic vinegar, a little Dijon mustard, a little maple syrup, oregano, salt and pepper. So yummy, and I never get tired of it, because its different every time! It’s like my dinner yells 'Surprise!' at me from the plate." – Donna Paris, Senior Section Editor, Life AW: A big salad is a great option and also a great way to use up bits and bobs in your fridge. And so healthy and filling! 13. Pizza! "I’m not proud to admit it, but my favourite local pizza joint is on speed dial for no-cook nights. They know me by name and can usually – unless there’s a new girl on the phone – recite my order." – Tina Anson-Mine, Executive Editor, Food & Books AW: Honey, show me someone who never turns to pizza and I'll show you a liar! Or someone with gluten and dairy intolerance... 14. Egg drop soup. "I make a quick egg drop soup. I heat up chicken broth, throw in a few peas, green onions and seasonings and then drizzle in a beaten egg right before serving. My kids love it and it takes less than 10 minutes." – Nicole Young, Food Stylist AW: I love this. If I do this, I'll often add shrimp for extra protein, especially since you can add it straight from frozen. And a handful of fresh coriander at the end. I won't even chop it! 15. You're on your own! "It’s called 'Fend for yourself, mom’s off duty tonight' at my house. Usually, the kids will make themselves a bowl of cereal, oatmeal, perogies (they love these) or mac ‘n cheese." – Teresa Sousa, Editorial Assistant AW: That's right, Teresa. You show 'em who's boss! Now it's your turn! What's YOUR instant dinner fix? Tell us in the comments section below!
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Instant dinner fixes from the Canadian Living team

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