Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Quick after-work meals

I don't know about anyone else but I find it can be a bit of a challenge to get a healthy home-cooked meal on the table for the family during the working week. Over time this is something I have got better at so today's blog entry is all about some of the quick meals I cook.

We do have a couple of limitations in what we cook. The Optimist (my darling husband) can only have red meat once a week due to a cholestoral problem. The result of that is that we eat a lot of chicken. On top of that, I don't eat tomato (makes me ill) so that limits a lot of our choices. I'd like to move to more vegetarian meals but that is something the menfolk of the house struggle with. So here goes with some meal ideas!

Chicken kebabs - before I leave for work in the morning I cube the chicken (usually use chicken breast) and then marinate in a mix of soy sauce, peanut butter and chilli. When I get home it;s just a matter of putting the chicken onto kebabs, grilling them in the oven, getting some rice going in the rice cooker and getting some vegetables steaming.

Chicken burgers - Again I use chicken breasts for our chicken burgers. I slice them through so the fillets are thinner (and this also stretches the meat a bit further) and coat them in satay sauce. I grill the fillets while getting the salad ingredients ready and the bread sliced. The family loves this one, especially when I have bought mini-focaccia breads instead of plain burger buns. If I have enough time sometimes I will cut up some potatoes into generous chips and oven bake them with olive oil and fresh herbs.

Chicken curry - This isn't the healthiest of meals but a real favourite so this one gets on the menu every couple of weeks. I use a curry paste mix for the base of this dish. In New Zealand we have a range called Asian Home Gourmet and our standard is the Chicken Madras (sometimes we will have the Butter Chicken one for a change). To prepare this dish I simply cube the chicken, heat the paste in a non-stick pan, add the chicken and cook for a few minutes before adding coconut milk. I let the curry simmer for 20 minutes or so, cook the rice while that's simmering and then heat some roti bread in the oven. A tip I learnt recently about the coconut milk was to not buy the "lite" version which I tended to do to cut the fat content down. Now I buy the normal version (at the same price as the "lite" one), pour it into a bowl, whisk it up, freeze half of it, add water to the other half and use that. Twice the coconut milk for the same price!

Crumbed chicken - Yet another way of cooking chicken! You can use any type of chicken pieces for this recipe. My family prefers boned chicken breasts but drumsticks and any other portions work just as well. Using my food processor I make a mix of breadcrumbs and dried herbs (could use fresh herbs and I am not sure why I don't do this). Beat an egg in a small bowl and dip each chicken piece in the egg and then the breadcrumb mix. Place on an oven tray. Crush a clove of garlic into quarter of a cup of olive oil and stir. Drizzle the oil over the chicken pieces and bake until cooked. Usually 20 - 25 minutes works for me. I usually serve this with mashed potatoes (or sometimes fresh pasta) and vegetables.

Crumbed fish - this isn't really a recipe! Dip fresh fish fillets in egg and then fresh breadcrumbs and cook in non-stick pan with a little bit of oil (I usually use olive oil but sometimes rice bran oil depending on what I have at the time).

Roast beef - I know, this isn't a quick and easy meal but I am lucky enough to have an automatic oven. This allows me to set the oven to start at a specified time through the day so I can get home from work to find a cooked piece of roast beef in the oven. Fantastic in the wintertime! I buy a cheap cut of beef (usually blade), season it with salt and pepper, place in roasting dish and cover with foil. I set the oven so that it cooks long and slow which results in a lovely tender piece of meat. I wouldn't usually try and have roast vegetables with this as they take time to cook. But sometimes I do my "cheat" roast potatoes - boil potatoes for about 8 minutes, drain, put lid on pot and shake for a few seconds. This roughens up the outside of the potatoes. Put the potatoes into the roasting dish with the meat and cook for half an hour or so. The par-boiling will have partially cooking the potatoes and therefore they won't take as long to roast. The roughened outsides go nice and crispy.

These ideas are all stock standard for our winter menus (in New Zealand we are heading into winter now) but a lot of these are dishes I use in the summer too. Instead of grilling in the oven many of these dishes can be grilled on the barbeque and salads made instead of steamed vegetables. I do have a slow cooker but it doesn't currently get a lot of use. That is something I hope to change this winter.

I will post other ideas / recipes from time to time as I know there are plenty of other busy people out there who are looking for quick meal ideas.

1 comment:

  1. Some good recipes - a way to ease the budget is to stretch chicken/meat dishes with the addition of rice, lentils, vegetables. This way you can also head towards vegetarianism by using more and more vegetables and less meats.

    Re chicken: I still prefer to use chicken thighs for some dishes rather than breasts. The chicken is moister and more tender - in my opinion.