That feeling of standing in front of the refrigerator, wondering what to make...
Updated: Sep 26, 2019
You know that feeling, right? When you are hungry, it's time to think about dinner, but you have NO IDEA what to make. Even as a professional, I get that feeling too. Read on and I will share with you my tips and tricks for easy weeknight meals.
Cooking on Stage
Last weekend I participated in a cooking competition that was an extreme version of this feeling. I had a mystery ingredient that was revealed to me at the same time the equipment I had to work with and the pantry of ingredients I had at my disposal. I had 1 hour to make two fine-dining style courses with the help of my sous chef, while on stage and on camera. It was stressful, but I was able to put together two dishes that wowed the judges enough for me to take home the trophy.
Sometimes coming home from work can feel just as stressful, but luckily without the stage. You want to make everyone in the house happy, but also get some good nutrition in their bellies too. To help relieve some of the stress of putting dinner on the table every night, I have included my favorite tips and tricks to ensure there is always something delicious for dinner at home.
Tips and Tricks for Easy Weeknight Dinners
Keep your refrigerator and pantry stocked. It is so much harder to make dinner when there isn't much to work with. Make sure you have some of the basics at any given time. Keep reading and I will share how I stock my pantry and fridge
Instant Pots can be your friend. I LOVE using my instant pot when I have waited too long to figure out dinner. It isn't just for stewed meats and beans, or cooking rice. I use it to cook frozen chicken (yes, frozen!), then I prepare the chicken as I would if it were cooking from raw. This may mean covering it with sauce and baking in the oven, or searing it in a hot saute pan for crispy skin.
Always cook more than you need. I find it really helpful to have some cooked quinoa from a couple of nights ago to combine with the blistered green beans from last night and the stewed beef I had in the freezer from a couple of weeks ago. This makes dinner come to the table lightning fast.
Don't be afraid to experiment. Some of my favorite meals that have worked into regular rotation are those that I just "threw" together. For example, I made a salmon salad years ago, desiring a nicoise salad, but I didn't have most of the ingredients for a classic nicoise. Instead, I put together blistered green beans, massaged kale, mixed greens, a lemony mustard dressing, and chopped green bar olives, along with crispy skinned salmon. Now I make it all the time!
These are items I try to always have on hand.
Pasta (both chickpea and regular)
An assortment of seasonings: salt, pepper, cinnamon, oregano, cayenne, turmeric, and cumin are those I use most
Apple Cider Vinegar
Nuts (almonds and walnuts are my favorites)
Milk (almond is my preference)
At Least One Additional Vegetable, depending on the season: carrots, broccoli, brussels sprouts, green beans, zucchini
Pre-Cooked Meats (either that I have cooked or bought - don't be afraid of the rotisserie chicken at the grocery, or my favorite: del real carnitas)
Frozen Meats (chicken, salmon, stew beef are the most common for me)
Frozen Vegetables, such as kale, spinach, riced cauliflower
Fresh Filled Pastas (ravioli and tortellini)
CauliPower Pizza, when I just don't want to think about what to make. I always add my own toppings to freshen it up.
With these items on hand, I know I can always figure out something to make. And I am confident you can too! If you need a little extra help, inquire here about meal planning services.