Saturday, November 7, 2015

My 5 Best Weeknight Meals

Have you ever seen those diagrams where you can only choose two between: cheap, fast, and well-made? It may be generally true of design, but I challenge that idea when it comes to cooking. I haven't been cooking nearly as adventurously as I used to because children are usually clawing at me around dinner time, but I hope to get back to fancy and time consuming cooking some day. In the mean time, I have a trusted arsenal of quick, cheap, delicious meals and I thought I would share 5 of them with you today.

In addition, these are one pot meals, made mostly from scratch. Cause that's how I rollllll...
I don't say that to shame anyone for not cooking from scratch, but truly, it's easier than you might think. Half the battle for me, especially when it's 4:45 and I realize I have no dinner plan, is figuring out what to make! I fall back on this kind of recipe time and time again.

1. Spicy Pork and Mustard Green Soup

Soups are a no-brainer for fulfilling the cheap-quick-yummy trifecta. Well, most soups are. This one is perfect, and it hits 3 major foodgroups in one pot, too!

2. Ssam Burritos

Serve this Korean-burrito hybrid to your hipster friends and it will blow their minds. Super simple fusion at its best. I buy already cooked pulled pork from Costco (because it's no cheaper or better tasting to do it yourself, at least with my level of experience cooking meat) and I use sriracha instead of pulverized kimchi because I prefer it (Jonas loves kimchi, though, and you can find it at most Asian food markets). For the fried garlic, I buy it pre-made from Asian groceries, but it's quite easy to make at home, too.

3. 1870s Mac N Cheese

I love this recipe because the cheese sauce is fluid instead of tacky, which is my main complaint with most home made mac n cheeses. Also, it's from 1870, duh! In order to keep this affordable, I just use whatever kinds of cheese I have on hand. Make sure you keep stirring the sauce until there are no cheese strings coming up when you pull the spoon out - that means everything is truly melted and makes for the smoothest sauce. Sometimes I grill chicken (season with Lowry's or however you like) and cut it up and put it on top of these noodles.

4. Thai Curry with Rice

You can find tubs of curry paste at most Asian markets. I always use the Mae Ploy brand, but more out of habit than anything else. I AM picky about which kind of coconut milk to use - Chaokoh is the best. The recipe for curry is right on the back of the tub. It measure ingredients in grams, but I just add in what looks like the right amount of veggies and meat, or whatever I happen to have. I also eyeball the amount of paste I put in - the more paste you use, the spicier your curry will be.

5. Baked Paremesan Tilapia

Tilapia is not the most glamorous of fishes, but it is cheap and you can make this recipe with frozen tilapia, which is especially cheap. Having a fillet of any kind of fish feels fancy to me, because I'm poor like that. I usually serve this over Rice R Roni because I didn't get to have Rice R Roni very much growing up and I'm still obsessing over it as an adult. This recipe also utilizes the broiler, which is a very undervalued part of the oven, if I may say so myself. I'm quite fond of it.

Two other general tricks I use to get dinner on the table quickly (or when my mother guilts me into a more "well rounded" meal - I'm really, really into one-pot meals) are rice cookers and microwave steaming. I don't want to see you buying any of that pre-cooked frozen Trader Joe's rice BS or trying to boil rice. No, no, no, no. First of all, TJ's IS charging you for the task of having already cooked the rice, and secondly, perfectly cooked rice could not be simpler to make yourself. What you need is a rice cooker. You can buy one for $17 at Target, or you can often find them at the thrift store. It will come with instructions if you get it from Target (as well as measurement lines right on the pot), but I'm basically a pro by now, and I can use my fingers to measure the right amount of water for the consistency of rice that I prefer.

As for steaming veggies in the microwave, it takes all of 3 minutes and it's really difficult to mess up. When I cook vegetables on the stove, I often end up under-cooking them because I'm so afraid to overcook them. I add butter and salt  to the steamed veggies and, viola! Plus, you can start with fresh vegetables, so you end up with a pretty healthy side (leave off the butter if you must). I love the Pampered Chef's microwave steamer, but you can put plastic wrap over a glass bowl, too.

What are you weeknight-dinner tricks and your favorite quick recipes? I'd love to know! 


  1. LOVE LOVE LOVE that you shared this Marissa! And to see that I know and love the author of this blog!!! :D Karissa, what a fabulous chef/mama! :) I cannot wait to try these all, especially the parmesan tilapia since I've never thought of that one! And that sausage mustard green, is that rice noodles?! I'm hungry but it's bedtime.... thanks for the ideas!

    1. Yes, rice noodles! I'm always confused about how to cook them because different recipes call for different things, but I think this recipe gives specific instructions. otherwise, I just do whatever the noodle package says.


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