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In a rut!

meowow's picture

In a rut!  (post #32563)

Hello everyone,

I have been in a cooking rut lately. It seems that (on weeknights at least) I resort to something quick and simple for dinner,like quesadillas, oven-baked sweet potato fries, veggie burgers, Trader Joe's tomato soup and grilled cheese, et cetera. DH and I are both quickly growing sick of these items. I suppose I'm asking for quick weeknight meals that:

1) are healthy
2) use relatively few ingredients
3) don't include "meat" meat--we don't each poultry or red meat, but eat seafood on occasion.

Ideas? We are burned out. TIA!

KitchenWitch's picture

(post #32563, reply #1 of 26)

How about Aussie's noodles with peanut lime vinaigrette?

you could make a batch of the vinaigrette, keep it in the fridge, then just cook your noodles and add the vinaigrette (maybe some other veggies or even shrimp) and serve. 


<insert witticism here>


DeannaS's picture

(post #32563, reply #2 of 26)

I made those this weekend and added some tofu that I'd first frozen and then thawed and pressed. I doubled the sauce recipe and soaked the tofu in some sauce before adding it.

I've also done it with added veggies - like broccoli that you blanch with the noodles. Yum!

Other quick meals for us include "whatever's in the fridge" soup, waffles/pancakes, big main-dish salads (with mac and cheese for the wee one, usually), and lots of Indian and Asian recipes, too - though those might violate your "not many ingredients" rule. Most of the ingredients are things that we always have on hand (the spices and sauce things).

"As for butter versus margarine, I trust cows more than chemists." - Joan Dye Gussow

KitchenWitch's picture

(post #32563, reply #3 of 26)

it's the best recipe! I've doubled it and used it to marinate pork - TDF, if you are a meat eater.  grill the pork and slice in strips serve with rice noodles atop greens and assorted veggies- it's close to the Vietnamese bun dishes I love much.


<insert witticism here>


DeannaS's picture

(post #32563, reply #5 of 26)

I love it, too. (But, ssshhhhhh, my little secret is that I always add extra peanut butter.)

"As for butter versus margarine, I trust cows more than chemists." - Joan Dye Gussow

Lword's picture

(post #32563, reply #4 of 26)

If you're up for a cold dish, potato salad can be doctored up with all sorts of things like dill, curry, mustard and anything creamy or oily you like. Same for noodles, and they can easily be reheated if just dressed with butter or olive oil. I like to aim for as much fresh and raw foods as possible just because it's easier. Gazpacho is also an easy make-ahead item that keeps for leftovers at least one day and tastes good hot or cold.

Otherwise I'd go for good bread, cheese, veggies and fruit, some nuts etc. for the simplest of meals, maybe as a ritual on your most stressful day or at least as part of that meal.

Try pizza, and just make them small with different toppings, or experiment with different breads and see what you like best, and expect that to change over time and seasons.

My standby is soup - whatever ingredients I have on hand. Start with potatoes and just add things. Plain green salads with interesting vinegars are also nice.   

"If you can't feed a hundred people, then feed just one." Mother Teresa
"If you can't feed a hundred people, then feed just one." Mother Teresa
cosmo55's picture

(post #32563, reply #6 of 26)

Our favorite quick weekday standbys include baked risottos -- tomato w/pecorino or spinach and asparagus -- served with a side salad. We also make frittatas, which are easy and have the dual benefit of using whatever veggie leftovers you have handy. I don't know where you live, but in New England, it's also easy to head to the fish market and, then, grill up some shrimp or fish and make variations on a salad nicoise.

nutcakes's picture

(post #32563, reply #7 of 26)

This pasta dish was all the rage on this board before. I love it. It is quite delicious and is pretty easy to whip up, especially after you have made it once and get it down...aaakk my clipboard won't work, you'll have to search the board (or google, it's there) for:

Toasted Angel Hair Pasta in Shiitake Broth

it's by Diane Forley

SallyBR1's picture

(post #32563, reply #11 of 26)

I will now pose a stupid question, one I'll certainly regret asking

Does she have a cookbook? If so, is it worth getting it?

(le sigh)



"The beauty of a Sally is how neatly she can be divided"
(CookiMonster, Dec 2005)

Jean's picture

(post #32563, reply #16 of 26)

Look for Anatomy of a Dish. Sorry to say I don't own it though.

My mother's menu consisted of two choices: Take it or leave it.

- Buddy Hackett

A  clear conscience is usually the sign of a bad memory.
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Wolvie's picture

(post #32563, reply #8 of 26)

here's the recipe Nutcakes mentioned - Peter Durand posted it a few years ago:

Serves 4

½ lb angel hair pasta (capellini)
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
½ lb shiitake mushrooms, stems removed caps sliced
1 bunch flat-leaf parsley, leaves picked, stems reserved
3 sprigs thyme
l tsp (5mL) black peppercorns
4 large shallots, peeled and sliced
kosher salt
2 cups stock
¼ cup chives, cut in ½ ” lengths

Preheat oven to 350F (180C). Put pasta on a baking sheet, coat it with one tablespoon of the olive oil and then spread it out in a single layer. Bake until the pasta is golden, about 10 minutes. Let cool.

1. Wrap up the mushroom stems, parsley stems, garlic, thyme, and peppercorns in a square of cheesecloth and set the sachet aside.

2. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and cook, stirring occasionally until soft and golden, about 10 minutes. Add the sliced shiitakes and cook until they begin to brown, about 10 minutes. Season the mushrooms with salt, then transfer them to a large saucepan.

3. Add the sachet, the stock, and 2 cups of water to the mushrooms. Bring to a simmer and cook until the broth has a nice mushroom taste, about 15 minutes. Discard the sachet.

Break the pasta in half and add it to the simmering broth. Cook just until the pasta is done, about 5 minutes.

Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper if necessary, then ladle the broth and pasta into bowls. Serve garnished with parsley leaves and chives.

Cooking notes: Because they I are always available, shiitake mushrooms are called for in this recipe, though any mushroom will work, including cultivated mushrooms such as cremini or portobellos. Morrels, porcini and mousserons are delicious, but should be used singly, not together. Hen-of-the-woods, oyster, and chanterelle mushrooms are nice, especially as a garnish.

You can make this recipe in two parts, preparing the broth and toasting your pasta in advance.

Forley pours a bit of olive oil into her palms. Picking up small batches of the pasta, she rubs the strands back and forth between her hands until every piece is well coated. Then she spreads out the pasta on a baking sheet in one thin, even layer, and lifts the tray into the oven. “The idea of toasting pasta,” she says, “comes from the Spanish technique, in which thin noodles are coated, then baked, to give them a nutty flavour.” It’s the same reason she explains, that recipes for Italian risotto call for sautéing the rice before adding broth to it. “The oil forms a protective seal that prevents too much liquid from being absorbed into the starch.” The technique prevents the angel hair from becoming overcooked and, Forley says, makes this dish, “absolutely foolproof.”

Once the pasta is baked, the Spanish will often braise it in fish broth, adding texture to a powerfully flavoured stock. “it is exactly what we’re doing here” Forley says except, in this recipe, we’re featuring a rich mushroom dish rather than highlighting fish.

To this end, Forley begins working on her stock, sautéing the shallots in olive oil until they’re caramelized and sweet. Next, she adds the shiitakes, then throws a gauzy white sachet that she prepared earlier into the pan. Packed with the stems of the mushrooms, as well as garlic and thyme, the package looks like a tea bag and has the same function. All of her soups, she explains, are seasoned this way because “sachets allow you to add the flavour of ingredients — garlic cloves, rosemary leaves, and peppercorns — without including particles of them that you might otherwise not want”

After about 15 minutes, Forley peeks into her oven, where the angel-hair pasta has turned a luminous, russet brown. “The darker you toast it, the nuttier its flavour becomes,” she says, as she removes it from the oven. Then Forley drops the dark strands into the simmering mushroom broth. “Cooking the pasta right in the mushroom liquid infuses the angel hair with the mushroom’s rich flavour”

It also makes for a dish of brilliantly composed flavour. Once the pasta is cooked, Forley ladles the broth into a shallow bowl, then adorns the dish with chopped chives and a few robust spinach leaves. A single taste is mesmerizing.
Each mouthful offers the texture of noodles that are perfectly defined, hundreds of slender strands rolling along my tongue. Set off by the shiitakes, this silky mushroom stew, delectable vegetable bouillabaisse, or sophisticated fungi hotpot defies description.

 No mans error becomes his own Law; nor obliges him to persist in it

THOMAS HOBBES, Leviathan, part 2, p. 237 (1950).


MadMom's picture

(post #32563, reply #9 of 26)

This is an absolutely delicious recipe.  Thanks for reminding me of it.  I tend to cook a new favorite recipe several times, then forget about it.  Funny, now that you mention it, how many of my favorite recipes came from Peter Durand...perhaps I'm a vegetarian in disguise. 

Not One More Day!
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End the Occupation of Iraq -- Bring the Troops Home Now!

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SallyBR1's picture

(post #32563, reply #10 of 26)

WOW! What an interesting recipe! You bake the pasta uncooked first, then cook it?

I gotta make this!



"The beauty of a Sally is how neatly she can be divided"
(CookiMonster, Dec 2005)

MadMom's picture

(post #32563, reply #12 of 26)

You'll love it.  Be sure to follow her directions, though...I think there's something about putting oil on your hands and rubbing the spaghetti.  That really gets it all over without being globby.

Not One More Day!
Not One More Dime! Not One More Life! Not One More Lie!

End the Occupation of Iraq -- Bring the Troops Home Now!

And Take Care of Them When They Get Here!

SallyBR1's picture

(post #32563, reply #13 of 26)

I read the recipe more carefully - this will end up like a soup, not a pasta dish, right?

I think I''l have to wait until Fall - it's way too hot already here!



"The beauty of a Sally is how neatly she can be divided"
(CookiMonster, Dec 2005)

MadMom's picture

(post #32563, reply #14 of 26)

IIRC, it is sort of a "soupy pasta,"  in other words, a wee bit too much broth to serve on a plate, but something you could eat as a side if you wanted.  Of course, you have to remember that I'm senile.

Not One More Day!
Not One More Dime! Not One More Life! Not One More Lie!

End the Occupation of Iraq -- Bring the Troops Home Now!

And Take Care of Them When They Get Here!

nutcakes's picture

(post #32563, reply #23 of 26)

Don't delay to make the dish--it is really brilliant. I think you can toast the pasta earlier in the day when it is cool (although I have always done it right before cooking.) The dish is simple and quick to make. Overall it is a very light and refreshing dish. Very satisfying without being heavy.

It is not at all like a soup. It is like a very loose pasta with a bit of broth. I've served it with braised baby bok choy on top too.

Diane Forley has a book called Anatomy of a Dish. I haven't seen it but based on this recipe and the review it sounds like something I'd really like. Her dishes are simple and clear and she brings a lot of vegetables and grains into play.

transona5's picture

(post #32563, reply #15 of 26)

More pasta here. My quick and easy to-do is simply linguine or thin spaghetti tossed with minced garlic that's been sauteed in evoo and then seasoned w/s&p . This is the blank canvas. To this I can add sauteed mushrooms, or red peppers, or artichoke hearts (TJ's frozen are great), or asparagus, or sugar snap peas, or tomatoes and chiffonade of basil, or zucchini or any combination that you might like. It can also be dressed with lemon juice, or white truffle oil, or seasoned with pepperoncini, or minced parsley, or... And then tossed and topped with freshly grated parm. or romano, or grana padano, or asiago cheeses. All of this can be done in the time it takes the pasta water to come to a boil, and the time it takes the pasta to cook.



Li's picture

(post #32563, reply #17 of 26)

This is my standby no-cook pasta sauce. Chunk up a few tomatoes (2 or 3 medium), add a bunch of fresh thyme, a little minced garlic, 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, and 3 or 4 tablespoons EVOO; s&p to taste. Let sit while you boil a half a pound of penne. Mix the drained pasta into the bowl with the tomatoes and garnish each serving with a big handful of diced ricotta salata. Simple and yummy--and vegetarian to boot (an oddity at my house).

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MadMom's picture

(post #32563, reply #18 of 26)

Yummy...that sounds so good to me, and I have everything I need to make it.  Of course, poor Willie Ray would have to tell me that it doesn't taste like the Ragu his mother used to serve and I would have to tell him that his mother couldn't cook...

Not One More Day!
Not One More Dime! Not One More Life! Not One More Lie!

End the Occupation of Iraq -- Bring the Troops Home Now!

And Take Care of Them When They Get Here!

Rich02's picture

(post #32563, reply #26 of 26)

Hey MM:     Is it my imagination or is this strange?  Cooking the same thing every day or so her opening entry says  and then she is born on Ground Hogs Day?  (Hint Bill Murray)

It's not what you say or what you do- it's how you make people feel

We did what we did when we knew what we knew, now that we know better, we should do the better thing.   Maya Angelou

Syrah's picture

(post #32563, reply #21 of 26)

Makes me pine for summer.

*I will not buy winter tomatoes. I will not*

"The truth will set you free. But first, it will piss you off"
Gloria Steinem

"Life is not easy for any of us. But what of that? We must have perseverance and, above all, confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something, and that this thing, at whatever cost, must be obtained." -Marie Curie

Shaye's picture

(post #32563, reply #19 of 26)

I had been in the same rut lately, so I hit the library for some inspiration. I found two books that have been perfect. They're both Moosewood Restaurant books. The first is Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home, and the second is Moosewood Restaurants Simple Suppers. Both books are mostly veggie (some seafood) recipes that so far have been quite good, and usually take 30 minutes or less.

meowow's picture

(post #32563, reply #20 of 26)

thank you all for your suggestions--I will be looking through these for the next few weeks. I should also have said that we rely on pasta way too much as well, although a few new good pasta recipes never hurt. I am really comfortable throwing things together without a recipe, too, so new unusual ideas are most welcome.

I really thank you all for your contributions and thoughtfulness...I'll post what I try!

Marcia's picture

(post #32563, reply #22 of 26)

Was there anything left of the shrimp after forty-five minutes? My, God.

I'm lucky that my husband is well aware that his mother can't cook. Of course, you'd have to be almost completely uncaring about your food, NOT to realize it. We've had some remarkably awful meals at her house, and she brags about her cooking. Ah, well, she's older now, and doesn't cook for the family any longer.

I tried helping out by taking a dish here and there, and she'd put them in the fridge and tell me she'd take them to a church potluck.

Nanna's picture

(post #32563, reply #24 of 26)

Roasted 1.5 kg Butternut and Avo Salad, very yummy.   Can be prepared day before, dressing can be prepared during the week, and kept in fridge.

Peel butternut and cut into large chunks.   Season, douse with olive and garlic.   Roast @ 220o (hot) for 45 mins. until cooked & starting to char.   Put aside to cool   Keep in fridge if necessary.  

Cook 200gm couscous according to instructions on packets.   Keep in fridge until needed.

Prepare dressing - 30ml fresh coriander, chopped, 30ml fresh mint chopped,garlic to taste, (either roast on tray with butternut above, or a couple of teaspoons of minced garlic).   20ml sweet chilli sauce, 1 onion.   20ml brown sugar, ground salt and pepper, smash together in food processor.   Keep in fridge until just before serving.

Take everything out of fridge to serve at room temperature.

To Serve, spread couscous as base on a large platter, Gently combine butternut in dressing, and spoon onto couscous.   Cut up one avocado pear into cubes, place amongst butternut.   Garnish with fresh coriander and a handful of cashew nuts.   En joy. 

Nanna's picture

(post #32563, reply #25 of 26)

PS I didn't include in the dresssing for the above recipe  20 ml of balsamic vinegar, sorry,