Want something quick and easy for dinner with very little cleanup? Salmon in foil packet with potatoes to the rescue! You just slice up the potatoes, chop the tomatoes, and then layer everything into a piece of aluminum foil, folded into a packet. Then just pop it in the oven. When you’re done, just toss the foil . No cleanup!
Since this is cooked in foil, there are no pots to scrub after dinner. I do like cooking, but I’m not that mad about cleaning up afterward, so this is a big bonus as far as I am concerned.
If you can, get the salmon at Trader Joe’s. Their frozen salmon is considerably cheaper than the fresh salmon at the usual market. You will have to defrost it first, but that’s easy enough (just stick it in the fridge in the morning). Other than that, there’s very little effort involved in making this dish. It’s flavorful, it’s one pot (er, foil packet), and it’s an entire dinner in one simple package.
The citrus adds zest, the tomatoes are sweet, and the potatoes are baked right in the package with the salmon. Plus, the foil keeps the salmon from drying out. Because nobody wants to eat hard, dry fish!
I don’t like freshly-cooked tomatoes (even though I love tomato sauce and soup), so I added them at the end. If you don’t have that weird problem, put them in the packet with the rest of the ingredients.
Sure it’s the holiday season, and there are a lot of parties and fancy meals everywhere. But sometimes (holiday or no) you just want to treat yourself even without a party. Cooking for one doesn’t have to mean dull and boring. Pan-fried steak with mushroom brandy cream sauce is rich, creamy, and just slightly indulgent. The cream is velvety, and the mushrooms add an earthy flavor, while the scallions and garlic bring just a hint of sweetness to the sauce. A funny thing happens to onions and garlic once you sauté them; they transform from spicy to sweet.
All that and it’s still really easy to prepare. You can have a delicious, festive dinner in about twenty minutes. A big payoff without a lot of work!
I’ve made the sauce with pan-fried steak, but it works just as well with a pork chop or a piece of chicken. If you make it with a bone-in chicken thigh, start that about 20 minutes before you begin cooking the sauce, as it takes longer to cook than a steak or a pork chop.
If you’re going with the steak, start that at the same time as the sauce. Then take it off the heat and let it rest while you finish preparing the sauce.
A rich, easy and festive dinner with earthy mushrooms, silky smooth cream, and a splash of brandy.
1 boneless steak, about 4-6 oz.
1 clove garlic, minced
1 scallion, chopped
3-4 mushrooms, sliced
salt and pepper to taste (for both steak and sauce)
1 tsp brandy
1/4 C heavy cream
Season the steak with salt and pepper and start cooking it in a skillet over high heat. Sear on each side, then turn the heat down to medium and cook for 5-7 minutes, depending on thickness and your preferred doneness. If you have grass-fed beef, add some butter or olive oil to the pan, since it's less fatty than standard beef. Remove the steak from the pan to a plate once it's done and let it rest.
Melt the butter in a second skillet on medium heat.
Add the garlic and cook for a few seconds. Then add the scallions and cook another minute or two. Season with salt and pepper.
Add the mushrooms and let them sit, undisturbed, in the pan for 2-3 minutes. When they have developed a nice deep brown color, flip them over and cook another minute or two.
Add the brandy and the cream to the pan and bring the sauce to a boil. Once it's boiling, turn the heat down to a simmer and cook for five minutes.
Pour the sauce over the steak.
I made this with brown jasmine rice and some string beans, but it would work well with potatoes too, or even just some crusty bread to sop up every last bit of the sauce.
Pan-fried Steak with Mushroom Brandy Cream Sauce Substitutions and Variations
Use shallots or chopped onions instead of the scallions (I grabbed scallions because I have a pot of them growing in my windowsill)
Exchange the brandy for white wine and toss the same sauce with pasta
Tuna cannellini bean salad is a great meal for those days when you just don’t feel like “cooking.” Maybe you got home late from work, or you’ve been out running errands all day, or it’s just too hot to fuss. This meal requires nothing more complicated than opening a few cans, sprinkling some seasonings, and a little bit of chopping. Easy.
Everything comes straight from your pantry. The beans are canned, the tuna is canned, and the only fresh ingredient you need is some scallions, and maybe the lemon juice. Even that isn’t essential; if you don’t have scallions, use onion instead. If you’re out of fresh lemons, the bottled juice will do just fine.
If you do have the time and energy, this is a bit better with freshly cooked beans. The canned beans tend to be slightly mushy, and sometimes they’re a little salty. If you go the dried bean route, use my quick soak method to speed things up. If not, no harm, no foul.
The recipe is enough for two lunches or one dinner (depending how hungry you are). I usually find that I eat a whole 5 oz. can of tuna for lunch if I just make ordinary tuna salad, but adding the beans stretches it enough for two meals.
I’ve adapted it slightly from one of Pierre Franey’s Sixty Minute Gourmet cookbooks. I reduced the quantity and eliminated the parsley (never had any use for parsley). This is not only better than sixty minutes, it only takes about ten.
Serve with some fresh fruit and you have a fast lunch in under fifteen minutes. Add crusty bread to that and you have dinner.
Ever get stumped by what to do with leftover steak? Steaks aren’t sold for one person, generally. The portions are too big! It’s not enough for another steak dinner, and too much to toss without guilt.
You could make a steak sandwich, or try something a bit different and toss it into a steak salad. Add some veggies, goat cheese, and a homemade red wine vinaigrette and you’ve got a delicious dinner without any cooking. Cold leftover steak salad is the perfect solution for hot summer days when the thought of turning on the stove is too much to bear.
This recipe is inspired by a steak salad on Food Network. I liked the basic idea, but wasn’t about to buy three kinds of greens, extra red onions, or bleu cheese (since bleu cheese and I don’t get along). I used just one kind of lettuce (green leaf) instead and swapped the bleu cheese for herbed goat cheese.
This is best with leftover steak (since it’s already cold), but you can pan fry a small piece if you want and let it rest (or chill in the fridge) while you do something else. Use the rest for a steak sandwich or in a stir fry.
In my head, this was Roman spinach. Then I looked and realized that was a completely different recipe (with pine nuts and raisins). I was wrong about the Roman part, but at least sauteed garlic parmesan spinach is really Italian.
The recipe that inspired this called for blanching and baking the spinach and then broiling everything. That was too much bother! I’ve adapted it to make it simpler and easier.
This way, it doesn’t take a lot of time or effort to prepare. It will go nicely, I think, with a simple pan fried fish, or grilled fish. Or, serve it with a steak.
Unlike the Roman spinach (which would have required a trip to get pine nuts), this sauteed spinach is made from everyday ingredients you probably already have at home. No special shopping trip needed!
There are some nights when you want dinner and you want it quick. This easy tuna curry can be made in just a few minutes. Just cut up a bit of onion, chop some garlic, grate some ginger, and open a can of tuna. Yes, canned tuna.
If you make extra rice in advance (as I usually do), you just have to heat that up and you have dinner. It’s curry in a hurry.
I adapted this recipe from Madhur Jaffrey’s Quick & Easy Indian Cooking. Her recipe made two or three servings, which I have reduced. She calls for fresh chopped cilantro (which I never have, so I used a bit of dried coriander, which is the same thing). If you do have the fresh version, use 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons.
I have simplified the preparation a bit. Rather than slicing the onions into rounds, I chopped them. I grated the ginger with my microplane zester, instead of slicing it into strips; I didn’t want to bite down on big hunks of ginger! Besides, this way is faster.
Mmmm bacon….We’re obsessed with it. We have bacon appetizers, bacon cocktails, and even bacon ice cream. And now, meet the bacon spinach tomato aioli sandwich, a slightly different twist on the tried-and-true BLT.
I made this with Trader Joe’s uncured bacon (which is delicious; get the bacon ends if you can and save some money). I tend to use spinach far more than lettuce, because it’s more versatile. You can cook with it, as well as use it in salads. So, I reached for that rather than lettuce.
Then, I added some mini bell peppers. The sweetness and crunch of the peppers makes a nice foil for the salty bacon.
Finally, I decided to ditch the standard mayo in favor of aioli (which is mayo with garlic, some lemon juice, olive oil, and a bit of cayenne pepper).
If you are ambitious, and want to make your own aioli from scratch you can do that. It’s delicious, and freshly made mayonnaise is far tastier than the stuff in the jar.
On the other hand, it doesn’t keep nearly as well, and making (and eating) a whole batch is a bit much for one person. Of course, you can always use the leftover aioli for french fries (like they do in Belgium) or as a dip for crudités.
I like to take the jarred mayonnaise and then add fresh ingredients to brighten the flavor so it tastes a bit more like homemade. That way, there’s no leftovers to worry about.
This egg chili cheese burrito recipe is adapted from a Southwestern cookbook I bought long ago. Their recipe called for refried beans, and while I had beans, they were dry beans and hadn’t been soaked or refried, and I didn’t want to bother. I did have tortillas (the ones I use as sneaky crepes). plenty of eggs, chilis, scallions, and cheese.
I decided to improvise with what I had ready to eat, rather than waiting for the beans to soak. I was hungry, and didn’t want to fuss.
If you want to make the refried beans, you can use canned beans. If you have dried beans, and you have more time than I did that day, use the quick soak method to speed up the process.
To refry beans, just heat some bacon drippings in a pan, add cooked (or canned) pinto beans, plus some of the soaking liquid, cook them on high heat, and mash them up. Turn the heat to low once the beans get thick and simmer until they’re soft.
A quick egg chili cheese burrito recipe for one. Makes a great easy lunch.
1 egg (or two if you're hungrier)
1 tsp butter
1/4 jalapeño chili
1/3 scallion, chopped
2 slices cheese (such as Colby, Cheddar, or Monterey Jack)
1 tsp salsa
Heat the frying pan on medium-low and melt the butter.
Gently beat the egg in a small bowl.
Add the eggs, scallion, and jalapeno to the pan.
Scramble the eggs with a fork and cook about a minute until the eggs start to hold together.
Remove pan from heat.
If you have a gas stove, turn the flame to medium-high. Holding the tortilla with kitchen tongs, put it directly over the flame, turning it after a few seconds. If your stove is electric, heat the tortilla in a skillet (without any oil or butter, until it gets hot).
Place warm tortilla on a plate, spoon the egg chili mixture in the center, and top with cheese and salsa.
Fold over the tortilla and serve (or, if you want to be more authentic, fold in each end of the tortilla, and then fold in half to make a package).
Egg Chili Cheese Burrito Variations and Substitutions
add refried beans (about 1/4 cup)
cut up a sausage, fry it, and add that to the burrito
Thanksgiving is great, but finding new and different ways to use up the leftovers can be a bit of a challenge. However, it’s also an opportunity to be creative. I had an idea for a turkey cranberry chipotle turkey enchilada and went looking for cranberry chipotle salsa or even some cranberry relish in the supermarket. The store had both, but I eventually decided I didn’t want to buy a whole jar (and end up with more leftovers to use up). So I created my own instead.
I took some of the leftover turkey, a few craisins (dried sweetened cranberries), and added chipotle salsa which I already had (and could use for other recipes like chili or meatloaf). I combined them together to make cranberry chipotle turkey enchiladas.
If you already have cranberry relish or cranberry salsa from your own dinner that would work beautifully too.
It’s pretty simple. Just warm up the turkey, heat the tortilla in some oil, add the rest of the ingredients, and roll it up into an enchilada.
A few weeks ago, those tortillas were “crepes“, but this time I decided to use them as intended on the package!
Cranberry chipotle turkey enchilada with shredded cheese and cabbage.
3-4 craisins, chopped, or about 1/2 tsp cranberry relish
1T chipotle salsa
2 T cooking oil
1 -2 slices of turkey, shredded
1/4 C shredded mild cheese
1 cabbage leaf (chiffonade)*
Mix the craisins (or the relish) and salsa together in a small bowl.
Heat oil in pan and reheat the turkey. Once it's hot, remove the turkey and set aside.
Put the tortilla in the pan, and cook 30 seconds or so per side, flipping with kitchen tongs.
Return the turkey to the pan and top with the shredded cheese.
Cook a minute or two to melt the cheese.
Remove the tortilla from the pan, add the cabbage, and top with the cranberry /salsa mixture.
Roll it up to make an enchilada.
To make the chiffonade, just roll up the cabbage leaf into a cigar shape, and then slice pieces off the end. You'll end up with shredded cabbage.
Use a mild cheese, such as Monterey Jack.
Tools and Ingredients for Turkey Cranberry Chipotle Enchiladas
OXO Good Grips Box Grater Much as I love my zester/microplane, there are some jobs that require a different tool. A box grater can slice or shred food better than a zester can. Use this to shred or slice cheese, carrots, onions, and potatoes or to coarsely grate citrus peels (use the microplane for finer results).
This particular grater comes with its own marked storage container, so you can measure while you’re grating and just make exactly the amount you need.
I don’t like the old-style non-stick pans, but I confess I am enjoying using my ceramic pan. I can make eggs, enchiladas, frittatas, and many other things without worrying about it sticking and it cleans up easily. So far, the coating has held up beautifully. I don’t have this exact pan, but if I had seen the red I would have gotten that one in a New York minute. Do keep the heat a bit lower than you would with a stainless steel pan, and be careful if you have a glass top stove.
Summer is in full swing. It’s hot, it’s sticky, and I really wasn’t terribly motivated to cook the other day (gasp). I wanted something quick, refreshing, and truly easy to make. I looked in the fridge and saw that I had some cottage cheese, yogurt, and a container of fresh mango.
Then I remembered that there used to be a store near me that sold fresh Greek yogurt with fruit, honey, and vanilla. They had all sorts of combinations: mango, blueberry, peach, and fig. It was delicious.
Sadly. they’ve closed up and moved away from my neighborhood now, so I can’t get their yogurt without making a special trip. While I can’t recreate their yogurt exactly, I can use Fage plain yogurt instead.
Trying to recreate that yogurt salad sounded like a good idea, but I did want something just a bit more substantial than just yogurt and fruit, so I added cottage cheese as well to make a cottage cheese yogurt and fruit salad.
The proportions are about two parts cottage cheese to one part yogurt.
A quick easy meal for a hot summer day, this combines cottage cheese, yogurt, and fresh mango.
1 cup cottage cheese (I like the Axelrod chunky California style)
1/3 C plain Greek yogurt
1/4 C sliced fresh mango (or use some defrosted Trader Joe's mango chunks)
honey to taste
a dash of vanilla extract
Combine the cottage cheese and yogurt in a bowl.
Add the mango.
Drizzle the honey and vanilla extract over the fruit
If you don't have mango, it works equally well with other fruit: especially blueberries, strawberries, and peaches.
I’ve put this under “15 minute meals” but it isn’t even that much. It’s closer to five minutes. Just dump, mix, and drizzle. Easy!
Substitutions and Variations
You can, of course, use another fruit. This works with strawberries, blueberries, peaches, figs, blackberries and raspberries. Or use a combination of fruits instead. It does not work well (in my opinion) with apples or grapes.