It’s Already 6:00?! Our Easiest, Fastest Recipes

Quick PastaSometimes, you love to cook, and you plan ahead, get special ingredients, and lovingly spend a weekend day perfecting just the right recipe. And sometimes, not so much. If you’ve had more of the latter than the former recently, you might want to check out the Cooking board for quick and easy ideas, like these.

Looking for more quick supper ideas? Check out It’s Already

6:00?! Our Easiest, Fastest Recipes for more ideas. Trying to break the last-minute habit? Then you might prefer Menu Planning – planning ahead. Need inspiration for specific ingredients? Then you’re looking for I’ve got a mango, 2 cans of beans and some scallions…or, What To Cook?)

How do you cook dinner after you get home from work and before you starve?

Answer: pasta!

1 cup ricotta cheese
1 package frozen spinach, thawed (in the microwave) and squeezed dry
1 onion, diced
a little olive oil
garlic powder, salt, pepper, and nutmeg
1 box of macaroni or small/medium shells

Boil the pasta.  In a nonstick pan, heat the olive oil to medium and cook the onions till soft.  Add the ricotta and the spinach–the ricotta will get soft after a few minutes and you’ll be able to stir them all together.  Add the spices.

Drain the pasta and add it to the pan, stirring well to combine.  Serve with salad if you’re way more ambitious than I am.

I was reminded of one of my new favorite quick recipes the other night – pita fajitas. So named because we never have pitas in the house but fajita shells are a staple. They are made up of some combination of:

Shredded/finely chopped meat (leftovers are great for this)
Diced and sauteed vegetables, usually onions and peppers
Couscous (sometimes with chopped nuts)
Feta or goat cheese
Whatever herbs/spices you have on hand

Put some combination of the above into a shell. Eat. Be warned that if the meat/vegetable mix is too wet, you’ll end up with juices running down your arms.

This week I used leftover pork from a crockpot, fire roasted canned tomatoes, and goat cheese. Food love. It makes a nice change from fajitas/quesedillas or pasta for us.

Need more?

Spicy Sautéed Fish with Olives and Cherry Tomatoes

Halved the recipe, made it with Tilapia loins from Costco, left out the parsley and did the broiler method recommended in one of the reviews. So good.

Made this last night; Ham and Leek Stovetop Pasta.

So good! Everyone ate it and no leftovers. It works fine with gluten free pasta.

We can even rush in the fall spirit:

My new favourite way to use butternut squash into a meal: Herb Roasted Squash and Sausage

I’ve made it recently to use up all the squash I over bought at the farmers market, but it would be super-fast with pre-cut squash. We have thyme and sage in the garden so dinner prep doubles as fun activity. Win!

Oh, and I did it with polenta when we had my parents over but did a repeat tonight with just salad as a side and it was plenty.

Image License Attribution Some rights reserved by Lablascovegmenu
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Green Smoothies

Green Smoothie with Cranberries

It’s even hot at breakfast this week, which reminds me that I’ve been enjoying green smoothies recently. If you’re looking for beginner-friendly recipes and prep tips, check out the thread Green Smoothies- and all things Vitamix/Superblended!

If you’re blending on a budget, you don’t need a high end Vitamix:

I don’t have a vitamix, so I make smoothies in my Oster blender and a mason jar. It turns out that the blade and cap fit exactly on a narrow mouth mason jar. Then cleanup is easy– I just rinse the blade and set it back on the blender, and drink right from the mason jar.

You might also be interested in some of these recipe suggestions:

– blueberry kale smoothies (frozen blueberries, banana, yogurt, kale, apple juice)
– pineapple agua fresca (pineapple + water!- yum!)
– watermelon gazpacho — super duper yum. We might actually start having these as smoothies, even in the morning. It was so, so good (and my husband is more of a savory than sweet lover): (cubed watermelon, peeled tomatoes, cucumber, red onion, jalapeno, basil, parsley, splash of red wine vinegar, salt, and pepper.) I’m toying with the idea of adding spinach next time.

Interested? You might also like these other topics in our Cooking forum:

Image credit: Green Smoothie with Cranberries by Joanna Slodownik

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Quick Vegetarian Meals

CSA meal idea: kale (trimmed & julienned) massaged with olive oil & lemon juice, raisins, almonds, coarse sea salt, cracked black pepper, cheese, grapefruit habanero hot sauce #vegetarianAre you looking for some quick and easy vegetarian meal ideas? Check out Quick Vegetarian Meals for some great recipes and menu suggestions.

If you like Quick Vegetarian Meals, you might also check out the threads CSAs & Seasonal Produce, Vegetarians – What’s for Dinner?, Things I cooked from my garden, or World Vegetarian by Madhur Jaffrey (these are all in the public cooking board, so you don’t need to log in first)

  • Polenta topped with garlicky sauteed spinach, fried eggs and parmesan cheese (sriracha sauce optional)
  • “Big salad” – lettuce, salad vegetables, cubed cheese, hardboiled eggs, beans, option of adding fake meat, croutons, sunflower seeds or nuts, ranch dressing.  Bread on the side.  I can see this not going over with some men, but it’s super filling because of all of the toppings.  It is definitely not a diet salad.
  • Cottage cheese apple pancakes
  • Navajo stew and quesadillas
  • greek pasta salad – penne + feta + kalamata olives + tomatoes + cucumber + dressing of lemon, red wine vinegar, oregano and olive oil
  • asparagus/goat cheese pasta – like this
  • pasta with chickpeas and broccoli – steam broccoli, toss some cherry tomatoes and garlic in a pan to saute, add the chickpeas, the brocc, some pasta, some lemon, olive oil and pasta water, maybe some parm

Image credit: CSA meal idea: kale (trimmed & julienned) massaged with olive oil & lemon juice, raisins, almonds, coarse sea salt, cracked black pepper, cheese, grapefruit habanero hot sauce #vegetarian by amberdegrace

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Absolutely Scrumptious Chocolate Cake

Chocolate Cake with Ganache, by Breville USA If you have a summer birthday on the way, you may be looking for a well-tested chocolate cake recipe– maybe even one that works especially well for cupcakes.  Check out the topic Absolutely scrumptious chocolate cake recipes.

Double Chocolate Layer Cake on Epicurious is a hit, if you don’t mind a bit of coffee in your chocolate. It’s “the best chocolate cake I have ever made” but “VERY moist, so a bit hard to frost.” (Tip: refrigerate or freeze briefly before frosting.)

We’ve also got a recommendation for “my favorite chocolate sheet cake recipe. It’s super easy, and everyone I’ve served it to has raved about it.” It’s deceptively rich, and will work as cupcakes, especially if you leave out the nuts in the frosting.

And as always ADL fave, Debbie Koenig’s  “Chocolate Cake with Mocha Frosting–lovely, moist, and chocolatey.”

For an easy and delicious option, try this Black Magic Cake recipe (tip: if you’re making cupcakes, make an extra half batch of frosting).

Black Magic Cake

•   2 cups sugar
•   1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
•   3/4 cup HERSHEY’S Cocoa
•   2 teaspoons baking soda
•   1 teaspoon baking powder
•   1 teaspoon salt
•   2 eggs
•   1 cup buttermilk or sour milk*
•   1 cup strong black coffee OR 2 teaspoons powdered instant coffee plus 1 cup boiling water
•   1/2 cup vegetable oil
•   1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1.   1 Heat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two 9-inch round baking pans or one 13x9x2-inch baking pan.
2.   2 Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt in large bowl. Add eggs, buttermilk, coffee, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed of mixer 2 minutes (Batter will be thin). Pour batter evenly into prepared pans.
3.   3 Bake 30 to 35 minutes for round pans, 35 to 40 minutes for rectangular pan or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely. Frost as desired. Yields 10 to 12 servings.

Frosting –

•   8 oz cream cheese, softened
•   4 oz (1 stick) Butter, softened
•   3 3/4 cups Powdered Sugar, Sifted
•   1/8 tsp of Salt
•   1/2 tsp Vanilla

Cream the cream cheese, butter and salt in a stand mixer (hand mixer works fine too) until light and fluffy.
Gradually add the powdered sugar until incorporated. (I have made this recipe many times without sifting the powdered sugar. So if you do not have the time, or do not have a way to sift, just add the powdered sugar a little at a time until fully mixed)

Add vanilla. Food coloring can be added if desired, but try keeping mixing to a minimum, as the frosting is not very stiff.

If frosting is too soft to ice easily, refrigerate for a short time to stiffen it up.

(Or use Rosie’s Fudge Frosting)

Image credit: Blueberry Papaya Cucumber Juice and Chocolate Cake with Ganache03of9 by Breville USA

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