Much as we appreciate expressing creativity through cooking and enjoy making meals, there’s often something else that needs attention.
As we get closer to December, many people are shopping, baking and making homemade gifts for the holidays, on top of doing their regular work.
Committing time to doing those things means having less time and energy for preparing food. As blogger Paula Pant puts it, “You can afford anything but not everything — and that’s true not only for your money, but also your time, focus, energy and attention.”
Eating well is still important, and most of us don’t have household staff to cook for us, so it’s good to have some ideas for dinners that come together quickly and without much fussing.
This one-pan meal saves on clean-up, too.
Italian Sausage and Pepper Supper
From Saulsbury, Camilla V.: 200 Best Sheet Pan Meals, Robert Rose Inc., Toronto, 2016.
2 large red or yellow bell peppers (or 1 of each or use green peppers, if preferred)
1 large onion
500 g (1 lb) red-skinned or yellow-fleshed baby potatoes
45 mL (3 tbsp) olive oil
10 mL (2 tsp) chopped fresh rosemary
3 mL (¾ tsp) salt
1 mL (¼ tsp) freshly cracked black pepper
500 g (1 lb) sweet or hot Italian sausages, each cut crosswise into 4 pieces.
Line a 45 by 33 cm (18- by 13-inch) rimmed sheet pan with foil and spray with nonstick cooking spray. Preheat oven to 230 C (450 F.)
Cut bell peppers in half lengthwise. Remove seeds and stem, then cut each half lengthwise into 4 wedges. Cut onion in half lengthwise then cut each half into 6 wedges.
On prepared pan, toss together bell peppers, onion, potatoes, oil, rosemary, salt and pepper. Spread in a single layer. Nestle sausage pieces among the vegetables, spacing evenly.
Roast in preheated oven for 20 minutes. Open oven door and stir vegetables and sausages. Close door and roast for 10 to 15 minutes or until potatoes are fork-tender and sausages are lightly browned and juices run clear when pierced.
Makes 4 servings
Last week we had an unplanned, but particularly good speedy meal. I had picked up some Murray Harbour scallops from a friend on Thursday morning, and after running errands all day, I wasn’t inspired to spend a long time in the kitchen.
Some of the scallops made their way into our dinner plans, and in about 30 minutes the two of us sat down to a company-worthy meal of scallops sautéed in butter and olive oil served with a squeeze of lemon; buttered little potatoes and lightly steamed broccoli spears. Delicious, uncomplicated and quick!
There are other options, many that you don’t require written recipes for, such as fishcakes (I like the commercially-prepared non-breaded ones that take around 15 minutes to cook in a frying pan) with coleslaw or quesadillas made with flour tortillas and grated cheese, served with fresh salsa, if you like, and a salad or piece of fruit. Try leftover rice fried with tofu, sautéed sliced mushrooms and diced vegetables or poached eggs on toast wiath thick slices of grilled tomato. Other good choices include oven-roasted pork tenderloin with garlic bread and green beans, buddha bowls of quinoa or brown rice topped with chopped green onions, chickpeas and tomato wedges with a drizzle of gingery peanut sauce, chicken thighs with roasted potatoes and carrots (all cooked in the same shallow pan) or mussels steamed with peppers, onions and tomatoes, along with French bread for dipping. Reheated leftovers work, too.
Notice, as well, that some of the quickest meals take the longest time to cook: think baked beans. If you can remember to soak them overnight and find a few minutes to get them into the oven in the morning, they will reward you by baking slowly while you attend to other things. Some early preparation goes a long way.
It also helps to have a quiche or casserole stowed in the freezer for days when cooking gets relegated to the end of the to-do list.
Maybe the best idea of all is to keep a list of quick meals handy, plus the ingredients required for several of them, to use on days when cooking time is limited.
Margaret Prouse, a home economist, writes this column for The Guardian every Friday. She can be reached by email at [email protected].