Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Menu-Plan Series: Quick Emergency Meals

Okay, so you wrote the plan and a few days into the week something derailed and you don't have your meat thawed, you didn't pre-make your soup or salad, and you are itching to dial in a pizza. Who can blame you? If they delivered pizza to the boonies you can bet I would give in to temptation a lot more.

The inability to order in food has really helped me be more organized and has also prompted me to have a go-to list of meals that can be made in a rush. Anyone that has tried to cook a meal with two hungry toddlers wailing in the background can understand the urgency to get food on the table quick. Here are some of my favorite fast-food-from-home options:

1. Pancakes and bacon, or any variation of breakfast for supper.

Pancakes from scratch takes literally 5 minutes to make. I suppose that can be improved upon by keeping a pancake batter mix on hand, but if I need it in faster than 5 minutes I'm in trouble.

Pancakes

1 cup all purpose flour
1tsp baking powder
2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt

mix dry ingredients in large measuring cup. Beat one egg separately, then add along with 1 cup milk.

Whisk together your batter until all flour is moistened and the largest lumps are incorporated. It does not need to be smooth. Allow your griddle or pan to heat on medium-high to the point that water "dances" when a few drops are tossed on the surface. At this point I turn it down to medium to avoid smoking us out of the house.

Use a scant bit of oil or cooking spray for your first pan of pancakes. After the first round, your pan should be hot enough and the cakes should flip nicely. This recipe makes about 6 medium sized pancakes for my kids, usually leaving one or two to freeze for a quick breakfast. Most often, I double the batch so I have more to freeze. To use later I just thaw each pancake individually in the microwave and then toast so it's nice and fresh seeming. You can add banana or blueberries, saskatoons, etc to your batter as desired.

Other breakfast for supper ideas are: toast and eggs, hashbrowns, sausage and eggs, and as Pru suggested in a previous post, omelettes are great for cleaning out the fridge too. Obviously you want to round out a hasty meal like this with some fruit or a vegetable. You might not want to be throwing down bacon for supper all the time but it does get you out of a pinch when needed. The key is to have some of these things stashed in the freezer when needed!

2. Sausage and Perogies

Both of these cook fast and it always seems like a lot more planning went into the meal than actually did. Serve with peas or a can of corn, a bagged salad, a bit of greek yogurt and green onion. So yummy and ready in less that 30 minutes!

3. Tacos

The beauty of ground meat is that you can thaw it as it cooks. Ideally, you would always have things thawed and yada-yada, but that quite often doesn't happen and tacos have bailed me out of a pinch many times. I get the kids busy tidying the porches or getting into their pjs and while the meat cooks I chop the salad and vegetables, grate cheese etc.

4. Chicken breast and....anything

Chicken cooks quite fast. So don't microwave it for too long or you will have a raw, rubber, overcooked mess. But a minute or so on each side and then chopped up and thrown into a pan will get you started on a fast meal. If you are going with pasta or rice, be sure to start your water boiling while the meat is in the microwave. Microwave some veggies or throw them in as the meat is almost cooked. Add sauce and heat through or serve as is, making sure of course that everything is thoroughly cooked.

5. Stir-fry

Prepare basically as above. You can purchase a stir-fry sauce to add as everything is cooked or make your own with some soya sauce, hoisin or other flavorful sauce, a bit of water or chicken stock, corn starch to thicken. Do some googling to find a recipe you like that can be made with on-hand ingredients in a pinch.

6. Bags of cooked shrimp, canned meat, sandwiches, soup or beans and toast

Shrimp thaws and cooks super fast if you like it. I can quickly throw it in a stir-fry or some pasta and we love it. Sandwhiches: self-explanatory! Soup or beans is not my favorite for supper but it sure beats going to bed hungry! I don't fall back on this option because my kids won't eat it, but if it works for you--great!.

7. Shop Your Freezer

You should know by that morning if you are flaking out on your menu-plan. Don't be discouraged! I do it all the time! There is not usually a week goes by where I don't divert from the plan in one way or another. Sometimes we eat more than I expected and we are a meal short. Sometimes I just plain drop the ball. No worries. I make double and keep frozen meals just for these occasions. I am also not the least bit ashamed to admit that I keep a bag of fries and chicken nuggets on hand for nights that have just seriously fallen apart. It happens. I can fix myself something out of whatever this around and the kids are over the moon with this once in awhile treat. Add some veggies and a smoothy and I'm sure they will live til morning. The key, here, is to decide in the morning that you need to use your backup inventory and take it out to thaw. If you take out a frozen meatloaf and attempt to bake it for supper you will be eating it for breakfast. But if you have things ready for the oven when you get home you have a much better chance of averting a hunger-induced meltdown.


 8. If all else fails, go as healthy and as cheap as you can!

No one wants to eat quick, emergency food all the time but I do believe we all run into those instances where we are tempted to go easy (and expensive) when we are in a rush. I am not recommending this food as ultra-healthy but only making suggestions to get you through busy times in as healthy and affordable a way possible.

If you absolutely must pick up a meal on your way home from work, ripping into the grocery store for a ready made chicken and salad will cost a fraction of what a pizza or chinese, etc will cost. Be wary though! I brought home a lovely cobb salad (that cost $9!) from the grocery store and the eggs on it were mouldy. Super not impressed. Because we are out in the country I didn't return the salad, and only got an answering machine when I called the store about it. So try to get as fresh as you can, and good luck!


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