Photo: Iain Bagwell; Styling: Victor Protazio

It turns out that every day, three times a day, is a lot of cooking. Don't throw in the towel when you aren't exactly in the mood to cook, simply use recipes that reduce your time in the kitchen. This is your new list of go-to's for those weeks when you're out of time, energy, and ideas. 

Hannah Burkhalter
December 08, 2016

All who are growing weary of planning, shopping, and chopping away in the kitchen day in and out say “Aye.”

Really though.There’s a thin line between the Ina-Garten-fangirl version of me that aspires to cook classic everything from-scratch on a daily basis, and the me that eats popcorn and oatmeal for dinner. Because why should I work when the microwave can do it? 

The reality is that sometimes, cooking is just hard. You’re short on time, you’re short on energy, and you’re just plain out of ideas. We're at a point in the year when I know that is all too real, but rather than eating out every night or resorting to consecutive days of microwave meals, form a list of easy, reliable back-ups. 

There are, in fact, dishes that you can lean on when you’re reaching the end of your culinary rope. Go for recipes with few ingredients, recipes that make extra food (to keep you from cooking tomorrow), and recipes for foods that are easily reinvented and incorporated into a wide variety of other dishes. Take a look at our list to start forming your own.

No-Bake Recipes: simply assemble your ingredients

Photo: Randy Mayor; Styling: Lindsey Lower

Greek-Style Chicken Wraps: Wraps are a fresh and fast option that you can assemble ahead of time with a rosserie chicken, and keep in the fridge for the week. This recipe makes 6 wraps, perfect for a few days of lunches for you and a significant other. 

Rotisserie Chicken with Peaches, Walnuts, and Basil : Yep. Dress up a rotisserie chicken from the store in 15 minutes for wow-worthy meal. 

Chicken and Guacamole Tostadas: Another option for your the quickest taco night in history, thanks to purchased, prepared chicken. Are you seeing a theme here? (For real, rotisserie chickens, are my saving grace).

Curried Chicken Salad: Never write off an excess of chicken. Use it for an easy and delicious chicken salad recipe for quick lunches and dinners. 

Thai Roast Beef Salad: Use deli rare roast beef to make whip up this vibrant and satisfying Asian-inspired entree salad. 

Tuna, Egg, and Avocado Toast: Toast that's topped with tuna, egg, and avo is fully satisfying enough for dinne, but you can also pair it with a side salad for extra green on the plate. Canned tuna keeps this recipe so quick and easy. 

5-Ingredient Recipes: keep prep time quick

Photo: Lee Harrelson; Styling: Jan Gautro, Laura Martin

Extra Easy Lasagna: Five simple inredients plus hot water and halfway to dinner. All that's left in terms of work is a little layering action, then bake for 45 minutes to yield 6 to 8 servings of comforting lasanga. 

Fake-and-Bake "Fried" Chicken: Literally, only 3 ingredients required here. You got this. 

Chicken Parmesan: This chicken parm recipe takes a mere 20 minutes, from prep time to table. 

Pulled-Pork Sandwiches: Do a little quick prep in the morning and have this simple entree going in the slow cooker during the workday so that you come home to dinner, done. Serve the succulent pork in a sandwich, on tortillas, or stuffed in a sweet potato. 

Pasta Carbonara: You can't go wrong with noodles, onion, bacon, and Parmesan cheese. Ever.

Buffalo Chicken Pizza: Store-bought rotisserie chicken (my hero!) and store-bought pizza crust. Done and done.

Cheesy Chicken Taco Casserole: Okay, okay. So this one requires 6 ingredients, but the recipe yields 6 servings of hearty, flavorful taco casserole. That's hard to beat.

Chicken and Dumplings: Smart convenience food shortcuts make this classic and ultra comforting dish possible. Simply combine the ingredients and bake for 1 hour. 

For even more in this category, check out our Five and Dine recipe collection. 

Large-Batch Recipes: make it now, enjoy it later… and again, later.

Photo: Hector Sanchez; Styling: Caroline M. Cunningham

Beef-and-Bean Chili There's nothing better than a warm bowl of chili when you get home for the night. This recipe makes 4 quarts of chili, so it will get you set for meals to come. Make it on a Sunday night and freeze in sealed plastic container or individual serving-size, zip-top freezer bags for quick thawing.

BIg-Batch Chili Recipe Now, if you really ain't playin' on the chili front, you can go with this recipe for 15 to 18 cups of chili. 

Soulful Chicken Soup Chicken noodle soup is a classic and this gem of a recipe yields 11 cups, or 11 small bowls, of good-for-the-soul grub. 

Big Spicy Meatballs: Make 16 meatballs with this recipe and freeze what you won't eat this week. Serve them over pasta, alongside a salad, or in a sub sandwich. 

Fast Shepherd's Pie: Six servings of hearty shepherd's pie goes a long way. And this recipe is made super simple by using frozen mashed potatoes.

Lazy Biscuits: Five ingredients, fourteen biscuits. Make them, freeze them, and pull them out the night before the morning you want to eat them.

Spahgetti with Meat Sauce: Double this robust meat sauce recipe, it freezes well for later use and doesn't require an all-day simmer. 

Mix and Match Recipes: one day of prepping, several days of meals.

Sheet Pan Roasted Vegetables

Photo: Jennifer Causey; Styling: Heather Chadduck Hillegas

Make vegetables, protein, and a grains ahead of time. Store them, prepped and ready-to-eat, in your fridge for meals throughout the week. When it comes time to make a meal, pull out your pre-made components, toss them in a bowl, add some flair with herbs or condiments, and enjoy. It's like you have a Whole Foods bar in your own kitchen. You can recreate this concept with any of your favorite dishes within each category, but here are some examples of items you might want to stock the fridge with to get you started.  

Vegetables/Fruit

Proteins

  • Eggs
    • Keep a few hard-boiled in the fridge, ready to go.
  • Chicken
    • Grill it, roast it, or poach it, then shred it.
  • Black beans
    • Buy canned for the quickest fix, and simply rinse/drain them before storing in a separate container. 
  • Nuts of your choice
    • tash them in the freezer for their longest shelf life

Grains

Suggested Add-ons

Example lunch and dinner combinations:

  • Chicken and Cheese Quesadillas 
  • Spinach and Cheese Quesadillas
  • Chicken Burrito with rice and beans
  • Spinach and Qunioa Salad with Cheese and Nuts
  • Spinach Salad with Egg, Nuts, and Cheese
  • Chicken and Cheesy Spinach-Stuffed Potato
  • Chicken over Quinoa with Vegetables
  • Sunny Side Up Egg over Black Beans and Veggies
  • Quinoa Bowl with Black Beans, Veggies, Avocado, and Egg
  • Chicken Avocado Salad and Spinach Wrap
  • Chicken and Cheesy Rice

 

 

It may take some time to build your airtight I Don't Feel Like Cooking meal list, but once you get into a good groove with your go-to dishes, you'll find that a little focused time in the kitchen will save hours of time that you really don't want to spend there for days to come.

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