Long commutes, after-work errands and evening commitments can be killer on a dinner schedule. And once peak hunger levels hit, self-control slowly erodes away, paving the way for cravings and completely unsatisfying, I-need-fuel-now meals.
Avoid this all-to familiar scenario (and the temptation to give up completely and have cereal for dinner) by keeping some of these handy foods in the freezer.
For the Sunday planner
The secret to a fast defrost is in how it’s frozen. Freezing cooked ground beef flat in resealable makes safe thawing quick, so it can be turned into tacos, sloppy joes, or stuffed peppers in a flash.
Try it: saucy beef tacos
Make a batch of burritos, wrap individually in aluminum foil, and freeze. To reheat, unwrap and microwave until heated through, then add toppings like avocado, salsa and sour cream.
Tip: Avoid adding water-laden vegetables like lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers prior to freezing- they’ll make your burrito soggy when reheated.
Try it: Spicy black bean burritos
Cook mini quiches or frittatas in muffin tins, then pop them out and place in the freezer in a resealable bag. When dinner time arrives, all you need to do is reheat a few in the microwave or oven.
Try it: Crustless mini quiches
Rice and other grains
The next time you’re making rice, quinoa or farro, cook extra, then freeze in a thin layer in resealable bags. Quickly thaw in the microwave or on the stovetop and you’ve got a great base for your curry or grain bowl.
Try it: Mushroom grain bowl
For the last-minute cook
Frozen, cooked shrimp
A quick defrost in cold water and you’ll be on your way to a superb stir fry or easy salad roll.
Try it: Shrimp salad rolls
Frozen flatbreads like pita, tortillas and naan can quickly be defrosted in the oven or microwave and turned into tasty pizzas or wraps.
Try it: BLT pizza
Freeze flavourful sauces like pesto and coconut curry in ice cube trays to quickly dress up pasta and vegetables (they’ll melt in a jiffy when added to a hot pan).
Try it: Onion-basil pesto
Frozen, pre-cut veggies save you both prep and cooking time. Their smaller size means they heat through quickly, so they can often go straight from the freezer to the stovetop, or be thawed in minutes in the microwave. Add them to eggs for a fast frittata, or serve as a simple side dish.
Try it: Chicken fried cauliflower rice
For the tired and desperate
Tortellini and other filled pastas can be cooked straight from frozen in a pot of boiling water. Just add jarred pasta sauce and dinner is ready!
Try it: Tortellini alfredo with peas and bacon
When all else fails, there’s always avocado toast. Defrost a slice of bread in the toaster and top with with avo and an egg for a breakfast-for-dinner vibe. Or just PB&J if opening a jar is all you have energy for.
Try it: Sweet peas on toast
Stash some basic store bought versions like a margarita in your freezer to use as a base, then doctor them up by adding items already in your kitchen.
Tip: Add bulk with pantry items like canned artichoke hearts, pickled jalapeños or chilis, jarred roasted red peppers and olives. Up the veggie factor by topping the hot pizza with a handful of fresh arugula or spinach, then add a finishing touch with fresh herbs, a sprinkle of chili flakes or a drizzle of honey.
These can be sautéed from frozen in some canola oil on the stovetop for a dinner that’s ready in under 10 minutes — way faster than delivery!
Chatelaine Quickies: Mushroom grain bowl