Quarantine Kitchen:: Go-To Meals for Weeknight Cooking

Quarantine Kitchen:: Go-To Meals for Weeknight Cooking

If you’re like me right now, you’re probably cooking a bit more than you’re used to doing. And since you’re reading Houston Moms, I’m betting you don’t have buckets of spare time, between homeschooling your kiddos, working from home, and, in general, taking care of day to day life. You’re looking for something simple, flavorful, and kid friendly for your families. Let me introduce you to three of my go-to meals for weeknight cooking.

Quarantined or not, these dishes are in my regular weeknight rotation. Not only are they easy to throw together, but they’re made with pretty standard pantry ingredients {I also offer suggestions of substitutes, if you don’t have the recommended ingredient}. Be creative! These recipes are designed to be adaptable and have been tested over the years with different meats, veggies, and starches, while still maintaining the basic structure of the recipe. 

My family has been enjoying these dishes for years. I hope your family does too!

Sweet n’ Spicy Asian Meatballs

I make this recipe once a week. It is also my go-to meal for bringing meals to new mamas or friends who are sick. It is that good. The meatballs come together in a pinch, with ground meat {I list pork and chicken here, but you’re welcome to use any kind of ground meat} and just a few pantry ingredients. And the sauce is simple, yet super flavorful. While the meatballs bake in the oven, I steam the rice and throw together the sauce. Add in your favorite veggie on the side, and you’ve got the perfect “takeout” comfort meal in about 30 minutes. 

Meatballs
1 lb ground pork
1 lb ground chicken
1/4 cup diced onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs {can also use cracker crumbs or oats}
1 egg
1/4 cup chopped parsley or cilantro
Pinch of salt + pepper

Sweet n’ Spicy Sauce
{While I don’t recommend leaving any of these ingredients out because this sauce is super yummy, you could make do with just soy sauce and honey for a still delicious sweet and savory combo.}

1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 inch minced ginger
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tbs honey
1/2 tsp sesame seeds
1 1/2 tsp sesame oil
2 tsp sriracha (optional, but tasty)
3/4 tsp rice wine vinegar

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Combine all meatball ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Form into meatballs, slightly smaller than a golf ball {This recipe makes about 16}.
  3. Place meatballs on greased baking sheet, about an inch apart. Cook for 15-20 minutes. I like to turn them halfway through, so that they’re caramelized on the top and bottom. You can also just put them in and leave them for the duration of cooking time. 
  4. For the sweet n’ spicy sauce: Heat oil in a small saute pan or sauce pan over medium heat. Add garlic and ginger, and cook for about a minute, until fragrant. Add soy sauce, honey, sesame seeds, sesame oil, rice wine vinegar, and sriracha, if using. Cook for 2-3 minutes, until simmering and slightly thickened. 
  5. Toss meatballs and sauce together. Serve over rice {or basically any other starch}, with your favorite veggie on the side. 

Pork Tenderloin with Rice and Gravy

I learned this recipe from my ex-boyfriend’s mother, from whom I learned several of the go to recipes in my weeknight cooking arsenal. You need just 4 ingredients for the pork, and boom, you’ve got a flavorful and simple meal. {But seriously. I could drink the gravy that goes with this pork}. Just pop it in the slow cooker in the morning, or, if you’re in a hurry, the Instant Pot in the evening for a last minute meal. Serve it over white rice and broccoli, if you’re a purist, or, if you’re down to mix it up, I like to serve it over egg noodles with a side salad. Either way, this meal is a winner. 

Ingredients
2 pork tenderloins, about 1 lb each {you could also use chicken breasts or thighs}
1 cup Zesty Italian salad dressing {any brand}
your favorite all purpose seasoning
1 packet Brown Gravy

Directions

Slow Cooker

  1. Add pork and dressing to slow cooker. Season liberally with all purpose seasoning. 
  2. Cook on low for 6-8 hours. 
  3. Remove pork, reserving the drippings. Shred pork with two forks. 
  4. Cook brown gravy, according to package directions. Once the gravy is thickened, add in reserved drippings. Whisk together; simmer for a few minutes, until gravy is slightly thickened. If the gravy is too thin, add in a tablespoon of flour, whisking to remove lumps. 
  5. Serve pork with rice and your favorite veggie, with a generous helping of gravy. 

Instant Pot

  1. Add pork and dressing to Instant Pot. Season liberally with all purpose seasoning. 
  2. Cook on High Pressure for 20 minutes. Do a natural or quick release. 
  3. Follow the remaining directions from Slow Cooker section. 

Kitchen Sink Soup

This recipe is SUPER flexible, and, as the title implies, uses just about everything but the kitchen sink. I make this about once a week to use up my leftover veggies or whatever I have in the pantry. The following proportions are just a guideline to help you if homemade soup isn’t your regular go-to. Feel free to add whatever veggies, beans, meat, pasta, ect. that you want! This is just my “standard” ingredient list. 

Ingredients
1 tbs olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, sliced
1-2 bell peppers, diced
1-2 stalks celery, diced
3 carrots, diced
1 zucchini or yellow squash, diced
2-4 links of chicken sausage {I like mild Italian sausage, but you can use whatever meat you have}
1 can diced tomatoes {15 oz}, or dice up those leftover wrinkled cherry tomatoes
1 can cannellini beans {or any variety of beans}
1 tbs Italian seasoning {or a combo of fresh herbs like basil, thyme, or rosemary}
4 cups low sodium chicken broth
1-2 cups curly kale, torn
1 cup any dry pasta OR 1 package fresh or frozen tortellini {or any stuffed pasta}
Parmesan cheese

Other suggested veggies:: 1 cup green beans, trimmed and cut into bite size pieces; 1 cup butternut squash {or other winter squash}, diced; 1 cup fresh or frozen corn; 1 cup frozen peas; 1-2 cups any torn greens, such as spinach, Swiss chard, black kale, collard greens, ect. 

Directions

  1. Heat olive oil in large pot or dutch oven over medium heat.
  2. Add in onions, garlic, bell peppers, celery, carrots, and squash. Saute for about five minutes, until veggies are slightly brown and softened. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper. 
  3. If using chicken sausage, add here to slightly brown the sausage. 
  4. Add tomatoes, beans, and chicken broth. Season with another pinch of salt and pepper + Italian seasoning. {You can always add more salt and pepper at the end!}
  5. Bring soup to a simmer and cook together for at least 20-30 minutes. If you are about ready to eat at this point, move to step 6. If not, turn soup to low and continue to cook until you are ready. Remember, the longer your soup cooks, the more flavor it will develop. If the soup cooks down too much, just add a cup of water, as needed. 
  6. While the soup is simmering, cook pasta according to package directions. {about 10-13 minutes for dry pasta or 5 minutes for a fresh/frozen tortellini}.
  7. Add kale to soup, and cook for about 5 minutes, until slightly wilted. Taste and adjust seasonings, if necessary. 
  8. Ladle soup over pasta*. Top with Parmesan cheese. Serve with crackers or, preferably, with a slice of fresh bread. 

*I like to store leftover soup and pasta separately; otherwise the pasta absorbs the liquid from the soup and causes it to be mushy. 

Happy Quarantine Cooking!


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