Quick and easy meals are crucial during seeding season

As we shift into seeding season on the farm, it’s nice to have a few ideas for meals that take less effort.

It may be a meal with only a few ingredients, uses only one pot or pan to make cleanup faster or one that is quick to put together and can sit in a crockpot or slow oven for a long simmer.

Leftovers get a bad reputation, mostly because they are simply reheated and served. However, they are a time saver.

Preparing larger amounts that make easy leftover ingredients is a good place to start. Cook large batches of grains, lentils and chickpeas. They will keep in the refrigerator for up to a week or can be frozen for up to three months.

Use different seasonings and add them to ragouts, stir-fries, salads, soups or other side dishes. Do the same thing with vegetables. Steam enough fresh green beans for a side dish one night and a salad the next. Or roast a sheet pan of root vegetables and use them as a vegetable side dish, in salads or in a soup at the end of the week.

Prepare several days of salad greens at once. Wrap freshly washed lettuces in a clean tea towel and place in a resealable plastic bag and it will keep for up to four days.

Use your broiler more. This under-rated appliance can give chicken or meat a beautiful, charred crust in less than 10 minutes, and heats up in almost no time. Just be sure you’re using it on small cuts that will cook through before they burn on the surface.

What’s even better than saving 10 minutes of cooking time? Saving 10 minutes on your clean-up time. Whole-meal recipes that cook in one pot or on one baking sheet save time in the long run.

Create a pantry for faster meals. One of my favourite things to have on hand is marinara sauce. I make a big batch and freeze it in meal sized portions. Marcella Hazan’s recipe is so simple. Add a quartered onion to a large pot of canned whole tomatoes with a chunk of butter and simmer for 45 minutes. It only takes occasional stirring. Another favourite is making a big batch of meatballs, cook them on a sheet pan in the oven and freeze.

Meatball pasta bake

Cook the pasta until it’s just before al dente and rinse it off in cold water when you drain it. This will prevent it from becoming too soggy. The oven will take it the rest of the way to al dente.

  • 16 oz. ziti/penne/rigatoni pasta 500 g
  • 3 c. marinara sauce 750 mL
  • 1 lb. frozen, pre-cooked meatballs, purchased or homemade meatballs 500 g
  • 8 oz. mozzarella, shredded 250 g
  • 3 tbsp. fresh basil, chopped, optional 45 mL

Cook the pasta until just before al dente. Drain, saving some of the cooking water, and rinse pasta under cold water to stop the cooking process.

Simmer the marinara sauce over medium heat in a skillet.

Add the meatballs to the skillet, coat them fully in the sauce and simmer about five minutes. If you have a skillet large enough combine meatballs and sauce with pasta and mix well. If not, then mix the meatballs and pasta together in a large bowl. Add some of the pasta water if the mixture is too thick.

Pour into to a 9 × 13 inch (22 x 33 cm) casserole dish and top with mozzarella cheese. Bake at 350 F (180 C) for 30 minutes or until cheese has melted and is bubbly.

Serve hot sprinkled with chopped fresh basil.

Broccoli chicken mac and cheese

This is a one pot meal that is ready in minutes, especially if you have leftover cooked chicken or turkey.

  • 8 oz. pasta shells 250 g
  • 1 lb. broccoli, chopped 500 g
  • 1 tbsp. cooking oil 15 mL
  • 1 lb. chicken breast, diced 500 g
  • 8 oz. extra sharp cheddar cheese, grated 250 g
  • 1 c. milk 250 mL
  • salt and pepper to taste

Bring a large pot of water to boil on stove. When water is boiling, add in pasta shells and cook four minutes. Then add chopped broccoli to pasta and cook an additional approximate four to five minutes or until pasta is cooked to your preference.

Drain pasta and broccoli in a colander.

Meanwhile, while pasta is cooking, heat oil in a non-stick skillet and add chicken. Cook until the chicken is completely cooked through and no longer pink. Should be 165 F (71 C).

Add cooked pasta and broccoli along with cooked chicken back to large pot. Add in grated cheese, milk, salt and pepper, to taste.

Stir over low heat until cheese is melted.

Basic meatballs

  • 1 egg
  • 2 tbsp. water 30 mL
  • 1/2 c. bread crumbs 125 mL
  • 1/4 c. finely diced onion 60 mL
  • 1/2 tsp. salt 2 mL
  • 1/8 tsp. black pepper .5 mL
  • 1 lb. lean ground beef 500 g

Heat the oven to 350 F (180 C).

In a large bowl, whisk the egg, water, breadcrumbs, onion, salt and pepper. Break the ground beef into chunks, then add it to the bowl. Mix gently, but thoroughly, with your hands to combine. Don’t overmix.

Bake at 350 F(180 C) for 25 to 30 minutes until meatballs register 165 F (71 C) on a meat thermometer.

Five-ingredient peanut noodles

This is an ingenious way to use the prepared bagged coleslaw mixes. They cook down nicely and yet maintain a little bit of crunch.

  • 1 tbsp. sesame oil, divided 15 mL
  • 16 oz. bag coleslaw mix 500 g
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt 1 mL
  • 1/2 lb. thick spaghetti or Asian wheat noodles 250 g
  • 1/3 c. hoisin sauce 75 mL
  • 1/4 c. creamy peanut butter 60 mL
  • 1/4 c. + 2 tbsp. water 90 mL

Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Season liberally with salt.

Heat a large skillet to a medium heat. Add two teaspoons (10 mL) of sesame oil. Once the oil is hot, add the coleslaw mix and 1/4 teaspoon salt (1 mL). Cook until soft, about five to seven minutes.

While the veggies cook, add pasta to water. Cook until al dente. Reserve some of the cooking liquid.

While the pasta cooks, add hoisin, peanut butter, water and remaining sesame oil to a small bowl. Whisk to combine. If it doesn’t become smooth then heat it and continue to whisk until smooth.

Once the noodles are cooked, use tongs to transfer them to the veggies. Add sauce and toss to combine.

If necessary, add a little bit of pasta water to loosen the sauce up.

Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve hot, room temperature or cold.

Cheesy leeks and ham

I was only able to find very large leeks at the grocery store. After cooking them in boiling water, I sliced each in half lengthwise and then wrapped with the ham. Worked nicely.

  • 8 small leeks , white part only
  • 8 slices cooked ham
  • 1 c. cheddar cheese, grated 250 mL
  • 2 tbsp. Dijon mustard 30 mL
  • 1 tbsp. butter 15 mL
  • 1 tbsp. flour 15 mL
  • 1 c. whole milk 250 mL

Heat oven to 400 F (200 C). Cook the leeks in a pan of boiling salted water for four to five minutes or until just tender. Drain and cool under a cold tap to stop them from cooking any further, then drain again well and place on a clean kitchen towel to dry.

Wrap each leek in a slice of ham, then arrange, side-by-side, in a large baking dish.

Make the sauce by melting the butter in a pan, add flour and cook until just beginning to brown. Slowly whisk in milk so as not to form lumps. Continue to whisk and add all the milk. Gently bring to a simmer. Add cheddar and Dijon mustard and stir until the cheese is melted. Remove from heat and pour over the leeks, then bake for 15-20 minutes until bubbling and golden brown. Serve at once.

Cooking For a Crew Contest

TEAM Resources is looking for readers’ favourite recipes for feeding their crew, even if it’s only one or two people.

Send your “Cooking for a Crew or One and Two” recipe entries to team@producer.com or mail to:

The Western Producer

1000-3530 Millar Avenue

Saskatoon, SK

S7P 0B6

All entries must be received by April 30. A draw for a selection of cookbooks will be made from all of the entries.

Sarah Galvin is a home economist, teacher and farmers’ market vendor at Swift Current, Sask., and a member of Team Resources. She writes a blog at allourfingersinthepie.blogspot.ca. Contact: team@producer.com.

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