My 4 Go-To Dinners (At the Moment) When I Don't Feel Like Cooking

Disclaimer: some of these meals involve a liiiiiiiittle bit of prep work (like throwing things together in a bowl and mixing them, or popping something in the oven), but not nearly as much as following a full-blown recipe.  These dishes are what I typically throw together last minute when I don't have time to think about meal planning.  Enjoy!

I'm pretty good at planning out my meals most of the time.  I'll start on Sunday morning by browsing my saved recipes on Pinterest (man that site is a live saver!), and go to the store that afternoon to stock up on the goods I need to make them.  I try to get a healthy lean protein I can bake and ingredients for a side dish like a quinoa salad, leafy greens salad, or my favorite right now since it's almost Fall: mashed butternut squash.  It's a LOT of work planning out your meals though, even for a few days.  And man, I don't even get into the nitty gritty details of counting macro nutrients, vitamins, minerals, and portioning out the food for the week.  

Life happens sometimes though.  You have to stay late at work, you get caught in awful traffic, or just plain don't feel like going to the grocery store, following a recipe, and dealing with the clean up.  I get it.  I was there just a few days ago, actually.  And I'll be honest - the lack of prep and depleted energy I had was leading to some pretty unhealthy food choices (the epitome of lazy - Kraft Easy Mac. Yeah... I wish I hadn't).  Despite the mac 'n' cheese moment of weakness, I DO try to keep a few healthy staples on hand to make at a moment's notice when I'm really pressed for time, or when I just don't have the energy to follow a recipe.  Check 'em out!  (Note: the pictures I've taken of my own versions of these meals are so bad, they'd probably turn you off of the food itself, so I've inserted some prettier pics for your viewing pleasure.  They are credited accordingly.)

Poached Eggs in Bell Pepper Rings

  photo credit:  Weelicious

photo credit: Weelicious

Breakfast for dinner?  You bet!  These babies are so easy it's not even funny.  The only prep needed is washing, de-seeding, and cutting the bell peppers.  All you need to do after that is:

  • Cut the whole pepper into three or four rings (depending on how big it is)
  • Place each ring on a non-stick skillet over medium heat
  • Crack 1 egg into each ring, and cover to cook until desired doneness.  
  • Sprinkle with salt, pepper, maybe a little cayenne pepper, and voila! 

"Unstuffed" Peppers with Ground Turkey, Quinoa & Tomatoes

  photo credit:  Sparkpeople Recipes

photo credit: Sparkpeople Recipes

I was never a fan of stuffed peppers when I was a kid, but I've grown to love them and they're now in regular rotation when I need something quick to throw together.  I use ground turkey instead of beef due to the lower saturated fat content (and it's easier on my stomach).   Here's what I do to make them: 

  • Cook the quinoa according to package directions.  
  • Cook the turkey in a skillet until done.  
  • Combine both in a large bowl, mix in 1 14-oz can of diced no-salt-added tomatoes and 1 small can of green chilies.  
  • Season with garlic powder, black pepper, cayenne pepper, and a touch of salt.  

Now, here's where the "unstuffed" part comes in.  I used to bake them, actually going through the trouble to stuff each pepper, lay them out perfectly in a baking pan, and wait 20 minutes while they baked in the oven.  If you ask me, I can't wait that long!  So I:

  • Wash, de-seed, and cut the pepper into small bite-sized pieces
  • Microwave on high for about 2-3 minutes.  (Granted you won't get the fully baked taste and they certainly don't crisp up as much as they do in the oven, but it does the trick when you're pressed for time.)  
  • Top it with the stuffing you just made, and some cheddar cheese, and bam!  Dinner.  

Save the leftover stuffing and simply microwave it all together with a chopped pepper the next time.  Easy-peasy.

Turkey Burgers

  photo credit:  The Food Network

photo credit: The Food Network

I've gotten so used to the taste of turkey burgers, that when I taste an actual beef burger it's like my taste buds don't even know what to do!  I choose ground turkey though for the above mentioned reason - lower in saturated fat, and it's easier on my digestive system.  I'm a big fan of turkey burgers because you can fancy 'em up if you have the time, or if not, just season the meat and cook it.  Here's what I usually do:

  • Season the meat with garlic powder, cayenne pepper, a little bit of salt and black pepper (notice a trend in my seasonings? =P )
  • Form into patties and cook in a non-stick skillet until done, turning once
  • Toast a whole wheat burger bun and add lettuce and a slice of tomato
  • Add the burger and top with a slice of cheese
  • Add some ketchup for dipping (am I the only one who dips burgers into the ketchup instead of putting it ON the bun?)

Pretty easy if you ask me, and you can dress up burgers all kinds of different ways. :)

Mom's Baked Turkey & Havarti Sandwiches

  photo credit:  Run Janelle Run

photo credit: Run Janelle Run

These have to be the easiest and tastiest sandwiches ever.  I remember they were always a hit among my friends when we were little, so much so that my mom was known for them (among my friends anyway).  You'll need:

  • Your favorite deli turkey (I'm a huge fan of Deitz & Watson Ovengold Turkey Breast)
  • A loaf of Rye & Pumpernickel swirl bread
  • Havarti cheese (not the dill kind; either regular Havarti or Havarti with herbs & spices)
  • Spicy brown mustard
  • Tin foil

What you do:

  • Preheat the oven to 350˚
  • Spread the mustard onto one side of each slice of bread
  • Pile high with turkey
  • Add a few slices of cheese and put the two halves together
  • Cut sandwich in half
  • Wrap in tin foil and bake for 30 minutes

The bread will come out slightly crispy, the cheese will be perfectly melted and gooey, and it's just a great go-to that hardly involves any prep work.  Makes me want one just thinking about it!

Well, there you have it!  Four easy dinners I typically make when I'm just not in the mood to cook.  There are others that I make on a less frequent basis, and I hope to do another post about those soon too.

Readers: chat with me!  What are your go-to dishes when you're not in the mood to cook?  What staples do you keep in your kitchen?  Have you made any versions of the above meals yourself?  

Oh, and happy 1st of September!  (Already? What?!)