Quick, Easy, and Affordable Recipe Ideas??

Updated on February 27, 2008
M.P. asks from Van Nuys, CA
17 answers

I'm looking for quick and easy recipes that don't require a whole lot of time or money to prepare. As soon as I get home from a busy day at work I'm exhausted and cooking is the last thing on my mind. As soon as I walk through the door, I usually breast feed my son and then try to unwind. I'm having a hard time dealing with cravings. I didn't have any cravings during my pregnancy, but now I'm craving nothing but sugar and junk. I try to avoid bad foods because I'm breast feeding, but I'm on a very tight budget and don't have very much time. Does anyone have any ideas? I'm desperate.

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answers from Los Angeles on

Try www.myrecipe.com they have recipes from Sunset, cooking lite and a few others and there are plenty that are quick, healthy & easy.
Good luck!
N. F.



answers from Los Angeles on

I would write out some recipes but it would be better to direct you to the website www.allrecipes.com You can type in 'quick recipes' or 'low-fat dinners' or 'easy dinners' whatever, it is a great site. What I like to do is get a recipe and then read the suggestions and reviews for changes and end up making something really good. Good Luck!

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answers from Los Angeles on

i used to teach a class called... "dinner from the pantry ~ 30 minute meals with 5 ingredients or less"

i'm copying my guideline below - let me know if you want me to email you the word version (might be easier to read) or if you would like some more recipes. cooking dinner does not have to be difficult - it can be quick, easy, delicious AND healthy!!! i agree with the other posts about a crockpot - just stay clear of things like campbell's soup and lipton onion soup mix. these contain msg among other things - there are healthier alternatives that i have found!!

have fun cooking - and let me know if you have any questions!J.


~ Dinner from the Pantry ~
30 Minute Meals with 5 Ingredients or Less

Spring 2007

~ Helpful Hints and Recipes ~

Spending time with family over a delicious home cooked meal can be a wonderful routine unless it causes you to be stressed and grumpy – the prepping, the cooking, and the cleaning!! Before you reach for the take-out menu, try stocking your kitchen with a few essential items to ensure that dinner is only a few ingredients and 30 minutes away.

With “The Essential Tools” and “The Essential Pantry” lists, dinner is 30 minutes away!

Helpful hints to make Dinner from the Pantry:
• Pound your chicken with the Meat Tenderizer to shorten cooking time.

• When using only a few ingredients, make sure they are the best. Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Parmiggiano Reggiano cheese, fresh herbs, freshly ground black pepper, and vegetables & fruit that are in season. This ensures great tasting food!

• Keep a back-up of your family’s favorite pantry items. (ie – Sesame Tahini Dressing and Durkee Fried Onions.)

• Invest in a slow cooker. It takes less than 10 minutes to prep in the morning and guarantees a home cooked meal when you walk in the door.

• To save time during the week, get chopping over the weekend. Plan your menus for the week and chop all the veggies and meats you will need. Label and store all the ingredients in small containers, then place everything in a larger plastic bag, with the meal and prep date prominently noted. Cooking will be a breeze all week long!

• Freeze 1/2 cup measures of ingredients such as onions and peppers to make quick soups and stir fries with less chopping.

• Buy meats in bulk and freeze portions with marinade inside a plastic zip top bag. As it defrosts, the meat will become infused with the marinade and stay moist.

• Don’t throw out your leftover rice! Use it to make fried rice. Use leftover risotto to make arancini.

Dinner from the Pantry Recipes

1. Baked Cranberry Chicken or Pork

2 whole boneless, skinless chicken breasts or 4 boneless pork chops
1 can whole cranberry sauce
1 small bottle french salad dressing (red, not orange)
1 package dried onion soup mix

Place chicken or pork in Deep Dish Baker. In Classic Batter Bowl, combine ingredients. Mix well and pour over meat. Bake, uncovered, in preheated 350° oven until meat is completely cooked. (20 – 25 minutes)

Serve with mashed potatoes and green beans.

2. Crunchy Sesame Tahini Chicken
2 whole boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 (16 oz) bottle of Sesame Tahini Salad Dressing
1 cup Durkee Fried Onion Rings

Place chicken into Deep Dish Baker. Pour dressing over chicken and top with onion rings. Bake, uncovered, at 350° until chicken in completely cooked. (20 - 25 minutes)

Serve with jasmine rice and roasted zucchini.

3. Parmesan Encrusted Chicken or Pork
2 whole boneless, skinless chicken breasts or 4 pork chops
3 Tbsp melted butter
1 cup seasoned bread crumbs
1 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
3 Tbsp Extra virgin olive oil

Grate cheese with microplane adjustable grater to fill one prep bowl (perfect 1 cup measurement). Mix cheese and bread crumbs in medium stainless bowl and set aside. Melt butter in batter bowl in microwave and set aside. Pound chicken with Meat Tenderizer. Place chicken in batter bowl to coat with butter, then coat chicken with breadcrumb mixture and set aside. Pre-heat oil in Family Sized Skillet over medium high heat. When pan is hot, carefully place coated chicken in a single layer. DO NOT TOUCH CHICKEN until first side is browned – then flip over and brown other side. (Approximately 2 minutes per side depending on thickness.)

Serve with parmesan couscous and roasted asparagus.

4. Chicken –N– Leeks
2 whole boneless, skinless chicken breasts
All purpose flour
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, Meat seasoning, and no salt seasoning
1 large or 2 small leeks
3 Tbsp Extra virgin olive oil
Chicken broth

Slice off ends of leeks. Cut in half lengthwise. Cut into ½ inch moons. Break leeks up and place in large stainless bowl. Fill bowl with cold water and set aside - all the dirt will fall to the bottom of the bowl while you finish prepping dinner.

Place flour in batter bowl, add all the seasonings and mix thoroughly. Cut chicken into bite size pieces with Santoku knife and then dredge in flour mixture. Pre-heat oil in Family Sized Skillet over medium high heat. When pan is hot, carefully place coated chicken in a single layer. DO NOT TOUCH CHICKEN until first side is browned – then flip over to brown the other side. (Approximately 2 minutes per side depending on size.) As soon as you flip the chicken, add the leeks. Once the second side is browned add a little broth for moisture, turn the heat down and finish cooking until chicken is done and leeks are soft. You can also place skillet into 325 degree oven to finish instead.

Serve with roasted red potatoes and steamed broccoli.

5. Rosemary Lemon Chicken
2 whole boneless, skinless chicken breasts
4 Tablespoons Balsamic vinegar
One Lemon - zested and juiced
6 Tablespoons Extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 Sprig of Rosemary

Place chicken in Batter Bowl. Add ingredients. Cover with lid and marinate for 10 minutes. Preheat 1 Tbsp olive oil in skillet over medium high heat. Add chicken and cook until done, about 4 minutes per side.

Serve with wild rice and roasted butternut squash.

6. Asian Chicken
2 whole boneless, skinless chicken breasts
5 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
3 Tbsp reduced-sodium soy sauce
2 Tbsp hoisin sauce
1 Tbsp peeled, minced fresh ginger
2 garlic cloves, pressed with garlic press
3 Tbsp Extra virgin olive oil

Combine vinegar, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, ginger and garlic in batter bowl and whisk together. Add chicken to bowl and let marinade for 15 minutes. Preheat oil in family skillet over medium high heat. Place chicken in skillet and cook completely. (about 4 minutes per side depending on size)

Serve with jasmine rice and sautéed carrots.

7. Basic Tomato Sauce
3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, chopped fine with Food Chopper
2 cloves garlic, pressed with Garlic Press
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 (32-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes (I prefer Muir Glen Peeled)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter

In a large pot, heat oil over medium high heat. Add onion, garlic, season with salt and pepper and sauté until soft and translucent, about 5 to 10 minutes. Add tomatoes and simmer uncovered on low heat for 30 minutes. Add unsalted butter, 1 tablespoon at a time to round out the flavors.
Serve over farfalle with freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano, a green salad and warm garlic bread.
If not using all the sauce, allow it to cool completely and pour 1 to 2 cup portions into freezer plastic bags. This will freeze up to 6 months.

8. Spaghetti with Olives
1 pound dried spaghetti
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 1/4 cups mixed olives, pitted and halved
3 cups Basic Tomato Sauce
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano
1/2 tablespoon red pepper flakes, (optional)
1/2 cup basil leaves or flat leaf parsley, shredded (optional)

In a large pot, bring 6 quarts of salted water to a boil. When water comes to a boil, add pasta, stirring constantly for the first minute to help prevent spaghetti from sticking together. Cook until al dente, about 8 to 10 minutes.
In a large sauté pan, heat oil. When almost smoking, add olives and red pepper flakes, if desired. Sauté for 3 minutes over medium high heat. Reduce heat to low and carefully pour in tomato sauce and simmer for 10 minutes.
Drain pasta in a colander, reserving 1/4 cup pasta water. Add pasta to the sauce and toss to coat completely. Add pasta water if you need to thin out the sauce a bit. Plate pasta and sprinkle with Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and basil.
Serve with green salad and crusty bread.
9. Orecchiette with Toasted Breadcrumbs
1 pound dried orecchiette or other small shaped pasta
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2/3 cup seasoned dried bread crumbs
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano
1 cup finely chopped prosciutto (optional)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves (optional)

In a large pot, bring to a boil 6 quarts of salted water. Cook pasta until al dente, about 8 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a medium-sized sauté pan, heat the oil until warm. Since the bread crumbs will cook quickly, you don't want to add them into a hot pan, otherwise they can burn. Add the breadcrumbs and stir constantly. Season lightly with salt and pepper since flavored bread crumbs may already have seasoning. Sauté for about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
Drain pasta in a colander. Working quickly, add pasta to the sauté pan and stir to combine. Add Parmesan and prosciutto if desired. Mix thoroughly. Pour into large serving bowl and garnish with chopped parsley
Serve with tomato, red onion and cucumber salad drizzled with balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil.
10. Herbed Fish
2 pounds haddock fillets (or any thick white fish like cod or sea bass)
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup Panko breadcrumbs
4 tablespoons butter, melted
fresh lemon thyme and flat leaf parley (finely chopped)

Rinse fish and pat dry. Sprinkle both sides of fish with salt and pepper. Place fish in Deep Dish Baker. Mix breadcrumbs with 3 tablespoons of the butter and the chopped herbs. Sprinkle over fish and drizzle with remaining butter. Place into preheated 400° oven and bake for 25 minutes, or until fish is flaky and topping is browned. Serve with lemon wedges, boiled red potatoes with butter and chives and sweet corn.

11. Flank Steak
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 cloves freshly pressed garlic
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 1/2 pounds flank steak

In a medium bowl, mix the oil, soy sauce, vinegar, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, garlic, and ground black pepper. Place meat in a freezer bag and pour marinade over the steak, turning meat to coat thoroughly. Place bag flat in freezer until ready to defrost. When ready to cook, preheat grill to medium-high heat. Oil the grill grate. Place steaks on the grill, and discard the marinade. Grill meat for 5 minutes per side, or to desired doneness. (You can also use a grill pan on the stove top and follow the directions.)

Serve with smashed parsley potatoes and sautéed red chard.

12. Rich & Tasty Beef Roast in a Crockpot
10¾ oz can cream of celery soup
3 – 5 lb chuck roast
2 Tbsp Oil
1 package dried onion soup mix
One large carrot (optional)
One small onion (optional)

Cut the onion and carrot into good size chunks and layer on bottom of slow cooker. Spread cream of celery soup on top of vegetables. Heat oil in skillet over medium high heat. Season chuck roast with salt and pepper, then sear on all sides. Add to slow cooker. Sprinkle meat with dried onion soup mix. Cook on high for 5 – 6 hours, or low for 7 – 8 hours.

Serve with mashed potatoes and sweet peas.

13. Shrimp Sautéed with Bacon and Herbs
1½ pounds large shrimp, shelled and deveined, tail section left on
1 large clove garlic, pressed
1½ teaspoons finely chopped rosemary
1½ teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
4½ teaspoons olive oil
4 ounces bacon, cut into 1 1/2-inch dice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
½ cup chicken broth
4½ teaspoons unsalted butter

In a medium bowl, toss shrimp, garlic, rosemary, thyme, and oil. Set aside to marinate at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Place bacon in a large skillet, and place over medium-high heat. Cook bacon, stirring occasionally, until almost all the fat is rendered, 6 to 7 minutes. Pour off and discard all but about 2 tablespoons of the bacon fat. Add shrimp, marinade ingredients, and salt and pepper to taste; sauté, turning frequently, until shrimp are opaque and just cooked through, about 5 minutes.

Remove shrimp and bacon, and transfer to serving dish. Add lemon juice and stock to skillet; cook, stirring up cooked-on brown bits. Cook until liquid is reduced by half, about 2 minutes. Swirl in butter; cook, swirling skillet until butter has melted. Pour the sauce over shrimp, and serve over capellini with a garden salad.

Jennifer Warr
Independent Consultant for The Pampered Chef
[email protected]____.com

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

What do you like to eat? Do you like casseroles, meat, vegetarian? Will you eat leftovers? Do you have more energy on the weekends? Some thoughts are you can make several meals and freeze them. You could also cook a big pot of something like soup or beans on Saturday or Sunday and eat it for a few days. Do you have a crockpot? If you can offer me a little more information, maybe I can help. I am no expert cook or anything, just a homeschooling mom of four kids who never feels like she has enough time. I am always looking for ways to streamline dinner.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

buy a crock pot! There are crock pot recipe books such as "Fix it and Forget it"- so easy and easy to prep in the morning and then you come home to a great smelling house!



answers from Los Angeles on

Hi M. :) For Christmas I got a few Rachael Ray 30 minute meal cookbooks and I have to say that I really love them! I wasn't necessarily a fan of hers in the past but I have to say I have changed my tune! Her 30 minute meal cookbooks are loaded with things to make in around 30 minutes that are non-threatening, easy to prepare & have easy to find ingredients - they are pretty healthy too! My husband and i have liked every recipe we have tried :)
I am the baker in my family and don't really like to cook but her books somehow make me feel like I can do it (and I do!). Most of the time I have my little guy (15 minths) in my ergo carrier (on the back) or playing with the pots and pans while I cook. Take a look at her 30 minute meal classics book at the store or online - that's my favorite. http://www.amazon.com/Classic-30-Minute-Meals-All-Occasio...
good luck!



answers from Los Angeles on

Hi M.,

Here are a few suggestions. I would start by planning your weeknight and basing your food shopping upon this plan. If you have all the ingredients you need and you know what you're going to cook it will make your life that much easier. I find that when I'm tired I can't think of anything to cook and that just makes it worse.

Next, your baby is really young right now and it's normal to feel tired and just not into cooking. As much as you probably need affordable meals it might be time to spend a little more money now on good quality prepared food like what's sold at whole foods or even Trader Joes. If you can switch between one night of frozen something and home-made the next night it could help your sanity. Treat yourself with a healthy take out meal once or twice a week and save money by bringing healthy salads or sandwiches to work. You can pack yourself a quick lunch at night after dinner. I make my whole family to-go lunches. It doesn't really take that long once you get the hang of it.

Your cravings are normal too. I always crave starchy sweets when I'm tired. Try popping a few nuts or trail mix when you get home or in the car on the way home. They'll help keep your hunger and cravings at bay.

As for recipes I recommend subscribing to Rachel Ray's magazine. Her recipes are designed for real people, not just foodies. Most are fast and easy. At the same time they are mostly healthy and many include a lot of vegetables.

And now for a recipe. I write a food blog for my friends. My hope is to get more people into making home-made food. I just posted one of my all time favorite fast and easy soup recipes. Check out the post named "Mamasource" on my blog. Here's the link:
I also have posted a number of vegetarian pasta recipes. Pasta is great when you need a good meal fast.

I hope this is helpful!




answers from Los Angeles on

hello. two words. crock pot!

i just got one last month and it has been wonderful. there are so many delicious meals you can make in it (not just stews or pot roast, although those are good too!). there are all kinds of recipes online. its great because you get prepare everything in the morning, set it to cook for 8 hours, and when you come home from work your house smells delicious and you have a finished warm meal waiting for you with no more work. i think it would be perfect for you. ;)




answers from Los Angeles on

you may want to invest in a crock pot. This has been great for our family. Also, meal planning is key. Pre-prep on the weekend for the week or 2 weeks.
Here are a couple of our family favorites:
Chicken breast partially frozen, cut up into bite sized chunks. Season with garlic powder, pepper. Chop some onion, and suate onion in a small amount of olive oil till clear. Add chicken and cook through. Buy a bag of chow mein in the produce isle, toss in with chicken once it is cooked. Cook white rice while chicken is cooking. This shouldn't take more than 30 minutes cook time.
Oh..I cook a small turkey (very economical) on a Sunday, have a nice turkey dinner on Sunday, shred, slice and chop the rest, freezer bag and you have pre-preped meat for a few meals. You could make turkey tacos seasoned nicely, turkey chinese or another favorite turkey, flat egg noodles, turkey or mushroon gravy.
Salmon. Coat foil with a bit of olive oil. slice up some onion, bell peppers, season as you wish, close up foil and bake for not longer than 12 minutes then check at 350. serve with fresh vegies/salad and rice.
cook up some ground beef,season half with taco seasoning and the other with italian seasoning, add onion, garlic etc. freeze. you could make spaghetti with the italian seasoned one or a soup by adding lentils (which cook fast) whole tomatoes and a carrot. For the mexican one you could make tacos, taco salad, enchiladas or a mexican soup with zucchini, carrots, potatoes.
hope this helps.



answers from Los Angeles on

Hi M.,

One easy recipe I like is to get the packaged yaki-soba noodles and frozen asian vegetables and just stir fry that together. I dump some sesame ginger marinade or a low fat asian salad dressing on it for flavor and it's a nice and fast vegetable lo mein. You could add meat if you wanted but I am a vegetarian. I also do sausage and rice with vegetarian sausage (like sun dried tomato or chicken and apple flavor) with one of the seasoned rice mixes (like the Lipton sides). You can do the sausages in the microwave instead of frying them to save time and energy. Just heat up a frozen green vegetable and it's a fast and filling meal. I also use the veggie sausage with pasta and add some fresh veggies (peppers or zucchini) to ready made sauce. That bulks up plain old spaghetti and sauce well for us. Of course, if all else fails throw some chicken breasts in a baking pan, dump some cream of mushroom soup and salt and pepper on them, and bake! Doesn't get much easier than that. Oh, and baked potatoes are good with some salsa and low fat cheese on them. I also do a lot of veggie burgers. You can throw them in the microwave as well, slap em between a whole wheat bun with lettuce and tomato and you're done.

I hope these are helpful to you. I work full time as well and know how hard it is to come home and have to cook. Some nights I'm in full on Iron Chef mode and can whip up spinach and sweet pea lasagna with gruyere and swiss, and other nights it's the chicken and mushroom soup bake and everyone better like it or else :)



answers from Los Angeles on

Trader Joes is quick, easy, affordable and GOOD.
DreamDinners.com has also worked for me.

Re: sugar cravings- maybe stock up on blueberries and rasberries, raisins, and other bite size/ finger food fruits? Even dried fruits.



answers from Los Angeles on

Have you tried a dinner service like Dream Dinners? It will look expensive until you try it. All the meals we eat at home are Dream Dinners. I go once a month and make 27 meals. My average cost is $275 for the month (but we buy the steak meals which definitely ups the cost). I keep frozen vegetables in the freezer. In less than 30 minutes I can have dinner on the table. And, our grocery bills average $100 a week for fruit and staples (milk, eggs, frozen veggies, etc.). My husband and 3 years old daughter love the food. You can find out more or your closet location at www.dreamdinners.com. I go to the Mar Vista Store. Brooke and Justin, the owners, are wonderful.



answers from Los Angeles on

I have a couple of REALLY yummy chicken breast recipes...

Crispy Onion Chicken: Coat desired number of chicken breasts in egg, then coat with mashed up French fried onions (you know... the ones in the can that you make green bean casserole with). Throw it into the oven for 35-40 minutes and bake!

Parmesan Chicken: Mix 1 c mayo, 1/2 c parmesan cheese, 1 tsp garlic powder, 1 tsp oregano together and spread on top of desired number of chicken breasts and bake for 35-40 minutes!

There's always also spagetti...

Another 1 pot meal I do sometimes is 1 lb ground beef browned. Throw in a frozen veggie mix, 1 can French Onion soup, 1 can of cream of mushroom soup, and let simmer to combine ingredients (and make sure the veggies are thawed and cooked), then serve on top of rice or noodles (my hubby likes rice better)! It's kind of a casserole type of dish! Quick and easy!

Hope this helps!



answers from Los Angeles on

Hi :o)

It helps to have a plan... and prepare ahead.

When our sons were infants my best friend and I would get together one weekend day. We would make a menu, shop, and then go back to her house (bigger kitchen), have lunch, and start preparing and cooking, while taking turns tending to the babies.

Then, all we had to do was warm things up while cooking a fresh veggie or grabbing a handful of already washed salad that we had prepared and put into a ziplock with dry paper towels to keep it fresh all week.

This ends up being cheaper because you can buy bulk... bake a whole chicken instead of specialty cuts, buy bulk salad instead of one little bag at a time, etc...

Soups are also a good thing to make over the weekend during the winter and early spring. It's easy to put the pot on the stove and warm it while you're breastfeeding and reconnecting with your baby at the end of a long day apart.

As for the sweet cravings...
I am overweight and have to curb a horrible sweet tooth myself. Frozen raspberries are a good treat at night... or you can take some non-fat yogurt from trader joe's (natural and yummy with no artificial sweeteners) and put it in the freezer. I put it in the freezer for about 30-45 minutes then stir it and put it back in for another 15-30 minutes, (for a total of 1 hour) then stir it again and víola - frozen yogurt!

Have fun with it and Bon appetite!



answers from Los Angeles on

This isn't much of a recipe, but when I am too exhausted to make dinner, I tell the kids we are having "an upside down day." I serve breakfast foods for dinner (cereal, frozen waffles, etc.) and they go nuts for it! They think it's such a huge treat when really I'm the one getting a treat by not having to cook!

Good luck!



answers from Los Angeles on

Check out www.bemomalicious.com - Domenica Catelli is the chef and she's got some recipes on the website. If you like those ones you can get her book Mom-a-licious, it's available on Amazon.



answers from San Diego on

I'm right there with you. Since my baby boy was born my cravings for sugar has been so strong. My baby is almost 7 months now and the cravings have finally slowed down. I have 30 lbs to lose and eating sugar will not help. Just wanted to let you know that you are not alone.

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