Tag Archives: quick meals

Quarantine Cuisine Day #2

Day #1 wasn’t challenging as I had stocked up Tuesday with a pickup order from Walmart. Today I found myself with aging produce and a pound of ground turkey nearing its sell-by date.

Lunch is typically our main meal, so today I used these items to make two large servings of fiesta salad. It may contain Fritos chips, but it’s surprisingly healthful.

Brown and season the ground turkey.

Basically a salad of chopped lettuce, tomatoes, onions, and (optional) cilantro, the only cooking was browning the ground turkey. The cheese sauce was cheddar cheese soup heated in the microwave oven, thinned with 1/4 cup milk.

According to my recipe builder, we each ate 556 calories, including 57 g. protein and 18 g. fat. and 6.2 g fiber. It’s a fun dish as well as a good use-up of produce.

It’s early in the month, so we’ll see how the thirty-day challenge progresses. So how’s your quarantine going?

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Beef and Mushroom Stew

We love all meat yet try to limit our consumption of red meats. So I developed a recipe for beef stew that uses only half a pound of meat. By adding a pound of mushrooms, I boost the umami taste. I sneak in more vegetables, too.

This is a pressure cooker recipe that’s easily adapted to slow cooking. By using the pressure cooker, we get that cooked all day flavor in about half an hour.


Beef and Mushroom Stew

Makes 4 one-cup servings

  • 1/2 pound beef (chuck or round works) cut into 1” chunks
  • 1 pound mushrooms, sliced and cleaned
  • 1 cup broth + 1 Tbsp (reserved for slurry)
  • 2 tsp. Oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, sliced
  • 2 small red or gold potatoes, sliced or cubed
  • 2 ribs celery, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced or sliced
  • 1 Tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1 Tbsp cornstarch
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground pepper


  • Preheat cooker pot.
  • Add oil.
  • Generously salt and pepper the beef.
  • Brown the beef on all sides, then remove from pot and set aside.
  • Sauté onions, garlic, and mushrooms 1 minute.
  • Add cup of broth, deglaze bottom of pot, and return the beef to the cooker.
  • Seal and cook under high pressure for 10 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, prepare slurry by combining Worcestershire sauce, reserved broth, and cornstarch.
  • Remove pot from heat (or hit Cancel if using electric) and allow pressure to drop on its own.
  • Carefully open pot and add potatoes and carrots. Reseal.
  • Bring to pressure and cook 1 minute under pressure.
  • Remove from heat, allow pressure to drop 5 minutes on its own, then release remaining pressure.
  • Carefully open the cooker and check vegetables for doneness.
  • Stir slurry again right before adding it to the pot. Return to heat (or use sauté mode on electric models) just until sauce thickens.
  • Remove from heat immediately and check for seasonings. Add salt and pepper if needed and serve.
Beef and Mushroom Stew

Adding fresh chopped parsley before serving adds flavor. Unfortunately, I was out of parsley when I cooked this stew today. Next time …

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Product Review: NuWave Bravo XL Smart Oven

I watch cooking infomercials. I’m a sucker for new cooking gadgets. But my latest purchase, the NuWave Bravo XL Smart Oven, is the best of my purchases. (Full disclosure: I got mine through Amazon* because I wasn’t interested in the “free” premiums. But they’re a good deal if you don’t already have a pizza kit and a pressure cooker.)

I made room for the new oven by re-homing my 6 quart Power Air Fryer Oven to a friend. Much as I liked that product, I much prefer this one for five reasons:

  • It carries a one year warranty vs. a 60 day warranty.
  • It’s stainless steel instead of plastic.
  • It’s wider, accommodating much of my regular bake ware.
  • It’s more multi-functional, with 12 presets.
  • It has a built in temperature probe that automatically shuts off the oven when food reaches the desired temperature.

As an air fryer, it’s great. My first effort was frozen breaded shrimp and frozen crinkle fries. I did not spray with oil, as was suggested. After selecting Air Fry on the menu, I cooked the shrimp and fries ten minutes at 400°. We gave the meal a thumbs-up.

Air fryer shrimp and fries.

Next I baked frozen chicken breasts using the temperature probe. (I had to allow about 30 minutes thawing before I managed inserting the probe, so it works better with unfrozen food). It’s tricky cooking white meat poultry to a safe temperature without drying it out, which is why the temperature probe feature attracted me. When the oven shut off, the meat was perfectly cooked.

Cooking frozen chicken breast

I tried a frozen pizza (it fit!), toast, hash brown patties, burgers, and a dinner plate reheat (worked just like restaurants). I’ve barely scratched the surface of what this appliance can do. I’ve used my Pampered Chef stoneware, my stainless, and my NordicWare pans. If a pan is safe for a regular oven and fits, it can be used in the NuWave Bravo XL.

The capacity is one cubic feet, making it a bit larger than its closest competitor (and the competition carries only a 90 day warranty). Suffice it to say, I am sold on this oven and recommend it without reservation.

*NUWAVE BRAVO XL 1800-watt Air Fry Convection Oven with Flavor Infusion (FIT) Technology with Integrated Temperature Probe for Perfect Results; 12 Pre-Programmed Presets; 3 Fan Speeds; 5-Quartz Heating Elements


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Tilapia is a wonder food. Mild, adaptable, and plentiful, it cooks quickly and can be prepared in a variety of ways. My favorite method (and it’s the quickest) is to steam over low heat in a covered skillet. No oil, no batter, no breading…just a few seasonings like lemon pepper and/or garlic salt. Even frozen, it’s done within 10-15 minutes. Fresh cooks faster. When preparing a meal, I typically cook my tilapia last. I don’t want to risk overcooking it, and I certainly don’t want to serve it cold.

When you shop for tilapia, keep in mind the recommendations of the Monterrey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch. Buy farmed-in-USA if available. Aquaculture is suited to the tilapia, making it a sustainable fish. If USA isn’t available, buy from Costa Rica, Equador, Honduras, or Brazil farms. Do not buy tilapia farmed in China or Taiwan! (For more information, consult the Monterrey Bay Aquarium Watch List.)

Tilapia is not a new fish. It’s most plentiful in Africa and the Middle East and is believed to be the fish Saint Peter caught. In the miracle of the loaves and fishes (Matthew 14:15-21) Jesus served the crowd of 5,000 from two tilapia and five loaves of bread. Bible scholars also believe tilapia was abundant in the Sea of Galilee (Lake of Tiberius) and would’ve been the fish Jesus served his disciples when He revealed Himself after the resurrection. That’s why some refer to tilapia as either Jesus’ fish or Saint Peter’s fish. 

All I know is it’s delicious and nutritious, perfect for a Hasty Tasty Meal!


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I collect cookbooks, and I picked up one yesterday that fits my hasty tasty meals philosophy: Weight Watchers® in 20 minutes (Wiley Publishing, Inc., Hoboken, NJ ©2009).  It retails for $29.95 USA but I found it on sale.

If you’re a follower of the Weight Watchers® program, you’ll find the Points® value posted for each recipe an added convenience.  It’s printed in my preferred format, a spiral bound book that lies flat for easy reference while cooking.  Weight Watchers® in 20 minutes includes 250 recipes including ten that use the “cooking ahead” method (or what I call creative leftovers) in which you cook one food that pulls double duty. Robin Miller, of Food Network’s Quick Fix Meals would approve, I’ll bet.

For example, a meal of Kielbasa with Peppers and Onions today morphs into Sausage and Red Bean Gumbo tomorrow.  Each recipe serves 4 and can be halved or doubled, as needed.  Plus–and this was, again, right up my ally–several recipes are for the pressure cooker, such as Moroccan-Style Lamb or Honey and Spice Porridge.  These are not your routine recipes, yet they’re simple and fast.

If you’re in the market for a healthful meals cookbook, try Weight Watchers® in 20 minutes.  Tonight we’re having, New Orleans–Style Chicken, my first try from this collection.  I look forward to it!



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Cooking Ahead


Cooking ahead is one of the mainstays of Hasty Tasty Meals. This weekend, I caught a buy-one-get-one-free sale at my local supermarket on London broil-cut roasts and boneless, skinless chicken breasts. I stuck both roasts in my gourmet slo-cooker and let them roast while I “fried” the chicken breasts in my electric skillet (It took two batches for the quantity of chicken breasts) for 25 minutes. In addition, I cooked up a bag of brown rice, which can be reheated and used in a number of meals .

I sliced half of the roast and froze in meal-size portions using my Food Saver (those are handy, but you can also use Ziploc® Freezer bags). I also packaged and froze meal-portions of the chicken breasts. Then I shredded some of the beef for burritos, cubed some for a beef pot pie, and ate sliced roast for dinner warmed with my broth-cornstarch fat-free gravy.

Some of the chicken will be used for chicken salad, some shredded for burritos (we love burritos), and some will be warmed in gravy and served for dinner as with the beef. I’m finished cooking for the week, I’m serving us healthful meals, and I’ve saved money!


A Vita-Mix is expensive, but I can’t imagine giving mine up. Here’s a yummy way to have a serving of dairy and a serving of fruit:

To the Vita-mix, add:

1 cup skim milk
2 oranges, peeled
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract

¼ cup Splenda® granular
¼ cup powdered milk
2 cups ice cubes

Blend on high for one minute until smooth and frothy. Makes two 16-oz shakes. It rivals the fast food orange cream shakes in taste, and is a lot more healthful.


With summer coming up, we’re faced with the cookout season. Don’t let get-togethers derail your healthful eating. If there’s an opportunity to contribute to the meal, offer to bring a dish or two. Then you’ll control the ingredients! Are you a sucker for the ever-popular green bean casserole? (I’m not, and only God knows why that dish’s popularity endures, 😕 but that’s just my opinion) If so, here’s my lightened version.


Serves 8


½ small onion, thinly sliced

1 Tablespoon butter

2 regular size cans of reduced sodium green beans, drained

1 can Campbell’s Healthy Recipe Cream of Mushroom Condensed Soup

½ cup skim milk (add more if needed)

1 8-oz can mushrooms stems and pieces, drained

½ cup shredded Parmesan cheese

½ cup crushed corn flakes


Melt the butter in a medium skillet then add onion slices. Cook until onions caramelize. (This is when the sugars in the onions turn them a nice brown color) Remove from heat and set aside. Meanwhile, in a large measuring pitcher, combine the soup and milk then blend. Stir in the mushrooms.

In a three-quart baking dish, combine the soup mixture with the green beans. Spread the cooked onion slices on top, then sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and crushed corn flakes.

Bake, uncovered, for thirty minutes. It’s not the French-fried-onion-rings-on-top version, but it’ll still have crunch and taste good, too. Eliminating the onion rings saves a ton of empty calories, but keep that to yourself.

Happy Summer! 🙂

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