1. Quick Pan-Seared Fish:
Fish is basically nature's fast food. It cooks in minutes with very little fuss. Rinse fish fillets of your choice (either fresh or frozen & thawed) in cold water and then pat with paper towels until very dry. Season generously with kosher salt and black pepper, and cook in hot skillet brushed with olive oil, about 2 minutes per side for skinny fillets, 4 minutes per side for fat ones. Serve with a pile of dressed salad greens, steamed veggies, or rice, and a few lemon wedges. Try this with tilapia, striped bass, cod, halibut, or salmon.
2. Crunchy Baked Chicken Tenders:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Dip raw chicken tenders in buttermilk that has been seasoned generously with salt, pepper, and paprika. Coat them in panko breadcrumbs and lay on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes, then flip and bake 10 more minutes. Serve with dipping sauces or use to make crunchy chicken sandwiches.
3. Cold Spicy Shrimp and Soba Noodle Salad:
Prepare soba (buckwheat) noodles according to package, then rinse with cold water and set aside. Add thawed cooked shrimp. In a small bowl, whisk together 3 tablespoons sesame or olive oil, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, 2 teaspoons sriracha or hot sauce, 1 teaspoon of honey and 1 minced garlic clove, and pour dressing over shrimp and noodles. Toss to coat and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve topped with chopped scallions or sesame seeds, if desired.
4. Pesto Bean Salad:
Rinse and drain 2 cans of low sodium black beans, then empty into a large bowl (or use equivalent homecooked black beans). Add a handful of dried cranberries. In a blender, blitz together 1 bunch fresh basil, 2 garlic cloves, 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese, 1/4 cup pine nuts or almonds, and 2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil. Toss the pesto with the beans and cranberries. Serve on a bed of fresh baby arugula.
5. Roasted Root Veggie Jumble:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Peel and chop a few each of: carrots, parsnips, sweet potatoes, beets, and a large red onion. Toss with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Spread out on baking sheet and roast until tender, about 40 minutes. Serve topped with crumbled feta or goat cheese.
6. Bangers and Smash:
Boil 2 pounds of small new potatoes until tender, then drain. While potatoes cook, combine 1 pound of sausage links (I prefer hot Italian sausage, but choose your fave) with 1 cup chicken broth in a shallow, covered skillet. Let simmer on low about 12 minutes, until cooked through and broth has reduced into a glaze. Transfer potatoes to a bowl and use the back of a fork to smash, season with olive oil, lemon juice, a teaspoon of mustard, chopped parsley, and salt and black pepper. Serve topped with sausage links.
7. Creamy Vegetable Soup:
Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a heavy-bottom pot. Saute one diced onion, one diced pepper, and three smashed garlic cloves until soft and fragrant. Add chopped broccoli and asparagus, and top with 4 cups chicken or vegetable broth and 2 cups water. Bring to a boil, then lower to simmer until veggies are tender. Puree in batches until smooth, then season with salt, black pepper, and cayenne (optional) to taste.
Want more ideas? Sign up for my busy weeknight cooking class this Saturday the 25th in NYC, to learn more delicious easy weeknight recipes and other tips and techniques for getting dinner (and other meals) on the table quickly on even the busiest of nights!