Your stomach starts to growl, your mind starts to grumble at the thought of cooking a full meal, and your body says you’re waaay too tired for this.
Now you’re left with two options: a) order takeout or b) grab a frozen meal.
For me, this was my life while I was in college, and oddly enough, it’s also been me during the pandemic.
Sometimes you aren’t in the mood to cook a full Food Network meal, and sometimes you want something more than Instant mac and cheese. So, to keep myself from turning into a full-blown take-out girl or a processed food fiend (yes, I have a few favorites in the frozen food aisle), I decided to tweak some dishes that make me giddy with goodness.
Apple lovers can’t help but smile at the thought of this delicious blend of a crunchy overgrown pancake with a soft pillowy middle – floating on chunks of apple. Take it up a notch with your favorite baking flavor and think apple cider-like donuts in 10 minutes!
- 1 ½ Gala Apples
- 2 tbsp Vanilla flavor
- 2 tsp Almond flavor
- 2 cups Pancake mix
- ¼ cup Water
- Confectioner’s sugar
- ½ cup Maple syrup
- Dash of Fresh Nutmeg
- Dash of Cinnamon
- Dash of Pumpkin pie spice (optional)
- ¼ tbsp Melted Butter
- Skin and core apples
- Cut into small bite-size pieces then combine with pancake mix in bowl
- Add water to the mixture. Batter should be thicker than what’s used for regular pancakes (Think biscuit batter). Adjust mix by either adding a small amount of water (teaspoon or so) or a tad more mix.
- Set the batter aside and fill a Dutch oven or large saucepan with oil for frying (enough to cover 1 ¼ of the bottom).
- Set your heat to medium-low
- While oil is heating, prepare your glaze by whisking together syrup, vanilla flavor, nutmeg, cinnamon, and pumpkin spice.
- Add ½ tbsp of butter, warm in the microwave then set aside
- Once oil has reached temperature, use a large spoon or an ice cream scoop (this is my fav method) and carefully drop about 2-3 tbsp of batter in the pan
- Fry each for about 60-75 seconds on each side, or until golden brown. Be sure to brown the sides too!
- Remove apple fritters to a paper-towel lined plate then drizzle them with glaze
- Sprinkle on some confectioner’s sugar for topping and serve warm
CHICKEN CHOW MEIN
Think chicken low mein meets every staple in my pantry and fridge. It’s a light healthy take on a favorite that doesn’t leave you feeling stuffed.
- Nissin Chow Mein (preferably the Teriyaki Chicken Flavor)
- Ready cooked chicken breast strips * this can be substituted with a protein you like such as beef or shrimp*
- Mushrooms (optional)
- Bok Choy
- Package of Vegetable Medley (look for the ones with things like broccoli & carrots, or just use whatever veggies you have)
- Stir fry sauce (optional) *if you have access to other sauces, using a mixture of soy, duck, teriyaki, and stir fry sauce adds more depth of flavor*
- Follow Nissin Chow Mein instructions (most say to microwave for 5 minutes)
- Chop chicken breast to preferred size and toss in a pan with either olive oil or butter (enough to lightly coat the bottom of your pan)
- Add veggies halfway through heating process and let simmer for 5 minutes
- Add Chow Mein noodles then sauce flavorings, to your liking
- Stir and let simmer for 3 – 4 minutes
- Serve and garnish with green onions or sesame seeds
- Add ginger, scallions, ginger, mushrooms and bok choy once ¾ of the way cooked
MOCK WONTON-FLAVOR CHICKEN SOUP
If you haven’t noticed, I really love Asian-inspired dishes. Because I don’t always have access when the craving hits, I’ve learned to lean on my imagination of hackery to pull off what my family says are some pretty tasty dishes.
This little ditty is a nice blend of a classic soup with an Asian spin. It’s perfect for a light lunch or when you’re feeling under the weather.
- 1 Can of Progresso Traditional Chicken Noodle Soup
- Bok Choy
- Soy sauce
- ½ cup Water
- Mrs. Dash Table Blend Seasoning or similar no-salt alternative
- Red pepper flakes to taste, if you’d like it hot
- Pour soup into medium pot adding ½ cup of water and let simmer for 5-7 minutes
- Start chopping ginger and bok choy then add to soup during last 2 minutes
- Add a small dash of soy sauce and Mrs. Dash Table Blend seasoning to taste
- Serve hot
HONEY ROASTED GARLIC POTATOES
This is a nice break away from the usual potato dishes (as in mashed, french fries, or even AuGratin). Cool thing is that it goes well with just about anything. It’s toasty on the outside with a nice blend of sweet and spicy while also being silky and hearty on the inside.
- 5 red potatoes cut into small pieces (leave the skin on if you like)
- Honey mustard salad dressing
- Mrs. Dash Table Blend
- Herbes de Provence (if you don’t have any Herbes de Provence, you can try blending Rosemary, Thyme, Basil & Oregano together)
- Garlic powder
- Olive oil cooking spray
- Boil potatoes in a medium pot for 10 minutes
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees
- Using a baking sheet or aluminum pan, spray with olive oil cooking spray
- Spread the potato pieces onto the baking sheet, then sprinkle with the seasonings
- Bake for 10 minutes or until slightly brown
- Drizzle on the honey mustard sauce (to taste)
- Bake for an additional 5-10 minutes until the potatoes are golden brown and a fork and easily pierce through without resistance
- Serve by themselves or as a side
SOUTHWEST TACO SHRIMP SALAD
For the past 3 years, I’ve been trying to figure out how to recreate this delicious salad I used to eat in my college dining hall, and am so pumped that I finally did it.
This salad will fill all your Chipotle cravings and then some while keeping it healthy and nutritious.
- Frozen cooked shrimp, deveined and peeled (Market Pantry from Target is my go-to
- Romaine Lettuce (pre-packaged)
- Goya Black Beans
- Chipotle Ranch Dressing
- Four Cheese Blend Shredded Cheese
- Wonton Strips
- Cajun seasoning
- Follow instructions on shrimp package (most say thaw out in cold water then drain excess on a paper towel). Use as many as would for a serving for the number of people
- Season shrimp with cajun seasoning
- Add butter or olive oil to a small frying pan, then add shrimp cooking for about 2 minutes
- Remove shrimp then set aside
- Add black beans to pan then simmer for 5 minutes, removing pan from heat
- Grab a bowl to start assembling your salad
- Add lettuce, then shrimp, then black beans
- Top with a sprinkle of cheese and wonton strips
- Add chipotle ranch to taste
- Serve and enjoy
All in all my hacks take no more than 10- 15 minutes. And for someone who actually enjoys getting in the kitchen, but can also appreciate not cooking a full course meal, it’s a nice break to know you can still satisfy your tastebuds without committing to an entire day in the kitchen.