I try to cook dinner as much as possible, but it can be a challenge coming up with healthy meal ideas that don’t take 3 hours to complete or require complicated cooking gadgets I don’t have space for in my tiny kitchen. To resist the siren song of Seamless on a weeknight, I’ve come to rely on a handful of simple dishes that can be thrown together in 45 minutes or less.
Simple pasta dishes are always in my dinner rotation, and a fresh pesto sauce is a nice alternative to standard tomato. Homemade pesto is easy to make and tastes a million times better than the jarred type you find in the store. Read on for my go-to classic pesto recipe and instructions on how to freeze and reheat for a taste of summer whenever you need it.
Rumor has it that in other parts of the country people don’t have to wait on a “one in, one out” line with a bouncer to get a decent price on groceries. Oh, the simple life. Even though it can feel like a zoo or Penn Station at rush hour, the prices and overall amazing selection of items at Trader Joe’s keep me coming back for more. Below are my favorite TJs items and how to use them.
BBQ PULLED PORK
I cook some version of tacos at least once a week, and this package of BBQ pulled pork is an easy way to switch things up from a typical ground beef or turkey version. Just take the package and dump in a saucepan, heat through, spoon onto a tortilla, and top with your favorite taco toppings. Couldn’t be simpler.
Continuing the mexican food theme, this surprisingly not super unhealthy sauce is smoky and spicy and makes an awesome topping for tacos, quesadillas, or yes, enchiladas. It’s even good on scrambled eggs.
SUPER SPINACH SALAD
I typically buy at least one of these a week for a no-brainer lunch to bring to work. The spinach and quinoa are filling and the miso carrot dressing is A+++.
FROZEN JUST GRILLED CHICKEN STRIPS
I always keep a bag of these chicken strips in my freezer for those moments when I feel like cooking is the most daunting task of all time. They can be used in a ton of different ways, from quesadillas to tossing with pasta to a stir fry with rice and veggies.
BAG OF SWEET POTATOES
A bag of sweet potatoes at Trader Joe’s is $2. That’s less than a latte! I like to dice up the sweet potatoes and toss with olive oil, salt, and rosemary and roast in the oven for an easy side dish.
BUTTERMILK PANCAKE MIX
Hands down the best tasting boxed pancake mix. All that stands between you and a delicious breakfast is one egg, a cup of water, and $2 in your wallet. And, you know, the line at Trader Joe’s.
Photo Credit: traderjoes.com
I’ve lived in the NYC area my entire life and have been lucky enough to enjoy countless meals at the city’s millions of restaurants. My favorites tend to be casual, simple, and homey. Enjoy!
This hidden gem french restaurant in Boerum Hill has the prettiest back garden and a delicious menu. The homemade goat cheese gnocchi is INSANE.
Getting a table can be tough at this tiny Little Italy spot, but the tie dye pizza (with a mixture of marinara, vodka, and pesto sauces) is worth the wait.
The seasonal menu and the romantic vibe has made this my go-to neighborhood spot. My favorite dishes are the fresh salads and homemade pastas. The brunch is also amazing.
This Prospect Heights ramen place is the perfect cure for a cold and blustery day. Give me some pork buns, a bowl of noodles, and a cold beer any day.
The Coffee Shop, Union Square
This was my go-to place when I lived in the East Village, and it still holds a place in my hungry heart. It’s open almost 24 hours and features simple yet crowd pleasing dishes with a casual vibe.
Photo credit from top to bottom: bacchusbistro.com, rubirosanyc.com, rucolabrooklyn.com, chuckobk.com, thecoffeeshopnyc.com
I’ve been wanting to try my hand at Paella for a while now, but every recipe I’ve looked at is intimidatingly full of complicated ingredients and seasonings.
I finally asked my boyfriend’s mom for her recipe after watching everyone in their family get pumped when she tells them it’s on the dinner menu. It turned out to be super simple and delicious – thank you Patsy!
Shrimp is often included in traditional Paella, but I’m allergic so I omitted. I also don’t own a Paella pan, but a regular cast iron pot worked just fine.
Below is the recipe I used:
1/2 lb mussels, rinsed
1/2 lb clams, rinsed
1 lb chorizo sausage, sliced into small round pieces
1 box Goya yellow rice (this is essential, as it comes pre-seasoned and cuts out a lot of time!)
1 yellow onion, diced
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. garlic, minced
1 tsp. paprika
HEAT olive oil in a heavy bottomed Paella pan or cast iron pot. Add chorizo, onion and garlic. Cook for about 7 minutes. Remove from pot and set aside.
POUR 2 cups water into the pot and bring to a boil. Add rice and seasoning packet. Boil uncovered for 1 minute. Stir.
COVER the pot and reduce heat to medium low. Simmer rice for 10 minutes.
ADD the clams and mussels to the pot. Re-cover and cook for 12 minutes.
STIR in the chorizo and onion mixture.
SPRINKLE in paprika. Stir and re-cover, cooking everything for 5 more minutes or until all of the water is absorbed and shellfish is opened.
SERVE with crusty bread and/or a fresh green salad.
Photo by Emily Barbeau
It may be cliché (or “betchy”) to call rosé the perfect summer beverage, but it’s tough to think of another libation as refreshing and, you know, pretty.
A family member told me about VRAC, a crisp rosé that can be found in both a bottle and a box. Apparently I’m late to the party – check out this NY Mag review from 2012.
That’s right – you can get around 4 bottle’s worth of delicious wine for about $30. It’s great to stash in your fridge for when friends come over or to just sip on your own when you’ve just made it home from a sticky summer commute on the subway. I’ve managed to find it at a few local wine shops, and it’s been making my summer that much more enjoyable.
Photo from winefolly.com