10 minute lentil soup + a pressure cooker how-to video

Cooking from scratch has become a non-negotiable part of my life. I sometimes wonder how fine the line is between loving what I do and being borderline OCD about it.

The truth, though, is that once I look at our table filled with a bounty made by my own two hands, a peacefulness washes over me. It is the same feeling I imagine a carpenter has after constructing a piece of furniture that will serve a purpose for years to come.

He whittles wood, and sands the rough splinters smooth.

I chop onions and provide my family with nourishing meals, hopefully setting the foundation for a lifetime of good eating habits.

I'm not a meal planner by nature. Browsing my farmers' market bounty provides me with such a rich canvas from which to improvise. There are some days, though, that whims must be set aside in order to make dinner happen on my terms. Tuesday is that day for me. It will be every week, from now until June of next year after Isabella's dance recital and homework have faded into the memories of yet another school year.

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Rather than face eight months of takeout, I'll rely on my pressure cooker as an electric sous chef. Sure, it can't slice and dice, but want brisket tender enough to shred with a fork in 35 minutes? Well, that's what it did for me yesterday. Seasoned with cumin, coriander and cinnamon, that brisket became filling for tacos. 

Last Tuesday, I set the cooker to work on a 10-minute lentil soup. I even tweaked my own recipe a bit. In the video below, you'll notice I saute the aromatics first, fancy talk for carrots and onions (I've obviously been reading way too many Fancy Nancy books).

Anyway, you can totally skip that step and just add all the ingredients to the pressure cooker, set it for 10 minutes and walk away. The recipe for this quick lentil soup is over at my Cuisinart blog. The video is one I did earlier this year for Better TV.

Yesterday, my pressure cooker wasn't the only reason for my relaxed look and smile. I started the day with a little Cinderella moment at the Gap. After spending an hour or so with one of their stylists, I emerged with a lovely wardrobe for my appearances at Blogher Food and Blog World Expo next month. It was such fun, and a big thanks to the Gap for their generosity and helping me get a head start on packing.

I figured the best way to pay it forward, is to make one lucky reader's life a little easier, and Cuisinart is helping make this happen by donating a brand new electric pressure cooker, valued at $100.

PressureCooker
Just leave a comment here, sharing your best tip for serving a home-cooked meal on busy weeknights, and you'll be automatically entered for a chance to win.

Comments

  • Bethany: Breakfast for dinner! Pancakes and eggs make everyone happy, and they take much less time to prepare. Throw some veggies in the eggs and you add flavor and nutrition.

  • Elizabeth: Old standby tips:
    1.prep and make a crockpot meal the morning of (although I find fewer recipes for the crockpot that satisfy my standards AND my family’s taste buds lately!)
    2. Make enough of a protein earlier in the week to use again for a quick meal on a busy night (chicken or pork shredded tacos, soups, etc.)
    3. Quesadillas. You can throw anything in these and they are quick and tasty.

  • Brandi: Our weeknights keep getting busier and busier as the kids get older. We have little league, piano, karate, church and art classes to compete for our family time at the dinner table. However, family dinners are a must at my house. And like you, they must be from scratch.
    One thing I am working on is making enough food to have leftovers once or twice a week. That way, if there is a scheduling conflict with dinner …there is always something ready to be reheated in the refrigerator.
    Also, fish tacos are a good busy dinner. I can cook the fish during school and prep all of the toppings. When it comes time to eat, all we have to do is heat the tortillas ! I serve the fish either slightly heated or at room temperature …depending on schedule.

  • Evan D.: I like to do one-pot dishes on weeknights that you build through layers. Often times it’s a variation on chicken & rice (traditional spanish style, biryani) or a casserole like moussaka.
    The casseroles I can also pre-make some of the ingredients so that all I need to do is layer and bake that night.

  • Demian Repucci: Using a pressure cooker is a great idea to shorten cooking time. I need to experiment with one myself at some point.
    My method for quick weeknight meals is to prep flavor components or individual ingredients on Sunday evenings (while I am watching Iron Chef of course). If I had been to the farmer’s market on Saturday and not gotten to it yet, I will make a batch of pesto with the basil I bought. It can then be frozen in portions to be quickly thawed and used with pasta. I might also glaze a bunch of pearl onions or julienned carrots which I can then use to throw into a pasta sauce later in the week. Sometimes I will buy a whole chicken and butcher it, cutting up the meat to be used in a curry Monday night. I will then roast the bones in the oven along with a mirepoix of vegetables. When they are golden I will throw them all into a pot and make chicken stock which I will use for quick pasta sauce or soup that week. Bacon is another easy one. Cut up a bunch of slab bacon into 1/4″ cubes and sautee it. When cooled it can be stored in the fridge for the week. When in need of some quick flavor, just toss a scoop of the bacon bits into a pan. Added to some garlic, parmesean, parsley and beaten eggs and you have Spaghetti Carbonara in no time. Or make ravioli and freeze them. Then when needed just throw as many as you need into boiling water. Toss them with good olive oil, fresh herbs, some pepper and cheese. Piece of cake! Thanks Jennie! Now about that taco brisket…

  • Adrienne: My key to easy weeknight meals is prepping all veggies on the weekend for the dishes planned on weekdays. Makes life so much easier.

  • Lauren @ Healthy Delicious: pressure cookers scare me, but the promise of 10 minute lentil soup has me rethinking one. My best quick-meal tip is to forget preheating the oven or boiling water because it takes way too long. Pretty much anything that can be made in a skillet is the way to go!

  • Jan @ Family Bites: On Sunday afternoons I roast three whole chickens. We will eat one for dinner and then pull the meat off the others. We use the extra in grilled sandwiches, on top of pitas with some cheese and sauce for pizzas, thrown into soups or eaten on it’s own. With two boys in hockey and music, we are out most nights and are always in need of good food fast.

  • Deda Kol: my best tip is eggs for dinner. A fried egg on leftover rice, stir fried vegetables, an extra tamale, whatever you have.

  • Carolyn: Love this post – like you, I can’t imagine not making home cooked food. My idea of convienence food is pulling some leftovers out the freezer!
    My key to weeknight sanity are pretty straight forward and have been mentioned above — make at least one thing on the weekend that can be reheated during the week — soup is a good one, but so are plenty of casseroles and relying on my crockpot.

  • Kate @ Savour Fare: This is why I need a pressure cooker. I have a whole post brewing about how to cook when your life is busy, but my number one is PLAN. If you don’t have to figure out what’s for dinner or shop for it, that gives you that much more time.
    Of course, last night I ate two tortillas with butter and a few bites of the Nuni’s mac and cheese for dinner.

  • mamikaze: The slow cooker is my go-to for “easy” meals. I do everything from pulled pork to beef stew in it. Usually, I prep everything the night before and store it in the crockery in the fridge. The catch is remembering to pull it out to cook in it the morning.
    The only time I’ve used a pressure cooker is for canning. I would love to try cooking in one.

  • Jen @ My Kitchen Addiction: I love the pressure cooker! My mom has one, but I’ve never used one personally. I love that you can make soup in 10 minutes!
    Whenever I need quick meals, I typically end up making panini or quesadillas with whatever veggies or leftovers I have in the kitchen.

  • Hannah V.: Make at least one freezer meal over the weekend for that night you plan to cook but can’t find the time.

  • kate: Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a day’s recipe makes a great pizza last minute.

  • Stacy: Oh, I’d love a pressure cooker!
    In the spring/summer/fall, I grill fish and veggies which usually takes less than 30 minutes. I plop a loaf of bread on the top grate and we have a filling meal.
    In the winter I use my crockpot more. Things like chicken tacos, cabbage rolls, chicken soup, etc. Ready when you get home, pretty much, so that is nice and easy, too.

  • Carolyn: I frequently rely on the local Italian shops in our neighborhood for last minute meals. This week I browned turkey sausage from the farmer’s market and added it to the local store’s fresh rigatoni and homemade marinara for a dinner that the whole family loved and only took 15 minutes.

  • Maria at Fresh Eats: A good technique is to make a one-pot meal or two on Sunday, and then, on the weeknights that you’re eating the leftovers, prep your meal for the following night. That way, you’re always ahead of the game. Nice post and video!

  • Ajenny: My stand-by meals for busy days are definitely crock pot chuck roast or crock pot pulled BBQ pork. I cook veggies or throw together a salad after I get home and our meal’s ready!

  • ilana levine: we love quesedillas! i buy the tortillas and we fill them with all kinds of leftovers. the kids love making them and we all love eating them!

  • Tracy: I have a great three-for recipe that worked out really well when I worked full time and crazy hours. On Sunday I would prepare a large pork roast in the crock pot which we’d eat with the usual potatoes, veggies, etc. Tuesday I would shred what was left and use half sauteing it with seasonings like chili powder, cumin, oregano, salt, pepper to use in flour tortillas as either a burrito or fajita filling. Thursday morning I’d put the rest into the crockpot with my favorite barbeque sauce, onion, and bell pepper and let it cook on low all day for pulled pork. Monday and Wednesday were the only nights I really had to worry about dinner because Fridays we had “dinner and a movie night” which meant sandwiches and pickles or chips in front of the TV.

  • emily: One thing I try to do whenever I can is to double recipes and freeze half so that on days when I know we’ll be busy I can take one out to defrost, and just pop it in to the oven to cook at the appropriate time.

  • Amy K: Keep it simple works for me. Eggs and frittatas are great for busy cooks.

  • Rebecca Levey: My best tip is one I know you already agree with – a stocked pantry. In a pinch my go to quick dinner is pasta with whatever sauce I can saute and toss together in the time it takes the pasta to cook. Sometimes its garlic, shrimp, olive oil and hot pepper flakes, sometimes a simple tomato and herbs and sometimes a ton of freshly grated cheese and lots of pepper. I couldn’t survive without pasta. Now I’m thinking about the sauces I could make in a pressure cooker. Hmmm…

  • kristen: leftovers!

  • Sheri: I keep a bean and grain bank. Cook up a pot of beans and some sort of grains on the weekend. Provide the basis for an easy, healthy mid-week meal.

  • Beth Buchanan: I try to have leftovers a couple of times during the week and also pull things from the freezer. Pressure cookers have always intimidated me… would love to learn to use one!

  • Shira: I tend to roast veggies on the grill on the weekend then use them throughout the week, with pasta, sandwiches, quesadillas, etc.. That’s when I’m organized enough to remember to do it of course!

  • Heather Jones: I am my own best Sous Chef so I do a lot of prep work ahead of time. I spend a good part of my Sunday evening, chopping veggies ahead of time. Making big pots of rice or beans in advance so I can just throw it all together in a jiffy.

  • dina: It’s crazy how much more complex meals seem now that our eldest has headed out to college. Just the boys left at home now – and well – they’re busy – and coordinating schedules more complex somehow. Quick and easy and nutritious are MUST HAVES.
    My big – couldn’t live life without it – insider tip is to make doubles. Like spaghetti sauce from scratch – make a huge double batch. Put one half in the freezer to defrost on a crazier night. It’s luscious – filled with fresh from the garden veggies – so much better than something from a jar!

  • Nadia Jaber: Rice cooker quinoa and sauteed veggies!

  • Lee: Southwestern CousCous and baked fish!

  • Barbara: I try to cook in volume and freeze the leftovers i.e. spaghetti sauce or soup. Another is using leftover veggies in omelet or frittata.

  • Lisa B: cooking extra and either using leftovers later in the week or freezing. BLTs are my go to quick weeknight meal in the summer with bounty from our garden!

  • Patice: I pre-plan my meals over the weekend. Shop for the ingredients on the weekends. Prep what I can also on the weekend. And then prep the rest in between my morning coffee and leaving the house the day of. Voila! Dinner is served!

  • Sabrina: i have an easy corn muffin memorized by now (1c whole wheat flour. 1 c cornmeal, 2 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp salt–mix dry together. in another bowl, combine 1.5 cups milk, 1/4 cup honey, 1 egg. combine with dry, bake a 375 for 15-20 min. I mix this up all the time, subbing some pureed pumpkin for the liquid, or adding dried coconut w/ the dry ingredients). if you have fresh bread at the table, your dinner is fancy and loving no matter what, so i’ll do anything from having planned lentil soup or greens in the slowcoker to just doing scrambled eggs and sliced tomato salad. fresh baked muffins in 25 min make everyone happy!

  • Pretty. Good. Food.: The best kitchen cheat I found is doubling recipes and freezing. Making a casserole? Double it! Save it for a busy weeknight!

  • sam: tip for quicker weeknight meals: make extra whenever cooking from scratch, portion out to single servings, then freeze. thaw in microwave for great home made meals, ready in ten minutes.

  • Andrew: Pasta or a quick and messy curry. Definitely pasta is a stand by.

  • Melissa K: Funny, I just found your blog by doing a search for “pressure cookers”. This recipe looks delish and would be a great introduction to pressure cooking. My best quick-mid-week-meal-tip is to make a lot of something that doesn’t take any more time that making a little. Then, freeze is single meal batches. I do this with pulled pork, pasta sauces, stuffed pepper or squash fillings, and quite a few other things. It makes my weeknight SO easy!

  • Pauline: I try and do some prep work the night before and plan my meals ahead of time so that I can be as organized as possible.

  • Erin O.: crockpot!

  • Katrina P: neat! My best tip for a homecooked meal on a busy night?? LEFTOVERS! I like to make a larger (deliciously homecooked) meal and have leftovers when the night are just too busy.

  • Bonnie: This is a generous giveaway! Crockpots are useful for throwing together a soup/chili/stew at the beginning of the day and letting it simmer throughout. Or you can add a chicken with some broth and let it cook, then shred it and make some quick salads or quesadillas. Hope I win!

  • vimmybunny: best weeknight meals are hearty quick and soothing after a crazy day at work or school! homemade chicken pot pies that have been ahead of time work wonders for those of us who go to school during the day and work at night. take one out of the freezer pop it in the oven and bam! FOOOD FOR THE SOUL! you can vary the pot pies too for turkey, beef, veggie etc. yum yum

  • Livy: Always have bisquick pancake mix and eggs. Breakfast for dinner is a lifesavor in my family!

  • Danielle: Stir Fry!! I keep a bag of raw peeled and deveined shrimp in the freezer because it only takes a couple of minutes to thaw. Bag of matchstick veggies, bag of baby spinach, stir fry sauce and some noodles. Dinner on the table in 15 minutes!

  • Pam @ Cooking world: I love cooking in pressure cooker, I have old one and looking to buy a new one, maybe I will just wait to see if I am lucky enough to get this before I buy ;-)
    I am vegetarian, so we eat lot of tofu, beans and lentils, making this soup is not only healthy or perfect for cooking as weeknight meal when everyone is tired from the day! I rather eat at home than get take out!

  • catherine: i’m sure this will end up being mentioned, but for me it’s my slowcooker. being able to set it in the morning and leave for school is such a lifesaver. and having a stocked pantry is the other essential. gotta have pasta and rice on hands at all time.

  • Linn Delamarter: I have been dedicating one weekend day to cook for the following week. It has helped to relieve “what to make for dinner” during the work week. We have also been making our own mozzarella cheese, yogurt, butter and ricotta and keeping these things on hand for dishes with more variety. We have 5 backyard chickens who have started to lay fresh eggs. Doing this has saved us time and given us more variety and more healthy choices without the antibiotics and preservatives added. A pressure cooker would certainly speed up the process of making things to stockpile for a busy work week.

  • Serafina: The best advice I have for getting food on the table after busy days is by throwing it all in a crock pot the morning of :) I love the smell that brings to the house, too!
    serafinac@gmail.com

  • sarah: To me, busy nights mean planning ahead. I buy the basics in advance, cut them up into serving sizes, and freeze them – that way, when I decide to make something, I already have most of the ingredients! Also, food processors are godsends for saving time.

  • Christine: Learning to butterfly a chicken and roast it at a high temperature has made it possible for me and my husband to enjoy roast chicken on weeknights again! It used to be such a rare treat, but now since it’s done in 45 minutes, it’s our favorite meal (once the weather cools off, anyway).

  • Jen: I do a batch of brown rice and four pounds of barbeque chicken in the crockpot on Sundays. That usually gets us through wednesday or thursday without much work.Yummy, too. Sometimes, I’ll also bake a bunch of sweet and regular potatoes on sunday as well…and they’re great heated up, with any number of different easy toppings.

  • Wendy McGrew: I have always been afraid of pressure cookers (I imagine the steaming contraption that my mother used) but this looks so easy and convenient. I’m willing to try.

  • Paula: I like to cook for a couple days at a time for the entrees. Especially in the summer, I do not want the oven to be on more than it needs to be, so I do as much as I can at once :)
    M mom used a pressure cooker, I have not, but would LOVE to :)

  • Elaine Cooper: that soup does look extraordinary–I’ve never used a pressure cooker before, but it’s so intriguing! My favorite quick meal is fish. I buy frozen salmon, catfish and flounder filets that can be thawed under running water in a short amount of time and take less than 10 minutes to roast or pan-sear. In a sandwich, a taco, over succotash or pasta–frozen fish is my weeknight savior.

  • Dana: I go to the grocery store with a list of items and goal meals in mind. I generally do veggie prep and/or make dinners and freeze them on Sunday nights after I get back from the grocery store. My family usually eats pretty simple vegetarian meals, so prep time for these are not terribly long. I usually roast vegetables and can walk away or do the rest of my food prep in the time it takes to roast the vegetables.

  • Sabeen: This Recipe looks great and fresh. I like it. Thanks for sharing.

  • Chris M.: Having already chopped up vegetables frozen makes things much easier and saves a lot of prep time during the week for me. Thanks for the giveaway!

  • Jennifer: I find that if I plan ahead and make sure everything is defrosted, I’m in good shape.

  • Lizzy: Garlic, Parmesan Cheese, gluten free noodles and some sun dried tomatoes. Yum!

  • Katy R: I’ll usually spend at least one weekend a month restocking my freezer with quick go to meals for those nights when dinner can’t be done fast enough. Some of my homemade staples are frozen soup, spaghetti, and potstickers. Because you never know when life will mess with your dinner schedule, even if you did have a menu!

  • John F: There are 2 things that really work for me. The first is to throw together something in the crock pot in the morning (think chili or a stew), so that by the time i get home its almost ready. I also make potstickers ahead of time and keep them in the freezer. It’s time consuming to make, but they cook in 2 minutes.

  • Andrea: This is very fast for my weeknights. One of my tips I have is to have a good pancake mix/ some sort of batter for the stove pan (store box brand/ homemade dry mix). After you make the batter, you can add anything to it:
    Vegetables, chicken, corn, cheese, etc… and mix variations for regional tastes, like mexican: beans, corn, cheese, salsa…
    Or, you can dip shrimp, cheese sticks, slices of zucchini…etc.. in the batter.
    All that is left is to cook it in a non-stick pan, and you are done!

  • Miss in the Kitchen: Pasta! It cooks pretty quickly and I can easily have a sauce ready to go with it by the time it cooks! Nice post. It seems everyone is in a hurry to get supper on the table these days.

  • Sondi: I try to plan ahead as much as possible and cook with simple ingredients. And not pressure myself to make an elaborate meal if I don’t have the time! I sometimes feel guilty if I take shortcuts.

  • Valen: This isn’t really a tip, but it is my #1 meal when tired or in a hurry, it takes 20 minutes. It is soup and salad, with bread. The soup takes minutes by just cooking chopped 1/2 onion, 1 potato, 1 head of cauliflower, 1c frozen corn, in 3-4c water until tender. Once cooked, puree the mixture. Add more water to desired consistency, salt, pepper and parmesan cheese if you would like. This soup is super delicious, and low calorie, but nutritious. The cauliflower and potato once pureed give it body and richness.

  • Lindsey: Shopping ahead and having every ingredient really helps on weeknights. When you forget an ingredient and have to run to the store it really eats up time. Thanks for the chance to win!

  • Amy Scotti: I do a few things: Prepare ahead by making double a batch of a meal and save the extra for busy days. I also use my slow cooker-it has an automatic shutoff that goes to “warm”. I’ve done Pulled Pork, Chicken Soup, Stew, Pot Roast, Cacciatorre, etc all on a slow cooker! Side dishes are quick-pasta, rice, coucous etc. And of course a salad or hot veggie. It makes life much easier!!!!

  • Kelly Peterson: For me, making a quick and easy weeknight meal has to start at the grocery store. It’s so much easier to make something healthy when you’ve got the right foods on hand! Buying meats and veggies that can be easily adapted to a variety of recipes/cuisines ensures that not only are my meals prepared more quickly, but also cuts down on food waste.

  • Jesse: Here’s a few tricks from a Bachelor’s cookbook. I got the recipe for pita bread. Here it is if you want:
    http://www.thefreshloaf.com/recipes/pitabread
    I refrigerated the dough after dividing it. The dough only takes 6 minutes to cook!
    You can do anything with that! I have grilled chicken always on hand (Made in advance) You could do a chicken caesar salad pita pocket.
    Or even simpler, make a Pita-nut butter and Banana sandwich (they’re really good)
    Or if you really plan ahead with having some homemade Tomato Sauce set aside, you could make a “Pitza” in no time using the pita as the crust and some fresh mozarella and whatever leftovers you have for toppings!

  • ryan: Going Mediterranean is always a safe bet… some whole wheat pitas and a batch of freshly whipped up hummus, some israeli salad consisting of finely chopped veggies in a light olive oil and lemon dressing and you have a meal

  • Ashley: I love my steam cooker… I think I could really love a pressure cooker- it’s the same idea, just more versatile! What I mean is, I throw in my rice/quinoa/millet in the bottom, some veggies you don’t need to chop like baby garden carrots, asparagus and/or mushrooms on top, turn it on, then heat the skillet & season my chicken/sausage/fish as it fries. My recent favourite was peach & ginger curry over salmon with some red onion with wild rice & asparagus on the side… in 15 minutes. Thankyou very much! (I’m a young mom & this is pretty new to me, so forgive me for my pride brimming over! haha!)
    Oh, and I like potatoes, so I bake/boil too many and leave them in the fridge pre-chopped to throw in the skillet. YUM!
    (And thanks for all the tips everyone! I’m excited to expand my last minute menu!)

  • Steven: on a busy weeknight, I like to make panini sandwiches for the family—they’re great to take with us “on-the-go” as well.

  • Angelajames: I have never owned a pressure cooker as an adult. I do have a vivid memory of my mom having an “incident” with pressure cooker when I was young (decades ago). Maybe that’s why I’ve avoided them?
    My best tip is planning ahead. It’s proven invaluable for being able to juggle activities and work, and still have good meals on weeknights. I’m pretty sure, without planning ahead, that we’d eat out 4x a week!

  • Tim: I cook all my meals for the week on Sunday. Then I just have to reheat the meal when I get home from work.

  • Kulsum at JourneyKitchen: I have found it difficult to move away from Indian style treatment of lentils. I do try Arabian rice dishes and french salads with them but thats it. Oh lady you inspired me :)

  • Susan: When I cook, the recipe is typically for 4-6 and between my husband, myself and 5 yr. old. there is leftovers. I freeze those and the following week, we have a meal ready to go if I haven’t been able to cook something up that day.

  • Laura Pazzaglia: I don’t think I qualify because I live in Italy – if I win you can send it to my sister in Seattle!
    My tip is to make a one-pot meal with your pressure cooker. Come home from work, throw everything in the pot, let is go to pressure for 30 minutes and when everyone is settled, and the table is set, dinner is served!
    http://www.hippressurecooking.com/

  • Jennifer: I love making easy meals with my crock pot, soup, stews, chili. Using a pressure cooker is a great idea to speed things up.

  • Carmen: My tip is to do as much as you can over the weekend. I dedicate some time every weekend to prepping ingredients so that mealtime is easy on the weekdays. I think meal planning is also essential – every week, I sit down and plan what we’re eating for the next week. I grocery shop based on that list and then I never have to stop by the grocery store during the week.

  • Johanna: Quinoa with sauteed onions and black beans! delicious, filling, and you can have it on the table in 15 minutes.

  • Marti J: Best tip for dinner on weeknights:
    Those frozen chicken breasts from warehouse stores (Costco anyone?) are convenient, inexpensive and taste like cardboard.
    I like to improve their taste by mixing up a lightly salted, slightly sweet brine on Sunday afternoon. I leave it in the fridge.
    Then some morning during the week, I drop 4-6 of those breasts in the bowl with that brine and leave them in the fridge. I can use them that day or the next or even the day after that. They aren’t dried out; they don’t spoil (in the fridge) and they’re a lot more flavorful.

  • Laura C: I like to spend an afternoon doing a lot of cooking and then freeze it all, soups, casserole, etc. Then there is healthy, homemade food ready in a flash when I need it.

  • Janine: Pressure cookers kind of scare me, but what better way to conquer that fear than by jumping in headfirst!
    For a quick meal in the evening, I always keep around prepped salad greens and a simple homemade vinaigrette. Some local lettuce and arugula from my mother’s garden topped with whatever looked good at the farmers’ market that week and I have a salad! Some added cheese or nuts or even canned tuna add more flavor and protein. If there is bread around, I’ll have a slice of that to accompany my salad.

  • Ace: I cook extra meat during the weekend meals… which translates into easy tacos, sandwiches, and salads!

  • Laura: Oh I’d love a pressure cooker – I frequently get home from work starving at 9 pm, and my go-to meal has become sandwiches. They can be healthy and delicious, but I miss hot meals!

  • sara: That soup looks fantastic! Yum. :) My tip for fast weeknight dinners is prepared polenta…you can buy it or make it over the weekend and store in the fridge. I fry it on a non stick pan just sprayed with a tiny bit of oil, and then top it with pretty much anything – sauteed vegetables are good, as are unsweetened fruit sauces (like plums and strawberries cooked down on the stovetop in a little water or juice).

  • Heather: I do a lot of the things others mention–plan ahead and make extra of meals like a roast so that the leftovers can either be reheated or used as the foundation for another meal, make an egg-based meal, use the slow cooker, and double a casserole recipe and freeze one for later use. When all else fails, there’s cereal or popcorn!

  • Adriane: All summer long while my garden is producing I make tons of soup and freeze it in quart jars. Then all I have to do for an easy meal is make either cornbread or rice and maybe a salad to round the whole thing out. It’s so nice to have tomato soup from our garden in February with some easy grilled cheese sandwiches! So happy to be on the running for the pressure cooker, thanks so much!

  • Kaye: The key is to have a meat do double duty on two or three different nights!

  • Nancy: I think a real quick meal in open up a can or two of green beans and top off with smoked sausage. Turn the heat on and let it boil for 3 to 5 minutes. I fry up some potatoes for a side dish and bake some cornbread. My family really likes this meal.

  • Lisa S: I try to have burrito ingredients ready for last minute meals or when there is a change of plans in the dinner time. I would love to try a pressure cooker. My mom used one all the time, when I was younger, to make beef stew. It was delicious.

  • Eileen: I prep everything I can after the kids are in bed so that it just has to be cooked. And simple prep… I save the involved meals for weekends.

  • Jillian: this seems so obvious, but the revelation that changed the way I cook on week nights was that vegetables cut into smaller pieces cook faster (and are easier for my daughter to eat, anyway). Instead of roasting whole beets, I do 1 inch cubes, for instance.

  • Jason: Sous vide makes weeknight cooking a dream. Cook ahead on the weekend, then just warm and serve on weeknights. Nothing could be easier.

  • Joi: Prep saves me a lot of the time. When I have a day to do some cooking I will throw something in the oven like squash or potatoes to bake while I work. That way, later in the week, I can just whip up something easy (like butternut squash and pasta) without that dreaded “oh no” feeling.

  • Jennifer: I often keep leftover pasta or rice in the fridge to assemble a quick veggie stir fry with whatever is left in the fridge. In some combo or alone, I add tofu, edamame, peanuts, etc. to replace the meat in my newly meatless kitchen.

  • Kasia: Panini – gooey, cheesy goodness. My favorite: cheddar, roast beef and sliced apples with whole grain mustard.

  • Elizabeth: Frozen veggies are the best. They’re picked when they’re at their ripest, which means they actually have as many if not more nutrients than the fresh store-bought kind, and they’re usually pre-chopped, making it easy to throw together a stir-fry in ten minutes.

  • gina: I LOVE my pressure cooker – the old-fashioned kind – not electric. My favorite is ranchero beans (a fancy way of saying pintos with lots of spices and onions) and brown rice. Top with salsa and it’s great!

  • Julie (Bananas for Bourbon): I used to cook a bunch of food on Sunday and just eat the leftovers throughout the week. Also, quesadillas or grilled cheese sandwiches with a side salad is always a good option. And canned tuna or sardines are my go-to quick meal option. Toss them with some hot sauce or other flavorings and a little avocado and it’s good in anything!

  • Ashlie: I often roast a whole chicken on the weekend, and use parts of it throughout the week for making different meals. For example, I’ll shred meat from one of the breast, mix it with a can of blackbeans and mexican spices for a quick and hearty taco or burrito filling.

  • Hannah: I tend to cook a number of servings at once, and then freeze leftovers individually to thaw as needed. Homemade frozen meals!

  • Abbey: The key to weeknight meal success for me is planning out meals for the week and hitting the grocery store on Sunday. I enjoy taking time to cook when I get home from work (it’s relaxing to me). But if I have to make a list at work, then stop at the store on the way home, I’ll end up with a frozen pizza and a bagged salad :-| Planning ahead is essential for me.
    A pressure cooker would be a great way to make more “in depth” dishes mid-week. I’d love it!