Even though I cook from scratch, even though I don't buy ready-made meals, I still need to build conveniences and short cuts into my meal planning routines.  And there are definitely those hurry-nights when there isn't much time.  So I have come up with my own "fast foods."  What they really are are building blocks for meals. DSC00426For one I precook legumes (beans and chickpeas), which I buy in bulk from the food coop, in a large pot and freeze in portion sizes in baggies.  I can take them out in the morning and use them that night to add to a salad or soup, or to use as a side dish.  The advantage to canned legumes is that they are without preservatives or salt.

Frozen organic vegetables are another convenience food.  I usually have spinach, corn, peas and string beans in my freezer.  I can make a spinach pie on the spur of the moment or creamed spinach as a side dish, corn and peas (mixed or alone) can be thrown into a quick soup, into a frittata (together with little potato cubes perhaps), or served as a vegetable.  The thin frozen French style string beans make for a very elegant side dish in a pinch  or when I'm out of fresh vegetables.DSC00425

Cooking a large pot of stew, chili or soup when you have time, then freezing some in small portions, makes for fast food on a day you don't have time to cook (I just need to remember to thaw it in time).

DSC00427Some cheeses freeze well.  I keep cheddar, mozzarella and feta cheese in my freezer for impromptu meal making.  There are so many quick uses for grated cheddar, and it makes vegetables under the broiler taste great (think broccoli, potatoes, cauliflower).  The feta is for a quick spinach pie, or if you like a Greek Salad in the summer, and the mozzarella is for homemade pizza or inside an oven baked polenta.

A quick, simple and really satisfying (and gourmet) dinner-in-a-hurry (although I like to savor this one with a glass of red) is a cheese spread with baguette and some freshly cut up fruit (pears, grapes, also the little Persian cucumbers) - literally an instant meal if you have purchased the cheese a few days earlier.

Spaghetti sauce, homemade or store bought, is my next convenience food, which I use as a base for homemade pizza (you can premake pizza dough and freeze it, or buy it ready, or make "instant pizza" on a tortilla or even an English Muffin), and of course a quick pasta dish (throw in some capers and black olives for a super easy Puttanesca sauce).

And my parents freeze their leftovers in small containers, then do a "tapas night" with a table full of small dishes when they don't have time to cook.

That hurry-nights have to mean take-out pizza or Chinese is a myth.  By the time I order pizza or Chinese and pick it up I have already made one of my fast foods (and they are cheaper and healthier for sure).