8 Dishes To Make When Everything Feels Overwhelming

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My ultimate pleasure is cooking. But while I love the challenge of trying a famous chef’s recipe, there are some days I’d rather not create a complicated, gourmet meal. Sometimes, I feel too exhausted from work, family stress, or other life situations. That’s when I pull out my arsenal of quick, easy, delicious recipes. These time-saver recipes are typically built from the following pantry staples: 

  • Cooking oil. This is a must. I prefer olive oil because I can use it to cook with but also drizzle it over salads, cheese, and bread.

  • Lemons. I throw fresh lemons into anything I’m looking to add a bit of refreshing flavor. It’s a versatile fruit and its shelf life is pretty good, especially if I keep them in the fridge.

  • Garlic. Garlic packs a punch and is so cheap to keep on hand. I use as many cloves as I see fit my your cooking.

  • Canned chickpeas. Canned chickpeas are inexpensive and save me so much time. Fresh chickpeas are great, but they take so long to soak, and even then, they still taste like dirt to me as they never really seem to cook to a soft bite. 

  • Canned tomatoes. A can of tomatoes works wonders in my kitchen. Add it to a slow cooker with meat or vegetables for Italian or Mexican dishes, or create simple pasta sauces in a few minutes.

  • Seasoning packets. I use these to marinate meats and veggies overnight, but they still taste great if I just add the spices to the meat right before I cook. 

  • Dried parsley. Fresh parsley is better but doesn’t last long. Dried parsley adds a nice flavor to nearly anything I top it with.

  • Eggs. Eggs are so versatile. I can eat them on their own as an omelet, scrambled on a sandwich, hard-boiled in a salad, or I can whip up the yolks and add them to pasta to make a creamier sauce.

  • Grated Parmesan cheese. Grated parmesan is obviously perfect on pasta, but it also beefs up soups, omelets, salads, and more. 

Using these base ingredients, I like to make some easy dishes when I’m feeling overwhelmed or too tired to do anything else. Here are my eight go-to dishes to make when I'm feeling overwhelmed.

1. Lemon chickpea pasta

This is probably my main go-to when I’m hungry but haven’t figured out what to make for dinner. The ingredients are simple and I always have them in my house. The hardest part is making sure I have a can of chickpeas on hand. Here’s a similar recipe to try.

2. Sheet pan chicken and veggies

The worst part about cooking is always the cleanup, and sometimes that’s enough to put me off making dinner altogether. That’s when I turn to sheet pan recipes — simple ingredients, barely any prep work, and the cleanup is a breeze. I’ll use a packet of taco seasoning to create this sheet pan chicken fajita recipe.

3. Steak tacos

My mom got me hooked on slow cookers from an early age, and if I have a little advance planning, I can start cooking before I leave work and have dinner on the table as soon as I get home. I just grab a packet of taco seasoning, some chicken broth, and London broil, and I’m all set. As long as I let the steak sit in the liquid for six to eight hours, I’ll get tender, juicy meat seasoned to perfection. I can even add things like sliced peppers and onions into the broth. This slow cooker carne asada is to die for.

4. Mushroom omelet

Mushrooms have a texture that feels meaty but is healthier. Chopping up a few mushrooms and adding them to an omelet takes very little time. For more flavor, I add dried parsley and grated parmesan cheese. Omelets aren’t difficult to make, but here is a similar recipe to get started.

5. Salmon and couscous 

Salmon cooks quickly, is filling, and is full of omega-3s. Couscous is the perfect pairing because it cooks in five minutes and absorbs a lot of flavors. I can cook it in chicken broth or with spices, and it makes a nice complement. Throw some veggies or salad on your plate and you’ve got dinner in less than 10 minutes. Jamie Oliver has a great recipe where I can even par down the ingredients and it will still taste good.

6. Ginger scallion egg drop soup

I found this recipe during my zucchini noodle phase but this still remains one of my favorite things to make, whether I have zoodles or not. It requires minimal prep work, and the flavors are so comforting after a long day. Here’s the original recipe from the inventor of the Inspiralizer. 

7. Lemon chicken

Based on one of my favorite family recipes, chicken Francaise, lemon chicken can come in many forms. It can be as simple as chicken breast sauteed with lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper, or more complex, with white cooking wine, mushrooms, artichoke hearts, or a flour/egg wash that creates a silky recipe. Top it over pasta, rice, couscous, potatoes, or whatever pleases you, and you’re set. Try this recipe and get creative from there.

8. The easiest pasta sauce

I love the taste of fresh pasta and equally fresh sauce, but I used to struggle when it came to making it. Nothing seemed to come out right until I found this recipe. A can of tomatoes (I use crushed), one onion split in half, five tablespoons of butter, and a little salt, and I’m good to go. The butter is definitely what makes this recipe taste so good. Marcella Hazan says the sauce should simmer for at least an hour, but it still tastes good even if you simmer for a few minutes while your pasta is cooking.

Tags: Healthy Recipes, Quick Recipe Ideas, Sunday Dinner Ideas, Sauces

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Written By

Katka Lapelosová

Katka is a writer from New York City, currently living in Belgrade, Serbia. See Full Bio

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