Desperate Dinners

Every family should have a few no-brainer house meals that come together in an instant.  Even if you’re an amazing cook, there will be days when you’re just too damn tired to slave over a hot stove.  I for one don’t cook (unless the recipe is idiot-proof) —   and these are the easy meals we prep for our family during desperate times, such as when our helpers decide to all go on vacation at the same time.


Jacob and Naomi both love this easy tuna pasta, and this is the emergency dish we make most often.  I’ve overheard Jacob telling people that his mom is “a good cook” because of this, much to my embarrassment.  Here’s how we do it:

  • Cook pasta according to package instructions.  Drain and return to pot.
  • With heat off, dump 1 or 2 cans of Century tuna in vegetable oil, including the oil, into the pot.  Toss to mix.
  • We vary the sauce depending on what we have in the pantry and what we feel like eating.  Add in some pasta sauce from a jar, or sweet-style spaghetti sauce (kids’ preference).  Drizzle generously with extra virgin olive oil (I go maybe  3 or 4 times around the pan).  Omit tomato sauce if you don’t want any, or you can also add in some cream.  Olives and capers are nice too.
  • Turn the heat back on and give everything a good toss over low heat.  Season generously with sea salt, to taste.


My father-in-law regularly shops at the Cartimar wet market, and sends us big bags of beautiful, fresh shiitake mushrooms.  Mushrooms are John’s specialty, and he cooks them two ways:

  • TURMERIC MUSHROOMS: Saute minced garlic in olive oil until lightly browned, then add sliced mushrooms.  Season with S&P and turmeric powder, cook until done.
  • MUSHROOMS & EGGS: Saute minced garlic in olive oil until lightly browned, then add sliced mushrooms.  Add in beaten eggs and mix with the mushrooms to scramble. Season with S&P and turmeric powder, cook until done.


John and I enjoy shabu shabu, while the kids just eat the squid balls and corn.

  • In the morning, put chicken bones in the slow cooker and fill the pot with water.  Leave it on High until you notice it boiling, then switch to Auto and add a splash of patis.
  • Later in the afternoon, the bones will be super soft, with any remaining meat falling off.  Scoop out the bones and discard them, then season the broth to taste with S&P.
  • Put in squid balls, meat balls, lobster balls, kani sticks, pechay, gabi, mushrooms, sliced corn on the cob, saba, whatever you like or whatever you have on hand.  You can add noodles too, but only at the last minute, or they’ll absorb all the soup.
  • Enjoy as is, or serve with sate sauce.


This unfancy dish is 2 ingredients, not including salt & pepper.

  • Season chicken thigh fillets with salt and pepper, then coat with honey.
  • Cook in air fryer until done.


Super easy and the kids’ favourite way to have their veggies!  You can do this in an oven if you don’t have an air fryer.

  • Toss thinly-sliced broccoli or drained corn kernels with olive oil.
  • Put in the air fryer and cook at 200 degrees for about 10 minutes, or until vegetables crisp up and are lightly browned.
  • Toss with sea salt to taste.


A no-brainer way to feed younger kids.

  • Fry some minced garlic in hot oil, then add cooked rice and mix well until fragrant.  Leftover rice works well.
  • Crack an egg or two right into the rice and let it mix in.  Season with Kikkoman soy sauce.
  • Add scrambled egg strips (pre cooked and cut) and frozen green peas.  If we have leftover beef or other meat, we cut it up and add it in too.  Taste and season with salt, if needed.


This is one of my favorite lunch combos, but John and the kids enjoy it too.  I can make my own simplified hummus, but I especially love the Chana Humus by Yogi Brunch and Chipotle Hummus by Real Girl Toy Kitchen.

  • Boil quinoa in water (1 cup quinoa + 1 1/4 cup water).  Drain, then drizzle with EVOO and season with salt.
  • Serve quinoa in individual bowls and top with baby spinach and a big dollop of hummus.
  • Another good combination when you don’t have spinach is fried egg + smashed avocado seasoned with EVOO + hummus.


Another one of our favourites!

  • Combine air fried broccoli, roasted cashew, and dried cranberries in a bowl.  (Optional: add 1 small diced red onion – I often omit this because the kids don’t like it.)
  • To make the dressing, whisk together some mayonnaise, white wine vinegar, and pure maple syrup in a separate bowl.
  • Toss broccoli with dressing and serve chilled!

Do you have easy meals that you can prep at a moment’s notice?  I’d love to hear what your house meals are, too!


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