People assume because I cook for a living that I whip-up elaborate, gourmet meals every night. After food styling, being in front of the camera cooking, or writing recipes all day, the thought of spending hours in the kitchen to knock together the evening meal holds little appeal, no matter how much I love to cook. Meals that are fresh and fast are where it’s at during the weeknight grind. Salads and stir-fries are both perfect speedy, wholesome meals for the time challenged and are my savior for when I’m short on time, energy or inspiration (and sometimes all three).
Keeping a well-stocked pantry is key, so I tend to have a selection of vinegars, nuts, oils and Asian sauces at the ready. Buying meat and seafood in bulk, portioning them and throwing them into the freezer to have on hand means all that’s left to pick up from the store is a few fresh ingredients.
If you have any energy left at the end of your day, doing 15 minutes prep for the following night’s meal will have you feeling like a kitchen maven. Here are a couple of quick recipes: an Asian inspired shrimp and mango salad and a ginger spritzer to wash it down, both with lots of make-ahead elements, so you can have dinner on the table with a minimum of fuss maybe leaving a little time left for you at the end of your long day (it helps to dream, right?!).
Spicy Sambal Shrimp with Mango Salad
- 1/4 cup sambal oelek (Asian chili paste)
- 2 large garlic cloves, minced
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce, optional
- 1 tablespoon minced peeled ginger
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 2 teaspoons sesame oil
- 20 large, raw shrimp (prawns), peeled and deveined leaving tails intact
- 4 to 5 metal (or bamboo) skewers
- 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- 1 large, ripe mango, peeled and sliced
- 1/2 English cucumber, thinly sliced
- 1/2 small red onion, cut into thin wedges
- 6 to 8 small radish, halved or sliced
- 1/2 cup mint leaves
- 1/4 cup cilantro (coriander) leaves
- 1/3 cup chopped roasted peanuts
To make the marinade: Combine sambal, garlic, honey, fish sauce, ginger, soy and sesame oil in a small bowl. Pour 1/2 of the mixture into a blender (this will become the dressing for the salad). Add shrimp to the remaining mixture in the bowl; mix well to coat. Thread shrimp onto skewers. Cover and set aside in the fridge.
To make the dressing for the salad: Add vinegar and canola oil to sambal mixture in blender; blend until smooth. Cover and set aside in the fridge.
Just before serving: Toss mango, cucumber, onion, radish, mint & cilantro together in a medium bowl. Drizzle with salad; toss to combine. Sprinkle with peanuts.
Cook shrimp on greased grill of a hot barbeque, 2 to 3 minutes each side until they turn pink – do not overcook. Serve shrimp with mango salad. Serves 3 to 4.
Note: As an alternate, you could marinate and grill the shrimp the night before & toss them into the salad, cold, just before serving.
Ginger Cucumber Spritzers
- 1 cup water
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 3-inch piece ginger (it doesn’t have to be peeled), sliced
- 2 rosemary sprigs
- 1/2 English cucumber, sliced
- sparkling water or club soda to serve
Combine water, sugar, ginger & rosemary in a small saucepan. Stir over medium heat until sugar is dissolved. Simmer, uncovered, without stirring, for 5 minutes; strain into a small pitcher or jar. Cover and chill until read to use.
Place cucumber slices and ice into a serving jug or individual glasses. Top with sparkling water; stir to combine. Serve immediately. Serves 3 to 4.
Here is a timeline to prepare during a week night:
Don’t forget your shopping list:
Realm of Vibes wants to thank Lovoni Walker, Foodsmith for guest posting. E-mail her at Lovoni@freshhunger.com. Fresh Hunger, her new website, is coming soon. Connect with Lovoni on social media: Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and visit The Fresh Aussie blog.
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