Have you ever been in a lazy era of your life? I’ve been here for a solid 25 years now. It’s nice and comfy. For as much as my plate is full and how many projects I work on, you would be shocked to learn how lazy I am. 

Ok, maybe the word “lazy” has received a really bad rap, because laziness has so many benefits. Don’t believe me? The universe is basically lazy. Ever heard of inertia? I didn’t invent it! The universe did! And so many other things on this planet follow the path of least resistance, not because the universe doesn’t want to be a “boss girl,” but because the universe has taught us how to preserve energy. 

And preserving energy is a really great thing. I need my energy. Not just physical, but mental and emotional energy, too. I need to hang on to all of it as a mom of three, running a household and juggling basically three careers now. Not to say I don’t love it, because I do, but I need to preserve my energy wherever possible. 

With as much as I cook and bake, I have found so many shortcuts that still allow me to have fun with what I do, yet not be chained down to lengthy and time-consuming processes. If there’s a way something can be more efficient, leave it to me to find a way. Exhibit A: These time saving tips and quick-made recipes.

If you read that article, you know I heavily rely on my freezer for many things. This doesn’t mean everything is heavily processed and lacks fresh items. It’s exactly the opposite. Having a well-stocked freezer and pantry really helps me highlight the fresh produce and items I want to use for a recipe because I can cut down some of the prep time, for example, by having homemade stock ready to go or onions already diced up so I can focus on other steps. Basically, humans want to be lazy. They want the path of least resistance so we can allocate our energy better to other things like another episode on Netflix.

But seriously, a lot of people loathe cooking because of how time consuming, expensive and messy it can be. I’m with you on that. Some days I just want — nay, need — to order Thai food and eat out of the container because I simply can’t do dishes again. (What’s the rule on dishes anyways? Do we get to throw them out if they’re too dirty? Asking for me.) I get it, I really do, but I want to inspire people to cook again. I love doing it with my kids, and a lot of the shortcuts have now just been ingrained in their brains. If you cook enough, you’ll develop a lot of your own shortcuts, too (again, go check out that January article).

So this article is dedicated to lazy nights and quick meals. Hope you find some inspiration in some of these recipes and enjoy cooking again, even if it’s just one meal once in a while.

 

Asparagus Orzo with Roasted Chicken & Lemon Cream Sauce

This meal now comes together for me in 20 minutes (I promise), and you can throw in more vegetables, too.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups orzo pasta, dry

  • 1 tbsp. olive oil

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

  • 3 cups chicken broth

  • 2 tsp. fresh oregano, chopped 

  • 1 lemon zested

  • juice of half a lemon

  • 1/2 to 1 cup heavy cream

  • 1 1/2 cups fresh asparagus, chopped

  • 1/2 cup fresh grated parmesan cheese (plus more for garnish)

  • fresh cracked pepper

  • 4-5 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, pound slightly

  • Mixture of 2 tsp each: 

    • garlic powder

    • onion powder

    • paprika

  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. In a skillet over medium heat, add the olive oil and pasta.

  2. Cook, stirring occasionally until toasted, about 30-60 seconds.

  3. Add garlic and stir it in, followed by oregano.

  4. Add the broth, a small amount at a time.

  5. Bring to a boil, cover the skillet with a lid and turn down to a simmer for 8-10 minutes or until the pasta has absorbed most of the broth and is tender.

  6. While pasta is cooking, season chicken with mixture and sauté in a skillet with a little olive oil until cooked through. Add in a little zest, lemon juice and the cream, and allow the cream to reduce.

  7. Remove the lid off of the orzo and add the lemon zest, juice and asparagus and stir until they are bright and cooked.

  8. Add the cheese, salt and pepper to taste, if needed. Top with sliced chicken pieces and the cream sauce on top. Serve immediately. Garnish with more cheese if needed. (And for me, it’s always needed.)

 

Quick Mongolian Beef & Rice

This is such a quick and flavorful meal, and I love that it’s so quick. To make it quicker, sometimes I use a bag of frozen rice because mama needs a break.

Ingredients:

  • 1-2 tbsp. oil 

  • 1 lbs. sirloin, thinly sliced

  • 2 tbsp. hoisin

  • 3 tbsp. soy sauce

  • 1 tbsp. brown sugar or honey

  • 1-2 tsp. chili sauce

  • 1 tbsp. minced garlic (I use a paste)

  • 1 tsp. fresh ginger, grated

  • 1 tbsp. cornstarch

  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup beef broth or water

  • 1 tsp. sesame oil

  • 2 cups broccoli, chopped

  • 1/4 cup green onions, thinly sliced

  • 1 to 2 bags of frozen rice

Directions:

  1. Heat the oil in the pan, add the steak and saute for a couple of minutes.

  2. Add in the remaining ingredients (except sesame oil, broccoli and green onions) and allow the sauce to thicken slightly.

  3. Add in the broccoli and allow to cook until tender, just a few minutes.

  4. Garnish with sesame oil and green onions and serve with rice or cauliflower rice, if you’d like.

  

Indian Spiced Shrimp, Coconut & Lentil Soup

This recipe is so flavorful it seems impossible that it’s so easy and comes together so quickly.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups shrimp, peeled and cleaned

  • 1 1/4 cup dry white wine or vegetable broth

  • 1 1/4 cup vegetable broth

  • 1 tbsp. coconut or olive oil

  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped

  • 2 tsp. fresh grated ginger

  • 1 tbsp. garlic paste

  • 1 whole red Thai chili

  • 1 green serrano pepper (can omit pepper and chili if too hot)

  • 1/2 tsp. turmeric

  • 1/2 tsp. cayenne (optional)

  • 1 tsp. ground coriander

  • 1/2 can of diced stewed tomatoes

  • 3/4 cup red lentils, washed

  • 1 can coconut milk

  • 1 can coconut cream

  • salt and pepper to taste

  • squeeze of lime

  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro, optional

Directions:

  1. In a small saucepan, cook the white wine and broth on a low simmer. Add in the shrimp, then remove off of heat and allow shrimp to cook slightly in the hot liquid for a couple of minutes. Then remove the shrimp and set aside.

  2. Heat oil in a large saucepan. Saute the onions, then add the ginger, garlic, chilies and the dried spices. Cook for a couple of minutes.

  3. Stir in the tomatoes and crush them with your wooden spoon. Add in the lentils, coconut milk and liquid from the shrimp and simmer for about 15 minutes.

  4. Add in the coconut cream, shrimp and season with lime and cilantro.

  5. Serve immediately.

 

From Z to A with Zara Abbasi

Zara Abbasi is the pastry chef and recipe developer for Zara Made It. Follow her food adventures on Instagram at @zaramadeit.