Triptic of chocolate crackle cookies, Swedish meatballs and Ravioli “Lasagna”


5 Half-Homemade Meals That Are A Cinch to Make

Oct 30, 2017

When you’re in charge of breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks every day, it’s not always possible to make it all from scratch. Most of us occasionally rely on convenience foods to streamline things, but there’s no need for the entire meal to come from a package — here are a few easy starting points that can help you get dinner (or after school snacks) on the table even faster, tweak them to make them your own — and call them (mostly) homemade.

Ravioli “Lasagna”

Filled fresh ravioli + jarred tomato sauce + shredded mozza = ravioli lasagna

Ravioli placed on tomato sauce in a casserole dish.

Ravioli lasagne served with a side of green salad.

Ravioli “Lasagna” is as fast and easy as it gets. The ravioli is already filled, so you don’t need to layer your noodles with filling. Also great when cooking for one – you can make individual sized lasagnas, which isn’t possible when using pasta sheets or lasagna noodles. If you like, you could layer any kind of cooked vegetable or torn spinach in between the layers or ravioli — or a container of roasted tomatoes, peppers, zucchini and eggplant from the Italian market works especially well.

To make: In a baking dish (any size), layer fresh ravioli, sauce and grated cheese, topping everything with cheese, and bake at 350˚F for about 30 minutes, until bubbly and golden.

You'll Also Love: No-Knead Pizza Dough

Roasted chicken slaw

Deli roasted chicken + bagged coleslaw + any sliced or grated veggies you like + your favourite creamy dressing = roasted chicken slaw

Roasted chicken coleslaw.

Roasted chicken slaw makes a quick, satisfying meal in one bowl. It’s delicious with Thousand Island or ranch dressing, or try Asian-style dressing, garlicky green goddess or your own favourite. Shred the chicken and layer slaw, any veggies you like, chicken and dressing.

Make your own Thousand Island: stir together 1/2 cup mayo, 2 Tbsp ketchup, 1 Tbsp rice or cider vinegar and 1 Tbsp sweet relish.

Peanut ramen noodles

1 packet instant ramen noodles + egg + greens + peanut butter + soy sauce + sriracha = peanut ramen noodles

Peanut ramen noodles, topped with an egg and sriracha sauce

Peanut ramen noodles makes for a quick meal for one or more, with more protein than the package prepared the usual way.

To make: Cook a packet of ramen noodles according to the package directions, adding a small handful of torn spinach or bok choy to the pot if you like. Pull the noodles out into a bowl and poach an egg in the simmering water. Toss the hot noodles with a spoonful of peanut butter, about a quarter of the seasoning packet, a shake of soy sauce and enough of the hot cooking liquid to make it saucy. Top with the egg and season with sriracha.

Swedish meatballs

Frozen meatballs + chicken or beef stock + sour cream = Swedish meatballs

Swedish meatballs with a side of mashed potatoes and green salad.

Swedish meatballs are ridiculously simple, with a creamy gravy — serve them with mashed (or even faster-smashed) potatoes, or just on their own with bagged salad.

To make: Upend as many frozen meatballs as you want to eat into a pan with a drizzle of oil and roll them around to heat through and get nice and brown. Add a couple big spoonfuls of sour cream (full fat, or it could separate) and a splash of stock or water to the pan and stir, scraping the bottom of the pan to loosen any browned bits and turn the sour cream into gravy. If you like, sprinkle with a bit of dried thyme.

Chocolate Crackle Cookies

Chocolate cake mix + oil + eggs + peppermint extract (or not) + icing sugar = chocolate crackle cookies

Chocolate crackle cookies on a cookie rack.

When you need a quick batch of cookies, you can stir a cake mix into stiff dough, roll in icing sugar and bake — and they look homemade. (No one has to know.) If you like, go a step further and flavour the dough with 1 tsp peppermint extract, espresso powder or grated orange zest.

To make: Empty one box of cake mix (any flavour, really) into a bowl, stir in 2 eggs, 1/4 cup oil and 1 tsp vanilla or other extract (if you like), stir, roll into balls, roll in icing sugar to coat and bake at 350˚F for 12-14 minutes, until just set.

Article Author Julie Van Rosendaal
Julie Van Rosendaal

Read more from Julie here.

Julie Van Rosendaal is the author of six best-selling cookbooks (with a seventh due out this fall), the food editor of Parents Canada magazine and the food and nutrition columnist on the Calgary Eyeopener on CBC Radio One. She is a recipe developer, TV personality, food stylist and writes about food for local, national and international publications. She is perhaps best known as the voice behind her popular food blog, Dinner with Julie, where she documents real life at home in Calgary with her husband and nine-year-old son. Connect on twitter @dinnerwithjulie.


Add New Comment

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Submission Policy

Note: The CBC does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comments, you acknowledge that CBC has the right to reproduce, broadcast and publicize those comments or any part thereof in any manner whatsoever. Please note that comments are moderated and published according to our submission guidelines.