There are times when I go into the kitchen to make one thing, but I don’t have what I need to make it. Or my oven is broken down. Or any of a hundred other different things have happened to keep me from making whatever it is I’m wanting to make. When that happens, I cheat!

Several months ago, I wanted to make meatloaf, but our oven was down for the count. It was experiencing death by styrofoam and seriously could not be used safely until it was cleaned, a task I didn’t have the time or energy for before making supper that evening. I had, of course, not thought about this before mixing the meat, eggs, seasonings and such together for making the meatloaf however. I had already taken to making several small loaves instead of one large loaf because they cook faster and are easier to serve. I decided to take it a step further and try something new by searing the mini meatloaves in a skillet on the stove, then simmering them in a sauce to allow them to cook through. I made the sauce by mixing tomato juice and beef broth and the process worked amazingly well. Not only did the meatloaves cook more quickly and more evenly than in the oven, they were incredibly moist due to the very wet conditions they cooked in.

Last week, I found another easy cheat. I’m fairly certain the makers of Progresso Soup weren’t expecting people to turn their product into gravy, but the French Onion variety can be reduced down to what is actually a rather tasty onion gravy. I put the soup into a medium saucepan on medium heat and let it simmer for 20 to 30 minutes until it is reduced by 3/4. Since the soup is mostly beef broth, the gravy it makes ends up being nice and rich and goes well with any number of vegetables and meats.

So today I simmered some green beans in the soup until it reduced to sauce, made the mini meatloaves, and served them together with some Garlic Parmesan Couscous.

The entire meal, start to finish, took less than an hour to make, including prep time. Most of the cooking time is simply waiting for sauces to reduce.

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