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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