No matter how well organized you keep your life, there will be days when you find yourself rifling your fridge and cupboards for something you can scratch together for a quick family meal. It helps to stock a few useful foods deliberately. Quick-cooking noodles, frozen vegetables and prepared broth can give you lots of options. So can frozen shrimp, which cook quickly and work with many other ingredients.
Preparing the Shrimp
The handiest shrimp to have in your freezer are uncooked, with the shells removed. These can be added directly to dishes in preparation, if they're small enough, or cooked from frozen if they're larger. Frozen cooked shrimp are usually less flavorful, but because they're fully cooked they only need to be warmed up as the dish cooks. Raw shrimp with the shells on are less suited to quick meals, but they can still be used. Put them in a bowl of cold water while you get your other ingredients ready, and after 15 minutes you'll be able to remove the shells and cook with them.
Shrimp and Pasta
It takes only a handful of shrimp to turn a plain pasta dish into a meal you can feel happy about serving your family. Add smaller shrimp to your pasta sauce, or saute larger shrimp and use them to garnish the plate. For an Asian variation, use quick-cooking rice noodles or ramen, and stir-fry the shrimp with a few handfuls of frozen vegetables. Combine the two for a satisfying meal. If you have the time, or need to get other things done while dinner is under way, combine pasta, frozen vegetables and shrimp in a casserole with a low-sodium cream soup. Top with cheese or breadcrumbs.
Shrimp and Rice
A rice cooker can be a great convenience, easily preparing enough white or brown rice to accompany your meal while you look after the rest of the ingredients. Shrimp in a creamy sauce can be served over rice just as easily as pasta, with a handful of fresh or frozen vegetables cooked on top of the rice in the rice cooker. Stir-fry shrimp and vegetables with the rice or as an accompaniment. Prepare arborio rice in a rice cooker, then spoon it into a shallow pan and add shrimp and hot broth for a quick risotto.
Quick Soups and Salads
For lighter meals, assemble a quick soup or salad using shrimp. Prepare a satisfying soup with prepared fish broth, frozen vegetables and a handful of shrimp. For an Asian version, add some quick-cooking noodles and a pinch of five-spice powder, then garnish with a sprinkle of chopped cilantro. If you have leftover potatoes or pasta in your refrigerator, combine them with cold cooked vegetables, mayonnaise or ranch dressing, and shrimp to make a quick salad. Asian noodles, shrimp and vegetables make an excellent cold salad for a hot day.