Kitchen Idiots, lend me your unfuckupable recipes.
February 6, 2013 11:16 AM   Subscribe

I need to make one (1) simple meal a week for two (2) people. This is not something I'm necessarily good at. Details inside.

My S.O. works late on Tuesday nights, and she asked me to take over dinner on that night. I am bad at picking realistic recipes, pretty good at prep, and pretty bad at the actual "cooking" part. Trying to cook with numerous ingredients at different steps and so on sends me into a tizzy. Also, I dislike cooking in general, but I really hate cooking alone. Considering all that, I'd want some recipes that either are prepared and cooked quickly, or can be prepared quickly and then ignored while cooking. My goal is simple, even spartan recipes that taste good and are genuinely hard to fuck up.

For instance, tonight I am making steaks, steamed broccoli, and mashed cauliflower. This is close to the maximum level of complexity I am okay with.

Ingredient-wise, we've got the following restrictions in play:
Low-carb-ish, so definitely no bread, pasta, or potatoes. Sweet potatoes okay.
Lactose intolerant, so no non-Greek yogurt and non-aged cheese.
Healthy, which I think means lots of vegetables of different colors and not too much frying.
No fish or seafood.
No hot peppers.

I have How To Cook Everything, but I absolutely do not enjoy the whole "find a fun recipe!" part of this. If you want to point out a specific recipe in that book, that would be super.

I am explicitly not looking for slow-cooker recipes.
posted by griphus to Food & Drink (59 answers total) 185 users marked this as a favorite
Roast chicken and vegetables. I use this method. Plus you'll have leftovers for the next day.
posted by looli at 11:19 AM on February 6, 2013

Response by poster: (Also, we have a dedicated Taco Night and I already checked and we cannot have two Taco Nights.)
posted by griphus at 11:21 AM on February 6, 2013 [34 favorites]

I don't have my copy of How to Cook Everything handy, but I'm sure that anything I'd suggest would be in there.

If you want spartan, I would just do variations on what you are doing now -- Protein, veg, veg/carb.

For example, tonight what I'm making would work for your requirements:

Bison burgers: 1 lb. ground bison (or whatever), seasoned with salt and pepper, cooked simply in oil in a cast iron skillet. Serve plain, or with aged cheese to make cheeseburger.

Sweet potato fries -- sweet potatoes sliced into strips, seasoned with chili powder, baked at 400 degrees for 40 or so minutes until crispy.

Kale chips: Kale cleaned and torn, drizzled with olive oil, S & P and baked at 400 for 10-12 minutes until crispy.
posted by hrj at 11:21 AM on February 6, 2013

This is my go-to brisket recipe. It is pretty much impossible to fuck this up.

In itself, obviously, it doesn't have much in the way of vegetables. It'll go with pretty much anything, though. Just steam something or sautee some greens in olive or coconut oil. Mashed potatoes are good to sop up the sauce, but you can use mashed sweet potatoes.
posted by rocketpup at 11:23 AM on February 6, 2013 [3 favorites]

Roasted veggies are your friend:
Wash and chop into 1" cubes or so;
toss with oil, salt, pepper;
layer flat in a cookie pan or lasagna pan,
put pan in the oven at 425 for 25 min or so (length of time depends on what veg);
optional, turn them after 15 min or so;
after 25 min, test with a fork every 5 min or so. When they are tender enough for the fork to go in and out easily, done.

This is set-it-and-forget-it, and is forgiving, because even if they're a little overdone they're still good. There are reasonably clear visual signs that you're getting to the right doneness (you will learn the signs after making it a couple of times). Veggies that work well roasted: cauliflower, sweet potatoes, squash, parsnips and carrots (shorter cook times and lower temp for the latter two), ... also asparagus, brussels sprouts, more. How to Cook Everything probably has a simple pattern recipe for this.
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:23 AM on February 6, 2013 [9 favorites]

Skillets are hard to mess up, and very easy to clean up because you're only using one pan. No need to go full paleo (you can supplement with brown rice or something if you want to have a carb). Grocery shopping also requires very little thinking when you eat like this.
posted by oinopaponton at 11:27 AM on February 6, 2013

Boil a green vegetable -broccoli or asparagus -for just one minute, drain and run cold water over them to stop cooking.

Beat 6-8 eggs, stir in a splash of milk and lots of shredded swiss or cheddar.

Put the veggies in a casserole, pour the egg mixture over the top, and put in the oven at, say, 400 for 40 minutes or so.
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 11:28 AM on February 6, 2013 [10 favorites]

Soooup, beautiful Soooup! What about a Soup Night? Side up with a fresh salad and it can be practically perfect for a late-ish evening meal. It stores well, can be made ahead of time, can conform to dietary restrictions, and be as hearty as you need it to be. I love soup and have a bajillion recipes; if you are interested you can memail me.
posted by smuna at 11:30 AM on February 6, 2013 [7 favorites]

Egg casseroles are also good. (Like quiche but simpler because no crust.)
Basic recipes available all over the internet, but the gist is: whisk together (or fork-mix) a bunch of eggs, some milk, optionally cheese, and some veggies (could also add meat if you swing that way); put this mixture in a lasagna pan and bake in the oven at 375-400 for 40 min or until top is lightly brown and the eggs in the center are firm. (Once you make it a couple times you will know the correct length of time for your pan and oven.) You can use frozen veggies for this, such as spinach or broccoli, just defrost them a couple mins in the microwave and dump them into the mix. If you want to get fancy you could lightly sautee chopped onions with your veggies of choice, then put those lightly cooked veggies into the mix, but this is optional.
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:30 AM on February 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

How about big salad night? Buy a pack of romaine lettuce or green leaf lettuce. Chop up carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes, throw in some roasted slivered almonds and craisens. Then top with left over chicken. Or you can buy rotisserie (less healthy) or quickly cook a couple of the thinly sliced chicken breasts. You really cannot mess this one up. And if you use creamy caesar dressing...i think it's low in carbs but not too sure about that.
posted by orangemacky at 11:32 AM on February 6, 2013

A good, hearty soup would be good. Soups are damn hard to screw up (seriously, you tell me how it'd be possible to burn soup), they adapt to whatever you have on hand ingredient-wise, and you can cram all sorts of vegetables in there. Add a salad and it's a meal.

The minestrone from HOW TO COOK EVERYTHING would be good, paired with a green salad and maybe a roll if you want something more solid. But really, you can punt with a minestrone - chop up an onion, a couple cloves of garlic, and two sticks of celery, cook them in the soup pan until they get soft, then dump in like a quart of broth and a couple cups of whatever kinds of chopped vegetables you have in the house, a can of beans, and a handful of short chunky pasta. Bring that to a boil, turn down and let simmer until everything's cooked through.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:32 AM on February 6, 2013

This basic lentil soup recipe is about as simple as it gets. I've made/improvised a very similar thing at home.
posted by O9scar at 11:32 AM on February 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

Skillets or woks or whatever.

One pan, on the fire, with some salt and pepper and oil in it.

Then you add things in sequence.

1) Hard vegetables first (carrot, starches, etc).
2) Then aromatic vegetables (garlic, onion, etc).
3) Then mushrooms (if any, and why wouldn't there be?).
4) Then the meat (thinly sliced or ground for quick cook-through).
5) Then delicate vegetables (scallions, i dunno, little things).

Stir occasionally. Add a cooking sauce at some point before the meat, like soy or tamari or wine, depending on flavour target.

It should take you no more than 15 minutes from mise en place (everything cut up in piles) to ready to eat. Everything is optional, the sequence is the only thing one must pay attention to, and even then if you fuck it up you'll only have something a little too soft or a little too hard to be perfect.

This is basically how I make my breakfast every single day. I make Aeropress coffee at the same time. Yeah, I make it without having had coffee first. It's that easy.
posted by seanmpuckett at 11:38 AM on February 6, 2013 [7 favorites]

If cooking really chafes, you could always pick up some pre-marinated/seasoned meats at Trader Joe's (they do some great pork and beef cuts); then you just have to throw them in the oven and make a little veggie on the side.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 11:42 AM on February 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

Roast everything. This is my go-to roast chicken recipe, and while it is a littttle bit high maintenance for roast chicken (you have to flip it a couple of times) it's pretty no-fail. Add some carrots, onion, and celery around the edges.

Check to see if your local grocery store does prepared meats for a reasonable price--last week I made pork tenderloin which was pre-marinated but not expensive. Pop it in the roasting pan with carrots, potatoes (or sweet potatoes), onions, and whatever else you have lying around. Come back in an hour; serve with simple salad.

Or find a few stir-fry sauces you like (I am fond of Thai yellow curry in an envelope, the kind where you add a can of coconut milk). Anything stir-fried is pretty prep-heavy and cooking-light, and many packaged sauces have easy to follow instructions on the pack. It all usually boils down to "chop up some vegetables and meat; fry them with this sauce."
posted by snorkmaiden at 11:43 AM on February 6, 2013

You're good at prep? Then make a salad. Aside from frying bacon hard boiling eggs, or grilling chicken breast, there isn't really any fuckable parts to it. Plus it can be prepared then ignored in the fridge until the SO gets home and you can apply dressing/wet things.

A veggie lasagne is also mostly prep, then ignore in an oven. Use a jar of marinara sauce, layer slices of eggplant, zucchini, yellow squash, with some pre-washed baby spinach, cottage cheese (non-fat if you want) sauce and top with mozzarella (again, could be skim). Let it cook for an hour or two or three.
posted by fontophilic at 11:43 AM on February 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

White bean soup. Damn good, very little active time and I think it hits all your nutritional requirements - plus it's really cheap. The only thing is that you'll have to cook it the night before.

Put the beans in to soak in the morning, and after dinner put the soup in to cook (recipe says 40 minutes, but it takes a few hours for me). Take it off the burner at least a half an hour before you go to sleep to give it time to cool. Then all you have to do the next evening is blend (easiest using a stick blender) and serve with some vegetables and good bread.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 11:43 AM on February 6, 2013

Even easier than regular roast chicken is roast chicken thighs. Dark meat is much harder to overcook, so I find them way less stressful than a whole chicken.

- Preheat oven to 350
- Rinse the thighs off (skin on thighs better) and pat them dry with paper towels.
- Rub them with olive oil, salt and pepper.
- Put them skin-up on a cookie sheet.
- Stick them in the oven for about 40 minutes.

If you're skin eaters, it pays to stick them under the broiler for a couple minutes at the very end to crisp the skin a little, but a lot of people would just pull it off and throw it out after they're cooked.

To go with this, you can just steam or roast some veggies. Or you can make a really delicious fruit and avocado salsa.

Cut up into small pieces:
- an avocado
- a mango
- a large shallot
- some fresh mint or cilantro, your choice
- (I also like to add some fresh corn cut off the cob, but I really like corn)
- Add some minced Jalapeño to half of it if one of you likes thing spicy

Squeeze one or two limes over it, add salt and pepper to taste.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 11:43 AM on February 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

For some reason, cooking breakfast never stresses me out. If you find yourself really stuck one night just fry up some eggs. Super easy scramble:

-Add frozen spinach (microwave first, squeeze out water with your hand, slotted spoon, whatever, before adding to the pan)

-I would add shredded cheddar to this too, but that would aggravate your lactose intolerance. Parmesan instead?

Accompany with breakfast meat or fake breakfast meat of your choice. Fry it up in the same pan.

My other out-of-ideas meal is pre-made frozen salmon patty + frozen broccoli + pasta with butter, kosher salt, and garlic powder on the broccoli and pasta. I know you don't want fish or pasta so maybe you could do pre-made chicken filet, burger patty (I assume you can get things like this frozen--I don't know since I'm a pescatarian) + frozen vegetable (seriously, broccoli freezes and reheats quite well) + frozen sweet potato chunks or fries. Frozen chopped kale is also pretty decent, just add salt and garlic powder.
posted by fozzie_bear at 11:48 AM on February 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

Pesto Chicken:
Place boneless chicken breasts/cutlets in casserole dish, single layer, and cover with pesto sauce. 400 degrees for 25 minutes (juices should run clear when you pierce the meat to check for doneness). Serve with salad/other vegetable side/on a bed of fresh greens. (Close relative of Salsa Chicken.)
posted by Iris Gambol at 11:49 AM on February 6, 2013 [3 favorites]

My go-to for easy-peasy dinner is a pre-cooked rotisserie chicken from the grocery store. I'll carve and serve with carb + veggie; shred and add to rice and beans; shred and add BBQ sauce and put on toasted rolls; shred and make old-fashioned chicken salad... And if I'm feeling really ambitious, I'll save the carcass and make stock out of it later.

Also a week-night go-to for me: Slice up a [turkey] kielbasa into coins, brown in a skillet with a little olive oil, stir in a 28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes in juice and a 14 oz. can of drained canellini beans; let it simmer for a bit so the flavors meld and be sure to scrape the bottom so all the nice fond from the kielbasa gets in.
posted by feistycakes at 11:51 AM on February 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

Nigella's Lemon Garlic Chicken cannot be fucked up. Take chicken parts (we use thighs, or legs and thighs) and put them in a roasting pan. Sprinkle with olive oil. Add quartered lemons and garlic cloves. Cook as directed. (The recipe is a little precious; we bother with neither the thyme nor the wine.) Serve with rice, broccoli, asparagus and salad in any combination -- they all go nicely.

Also, roasting a chicken is surprisingly easy despite the 900 recipes in which people brine, tie, rub, rack and generally dick around and over-complicate a simple mid-week meal. Take a 1.5kg / 3.3 lb chicken. Put it in a roasting tin. Surround with quartered onions and halved mushrooms. If you like, you can par-boil carrots and add those, too. Moisten veg with olive oil. Sprinkle top of chicken with salt. Cover tin with foil; bake at 375 for 20 minutes per pound (so 1 hour 15 minutes), plus 20 - 30 minutes at the end without foil to brown it. It really is a "set it and forget it" dinner.
posted by DarlingBri at 11:51 AM on February 6, 2013 [10 favorites]

Here is my brisket recipe, you can do it in a crock pot and have it all done when you get home. Just add a veg and a salad.

1 Brisket that fits in your crock pot
1 envelope Lipton Onion Soup Mix
Raw baby carrots
1 jar of marinara or plain tomatoes

Throw everything in and cook all day on low. Om, nom, nom.

Here is my recipe for purple cabbage:

Slice 1/2 of a purple cabbage very thinly
Sautee in olive oil and butter
A sprinkle of sugar, honey, stevia..whatever
Balsamic vinegar (a goodly amount)

Turn the heat down and leave it alone for about 20-30 minutes. So good!

No fuss, muss or bother.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:53 AM on February 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

I don't know if this is in How To Cook Everything (red book), but it's in How To Cook Everything Vegetarian (green book) and I understand there's a lot of overlap (?): Bittman has a great Cauliflower Soup. Super simple, no-carb, vegan (or you can add parmesan), and reeeeeally good. It's a bit light but you could definitely serve it with a protein or something.
posted by threeants at 11:54 AM on February 6, 2013

A general tip for you: if you hate having to fuss over your food, then avoid sauteeing or pan-frying things. Sauteeing/pan-frying takes constant attention to heat level, lots of stirring, and knowledge of when to drop each item in the pan, how brown is done, etc. Baking, braising, boiling, and steaming are simpler methods that don't take so much heat adjustment, stirring, or expertise.

This is my go-to easy meal that takes about 25 minutes start to finish, is customizable depending on your taste, and produces good leftovers.

1. Baked Chicken Tenderloins
- Preheat oven to 425°F
- In a pan or glass baking dish, drop 2-3 Tbsp olive oil, a pinch of salt & pepper, and a splash of lemon juice if you like.
- Put 6-12 pre-trimmed chicken tenderloins in there, moosh 'em around to coat them evenly, then spread them out in a single layer.
- Cook for 15-20 minutes until done, turning them over once in the middle of the cooktime. Put some tinfoil over them if they seem to be drying out.
- EVEN EASIER: pick up a rotisserie chicken from the store.

2. Quinoa
- 1 cup of quinoa, rinse well
- put it in a pot with 1.5 c water and 1/4 tsp. salt
- bring it to a boil, then turn it down to low, put the lid on, and put a timer on for 15 minutes, at which point it is done.
- EVEN EASIER: do this in a rice cooker -- just throw all the ingredients in and turn it on. No fuss, no guessing.

3. Steamed Kale
- take a big bunch of kale, rip the leaves off the stems (like this), tear into big chunks, throw into a colander, and rinse
- put about an inch of water and a steamer basket in a pot & bring the water to a boil
- 5 minutes before you're ready to eat, put the kale in the steamer basket & cover. Pull it out after 5 minutes or when it's bright green. Toss in a little olive oil, salt & pepper, and lemon juice.

That's the meal. If you want to get fancy, you can use different sauces. For instance, you can use a pre-made teriyaki sauce on the chicken instead of the olive oil/lemon/salt&pepper, or substitute sesame oil for the olive oil on the kale, or whatever you like.
posted by ourobouros at 12:08 PM on February 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

I have to point out that frying is not at all incompatible with healthy.

Choose your oil wisely, that's all. Fat is good for you. Really. Much better for you than carbs. Don't be afraid of fat. It tastes good, keeps you from eating too much, and keeps you from getting hungry in a couple hours. And it's an essential nutrient.
posted by seanmpuckett at 12:12 PM on February 6, 2013 [6 favorites]

Everyone in my family is currently going ape for Crock Pot Shredded Buffalo Chicken. Chicken breasts, Frank's Buffalo Sauce, Ranch Dressing Mix. Stick em in the crockpot. You can make it the night before and reheat, it will taste the same. Serve with whatever. I was skeptical, but it is easy and tasty and not terribly unhealthy (though I'm not sure exactly what's in the ranch dressing mix).
posted by mskyle at 12:14 PM on February 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

Is goat feta (the best kind!) okay with your lactose intolerance? I'm seeing that some people don't have a problem with it. If so, you might consider a feta frittata (with or without bacon and/or green pepper) which is just about the simplest/fastest thing we cook, and one of my absolute favorite meals. We do make it in a small frying pan (the smallest one in your set), and cook one each for both of us, so two "goes" or passes, but it tastes better that way (as opposed to one big one), and is still ridiculously fast and easy.

The process: A generous glug of olive oil in the pan (probably a bit more than you think you should use); turn the pan on high, it needs to be super hot and basically at smoking point, otherwise it just doesn't turn out right. While that's heating up beat a couple of eggs in a bowl with your herbs and spices of choice (just salt and pepper is fine, but not much salt since the feta is salty) and grate a generous amount of feta (you may want to grate it in advance) and add to the egg mixture. Pour the mixture into the very hot pan and as it cooks begin lifting the corners with a spatula and tilting the pan so the egg mixture runs underneath. You can also sort of make "slits" in the middle with the spatula so the liquidy part has another spot to escape. Finally flip it with the spatula to finish up... it's okay if it breaks, just flip the pieces; it doesn't have to be a perfect disc. Once there are no more liquid bits and it's nicely browned in some parts, remove to plate and repeat for the second one.

Describing it makes it sound complicated, but it's simple and hard to mess up unless you burn it (we've never burned it, you just stay right there and nudge and flip and slip it onto the plate).

If you want chopped bacon and/or chopped green peppers in it (extremely yum), saute these ingredients (enough for two, in a larger frying pan) before starting and set aside, then add once you've poured your egg mixture into the frying pan.

We always have this with green salad or Greek salad (and bread, for us), or green salad and sliced tomatoes on the plates with the frittatas. You can chop some parsley or arugula to spinkle the top of the frittata to make fancy. This is lovely and light with a glass of white wine in summer, but feels comforting and homey in winter.
posted by taz at 12:21 PM on February 6, 2013

This wonderful chicken dish by Jamie Oliver is my go-to Sunday night dinner. So, so easy and satisfying. Add rice or potatoes and a nice green salad.
posted by mochapickle at 12:30 PM on February 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

I was just coming here to make the same super-easy pesto chicken suggestion that Iris Gambol posted. It's tasty and virtually effortless. I'll roast some bite-size veggies (broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, etc.) at the same time; just toss with some olive oil and salt, then spread them out on a baking sheet and put them in the oven along with the chicken.

If brown rice is OK on the carb side of things, you can get bags of frozen rice and throw them in the microwave for about 3 minutes.
posted by scody at 12:35 PM on February 6, 2013

My unscrewupable White Chili recipe:

2 ½ cups water
1 tsp. each: lemon pepper; cumin seed
1 rotisserie chicken cooled and shredded
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup chopped onion
2 packages (9 oz. each) frozen white corn
4 cans (4 oz. each) diced green chilies, not drained
1 tsp. ground cumin
2-3 tbls. Lime juice (a couple of limes worth)
2 cans (15 oz. each) great northern beans, not drained

Mix and heat. Sevre with chopped raw onion, shredded cheese, tortilla chips and salsa verde.
posted by rtimmel at 12:39 PM on February 6, 2013 [3 favorites]

Get a package of boneless, skinless chicken breasts, pat dry, season with salt and pepper and put in a baking dish. Take a can of artichoke hearts (marinated or not) and drain well, breaking them up as you drain them. Mix up the artichoke with 1/4 cup (or so) of mayo and equal parts sour cream and a big handful of parmesean cheese... spread evenly(covering completely) over chicken breasts and bake at 425 degrees for 22-25 minutes. serve with salad and whole grain baguette, and you are done!

Bon appetite!
posted by kiwi-epitome at 12:40 PM on February 6, 2013 [3 favorites]

Turkey meatloaf! (Or chicken meatloaf. I think it's better with ground chicken, but to each his/her own).

I use a slightly modified version of Ina Garten's recipe. I don't use breadcrumbs, I make a much smaller loaf (1-2 pounds), and I make the crust with spicy barbeque sauce. I also go a little heavy on the egg, and I usually make it in a loaf pan and not as a free-standing loaf.

But it's pretty easy, almost foolproof, and makes great left-overs. My side of choice is some sort of cooked greens or a salad.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 12:43 PM on February 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

Oh, we like to brown sausages, wilt spinach, and add them both to a bunch of canned white beans that have been simmered for 15 minutes with garlic, tomato sauce, and sage. I'm an awful cook, but I haven't fucked that one up yet.


We'll add white beans, proscuitto and croutons to spinach or arugula and eat it with a red wine vinegar/olive oil dressing.
posted by pineappleheart at 12:57 PM on February 6, 2013 [5 favorites]

Once a week we have rice and beans. It is easy. It is cheap. It is a complete protein and it can be as boring or as exciting as you want it to be. The general idea is as follows:

Boil brown (or white, whatever) rice. Turn the heat down, cover and forget about it for about an hour.

Then, cut up an onion. Put it in a good-sized pot with oil. Let it cook for a few minutes. Add a teaspoon of cumin, a teaspoon of oregano, a dash of chili powder if you want a little spice. (If not, skip the chili powder.) Then, dump a can of whatever type of beans you've got on hand in there (black, pinto, kidney, whatever). Then, dump the cooked rice in there. Stir. Add oil, salt, pepper to taste. Enough for dinner and leftovers for lunch the next day.

Want something more exciting?
-Throw in whatever veggies you like with the onions
-Dribble lime over the final product
-Buy tortillas at the store and wrap it all up into tacos or burritos
-Get really fancy and throw a sweet potato into the oven at 350 for the hour the rice is cooking. Then, scoop it out onto your rice and beans, or stuff it into a burrito.
-Shave some aged cheese over the final product
-Put the final product over salad greens
-Dash some franks red hot on the final product
-Add a can of tuna fish to the final product
-Rip off a few cilantro leaves and throw them into the mix
-Throw some tumeric into the rice while the water is boiling. Won't change the flavor much but your rice will turn a fun yellow color!

We love rice and beans night. Always easy. Always cheap. Always fun. Always yummy.
posted by RingerChopChop at 1:10 PM on February 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

We do Jacques Pepin's mustard crusted chicken regularly. Mainly it's mixing the sauce, browning the chicken in a cast iron for 5 minutes and popping it in the oven for about 30 minutes. He actually does a whole chicken but we just buy chicken pieces. Really delicious!

For easy and healthy vegggie, I saute a garlic clove in a little oil, pour in a package of pre-cut pre-washed kale or greens, pour about a 1/4 cup of water, lower heat and cover for about 20 minutes while the chicken cooks.
posted by biscuits at 1:15 PM on February 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

Oh, I just had another thought... that might work for "prepared quickly and then ignored while cooking," if you have time to let it cook (1.5-2 hours*): Hungarian Goulash (from a Hungarian), is a very lovely, filling dish we've made a few times this winter. There's a lot of explanation about Hungarian goulash on the page, but you can just skip down to the recipe and read the rest later, since the background is very interesting but not integral to the recipe. The actual steps are quite simple, except cutting up all the onion will be a pain if you don't have a food processor or chopper.

One point of confusion in the recipe: she mentions adding a whole tomato if they are in season, but that it will be removed later, but doesn't ever follow up with an explanation on that. We decided that we would grate a bit of tomato into our version (as we do in a couple of other stewed dishes we make), and it turned out great.

This is the kind of thing I like to make on sleety, chilly, windy days; the cooking fragrance warms the house and the dish warms your belly... and looking for good Hungarian paprika while you are out and about is a fun thing; I'd love to try this with smoked paprika. (Tip for those not on low-carb: really nice with spoon dumplings on top.)

*I should mention that we actually make our version of this in the slow cooker over a longer period, so I can't vouch 100% for this as a stovetop thing, but I think it should work as described.
posted by taz at 1:20 PM on February 6, 2013

Oh, also, for the grated tomato (which is not even a part of the actual recipe – just what we did) we used 3 - 4 plum tomatoes since tomatoes aren't in season, and they have actual tomato flavor.
posted by taz at 1:32 PM on February 6, 2013

This recipe works in a toaster oven, if you do not want to heat up the whole place with the oven. This recipe is PAINLESS as in, just chop the shallots and garlic, mix the soy, olive oil, and vinegar. Everyone likes this recipe and it is 30 minutes to caramelized chicken. For even more fool proof use chicken thighs which gives you greater margin for overcooking. Caramelized shallot chicken. Did I mention that it is dirt cheap to make?
posted by jadepearl at 1:33 PM on February 6, 2013 [3 favorites]

On the off chance you're okay with something that isn't exactly a recipe, this vegetable curry template was a real eye-opener for me and has become one of my default "aaah I got home late, fuck what now" deals. Each of the steps is very easy and pretty free-form, so it can be adapted to whatever you have lying around:
  • Saute spices in oil.
    • Good ones are cumin, coriander, clove, black mustard, maybe turmeric... but you have a lot of flexibility here
  • When the spices have a nice aroma, put in any vegetables you want to have well-cooked and a little caramelized; cook on low for a while.
    • onions, garlic, ginger, bell peppers, etc.
    • the rubric says to cook for an hour here on low, but honestly, I hardly ever give this step more than 10 minutes and it is still fine if not transcendent
  • Add whatever bits of veg you have handy.
    • beans, lentils (protein! can be canned!! whatevs!), spinach, squash, etc.
  • Add some liquid
    • crushed tomatoes, coconut milk, water, stock, wine
  • Re-season that bad boy
    • salt, cayenne, more cumin etc. to taste, probably not cayenne in your case actually
    • some people add sugar but I don't ever because I don't want extra sugar, still fine
  • Add fresh herbs or citrus (lemon/lime) right at the end
  • Serve it up
I've made a pretty good faker chana masala this way (chickpeas, tomato, no turmeric) as well as a tom kha that turned out well (seitan, ginger, coconut milk, cilantro, and lime). Spiciness can be titrated as needed.
posted by en forme de poire at 1:37 PM on February 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

BTW in case it wasn't clear, most of the work for that is chopping various vegetables - the actual cooking takes place all in the same skillet.
posted by en forme de poire at 1:40 PM on February 6, 2013

BALLS! The good thing about this is that you can vary it based on personal preference, but basically, you're talking about meatloaf formed into balls and baked in the oven.

I like ground lamb with ground coriander from Penzey's, a little egg (if you're going low-carb you could just omit breadcrumbs, though I don't really use a lot of them, just enough to hold things together), sometimes some chopped dates or prunes or pistachios, which sounds weird but is actually pretty good.

Vary as desired with other ground meats... I actually did nothing but different meatballs (lamb, turkey, beef, chicken, pork) for my husband's 40th birthday party last month and EVERYONE crammed those things down their gullets like food was going out of style.

Bonus points, if you have a nice big baking sheet, you can also throw asparagus or brussel sprouts or other roast-friendly vegetables on there with them and have everything done in less than 30 minutes.

Our other go-to is pork tenderloin with some horseradish mustard on it, baked on a baking sheet at high temps with brussel sprouts or cauliflower. Really, really love how the veg taste roasted at 400 degrees. The caramelization is key. I toss all the prepped veg (trimmed, cut in half with cut side down for sprouts) in olive oil and some spices before I put them on the sheet.
posted by at 1:41 PM on February 6, 2013 [3 favorites]

I love this pumpkin white bean soup. I blend it once it's all heated up. (My personal preference is to eat it with pepper sauce but it's fine without.)
posted by wallaby at 1:52 PM on February 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

Soup is easy. This soup is especially delicious and easy.
posted by dizziest at 1:53 PM on February 6, 2013

Sofrito with beans. Sauté some onions, garlic, bell peppers, black or kidney beans, maybe a tomato, add sugar, a bit of ground cumin, salt and pepper, cook it all for 10-20 mins. Serve over rice (which you can spice up in myriad ways if you so desire).

I also second en forme de poire's veggie curry template. I make this chana masala dish regularly, it's very easy and follows that general outline.
posted by faraasha at 2:28 PM on February 6, 2013

I cook 1-3 meals a day, and often fancy stuff, and having to keep track of several steps and ingredients still sends me into a tizzy sometimes. So when I have the time, I do a lot of advance prep work. Chopping up all my veggies the night before helps me a ridiculous amount, and so does making up a big pot of soup or stew when I have the time to do it leisurely and then freezing it in portions for weeknight meals. Just knowing that something is done ahead of time and I won't have to do everything seems to calm that part of my brain that tends to get easily overwhelmed.

For specific suggestions, this is my go-to zero-effort meal: pasta with frozen pesto sauce (either from the grocery store or what I have left over from the summer). You don't even have to cook the pesto! Since you said low-carb, you could do this with spaghetti squash or zucchini ribbons, or just toss it in some scrambled eggs. If you want to get really fancy, throw together a salad (in the summer, this can mean putting cherry tomatoes and little balls of mozzarella into a bowl with some vinegar, oil, salt, and pepper).
posted by rhiannonstone at 2:54 PM on February 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

My laziest recipe:

Lean kielbasa
Yellow summer squash
An onion
Brussels sprouts/cauliflower
Potato or sweet potato

Chop all into roughly the same size (I use whole frozen brussels sprouts so I don't cut those), throw in your cast iron or casserole with a drizzle of olive oil, a bit of pepper and a little sprinkle of garlic powder. Mix up, throw in oven at 375 until browned and caramely and tasty. Only tip is try not to crowd the pan or mix it up too much while cooking so everything gets browned. I make this with whatever veg I have on hand (cabbage wedges work well too) and common denom is the kielbasa which basically seasons everything with a yummy smoky taste, even if you only use a little bit compared to the amount of veg.
posted by takoukla at 2:55 PM on February 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

Other lazy Greek recipe:

Couple cloves of garlic
Chopped onion
Can of diced or whole tomatoes
Couple cups of water or chicken stock
Olive oil
Salt and pep

Heat olive oil in a pot, add onion, cook till softened, add garlic and cook until fragrant and not browning. Throw in everything else and cook until lentils are soft, about 20 mins. If you want to get fancy, you can do sausage or kielbasa too, just chop it into bite size and brown it up before you do the onions in the same pot. Takes less than 30 mins from start to finish and it tastes fantastic.
posted by takoukla at 3:05 PM on February 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

Stuffed bell peppers:

- 4 sweet bell peppers, whichever is your favorite color.
- 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 can diced tomatoes, drained
- 1 cup cooked rice (I use pre-cooked frozen brown rice from Costco or Trader Joe's)
- 1/2 cup cheese is optional, this should be delicious without it

Start a large pot of water filled halfway, get it to a rolling boil. I think about 6 cups of water in there.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Trim the tops of the bell peppers and clean out the seeds.
Place the cleaned out bell peppers in the boiling water for about 5 mins or so to get them to soften up. You can start putting together the filling while this is happening (see below). After 5 mins or so, remove the bell peppers with some tongs if you have them and drain on a paper towel, then place them in a baking dish. I've never had a problem with these sticking, but you could always put a little olive oil or spray the bottom of the baking dish.
In a large mixing bowl, put the following together and mix: 1 drained and rinsed can of black beans, 1 can drained diced tomatoes, 1 cup cooked rice, and 1/2 cup cheese (which you can leave out).
Mix everything together and then spoon the mixture into the bell peppers. Press the filling into the bell peppers using the spoon. You can top with a little ketchup if you love ketchup. It's still good without it though.
Bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.

I never bother with salt, pepper, seasonings, anything extra really and this still tastes great. Easy to adapt the recipe, too. Original version is from the America's Test Kitchen Family cookbook.
posted by belau at 4:00 PM on February 6, 2013 [5 favorites]

Sumac Chicken with Persian Salad is really easy (you toss the chicken in marinade, cut the veggies up for the salad while it's marinating, then grill the chicken, which only takes 5 minutes or so) and it makes extremely brightly flavored, moist chicken. The hardest part is finding sumac and pomegranate molasses (try your Mediterranean or Middle Eastern mart for the pom molasses, Penzey's for the sumac), and that's super worth doing (it's what makes it).
posted by ifjuly at 4:16 PM on February 6, 2013

got this off Pinterest and tried last week end - very good and atypical of other crockpot recipes, there's no potatoes or cream soup. We weren't big fans of the grape tomatoes

Balsamic Chicken & Vegetables

4-6 boneless skinless frozen chicken thighs
1 whole head of garlic
3 sliced zucchini
2 sliced red onions
2 cups sliced mushrooms
1 sliced tomato
1 handful of small grape tomatoes
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
salt and pepper
1. Salt and pepper your chicken pieces.
2. Put the chicken into the crock.
3. Wash and cut all your vegetables and put into a mixing bowl. Peel the head of garlic, but keep the cloves intact.
4. Toss the vegetables with balsamic vinegar and Worcestershire sauce.
5. Pour the vegetables on top of the chicken.
6. Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours.
posted by jaimystery at 8:09 PM on February 6, 2013

Tuna salad salad. Chop an apple, 2 celery stalks, a handful of nuts of your choice. Throw in bowl with 2 cans of drained tuna. Add salt, pepper, and mayo (easy to DIY with olive oil and egg) or plain yogurt (Greek ok). Add a splash of lemon or lime juice, salt, pepper, and craisins if you like em. Serve on a bed of spinach or mixed greens.
posted by hishtafel at 8:11 PM on February 6, 2013

- boneless chicken breast, cut into 3 strips. Sprinkle with seasoned salt. Heat up the skillet on med-hi. Add @ 1 tsp. olive oil, then fry them for @4 minutes on each side. serve asap.
- lemon chicken
- oven fried chicken
- sirloin tips are tasty & easy to cook.
-learn to make an good omelet. They're tasty affordable, and satisfying. I'd start with spinach, mushrooms and feta

frozen vegetables are often quite good quality.
Roasted vegetables are delicious(see above). I love roasted brussel sprouts, cauliflower, sweet potatoes, onions, and fresh squash, not usually together.

Learn to make salad. You can buy mixed greens and add 2 or 3 of the following: red peppers, slivered almonds, mushrooms, sliced, peeled, hard-boiled eggs, mandarin oranges, red onion, etc.

Cook rice in chicken broth. It isn't as good as risotto, but it's easy and tasty.
Baked sweet or white potatoes
baked beans are full of protein, fiber and some carbs.
If you can learn to make peanut sauce, it's so good on rice noodles. Also, it keeps well, so you can use it later in the week on vegetables or whatever, which would be a nice thing for your SO.
posted by theora55 at 12:17 AM on February 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

Chicken Cacciatore:

8 Chicken Thighs
1 Large Onion
5 Cloves Garlic
1 Pint Tomato Passata
3-5 Sprigs Fresh Rosemary
1/2 Bottle White Wine

Preheat oven to 350
Sear chicken things on both sides and season with salt/pepper remove and set aside
Soften onion and garlic in olive oil and add rosemary stirring to loosen bits of stuck on chicken
Add half bottle of white wine and passata bring to simmer
Add chicken thigs back to the pan stir and put in oven for 45 minutes to an hour
Serve with veggies

Simple and the prep time is pretty quick and then just waiting for it to be done in the oven.
posted by koolkat at 1:28 AM on February 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

I really like the most recent Sauceome comic about yummy-ing up (that's totally a word) delicious boxed soups:
posted by jillithd at 6:29 AM on February 7, 2013

it is amazing to me how many people did not fully read the question. Lentils are a carb. Quinoa is a carb (and also very non-paleo / primal as it contains the highly irritant/inflammatory compound saponin).

the OP also EXPLICITLY said "no slow cooker (read: crockpot) recipes". It makes me a bit sad that they also stipulated "no hot peppers/seafood" as I have a wicked Paleo Thai curry recipe but such is life.

So. Here is my un-fuckupable Paleo goulash recipe. It takes 30 minutes tops if you've got your shit together. The prep is what takes the longest. The key to doing stir fries and goulash type things like this (and basically all things cooking) is to always prep/dice your ingredients into similar sized chunks so that they cook evenly, and always prep all your stuff and get it setup prior to turning on the cooktop/hob. Mise en place.

Find or procure yourself a largeish skillet or Dutch Oven. If you're truly Primal, you have cast iron. you need to get rid of that terrible thin-walled Target teflon cookware anyhow, it's no good for anything remotely culinary and teflon offgases some pretty carcinogenic shit if you use high enough heat to actually create a fond. Buy yourself a Lodge cast iron skillet, it's like twenty bucks on Amazon Prime.


1 lb. ground (preferably grass fed) beef or bison, turkey if you prefer.
1 medium yellow onion, 1" diced
A chunk of ghee or coconut oil, let's say a tablespoon or so. If you really want flavor, dice up a couple fat strips of pancetta or bacon instead. Don't fear the fat.
1/4 cup stock or wine (your choice) for deglazing. I keep a magnum of cheap dry sherry by the stove expressly for this purpose. It's not technically Paleo/primal, but the alcohol and sugar will mostly cook out.
2 fat cloves garlic, minced or smashed (your pref)
1 yellow or red bell pepper, 1" diced
1 cup broccoli florets or rabe, 1" diced
1 cup carrots, 1" diced
1 medium sweet potato, 1" diced
1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms (crimini, shiitake, grey, doesn't matter it's all good)
Rough handful of chopped fresh parsley
14.5 oz can diced tomatoes OR 2 medium fresh tomatoes, 1" diced (only if you can get non-shitty ones from the garden or farmer's market tho; in this instance good quality canned will be better)
In a small bowl or ramekin, combine the following spices:
1 teaspoon sweet paprika (smoked if you prefer, tho I think smoked tends to overwhelm fresh veg)
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon coriander
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon ground fennel if you can find it

Dice all your veg ahead of time, and pile them (or plate/bowl them) thusly: Onions/garlic, 1 pile. Carrots & sweet potato, 2nd pile. Bell pepper/broccoli/tomatoes/mushrooms/parsley, 3rd pile.

Now turn on the hob and get that skillet decently hot. Let's say gas 7 or medium high.
Drop your fat in (bacon, ghee, whatever) and let it melt / coat the pan.
Add your spice mixture now and stir it around a bit until it gets fragrant.
Drop in Pile#1 of onions and garlic and stir them until they look glassy/transparent. Now pull them up around the sides of the pan to clear a space in the middle.
Drop in the ground meat, and break it up a bit. Now (this is important) DO NOT STIR OR FUCK WITH IT FOR AT LEAST THREE MINUTES. You want it to brown, like not burnt black brown, but brown, brown. Let it form a nice crust/sear on the pan. This is where your flavor comes from.
Once you form a nice crust on one side of the crumbles, stir everything up a bit, and let it brown a bit more. Watch that your onions don't blacken. Brown is nice, black is not.
Now that's done, whack in your stock or wine, and stir like crazy to pull off all the sticky brown bits (called "fond") to pull in the flavor.
Now lower the heat to medium (gas 5 or 6)
Toss in pile#2 of the carrots and sweet potatoes and stir a bit. Whack a lid on it. Let it simmer for a bit, say 3-4 minutes.
Now add the rest of the veg in Pile#3, stir to combine.
Lid the skillet and let it simmer for another 5-6 minutes.
Check the carrots / sweet potatoes with a fork, they should be soft. If they are, turn off the heat, BAM you are done.

We serve this with cauliflower "rice" but the sweet potato gives it plenty of oomph on its own.
posted by lonefrontranger at 8:52 AM on February 7, 2013 [2 favorites]

4 Hour Chef Book
You may be interested in 4-Hour Chef that has simple recipes with the aim of teaching you to cook or do anything else. Tim Ferriss has an extremely unique way of putting a book together and you might like his tone. One of the first recipes is Lamb Ossu Bukko as he spells it, very easy one pot meal though does take a couple hours in the oven only 5 minutes hands-on. Also see Chinese Chicken (15 minutes total time), steamed over bok choy with asian sauce. Almost all the recipes are low carb.
posted by RoadScholar at 9:47 AM on February 7, 2013

Stir-fry ground chicken or beef in a tiny splash of oil. Add ginger, garlic, soy, sliced water chestnuts, cilantro, peanuts. Serve in lettuce cups - just roll and eat. Have some watermelon for dessert.

Mix a couple of spoons of Thai green curry paste with a can of light coconut milk (or low-fat evaporated milk with a little coconut essence). Bring to a gentle simmer. Add as much diced chicken and veges as you'd like - eggplant, zucchini, green beans, bamboo shoots. Walk away for a while. Stir through some fresh-chopped basil. You can drain most of the sauce if you like.

Slice beef. Add fish sauce, finely sliced lemon grass, some freshly ground black pepper. Leave to marinate while you slice some asparagus. Drain a can of straw mushrooms. Quickly fry together in a dry pan with a splash of water if needed.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 1:23 AM on February 9, 2013

(Oy, what am I saying. Substitute soy for fish sauce. Make your own pepper-free / shrimp paste-free curry paste by blitzing fresh ginger, garlic, shallots/red onion, galangal and cilantro in a processor. Make a heap, freeze in cubes, it'll keep for ages.)
posted by obiwanwasabi at 1:35 AM on February 9, 2013

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