Recipe ideas for people who don't enjoy cooking
October 31, 2013 7:23 AM   Subscribe

About 70% of the time, I do not enjoy cooking. The prep, the process, the cleaning up (oh God, the cleaning up). I feel like I have exhausted my repertoire of minimal-prep / minimal-cleanup weekday evening meals. Can you help me come up with some new ones? And it would be great if they were actually tasty and heavy on the vegetables as I am trying to get more of those into my diet. Bonus points for food that I can make ahead in bulk and take to work for a few days.

The sort of thing I like to make is - roasted chicken with herbs, any number of simple egg dishes like omelettes and egg bakes with cheese and vegetables - but so far my holy grail has been Marcella Hazan's tomato sauce jazzed up with extra add-ins (mushrooms, peas, spinach, sometimes a couple of tins of tuna) to eat with pasta. The nice thing about Hazan's sauce is that you don't have to do much chopping or slicing, you just dump everything in the pot and let the heat do the work. And there's just one pot! This is the kind of thing I am looking for more of.

I do not own a slow-cooker, have no special dietary requirements, not terribly fussed about calorie or carbohydrate counts but - as I said before - trying to get more vegetables into my diet. I also live alone which I think is part of the problem - I wouldn't mind about making more complex meals if someone else could do the washing up!!

Links to previous threads on this subject are also welcome. I have searched but the cooking tag in Ask Mefi goes over several pages!
posted by Ziggy500 to Food & Drink (35 answers total) 146 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: You don't own a slow cooker, but they're really not that expensive - If you like simple one-pot cooking that has minimal cleanup, that really is the way to go.

(For what it's worth - I, too, live alone, dislike cooking, particularly despise cleaning up, and love single-pot options, and for that reason I'm buying a slow cooker ASAP.)
posted by Tomorrowful at 7:33 AM on October 31, 2013 [9 favorites]

I'm a big fan of one pan meals like curry and stir fry. The prep isn't minimal per se, but once you've chopped the vegetables and protein (if you're using chicken/beef/whatever), it's just a matter of sauteeing each thing off, adding some sauce, and letting it simmer for a bit before dumping it over rice or noodles or eating it with naan you stuck in the oven for 5 min. This is a nice recipe for a vegetarian curry with lentils and chickpeas that I've riffed on a lot in the past (subbing red lentils for green bc ain't nobody got time for that, and adding things like butternut squash or chopped potatoes).

One thing I might suggest is to do a lot of veg prep for meals at a time when you're not starving and cranky at the end of the day; plan ahead for a couple of dinners and spend 30 min or so just chopping up the veg for that, and maybe pre-roasting stuff that would otherwise take awhile, and then put them in tupperware in the fridge, ready for dumping in as needed.
posted by catch as catch can at 7:33 AM on October 31, 2013

posted by dukes909 at 7:34 AM on October 31, 2013

This gnocchi recipe requires 2 pots, and is both versatile (you can sub in most veggies as long as you keep the shallots + browned butter) and insanely delicious.
posted by coppermoss at 7:34 AM on October 31, 2013 [1 favorite]

I am the same as you- I hate prep and cleaning up. What I do now is boil a huge amount of chopped carrots and mash up 4 heads of cauliflower on a sunday and put half in the freezer... then I make a big batch of soup (usually zuccini soup) and put half of that in the freezer.

Also I bake a big batch of rice and freeze that, and also do a large pork casserole (english style casserole) I put the pork in a casserole dish along with some carrots and stock and a can of mushrooms (because sometimes I can't even be bothered to chop mushrooms!) and cook it slow for several hours.

While that big cook is doing its thing, I can sit and go online, catch up on work etc. And there is very little washing really, just about 4 pots- and then I'm done. Its easy to be healthy in the week and eat hot homemade meals because its as hard as reaching into the fridge or freezer and heating it up.

We can have salmon and mashed cauliflower, soup and a sandwich, pork and rice, if I want to make a chicken curry or something its super easy because the carrots are already chopped. And if anything needs thickening I very often throw in a few spoonfuls of the cauliflower- so I am constantly vegging up my dishes that way.

Absolutely give me a shout if you want any of my recipes!
posted by misspony at 7:36 AM on October 31, 2013 [3 favorites]

Best answer: My first thought was that a slow-cooker would be perfect for you - just dump everything into the crock, let it go, and dinner is ready when you get home, with only one piece to wash. Plus, if you're just cooking for yourself, most of those recipes make a lot, so you'll have leftovers to eat.

I've also seen this one-pot spaghetti recipe posted a lot and have cooked it myself a couple times. Very little prep work and it turns out pretty well, plus you can customize it with just about any ingredients you like. A quick search of Pinterest for "one pot spaghetti recipe" actually turned up a number of options.
posted by LolaGeek at 7:40 AM on October 31, 2013 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I do a lot of chopped vegetable + chicken pieces roasted on a pan. There is some chopping/peeling but it goes quickly. You can chop the vegetables in big pieces, not all very uniform, toss them and the chicken with whatever seasonings you like, then toss in the oven.

A lot of this kind of thing, really.
posted by Knicke at 7:40 AM on October 31, 2013 [5 favorites]

What about looking into packages of pre-cut vegetables from your grocery store? That would allow you to make a simple stir-fry with frozen peeled shrimp or beef stir-fry strips with next to zero prep and cleanup. Sure, you have to pay a little more, but if it's that or not cooking, or cooking but hating it, it might be worth it to you. It would still be cheaper than takeout, and way healthier.

You can also buy chopped garlic in jars and cubes of frozen chopped herbs and ginger. I've seen packages of peeled and sliced sweet potatoes, ready to be drizzled with olive oil and roasted. As a strategy, I would look into "convenience" foods that outsource the prep (and associated cleanup) with minimal effects on quality.
posted by quaking fajita at 7:41 AM on October 31, 2013 [1 favorite]

Just go to Goodwill and spend $10 on a slow cooker. Seriously.
posted by nathancaswell at 7:52 AM on October 31, 2013

Best answer: What I had last night was really good and involved little prep or cleanup. Bake a sweet potato. In the meantime, chop some onion and garlic, saute in a frying pan. Dump in some frozen corn, can of black beans (rinsed) and some chopped kale. Saute for a while. Stir in a few spoonfuls of salsa, or chipotle salsa if you like the taste.

Split open the potato and top with the bean salad. Dollop some sour cream on top. Yum. All you have to clean is the chopping board and one frying pan.

And I'm a big fan of pre-chopping onions, jalapenos, ginger, garlic, what-have-you and sticking them in the freezer in a Ziploc. Texture won't matter because most of these get sauteed, and you won't have to spend time each night doing this repetitive task.
posted by Liesl at 7:53 AM on October 31, 2013 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Black bean stew: One chopped onion (can be pre-cut) and some chopped garlic sweated in some olive oil in the bottom of a pan. Add a couple pieces chopped bacon (optional). Add two cans black beans, one can salsa, and chili powder to taste. Cook down for anywhere from 20 minutes to 3 hours (longer is better). Freezes well, and reheats beautifully. Can be served with Trader Joe's frozen naan, which heats nicely in a toaster oven.

Baked potatoes are great -- cook in the microwave right on the microwave platter, eat with sour cream and toppings.

Artichokes can be steamed in a microwave -- prep artichoke (see any online tutorial), rinse off with water (leave some water on the leaves), place in microwave-safe bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Microwave on high until a leaf pulls off easily. Serve with any dressing or with a mixture of butter, salt, and lemon juice you've heated in the microwave for a few seconds.

Many other veggies can be microwave-steamed, and some even come in microwave-friendly packages.

Also, if you're not doing this already, try washing the dishes as you go. It's much less painful that way.
posted by pie ninja at 8:01 AM on October 31, 2013

Best answer: I also don't really like cooking. I've found that hearty soups/stews are good and not too fiddly--mostly one-pot, chop-and-drop, turn-on-and-simmer, etc.

A few go-to ingredients I keep on hand: minced garlic that comes in a jar (in the produce section at my grocery), frozen chopped onions (no more crying!), frozen chopped spinach (thickens up a soup easily), quinoa (use in place of rice or couscous--similar texture, easy to make, plus more protein), lentils.

Here's a recipe that is super easy to make (just chopping red peppers, otherwise just involves dumping in a big pot on the stove and stirring occasionally), and is just different enough that people always ask me for the recipe. Makes excellent lunch leftovers too!

African Peanut Soup

--1 large yellow onion, chopped (or ~2 cups frozen chopped onion)
--2-3 red bell peppers, chopped (~3 cups diced)
--4 cloves minced garlic (4 tsp of the refrigerated pre-minced kind)
--1 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes, with liquid
--8 cups vegetable broth
--1/4 t black pepper
--1 tsp chili powder
--1 cup uncooked quinoa (or 1/2 cup uncooked brown or wild rice)
--1 cup peanut butter (creamy or chunky)
--few tbsp of crushed peanuts for topping (optional)
--hot sauce (optional)

Sautee onions, peppers and garlic in 1Tbsp oil, a few minutes until onions soften.
Then add tomatoes, broth, seasonings and quinoa.
Bring to a low boil, then reduce heat, cover and simmer for 20 minutes.
Add peanut butter, stir to combine, then cover and simmer for 10-15 more minutes.
Serve with a sprinkling of crushed peanuts on top for garnish, and hot sauce on the side.
posted by msbubbaclees at 8:01 AM on October 31, 2013 [21 favorites]

Best answer: My favorite simple, one pot recipe is:

A box of orzo pasta
1 bunch of mustard greens, cleaned and thick stems removed, chopped
asiago cheese, grated
lemon zest of 1 lemon
a glug of olive oil
bonus but recommended: sun dried tomatoes, chopped

Cook the pasta

Drain and return to pot, stir in other ingredients
Might want to add salt and pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice

You can prep the greens while you cook the pasta, it's fast and delicious and everything but the mustard greens keeps forever. Also reheats well.
posted by Saminal at 8:17 AM on October 31, 2013 [7 favorites]

Best answer: My grocery store sells cheapish salmon filets with a couple spice rub options. I pick up one for each person who is eating, and a veggie that roasts well (broccoli and brussels sprouts are my favorites). I heat the oven to 400, then I dump the chopped veggies (Brussels sprouts halved, broccoli cut to individual florets) on half a cookie sheet and toss them in some olive oil, salt, pepper (and curry powder, smoked paprika or chili powder if you dig it), right on the pan. I smear some olive oil on the other side of the cookie sheet, and plop the fish on there. Bake it for about 15 mins, and the fish is done medium and the veggies are just starting to brown. I enjoy my quick, healthy, and really tasty meal, all the while feeling like a real adult that cooks and stuff.
posted by dredge at 8:21 AM on October 31, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I searched for similar recently, and came across this chowhound thread that introduced me to beanie greenies, another glorious 1-pot meal.

1/2 onion, chopped (optional)
1 bunch of fresh greens (I prefer chard or kale)
a couple cloves crushed garlic
1 can of cannellini beans
about 1/2 cup to 1 cup broth
salt / pepper / cayenne pepper to taste

It can be done in less than 20 minutes. I serve it over rice. It's amazingly flavorful and filling for the amount of effort required.
posted by inkytea at 8:25 AM on October 31, 2013 [5 favorites]

Best answer: The chow I make for myself takes about 15-30 minutes of prep (I use a food processor for the shredding), but that work covers core veggies for a week. I usually skip the beans and grains these days, but you can add them in if you like.

It keeps well for a week and is pretty versatile:

- Eaten straight as a salad
- Mixed with cooked grains or beans as a heartier salad
- Stuffed into a pita along with whatever else you like
- Put into hot broth as the base of an instant veggie soup
- Quick veggies added in the last minute of cooking sautéed meat
- In a fritatta or omelet

On preview: frozen salmon can bake in the oven in about 10 minutes. I just put mine in a foil packet with some butter, herbs and maybe a little thinly sliced onion
posted by maudlin at 8:27 AM on October 31, 2013 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Some gud uns in here. The fish stew recipe is REALLY good - very little prep (scroll right down to the bottom for that one).

Otherwise, crab linguine is always great, and taste like it took much more effort than it did.
posted by bifter at 8:39 AM on October 31, 2013 [1 favorite]

Try Isa Does It. It's vegan, but she uses basic, easily accessible ingredients and you can easily skip out on some of the veganness by using chicken instead of seitan, for example. She also uses a lot of cashew cream which you could easily replace with half and half or sour cream if you don't care about staying vegan. I am a sometimes vegetarian who is eating meat right now, but Isa's food is still my favorite of all time and this book, her newest, looks to me like her best so far. In addition to being easy and delicious, the recipes come together incredibly quickly. I generally have dinner on the table in less than half an hour when I'm cooking her food.

Also, this is sort of a tangent but I find that streaming some kind of cheesy TV show in the kitchen makes cooking a lot more fun. I have re-watched Buffy this way, and Alias, and all the Stargates. It helps to choose show I really like and am familiar with but to which I don't have to pay super close attention.
posted by something something at 8:54 AM on October 31, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'll second simply adding cut up root vegetables of any kind to your roast chicken. Roasted vegetables are awesomely good. You can always simply blend leftover ones to make a soup. Also, try roasting something besides chicken. Fish stuffed with veggies, garlic, lemon roasted for 20 mins is always good.

However, I think what may most help you is to master a couple different cooking methods beside roasting.

Braising: Put a tough cut of seasoned meat in your pot and brown it for about 5 mins on each side. Add root vegetables, liquid to just cover (e.g. wine, beer, stock, water), and cook at 350 for 2 1/2 hours.

Btw, 99% of slow cooker recipes can be made using this method. A slow cooker simply braises at a lower temperature for longer.

1. Brisket, Chuck, or Ribs, potatoes and onions, thyme, liquid.
2. Brisket or Chicken, barbecue sauce. Pull it apart (this is easy) for pulled beef (or use pork)
3. Brisket, Chuck, or Ribs, beer, beans.
3. Chicken or Pork, white wine, mustard.
4. Chicken or Pork, 40 cloves garlic, potatoes, broccoli rabe, stock or water.
5. Chicken or Pork, vinegar, garlic, 3 tblspns of soy sauce. Often called Adobo.
6. Chicken, green olives, ginger, 1 tblspn coriander, 5 lemons, stock. Often called Tagine.

En Papillote: Or, steaming in a bag. Mix cut up meat and vegetables, dress them like you would a salad (usually oil and vinegar or lemon), wrap in tinfoil, and cook at 350 for 1/2 an hour.

If you dress your meat and vegetables in your tinfoil package, you don't need to use any pots.

1. Chicken or Fish, zucchini, carrots.
2. Chicken or Fish, peas, onions, spinach, soy, ginger.
3. Chicken or Fish, leeks, oregano, 1 can cannellini beans.

You get the idea... :-)
posted by xammerboy at 9:24 AM on October 31, 2013 [4 favorites]

Another kitchen tool which dramatically changed the tediousness of prepping vegetables for me is a mandoline. It makes chopping MUCH faster and the results are more uniform and precise so I'm happier with the finished dish, too. I have the one which I linked to which can make thick/thin slices and thick/thin julienne strips and I don't feel like I need any more settings than that. Great for stir frys, soups, salads and the finest julienne setting is almost like grating, so I use it when I make hashbrowns. You can see on the "customers also bought" list that people get those metal gloves instead of using the little food-holder which it comes with, which is somewhat awkward, the only design lowpoint of the gadget.

Couple meal ideas:

Rice noodles or rice, steamed/wilted spinach and thai peanut sauce aka Swimming Rama

Thin rice noodles can often be cooked just by soaking in boiling water on the counter, very easy.
Just rinse the spinach and toss with the hot sauce and noodles to "cook".
Easy peanut sauce: 1 can of coconut milk, 2 tblsp. red curry paste, 1/2 cup-ish peanut butter, fish sauce up to 1/4 cup, 3 tblsp. sugar. Adjust amounts to your taste. Heat/stir in saucepan until ingredients come together smoothly. Pour on spinach and noodles and garnish with lime, cilantro and green onions. (For more authentic peanut sauce, buy or roast yourself one cup of peanuts and grind coarsely in food processor or pound in mortar and pestle.) Can also cook and add tofu, chicken, etc.

Another super easy "meal" I make (which I still feel is reasonably healthy, not the healthiEST) is popcorn popped on the stove top (so i control toppings, I like to put salt in with the popping oil for even distribution and maximum adhesion), apple slices and a glass of milk (or hot chocolate). Favorite popcorn toppings:
-butter/olive oil and nutritional yeast and black pepper
-garam masala, plus a little sugar optionally
-sriracha or other hot sauce (drizzle on a little and toss/stir vigorously to disperse and avoid sogginess, repeat as many times as necessary.)
posted by dahliachewswell at 9:31 AM on October 31, 2013 [2 favorites]

What about roasted vegetables? I won't lie--it's a pain in the ass to prep, but once a week, I'll commit to spending, say, an hour in the kitchen and getting it done. Figure out what the maximum number of pans you can fit into your oven is and get them out. For me, it's two big cookie trays, one small cookie tray, and one pie pan. Put foil on the pans, because who wants to wash pans? Preheat your oven to 400F.

Then start chopping. I usually do two onions cut into rounds, sweet peppers cut into strips, and at least two or three sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed. You can vary this by what you like, though. Eggplant (cut in half), zucchini (coins), fennel (slices), carrots (just buy baby carrots; fuck chopping), cauliflower (separated into florets), winter squash (sliced), whatever. Drizzle some olive oil on the veg, and maybe some salt, and then put them in the oven. If you've got room, put a couple of potatoes (white or sweet) in there, as well.

Throw all of this in the oven. It's not going to cook as perfectly as it would if you were cooking tiny quantities with lots of air circulation, but I'm not going to spend five hours roasting vegetables. Check on things after a half hour, and then every fifteen minutes or so after that, and pull stuff out when it looks done. Tada, now you have vegetables for the week. (I routinely keep all this stuff in my fridge for five days or so. If you do zucchini or cauliflower, try to eat them sooner rather than later--higher moisture content seems to mean that they keep less well.)

Buy some bread, a bag of prewashed spinach, pasta, and some tins of beans. Also cheese. You now have all of the ingredients you need for a workweek of food. Combining this stuff is easy, at this point, because roasted vegetables are delicious and great with basically everything. Since you've already done all the hard stuff, none of the following meals will take more than about 20 low-effort minutes to make--the most time-consuming thing will be boiling the pasta, or simmering the soup a little.

Roasted vegetables + cheese + bread = roasted vegetable sandwich
Prewashed spinach + roasted sweet potato/squash + blue cheese + chopped apple + some sort of nut = the best salad ever
Pasta + beans + roasted vegetables = many delicious and varied pasta dishes
Baked potato + beans + cheese + spinach = healthy and delicious stuffed potato meal
Roasted sweet potato + black beans + salsa + cumin + cheddar = black bean stew (puree it a bit)

This can go on forever--if you want specific combinations, memail me and I'll send you an embarrassingly long list. (I keep track.) Having a crapload of roasted veggies around makes it exponentially more likely that my family is going to eat an actual meal on a nightly basis.
posted by MeghanC at 9:36 AM on October 31, 2013 [3 favorites]

Yes, please buy a slow cooker. Or you can use a Dutch oven for similar results. This is the best pot roast recipe I have ever made. It only requires 5 minutes to prepare.

Use a slow cooker liner. Guess what - the only thing you'll wash now is its lid.

3-lb slab of pot roast (chuck works best)
Sprinkle a packet of au jus over it
Sprinkle a packet of dry ranch dressing over it
Plop a stick of butter on top of everything
* (when I'm feeling healthy, a couple of pats of butter works just as well)
A couple of sliced pepperoncinis from a jar

Turn slow cooker on low for 7-8 hours until meat literally falls apart. The butter and juices create the most amazing flavors. The pepperoncinis do NOT add heat, just a subtle tang, and if you use sliced ones, they literally disintegrate so you can't even tell you put them in.

Your taste buds will sing. You only wash 1 thing - the lid.

Done and done.
posted by HeyAllie at 9:37 AM on October 31, 2013 [4 favorites]

Another vote for pre-prepped ingredients. You'll spend more but if you hate cooking perhaps skipping a step is worth the cost.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 9:52 AM on October 31, 2013

I agree that a slow cooker is a good idea! They're really cheap, like $30. You don't need anything fancy, although I recommend one with a timer so that when it's done it switches to warm.
posted by radioamy at 9:57 AM on October 31, 2013

OH MAN DO I HEAR YOU. I hate everything about cooking. I am waiting for those machines from Star Trek to happen. I cook once, maybe twice a week, and live off of microwaved leftovers the rest of the time. It depends on how often I decide I want scrambled eggs. I even pack all of my lunches!

I know everyone said it, but definitely get a slow cooker. And use liners. That really is critical if you hate cooking because it is the cuisine of ignoring stuff for a very long time and then not doing much cleaning. Also, slow cookers usually let you avoid slicing or chopping because everything just falls apart after six hours over heat.

Barring that, the other thing I do pretty regularly is buy pre-chopped foods and combine them with seasoning mixes or sauces in a frying pan to make a meal. One pan, one wooden spoon, one bowl and one fork for eating. Stick the leftovers in the fridge for the next few nights.
posted by bowtiesarecool at 10:40 AM on October 31, 2013

Best answer: 1. You can make really good squash soup by dumping all of the ingredients in a pot, simmering till cooked, then blending. Squash blends really really well. And you can make enough to freeze, and it will reheat perfectly.

2. Premade puff pastry + vegetables = instant delicious vegetable tart. Use a mandolin slicer if you want pretty thin slices.

3. Premake a bunch of salad ingredients- lettuce, peppers, cherry tomatoes, nuts, seeds, herbs, etc, and keep it in the fridge ready to be dressed. It'll last the week and you can add it to any of your meals for an instant veggie blast.
posted by beepbeepboopboop at 10:54 AM on October 31, 2013

Personally, I prefer a pressure cooker to a slow cooker, and the types of meals you can make in them are pretty similar. So, if you are considering the idea of a slow cooker (where you do most of the prep far in advance of eating), you might consider if a pressure cooker (where you do most of the prep right before eating) would be better for your timing.
posted by freezer cake at 11:25 AM on October 31, 2013

The sort of thing I like to make is - roasted chicken with herbs
Lemon & Herb Crock-Pot Roasted Chicken from A Year of Slow Cooking. (Nth-ing Reynolds Slow Cooker Liners.) I put veggies under the chicken, such as baby carrots, celery, potatoes, sweet potatoes, green beans, squash…

Then make homemade chicken stock with the carcass (and/or those of rotisserie chickens—I freeze them in quart-sized Ziploc freezer bags until needed). I freeze most of the stock in one-cup containers for future use.

Whether or not you get a slow cooker, freeze a few portions of everything you make. (Like that tomato sauce—with or without the pasta.) After a while, you'll have a nice selection of homemade meals to choose from—and if you toss the container, clean-up is a breeze.
posted by editorgrrl at 12:53 PM on October 31, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: My new favorite quick meal is pesto cheese pasta. Start with ricotta cheese (I live in Korea so I make my own, but you can just buy a small container) and add store-bought pesto. The amount isn't specific, just as much as long as you like the finished taste. Now you have pesto cheese, which is pretty versatile. I eat it as a spread when I am too lazy to make pasta and it keeps for a week or more. Boil pasta, drain and put back in the original pan. Add some pesto cheese (again, as much or as little as you like) and stir over low heat until the cheese coats the pasta. You may need to add a little milk. Top with Parmesan and black pepper. I've made it as pasta bake as well to no ill effects. I think it'd be simple to add onions, green or red peppers, broccoli, peas, spinach, corn, or any thing else that might work to this to up the vegetable content.
posted by FakePalindrome at 3:42 PM on October 31, 2013

Response by poster: You guys are amazing! ALL your answers have been really helpful. I definitely will buy a crockpot now! The reason I've highlighted only a few as best answer is that they contain recipes that I really want to try out in the near future. (I mean, African peanut soup? That sounds AMAZING!) Thank you all. :)
posted by Ziggy500 at 5:19 PM on October 31, 2013

I like cooking prep, but I don't always have time for it. A fun(ish) thing to do is to spend a rainy weekend day watching stuff on Netflix while chopping basic ingredients and shoving recipe-sized increments into freezer bags. Then you don't have to deal with that shit on a day when you don't have time for it. I also do some mixes, like mirepoix (equalish parts onion, celery, and carrot) and bag that up together. No special processing is needed, just throw the raw vegetables in a bag, suck the air out with a straw and zip it.

Then you can be like, today is meatloaf day, boom, here are chopped things to smoosh into ground beef, it goes in the oven, dinner is in an hour, it took longer to wash your hands after the smooshing than it did to actually do the smooshing.

(and, you might ask, can you make a meatloaf in a slowcooker when you get one? YOU TOTALLY CAN, man!).
posted by padraigin at 8:16 PM on October 31, 2013 [1 favorite]

Menu planning is your friend here. Nobody ever wants to do it, because it sucks and it's boring and if you're cooking for people other than you, you'll ask what they want to eat this week and they'll just shrug and not be helpful, but it's a very valuable skill to learn to minimize the amount of work you have to do.

One big thing to do is to use the "pay it forward" method of planning. If you know for instance that roasting a chicken for dinner today will result in enough leftover meat, then that meat can go into tomorrow's soup or chicken salad or stir-fry. I do this a lot, cook a chicken on Sunday, and then on Monday I can get a good pecan chicken salad together in 15-20 minutes if I make the mayo from scratch.

In a similar vein, there's prep work that doesn't necessarily have to be done while in the kitchen. Others above have recommended pre-prep work, and I'll add that some of that prep work can be done in pleasant conditions. No reason you can't snap beans at your coffee table while watching a movie, for instance. And you may find that you hate the actual act of cooking less if your prep's already done when it's time to cook. The prep's the hard and boring part. Actual cooking is pretty easy and relaxing, particularly if it's of the "throw it in the oven and wait for it to smell good" variety.

Also, I don't know how good your knife skills are, but if you're slow with a knife, prep takes twice as long and so the pain is twice as much. If you can get to where you can chop an onion in less than a minute, that will usher you through the worst of the work a lot quicker.

Focus your efforts on "blank slate" dishes that only need a pot or pan and a cutting board. Your stir fries, pastas, pilafs, soups and stews are infinitely variable despite being made the same way every time. They're also good for clearing out your fridge and re-purposing leftovers.
posted by middleclasstool at 7:23 AM on November 1, 2013

Taco soup!

One can each--pinto beans, black beans, kidney beans, corn. Drain them.

Two cans diced tomatoes, one can rotel, one can beef or chicken broth. Undrained.

One packet ranch seasoning mix. Heat it all up, done.

You can add chicken or beef if you like. Also works well served over rice, potatoes, or pasta.
posted by aerotive at 3:53 PM on November 1, 2013

Best answer: One thing that hasn't been mentioned in this thread --- have you tried cooking en pappillote? You make a pocket out of tin foil or parchment paper and bang 'er in the oven under high heat for 10 or twenty minutes. The only clean up is the cutting board and your plate --- the whole point is to seal the package up tightly so that the food steams in its own juices. Tin foils's dead easy, parchment can be a bit more of a pain --- you have to trim the paper and be a bit fiddly with the folds. But it's nothing you can't handle if you ever made a valentine in elementary school. Serious Eats has a decent primer. There's a Good Eats episode about it as well, can't seem to dig it up on my phone.

It's more of a technique than a recipe --- it's often used for fish, or you can do chicken breast or pork tenderloin. Just rest the meat on a little pile of veg --- thinly sliced cabbage, or peppers and onions, or spinach, then add some aromatics and a little bit of fat on top --- a lump of butter, some basil and tarragon and lemon juice, for example. Or ginger and garlic and a dash of soy sauce and sesame oil. There's a million variations. Just make sure everything's quite thinly sliced and you're good.
posted by Diablevert at 10:19 AM on November 4, 2013

Buy a crockpot and then read this thread, specifically my answer, which is the best one.
posted by turbid dahlia at 2:05 PM on November 6, 2013

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