Southpaw stew
April 20, 2015 11:41 AM   Subscribe

What meals can I cook with only one hand?

I broke my dominant arm and have grown tired of the take-and-bake meals available in my area. I've regained some ability with my arm, but still can't manage food preparation tasks such as chopping or cutting.

Do you have any recipes (or a resource for recipes) that require minimal preparation? I imagine the recipes might use pre-chopped frozen vegetables or stew meat. I'd prefer to find recipes online instead of having to buy a book.

Here are my abilities and limitations: I can open cans and cut open bags. I can open some boxes and bottles. I can fill a pot with water and boil it, but I can't dump the water when it's done. I can stir anything in pan or pot, but can only use one hand to lift the pan. I need to be able to get the cooking mostly done, but usually have someone around to help get something out of the oven when it's done (I like to have food ready when she gets home from work).

I have these devices which might be helpful and which I can use one handed: food processor with various blades and discs, bread machine, slow cooker.

No dietary constraints except that I'm not a big fan of cheese, mayo, or pickles.
posted by msbrauer to Food & Drink (22 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
If you have an all-metal (or all-silicone) colander or pot insert (like these - I have something similar that came with my pressure cooker), you can cook anything that needs draining like pasta or other boiled items.

Big pastas can be fished out with tongs or a slotted spoon. Smaller pastas can often be scooped out with a mesh strainer or a spider.

Here's a list of Rachel Ray - so meant to be low-effort - one-pot meals with links to additional one-pot meals. Here's a Martha Stewart list.

I think between frozen vegetables and certain things run through the food processor (if you don't want to buy frozen chopped onion, or pre-chopped from the fresh food section, you could do a couple onions for the week. Note: double-bag them, they will make the fridge stink.) you can approximate most of the steps in dishes like that.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:55 AM on April 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

Perhaps a dish involving lentils (Dhal?) or quinoa. Frozen onions are super convenient.
posted by oceano at 11:59 AM on April 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

Not recipes, but some helpful adaptive kitchen things, maybe...

They require a few minor adaptations to existing equipment, like elastic bands or putting nails through a wooden or plastic cutting board if you've got someone who could do that:

Chopping an onion with one hand.

Other food prep one-handed.

Recipe-wise for the slow cooker. This Mark Bittman Too Hot to Grill? Try the Slow Cooker piece from the NYT is pretty good. I've used the ingredient chart to improvise some pretty tasty things. You could maybe pick and choose the ingredients that give you the least trouble, or that you can get pre-cut or use whole.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 12:15 PM on April 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

On the pasta tip - I cook pasta shapes (like penne) for 2 in a medium saucepan in less water rather than in quarts and quarts of water in large pot. The sauce pan can definitely be drained one-handed.

Are you near a Whole Foods? They sell packaged prepped fresh veggies (chopped onion, peppers, etc).
posted by vunder at 12:21 PM on April 20, 2015

Another shortcutty thing that might be very useful right now: frozen meatballs. You can cook 'em in sauce or soup, bake them in the oven, fry them in a pan, microwave them. Ground beef can definitely be hacked up with a spatula in the pan, and that works for a lot of dishes, but sometimes you just want a cohesive meat item.
posted by Lyn Never at 12:28 PM on April 20, 2015

Taco soup: Texas' easiest comfort food. Brown two pounds of ground beef (normally you'd do this with a chopped white onion, but you can skip it). Drain the meat juice, if you can; if not, just leave it. Add 3 cans original RO*TEL (diced tomatoes and green chilies), 1 can Ranch-Style Beans, 1 can hominy or corn, 1 package taco seasoning, 1 package dry ranch dressing mix, and some salt and pepper, then simmer for 30 minutes. Eat it with tortilla chips and a dollop of sour cream or Greek yogurt.

If you can't get RO*TEL or Ranch Style Beans, substitute canned peeled tomatoes and brown beans; add pre-sliced jalapeƱos from a jar for more heat. And of course, you can also sub your own dried spices for the taco seasoning/ranch dressing mix; I use cumin, smoked paprika, chili powder, chipotle powder, a bit of celery salt, parsley, and dill.
posted by neushoorn at 12:39 PM on April 20, 2015

Pumpkin Bean Soup I think I got this recipe on MetaFilter so thanks to whoever found it first!

Cheesy Chicken Chili - just buy the pre-cut "for stir frying" strips of chicken at the grocery store

Italian Wonderpot - Budget Bytes has a lot of other one pot recipes so just check around and see which ones don't need you to chop anything, like the One Pot Chili Pasta - most grocery stores will have pre-diced onions, and just omit the garlic or use garlic powder. Her Slow Cooker Taco Chicken Bowls should also be doable although hopefully one of the posters with more food safety knowledge can weigh in on whether it's ok to just put raw chicken in the slow cooker.
posted by capricorn at 12:41 PM on April 20, 2015

I will give you easiest and greatest recipe

Slow Cooker Pot Roast:

1 2.5-3lb chuck roast
2 cans whole berry cranberry sauce
2 packets onion soup

salt and pepper roast, stab with a fork and brown in a cast iron pan on all sides
put in slow cooker, cover with sauces, soup packets, and carrots
add 1/2 cup - 1 cup of water until roast is completely submerged

cook on low for ~5 hours, can leave on warm longer
remove, let settle, fork, add sauce* from the pot, serve.

*if you want a more proper gravy, scoop out the sauce from the pot and run it through a food processor, then put it in a saucepan and simmer with a 1tsp of corn starch
posted by Oktober at 12:42 PM on April 20, 2015 [2 favorites]

I know a guy who effectively has one hand and he loves his one-handed chopper for vegetables which don't come pre-cut.
posted by pullayup at 12:50 PM on April 20, 2015

Super duper easy chicken n' rice:

2 whole raw boneless chicken breasts
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 can cream of celery soup
1 cup water
1 cup Minute Rice

Dump all of the soup and rice into a casserole dish and mix in the water. Place the chicken breasts on top, bake for 1 hour at 350. (May take extra baking time with thicker chicken breasts)

You can double up on the soup/rice mixture if you like.
posted by Fleebnork at 1:23 PM on April 20, 2015

Oktober's advice is great. Your slow-cooker can be a great friend. Any type and cut of meat, whole potatoes, carrots, onions, etc., can be thrown in whole and, if cooked low-and-slow enough, will be tender enough for your left-handed utensil of choice to cut into.
posted by resurrexit at 1:35 PM on April 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

We made this veggie chili recipe for the first time a couple days ago. Cut the recipe in half, and use one can of black-eyed peas, or any other bean. If you can't find the chopped onion and peppers in the produce dept, you may find a mixture in the frozen foods. Everything else is dump it in and let it simmer 20 minutes. (Skip the 75 minutes for cooking dried beans).

If you don't like spicy food, go light on the seasonings. I don't think it would hurt to use water instead of veggie stock.
posted by SemiSalt at 2:18 PM on April 20, 2015

You can make a pesto pasta entirely in a food processor. Basil, garlic, nuts (pine nuts, or walnuts if you want to make it a bit cheaper; best if you toast them in a little oil before putting in processor), olive oil, a couple of splashes of balsamic, salt, pepper. Parmesan to serve (optional). I would process the garlic first. You can fish out the pasta with a slotted spoon as previously mentioned.
posted by dysh at 3:44 PM on April 20, 2015

This spicy pasta cooks right in the sauce, no draining needed - and it's delicious! Use regular canned tomatoes if you don't like the spice, and feel free to leave out the sausage if you can't chop it. Or brown some ground/bulk sausage instead. Lots of easy ways to mix it up.
posted by hydra77 at 6:26 PM on April 20, 2015

This is a go to recipe in our house because it takes less than 30 minutes and it's all in one dish (and we skip the oven step 99% of the time) but it does require chopping up sausage if you follow the original recipe. I've substituted the sausage out with some Tyson Grilled and Ready and it was equally delicious.
posted by julie_of_the_jungle at 6:26 PM on April 20, 2015

Jinx hydra!
posted by julie_of_the_jungle at 6:27 PM on April 20, 2015

This sounds like an excellent time to make pierogi--all the comforting carb-laden goodness of pasta, with no boiling water required.

If you want to keep things super-simple, you can just cut open a bag of frozen pierogi and pan-fry them with a little oil on medium heat till they turn golden, then top with apple sauce and/or sour cream. If you want more veggies, start the process by caramelizing some onions and garlic, and/or heating up some sauerkraut or kimchee (no chopping, hooray!) before adding the pierogi to the pan.

Some simple stir-fry veggies might also be easy--most grocery stores sell pre-chopped broccoli and carrots, which you can toss with soy sauce and rice vinegar and sesame oil. Also, if you can ask the person you live with to cut the ends off some baby bok choy, that will cook up rather quickly, and it's great with a little balsamic vinegar and olive oil.

All the slow cooker suggestions upthread sound fantastic as well.

Good luck!
posted by Owlcat at 7:27 PM on April 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

Can you open cans? (Or could your person help you dump the cans into a Tupperware or ziplock bag before they leave for work?)
This makes a huge batch of filling comforting pasta. I add in a can of black beans and corn, but you can sub whatever you like... olives... chunkier tomatoes... whatever! This is another one where the noodles boil in the sauce so no draining.
It's essentially a homemade answer to Hamburger Helper meals, which might also be an option for you. They make plenty of flavors for different meats (chicken, tuna, etc).
posted by rubster at 8:47 PM on April 20, 2015

If you're only cooking for 2, I boil things all the time in a small pot with a long handle and dump the water out with one hand. Something in the 3-4 quart range like this or this.
posted by serelliya at 9:58 PM on April 20, 2015

Response by poster: Thanks for all of these responses. The one-handed chopper is particularly exciting to me and I'm looking forward to all of these recipes.
posted by msbrauer at 8:26 AM on April 21, 2015

You can also make pasta just by adding enough liquid for it to absorb and cook. My mom used to make this great egg noodle and broccoli dish by cooking it in broth and stirring until absorbed. I couldn't find that one, but this looks similarly simple: One-Pot Noodles with Chicken and Broccoli. You could use a pre-roasted deli chicken for the meat (or, I'm guessing, something in the frozen foods aisle?), or sub in a can of drained cannellini or kidney beans.
posted by carrioncomfort at 9:01 AM on April 21, 2015

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