Robot food
June 12, 2016 1:00 PM   Subscribe

I'm not sure how to describe the type of easy recipe I'm looking for, so bear with me.

I am looking for ideas for dirt cheap "convenience" foods that can be prepared with close to zero effort (given, perhaps, a learning curve). Something like hummus is already too involved. Often this kind of food is made in a kitchen appliance of some kind. Difficulty: **I do not like bean soups or most stew-type slow cooker dishes.** Here are some examples of what I mean.

Poached egg in the microwave
Red lentils and rice -at the same time- in the rice cooker
Homemade yogurt (pilot light)
Pizza dough in the bread machine
Crockpot oatmeal

We're talking measure, dump, and walk away. But a high yield for so little effort. Thank you!
posted by 8603 to Home & Garden (17 answers total) 28 users marked this as a favorite

French dip sandwiches
posted by Ostara at 1:07 PM on June 12, 2016

"Enriched" cup-a-soup

You put chicken noodle cup-a-soup, instant brown rice and a little salt in a mug. Boil water. Beat an egg and dump it in the boiling water so it cooks. Pour egg and boiling water in mug. Stir thoroughly and cover for a few minutes. Eat with hearty crackers, like Stoned Wheat Thins.
posted by Michele in California at 1:10 PM on June 12, 2016 [3 favorites]

If you have a pressure cooker or slow cooker, this kalua pork is awesome. The link is to the pressure cooker recipe, but there's a link to the slow cooker version at the bottom of the page. If you don't want to mess with sticking the garlic in the meat, I'm sure you could just scatter it on top.

I have also made these pork carnitas in my Instant Pot (pressure cooker) - I just dump everything in, hit the meat/stew button, and wait until it beeps. Although they are better crisped up in the oven, the flavor is still great if you skip that step.

Finally, doesn't involve a gadget, but is very much dump, stir, and cook: granola!
posted by rainbowbrite at 1:17 PM on June 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

Rainbowbrite hinted at what I was coming in to say, but explicitly: "dump and stir" is sort of a genre of recipe, and probably has lots for you. No specific examples in mind, but you might try searching for that phrase and poking around a bit.
posted by Su at 1:29 PM on June 12, 2016 [2 favorites]

You can google "semi-homemade" recipes for a lot of stuff like this.
posted by BlahLaLa at 1:44 PM on June 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

Rice cooker recipes are great for this, especially if your rice cooker utilizes fuzzy logic, which compensates for things like temperature of the stuff dumped into it.

Coconut rice with veggies and shrimp:

-Rice, any type will do
-Coconut milk (the creamy stuff that comes in a can in most of the US, unsweetened)
-Vegetable or chicken broth (optional)
-Frozen vegetables of any type, I suggest peas and corn or those mixed vegetable blends with snow peas in them, but whatever you have, this is a great way to use up small amounts of leftover things
-Frozen shrimp, already peeled (but anything will do as long as it's relatively small chunks of protein, like you can cut up some raw chicken if you want or if you have little frozen meatballs or whatever)
-One garlic clove (optional) or some garlic paste
-Fish sauce
-An herb like cilantro, basil, or chives (optional)

Rinse your rice well. Instead of the usual water dump in the coconut milk. Add more liquid (either your optional broths or just water) until you have just a little more than the water mark in your rice cooker.
Add your frozen veggies and proteins. Mince the garlic clove or squirt in one clove's worth of garlic paste. Add about one teaspoon of fish sauce for a cup and a half of cooked rice (a cup and a half is about one hungry person's serving). If you don't have or dislike fish sauce, leave it out. Add a pinch of salt, or if you left out the fish sauce, plenty of salt. Adjust depending on your veggies and protein - if they already had seasonings or not.

Mix everything up well and set your rice cooker cooking. Mine has a "mixed rice" setting for this, but if yours doesn't have multiple settings just cook it like normal rice.

When you open your rice cooker all the stuff will have risen magically to the top with creamy fluffy rice on the bottom! Sprinkle with your optional fresh herbs, and inhale.

You can adjust this basic recipe in a million ways. Use different liquids for the coconut milk (tomato sauce, pot likker from collards, beef broth, whatever), add curry powder or gochujang or any kind of spice blend, use different proteins, mix in other leftovers after the rice has cooked (like if you have some rotisserie chicken that needs eating, cut that up and zap it to warm, then add it to your cooked rice and veggies), add fresh vegetables like spinach or snow peas, go nuts.
posted by Mizu at 2:15 PM on June 12, 2016 [11 favorites]

Boiling eggs in the electric kettle:
Put water in kettle, gently put eggs in kettle, switch kettle on. Water comes to a boil, kettle switches off. Let it sit.
For soft boiled eggs: remove eggs after 8 minutes, rinse under cold running water, done.
For hard boiled eggs: remove eggs after 10 minutes, rinse under cold running water, done.
posted by Too-Ticky at 2:39 PM on June 12, 2016 [2 favorites]

I think this is my #lazykitchen hashtag.

Some of the ideas make coworkers recoil in horror and wonder if I'm alright ("you earn a salary, you can eat real food"), but I like them! Another nice thing about this is that they don't dirty many additional bowls or tools.

How about:
* microwaved individually frozen fish filets
* oatmeal + fish sauce + cheddar = cheesy grits
* microwaved frozen spinach + spices, or + peanut butter
* block of firm tofu, cut into smaller blocks, with balsamic, salt, and pepper
* stir-fried cubes of stale bread in broth / kimchi liquid
posted by batter_my_heart at 3:36 PM on June 12, 2016 [2 favorites]

This Vegas Meets Mississippi Pot Roast is the easiest and most delicious dish I've ever tried. You just chuck the pot roast in the slow cooker (no pre-browning/searing), top it with butter, and a couple of envelopes of seasoning mixes from the grocery store and a few jarred hot peppers, and you return hours later to a really tender pot roast and delicious gravy to go with it.
posted by katyggls at 4:26 PM on June 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

1 can black beans + 1 can corn + salsa. Heat and put on tortillas with cheese.
posted by advicepig at 5:02 PM on June 12, 2016 [4 favorites]

I use different cans of beans. Dump the beans in a bowl with the addition of 2 or 3 of the following: tomato, onion, frozen spinach, mushrooms, tofu, peppers, cheese, or anything else, really. Throw in the microwave for 2-3 minutes, add olive oil or yogurt or more cheese, some salt and spices, and you have made dinner in under 1 minute of prep time, it's tasty, AND healthy.
posted by Vaike at 6:00 PM on June 12, 2016

Best answer: Sounds a bit gross but: take frozen veg, whatever kinds you like. Mix together white goos: sour cream, goat cheese, cream cheese, mayonnaise, maybe a little smushed soft feta, use whatever white goos are on hand. Mix this thoroughly to coat the frozen veg. Press it all into a pan. Cover with crumbs (panko if lazy, but if you have stale white bread and a food processor, put the bread in the processor with a wodge of butter and use that). Cover the vegetables and white goo and bake until it seems cooked. A thinly sliced red onion is a good addition if you are feeling energetic.

Cheese pudding is really good and it is: grated cheese, bread crumbs, milk, egg. The quantities don't matter too much. Here's a 1940s recipe -- use butter, and I think it's much better if at least half of the crumbs are white bread -- and obviously you will use your microwave or just smush the butter around or leave it out instead of fussing with a pot. Here is another recipe, also more complicated than it should be; you really just need to dump the main ingredients into a basin, give it a wee bit of time for the milk to sog up the crumbs, and bake it until it puffs and gets a bit brown.

A block of cream cheese and a can of corn and a jar of salsa and a can of refried beans, heated thoroughly (oven or slow cooker) and stirred disinterestedly to break up the cream cheese looks kind of terrible but is a really tasty tortilla chip dip.

I am going through a spinach lasagna phase and it is: jars of spaghetti sauce, frozen spinach thawed with the liquid pressed out, cottage cheese, mozzarella, lasagna noodles. Just assemble it. Do not boil the noodles, even if they are not the "no boil!" kind. That is a lie; you can use the regular ones without boiling, and also without making a super-watery sauce to compensate.

Also, this panade idea is terrific. I ignore the part about toasting the bread and heating the stock; everything going in goes in a basin, gets stirred, gets dumped in a baking dish ("build the dish in layers," yeah right; nobody would even notice). My preferred mix is stale white bread, navy beans, onions/leeks, a strong cheese, mushrooms, a sturdy green, and maybe small cubes of potato. It freezes really well and the recipe author is quite right about it being good fried.

Colcannon? I put potatoes and kale in the pressure cooker, cook, drain the water, beat it to hell with a potato masher, add in loads of cream and butter.

And, quiche, "crustless" or with a frozen pie crust.
posted by kmennie at 6:44 PM on June 12, 2016 [2 favorites]

I think this is basically how my single-mom-who-hated-cooking-and-had-no-time-or-money kept us alive: Meat(or beans?)+ sauce + crockpot. Some examples: beef roast + italian dressing + crockpot. Chicken breasts + bottled BBQ sauce + crockpot. Pork + soy sauce + water + crockpot.

Another variation: butternut squash or sweet potato chunks + salsa + quiona + broth + crockpot.

If we wanted to get REAL fancy, we'd serve it on top of minute rice or spaghetti.

"3 ingredient recipes" or "5 ingredient recipes" might be a search term to try.
posted by nuclear_soup at 8:11 PM on June 12, 2016

- Salad: a green, a nut, a fruit, dress.

- Large-batch trail mix: a nut, a seed, a dried fruit, dried coconut (key - adds interest)

- Crockpot bean dip: in a crockpot, put beans, water, salt, oil. Optionally other stuff. Add four hours & serve.

- Stone soup

- Potluck: seriously, what better way to turn one simple food into a feast?
posted by aniola at 9:49 PM on June 12, 2016

Ramen is one of my regular go-to foods for must-eat-now-have-no-energy. I tend to purchase vegetarian ramen flavors from the Chinese/Vietnamese grocery store but I'm fairly certain these recipes will work with standard American flavors.

Tuna Ramen: Cook the ramen. Add a raw egg while water is hottest. Add a can of tuna. Mayonnaise and relish to taste.
Curried Ramen: Cook the ramen and drain it. Add two tablespoons melted cream cheese and curry powder.
Pizza Ramen: Cook ramen with frozen bell peppers. Add spaghetti sauce, pepperoni, cheese.

You can add just about any fresh, frozen, dehydrated or canned vegetable while the water is boiling.
You can never go wrong with cream of any sort. Cream cheese, sour cream, heavy cream all work well.

There are also hundreds of ramen-centric cookbooks out there (many of which can be found second-hand) which offer ideas so creative it feels as though the writers were struggling to meet a page count.
posted by contemporarySlob at 10:35 PM on June 12, 2016

Do you have an oven? Roast chicken. Turn on the oven, salt the chicken, put the chicken in the oven, walk away.

There is no need to worry about the billion different recipes that are out there for the most perfect crispy skin etc. Just cook the chicken in the oven and it will be delicious.
posted by bluebird at 3:58 AM on June 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

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