Give me your easiest, tastiest, healthy meals!
February 21, 2017 12:00 PM   Subscribe

I need to start cooking more and I want your best recipes!

While doing my taxes I took a look at my credit card year-end statement and nearly choked at the total for food expenses. I want to start cooking more so I can spend all that eating out money on other traveling or a rainy day.

My problem is I always feel like cooking takes SO LONG and it gets annoying making a mess just to cook for one. I sometimes work late as well so by the time I get home I feel too tired to make the extra effort to cook. But I know that it would be way cheaper and I could probably make a decent meal in the same time that it takes to wait for takeout, depending on the recipe. I would also like to eat a little better on the nights that I don't eat out with friends, to get a little more trim/fit.

I know there are lots of other threads, but here are some specifics for my situation. Please share any favorite meals/recipes that:

1) Take 30 min or less to prepare (unless it's something that you need to set and forget a bit, like a rice cooker/slow cooker deal). It just can't take me like an hour of after-work time.

2) Carb-free. Thinking more meat + veggie combos. Or all veg is good, too.

3) Doesn't require extensive prep.

4) No fancy ingredients. Just tasty variations on basics.

posted by sprezzy to Food & Drink (38 answers total) 97 users marked this as a favorite
We've been making a lot of low-prep soup lately - roughly chop an onion or two, that plus several cans of beans/pulses and some canned tomatoes go in the blender until chunky but mostly liquid, lots of hot sauce (if you like it spicy) and seasonings, then heat it on the stove or in the microwave. Let out with stock or water if it's too thick, one batch usually lasts two people at least three nights.

You can dress it up with nacho style fixings if you want to make it more substantial without adding bread or other carbs. We've also been saving some whole beans from the cans and adding them at the end for texture. Black beans, pinto beans, butter beans, kidney beans and chickpeas all work well in this mix. I cannot believe how cheap it is compared to the more processed stuff we were eating previously.
posted by terretu at 12:08 PM on February 21, 2017

Its somewhat of a tall order to be honest. All those other threads probably have suggestions that would fit your-not-so-snowflakey needs

Why don't you go have a look at the Jamie Oliver's 15 minute meals Here

The BBC also has a great collection.

My quick meals, when single, were

- omelettes or scrambled eggs
- bean and wieners on toast
- pasta with jarred pesto and chicken baked in wine
- steak sandwiches
-chicken teriyaki
- tuna casserole
I'd make salad to go with above.

When I had more time, I'd make pots of chili and spaghetti sauce and freeze in portions.
posted by Ftsqg at 12:09 PM on February 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

scrambled eggs with lots of chopped vegetables and whatever nice additions (cheese, jarred pesto, salsa.)
posted by fingersandtoes at 12:12 PM on February 21, 2017

Frittatas are super easy to make and you can customize them very easily to suit your taste. Basically you cut up veggies, put them in a baking dish, whisk some eggs with salt and pepper and other spices you like, pour it over the veggies in the dish and bake it in the oven until the eggs are set. I like to put in fresh spinach, peppers, green peas, and thinly sliced potatoes sauteed with garlic (you can leave this out for less carbs). Before I became a vegetarian, I also added turkey sausage. I season it with S&P, cayenne pepper, and some Italian seasoning.

Stuffed pepper boats are easy, too! Just cut some bell peppers in half, top to bottom, to make boats. Spoon some tomato sauce into the bottom of the boat, then top with ground beef (or beef substitute), some shredded cheese, and your fav seasoning. Then bake it for 15-20 min, until the bell pepper is cooked. You can even make this in a toaster oven, so you don't have to sit around waiting the regular oven to preheat.

Shrimp tacos: saute some shrimp with some lemon juice, salt and pepper, and garlic. I like to add dill, as well. You can use hard or soft tacos. Top it with peach mango salsa and thinly sliced cabbage.
posted by galaxypeachtea at 12:16 PM on February 21, 2017 [1 favorite]


Heat oven to 350. Put chicken in oven safe dish. Cover in Salsa. Cook for 45 minutes, flipping twice (at 15 and 30). Eat delicious, moist chicken!

Also works with spaghetti sauce!

It is easy. EASY!!
posted by China Grover at 12:18 PM on February 21, 2017 [4 favorites]

Italian Sausage (or whatever), White Beans (or whatever) and Kale (or whatever):

one package of Italian Sausage (can totally use chicken or turkey sausage)
one bag frozen kale (or spinach or whatever chopped green)
an onion (can use frozen onions)
minced garlic (I buy jars of minced garlic because I hate chopping garlic)
one can white beans (could use any kind of bean you like)
one can petite diced tomatoes, drained (optional)
cup of chicken/vegetable broth or stock (you could use water or wine, I guess)

Directions: brown sausage with onions and garlic. Add tomatoes and kale. Add broth/water/wine. Cook for 10-15 or until the greens are cooked and the liquid has evaporated. (I like to add a cup or so of small pasta to soak up the extra liquid and stretch it further, but you don't have to do that.) EAT. I used to hate kale until I started making this dish.
posted by Aquifer at 12:25 PM on February 21, 2017 [5 favorites]

I did Whole30 in October and honestly, we lived on microwaved veggies/potato/meat, combining elements of the following:

-small yellow or sweet potato, nuked for 2-3 minutes
-fresh bagged broccoli, nuked in a bowl with a little water at the bottom for 3 minutes
-handfuls of super greens (you can get a cheap bag at costco that's kale/spinach/chard), nuked for 1 minute or less
-scoops of roasted vegetables that you have ideally made a big batch of at some previous point in time, nuked to warm
-dry poached chicken breasts that you have ideally made a big batch of at some previous point in time, nuked to warm
-sweet Italian chicken sausage, nuked to warm

Just put a carb/veg/meat component, already nuked, in a bowl, top with a glug of olive oil, hot sauce, and salt, maybe nuke it again if you want everything really hot, and you've got a passable dinner. You can leave out the potato if you're going ultra low carb but I found I got too hungry without it.

I used to get really caught up in cooking actual meals from a recipe but it isn't realistic for me on worknights, even if it's something dead simple like sheet pan suppers. What does work for me when I'm trying to eat reasonably healthfully and not get tempted to go out to eat is the above method. YMMV!
posted by stellaluna at 12:26 PM on February 21, 2017 [3 favorites]

You might want to consider pre-making several things in large batches and freezing them. Recently I have been roasting vegetables every week or two, and keeping them handy in the fridge/freezer for meals.

Lightly oil one or two baking dishes. Chop some combination of...
- eggplant
- brassica (cauliflower, broccoli, brussels sprouts)
- potato
- sweet potato
- turnip
- parsnip
- winter squash
- zucchini
- mushrooms
- peppers
...along with an onion and some garlic, and dump everything into your baking dishes. Toss with salt and a little more oil, and optional herbs/spices of your choice (various curry mixes, taco seasoning, herbs de provence). Roast for 30 to 60 minutes.

I usually eat this over rice or in a sandwich, but you could also put it in a tortilla (bean & veggie burrito) or add it to a meat dish.
posted by sibilatorix at 12:29 PM on February 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

- the things on smitten kitchen's weeknight favorites list are all pretty simple. my favorites on that list are: angel hair pasta with raw tomato sauce (amazing in the summer), crisp black bean tacos with feta and slaw (actually making that for the nth time tonight haha), crispy tortellini with peas and proscuitto, one-pan farro with tomatoes, shakshuka.

- i also really like bon appetit's cooking without recipes series because they're pretty quick and easy. faves include the ground chicken larb, saag paneer pizza (pro tip: you can easily use packaged naan or flatbread instead of pizza dough to make this EVEN EASIER), and the white beans, escarole and sausage dish. i'm also really into what they call a cromlet which is a cross between socca and an omelet.

- more on that flatbread-as-pizza thing: you can put ANYTHING on a piece of flatbread or pocketless pita and bake it in the oven and call it pizza, ok? no it's not artisanal or authentic but it's the perfect size for one person. go traditional with pepperoni and cheese or do a bbq chicken with bbq sauce, red onion and rotisserie chicken. go crazy. you do you.

- breakfast tacos. scramble up some eggs, put them in a tortilla (with or without meat, your choice) with some cheese, greek yogurt and salsa. eat many of them.
posted by kerning at 12:32 PM on February 21, 2017 [3 favorites]

White person stirfry: (resembles a real one but isn't)
Amount of freezer bag veggies (saves cutting up veggies which is the time consuming part),
Meat cut into strips.
Splash of orange juice, salt, pepper, soy sauce.
Hot water from electric kettle.

Heat up frying pan or wok. Lightly oil and throw in meat until part cooked. Throw in veggies and not too much hot water- stir stir stir. Season and simmer until it's not too liquidy.

Just a big bowl of meat and veggies, or serve with rice.
posted by freethefeet at 12:34 PM on February 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

The fastest weekday meals are those you prep on the weekends. Just about any recipe can be made simpler and faster by doing pre-work when you have downtime.

Soups, stews, hearty salads, casseroles and so many other things can be prepped to the point of assembly or heating without losing much on taste or texture. Look for make-ahead recipes or those without delicate proteins (ex: shellfish) or veggies (tender greens) and then just assemble them, put them in the oven (walk in the door, turn on the oven and THEN hang up your coat and sort the mail and it'll be preheated in no time) or heated on the stovetop. I'll even make soups or stews and leave them in the stainless steel saucepan to cool and put in the fridge. Then I can pull itfrom the fridge to the stove and it's heated in 5-10 minutes. That's faster than take-out or frozen pizza.
posted by annaramma at 12:37 PM on February 21, 2017 [2 favorites]

Also: Salads! If you keep all the ingredients handy, the prep is just a few minutes of throwing things into a bowl.

Layer pre-shredded* kale, raisins or dried cranberries, dressing of choice, flaxseeds and/or chopped nuts, and more kale or other greens. Depending on season and inclination, you can add fruits (apple, orange, tomato) and veggies (celery, bell pepper, carrots).

* Pre-shredded means no washing or chopping required, though it definitely costs a little extra.
posted by sibilatorix at 12:42 PM on February 21, 2017

Make a roast chicken on a Sunday, and then you'll have food for the next couple of days (cold chicken for dinner can be pretty tasty!). A roast chicken takes a while to cook, but it requires about 5 minutes of prep time.

Turn on your oven and set it to 350 F.

Take out the giblets if there are any, rinse the chicken off in cold water and then pat it dry with a paper towel. Put the chicken in a roasting pan, or in just a regular pan with a roasting rack in it. Pour a bit of olive oil in your hand and rub it all over the chicken skin. Sprinkle salt, pepper, and a bit of dried rosemary over the chicken. Put the chicken in the oven.

Cook for a little over an hour (usually between 1 hour 10 minutes, and 1 hour 20 minutes) or until the juices run clear when you stick the chicken with a sharp knife and the chicken skin is a nice shade of crinkly brown.
posted by colfax at 12:48 PM on February 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

Broil chicken breasts with some mustard on them. Any kind. Yellow is fine. The broiling makes the mustard nuttier and the mustard keeps the chicken juicy. Takes like 7 minutes depending on how thick your chicken breasts are.
posted by janey47 at 12:51 PM on February 21, 2017

I came in to suggest a variation on the dish Aquifer mentioned. It's super easy, and very tasty. I use spinach instead of kale. I use this as my general recipe to follow. (using canned beans and canned chopped tomatoes)

With cooking for one or two, the freezer will become your friend. It's ok to make a larger meal, eat it for 2 or 3 meals, and then throw the rest into the freezer. Defrost and heat it up a month or two later, and you've got a night of no cooking. It's a great present to your future self.
posted by hydra77 at 1:09 PM on February 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

Building off of colfax's idea, you can also spatchcock a chicken pretty easily.

Preheat the oven to 450.

Take some scissors (or a sharp kitchen knife) and cut out the chicken's spine. Keep and freeze the spine! More on that later.

Flip it so it's breast side up, and press down until you get a sometimes satisfying crunch. Rub down the chicken with olive oil, salt, pepper, and whatever other herbs you'd like to use. Bake it for just 40-45 minutes.

To be really efficient, throw in a tray of chopped up veggies tossed in some olive oil and salt at the same time you throw the chicken in. You'll get veg and chicken done around the same time.

Unless you're also feeding a 25 year old boy roommate every time you cook (like me), the chicken is good for at least 2-3 meals.

I also do chicken breasts pretty regularly. You can buy boneless chicken breast, but I find it's a lot cheaper to just debone things yourself. It takes an extra 1-2 minutes per breast, and you get the bones leftover for stock. More on stock later.

To debone a chicken breast....take a paring knife and find the wishbone. Cut around it so you can grab it and then pull it out. Then stick your fingers between where the breast meat is and where the breast bones are, then pull. The part you just pulled off is the breast you'll use. The bits left behind is the tenderloin. Those come off really easily too. You can throw those in the pan too. They'll just cook faster.

But basically, salt and pepper your deboned chicken breast, throw it in a hot pan for about 7 minutes or until the skin is nice and browned, flip it over, and let it cook until it's done. You can then take the breasts out, add some chopped onion to the juices in the pan, let that cook down, throw in a dash of soy sauce, and voila, tasty pan sauce.

Ok, so let's say you've spatchcocked a couple chickens and deboned chicken breasts and now have a pile of chicken bones in the freezer, and it's now the weekend, and you're a bit hungover, but don't want to completely waste the day by sleeping. Toss that into a big stock pot with couple sticks of celery, carrots, and about 2 onions cut into quarters. Simmer that for 1-2 hours. Strain out the solids, and then portion out the stock into smaller containers to cool.

I really like freezing my stock in my ice cube trays so I have little ice cube sized bits of stock to use. I also do small half cups, one cup, and then the quart and gallon freezer bags for larger portions.

Now why is stock so good? Because you can pretty much substitute it in for water in a recipe and end up with something tastier.

Steamed veggies not your thing? Toss in a couple cubes of frozen stock, and it'll be tastier.
Tired of plain old ramen with water? Cook it with chicken stock. You can also spice up boring Maruchan ramen by frying an egg and blanching some greens to toss in. Toss the noodles in some sesame oil and soy sauce for an extra bit of yum.
Want to make a quick soup? Use the stock as your base.

I find that cooking is something that takes less and less time to do (to an extent) the more you do it because you get a feel for how timing works and in what order things usually finish in. This might seems a lot of work now, but I guarantee you, I can do the chicken breasts + some sort of veg in under 30 minutes from prepping veggies and deboning chicken breasts to eating.
posted by astapasta24 at 1:14 PM on February 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

You might be interested in my question!
posted by functionequalsform at 1:15 PM on February 21, 2017

French pancake. 1/2 C milk 1/2 C flour 2 eggs. Mix. 1/4 stick of melted butter in cast iron skillet. Bake 15 minutes at 425F. Coat with confection sugar, lemon, and maple syrup.
posted by brent at 1:19 PM on February 21, 2017 [2 favorites]

Preheat oven to 450F.
In a roasting dish mix together a neutral oil, whole grain mustard, turmeric, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, salt and pepper.
Cut up broccoli and cauliflower into bite sized florets, carrots and sweet potatoes into small chunks, or alternatively buy this already done at the grocery, or do it after you get home from shopping and store in the fridge for up to a week before use. Any fairly solid vegetable will work like fennel or bokchoy or parsnips but avoid tender things like leafy greens or asparagus.
Mix everything all together in the pan so it's evenly coated in delicious flavor, spread out so it is in one layer.
Place on top chunks of kelibasa or any kind of sausage you like (kelibasa is just easier because it is fully cooked so you don't have to worry about that but go nuts because a raw sausage will cook in the time it takes to roast the veggies too.)
Roast until everything is fragrant and delicious and the largest pieces of vegetables can be pierced easily all the way through with a fork, probably about half an hour if you cut your produce small enough. If you look in at it and are worried about burning, turn it down to 400 and add a few ounces of water or broth to the pan. You can also cover it loosely with foil and take it off for the last ten minutes or so to crisp things up.
posted by Mizu at 1:25 PM on February 21, 2017

Another quick easy dish - baked fish. Fish is so easy to bake, and you can even cook fish from frozen. (I like keep a bag of frozen tilapia filets on hand for when I have nothing else to make.)

Chop up a head of broccoli, stems and all. Toss with some oil, salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, and paprika. Use more seasoning than you think you'll need. Spread onto a sheetpan covered with foil with a bit of oil, or use a Silpat. Roast those at 350-400 for about 20 minutes or until they start getting brown.

After that's in the oven, pull out a piece of fish. You can use the same seasoning blend you used on the broccoli. Or you can add chili powder if you like that flavor. Or ginger to go more Asian in flavor. Or buy some seasoning blends and experiment.

You can huck the fish onto the same sheetpan as the broccoli if you have room, or give it its own pan. Put the fish into the oven with about 10 minutes left on the broccoli.

Fish is done when it isn't translucent, and when it flakes easily with a fork.

--Veggie variations - add in cauliflower, red bell pepper, green beans, asparagus, mushrooms, and they'll all taste delicious.
posted by hydra77 at 1:26 PM on February 21, 2017 [2 favorites]

I really love the Fresh20 paleo meal plan. It's $14 a month, and they give you a shopping list, let you know what you can prep ahead, and almost the entire meal is made up of fresh vegetables/fruits and meat (the 20 refers to the 20 fresh items you buy each week). No waste, no thinking, tasty food, relatively quick to prepare. It's been a lifesaver for my family post-baby. The meal plans make four servings each for five nights, so you could divide by half and have five or six dinners and a few lunches.
posted by Jaclyn at 1:34 PM on February 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

My goto quick meal is defrosting a batch of kenji lopez-alt's bolognese and some Trader Joe's Egg Pappardelle Pasta.

The bolog is a lot of work but you just make it once and then seal it up in tupperware and stick it in the freezer. If you want individual servings you probably get around 24+ from one batch (seriously his servings estimation for this recipe seems way off)

My other trick is rotisserie chicken. One chicken is worth 6-8 meals. Chicken breasts and veg one day, chicken legs and pasta the next, chicken tacos from the leftover pickens. Costs about 6 bucks.

My wife likes making Cincinnati chilli and a garlic oil pasta.
posted by srboisvert at 1:39 PM on February 21, 2017

If you want to do fast home-cooked food, a wok is your friend.

You cut up your vegs and meat before lighting up the stove, and the actual cooking is then very fast. I cook stir-fries, curry stews, and various lentil stews in this way. I often use canned lentils, they are good. You can use pre-cut frozen vegs, and it will be fine, but I prefer using fresh.

I tried to link to for inspiration for stir-fries, but right now it is crashing on me. It'll probably be good again. It's a nice site with a lot of good recipes.
This recipe for Malabar prawn curry has the basic principles I use for making fast curries. It's from Jamie Oliver, and I think he slightly overcooks the prawns, but really it's just the principle. You can use a store-bought curry paste instead of all the spices and herbs he uses, and it'll still be delicious.
For a delicious lentil stew, you just finely chop an onion, a carrot and some garlic (according to taste), lightly cook the vegs in oil till the onion is translucent, add the lentils and water. If the lentils are dry, two cups of water for one cup of lentils (and cooking time 20 mins), if from a can, equal amounts of lentils and water. Sometimes I add a piece of salami to the pot, which I throw out before serving. I always add a bayleaf, some thyme and salt and pepper to taste. You can also add diced pork, and lentils are a great side with ducks breast.

Which reminds me: duck breast is good in salads with fruit: lettuce hearts with slices of apple and orange, dressed with a mustardy vinaigrette and served with thin slices of duck breast grilled to pink.
posted by mumimor at 2:06 PM on February 21, 2017

Any variation on greens with eggs. Or an omelette with a simple salad or sautéed vegetable.

Stirfry some green beans or broccoli with chicken apple sausage. (For green beans or broccoli I like to steam it and then stirfry with garlic, cumin seed and red pepper flakes)

Tuna sandwich on good whole grain toast or crackers, with a side of fruit. I like my tuna with lots of celery but you can do it with apples or grapes. Can also do chicken salad; poached chicken is a great neutral protein when the chicken is good quality.

Roasted butternut squash (and or parsnips, carrots) topped with browned ground beef or lamb plus spinach and olive.

Frozen turkey or grass-fed beef burgers are an easy protein to pair with veggie sides.

Fish is fast when it's good. I just broiled some Pacific true cod that was on sale and amazing.
posted by vunder at 2:07 PM on February 21, 2017

Something I like to do is to make a large batch of dal on the weekend and freeze it in single-serving portions. On weekday mornings I set the rice cooker timer so it'll be ready at dinner time. Then all I need to do after I get home from work is put the dal in a pan to reheat; while it's heating, I make a quick and easy vegetable dish for the side. (For example: slice zucchini into half or quarter rounds about half an inch thick and lightly sauté with black mustard seeds, cumin, and a bit of ground red pepper; finish with a squeeze of lemon and salt to taste. Or do the same thing with carrots. Or whatever greens I have on hand. It's very flexible.)
posted by Lexica at 2:28 PM on February 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

Black bean soup - can o black beans (drained if ya wish), chicken bullion (better than bullion) -- blend it up then add chopped toppings (cilantro, peppers, veggies, salsa, whatever), sour cream if you wish, heat if you wish.
posted by mrzz at 2:40 PM on February 21, 2017

Lentil recipes.
posted by Splunge at 3:24 PM on February 21, 2017

veggies in the microwave steamable bag (birds eye i think?) transformed my life.

quesadillas are pretty quick.

scrambled eggs.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 3:37 PM on February 21, 2017

Make a yummy sauce over the weekend:

Process or chop 1 cup cilantro and 1 cup parsley plus however much garlic you like
Add about 1/2 cup olive oil and process/stir
Separately, Slice onion and cucumber thin, soak in lemon juice or red wine vinegar for 30 minutes
Mix herb mixture with onion mixture.

Stick it in the fridge.

Take out of the fridge for 20 minutes and spoon over the following that you make each night:

London Broil broiled 5 minutes per side and sliced thin plus arugula
Chicken breast baked for 20 minutes plus romaine/broccoli/Brussels sprouts
Tofu slices soaked in olive oil and broiled/browned in a skillet plus greens
Garbanzo beans and greens/veggies
Roasted root veggies and greens
posted by songs_about_rainbows at 4:16 PM on February 21, 2017

These are some really simple things that you can throw together. Less than five minutes and you've got some great sides.

Grated Carrot Salad
Grate 1-2 carrots on a box grater. Toss with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and some salt and pepper. It's really delicious and very simple.

Smashed Cucumber Salad
Take 1 cucumber, trim off the ends, and smash it down with the flat of a knife, a rolling pin, or a bottle. Chop into bite sized pieces and toss with 1 tbsp rice vinegar, 1 tsp sesame oil, 1 tsp sugar, 1 tsp soy sauce, some red chili flakes and some peanuts.

Ginger Scallion Sauce (To put on anything, really. Chicken, beef, pork, noodles, rice)
Slice 5-6 scallions (green onions) and place into a jar with 2 tbsp minced ginger, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp black pepper, 1/4 cup neutral oil (canola/grapeseed), 3 tbsp soy sauce, and 3 tbsp rice vinegar.
posted by Neronomius at 4:30 PM on February 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

Two ideas:

(1) I've mentioned this recipe a few times before, but it never fails me.

(2) I recently discovered an easy and delicious Thai beef stew called Massaman curry. It's actually a Thai interpretation of a Persian dish, so it's a little bit less hot than much Thai food and tastes vaguely Indian/Persian. I make it in my slow cooker, so the prep is beforehand and there is no work involved at the end.
- Cut 3 pounds of cheap beef chuck into bite-sized cubes
- Cut proportional amounts of beef stew vegetables into bite-sized cubes. I think I did 7 red potatoes, 4 carrots, 2 onions, etc.
- Add beef into slow cooker, and then put veggies on top. Add one tin of Maesri brand Massaman curry (costs about $1.20 at local Asian market), and one tin of coconut milk. Add fish sauce to taste (I usually do 6 tablespoons of fish sauce, as I think it gives it a real depth of flavor, but some would do less). I also crumble 2 beef bouillon cubes and add them to the crock pot. I also add some freshly grated ginger. Brown sugar is optional. Last time I also added two cups of red lentils, which thickened the broth pleasingly.
- Cook on low for 8 or so hours, and serve over your choice of rice, lentils, quinoa, naan bread, etc. I sprinkle with freshly-cut cilantro and ground roasted peanuts before serving.
- ENJOY! Takes me about half an hour to 45 minutes and I get nine servings from it. Can't beat it!
posted by ClaireBear at 5:14 PM on February 21, 2017 [2 favorites]

Chili is a classic meat + veggies meal.

At some increase in cost over homemade, you can take advantage of the modern grocery store and buy some things already cooked, e.g. rotisserie chicken. All the gurus say refrigerate that nice warm bird as soon as you get it home. However, a serving of white or dark meat is easily 'waved to warmth. Heating some frozen veggies completes the meal.

So much of the store freezer is filled with veggie combos and veggies with sauce that it can be hard to fine the plain ones. All those half-prepared items are there for you.
posted by SemiSalt at 5:31 PM on February 21, 2017

Take a piece of salmon, salt and pepper it and put it in the middle of a sheet pan. Chop up some zucchini and yellow squash into one-inch hunks and arrange them around the fish. Slice a lemon into 8 wedges (for the flavor, not for eating) and nestle them in with the squash. You can sprinkle the veggies with some dill if you have it. Brush some oil onto the veggies and fish. Broil the whole thing for about 10 minutes or until the fish is cooked to your liking. Yum.
posted by Liesl at 5:39 PM on February 21, 2017 [2 favorites]

A pound of minced sausage. Saute in soup pot, until cooked through.

Add two cans of chicken broth, and four cups of water. Bring to a simmer.

One bunch of kale. Chop. Add to simmering broth. Simmer for 5mins.

Voila. Add a can of northern white beans if you'd like.
posted by vignettist at 5:57 PM on February 21, 2017

Grill some meat (pan, indoor grill; chicken, beef, pork, fish, 3-6 mins/side depending on flesh type) + open a bag of spinach, rinse, dump in bowl, add vinaigrette (w red onion or avocado if feeling fancy), or nuke (3 mins) or boil (6 mins) green beans, broccoli, or asparagus, dress with lemon juice. If you do want carbs, could do baby potatoes (boiled for 30 mins, dress with butter & parsley, again if fancy) or Uncle Ben's Jasmine Rice (13 mins), or a small piece of grainy bread.
posted by cotton dress sock at 6:39 PM on February 21, 2017

Lemony Kale Quinoa Salad. Maybe kale and quinoa are slightly on the fancy-pants side of ingredients, but they're super easy to cook and most major grocery chains have them (I see from your profile you live in a major city that definitely has them). This is SO GOOD and is quick and ridiculously easy (especially if you get pre-chopped kale) and cheap and low-carb and makes a ton of food so you can pack lunches for the better part of a week.
posted by capricorn at 6:48 PM on February 21, 2017

Baked chicken thighs:
A few minutes of work, but 1 hr of hands-off cook time. Bone-in, skin-on are best. Preheat oven to 350 F.
Place skin-side down on oiled baking sheet. Sprinkle spice mix. Bake 30 mins. Flip. Sprinkle spice mix. Bake 30 mins. Serve with frozen vegetable side. (Trader Joe's has good ones.)

Pesto Turkey Meatballs
Mix 4 Tbs pesto, 4 Tbs parmesan, 4 Tbs almond flour. Mix in 1 lb ground turkey. Form into balls. Fry on stove or bake at 375 for 20-30+ min, depending on size. Serve with marinara and spaghetti squash.

Lemon Salmon
Place salmon skin-side down on baking sheet. Add pats of butter and thinly sliced lemon (sweet lemon if you can find it). Sprinkle lemon pepper and salt. Bake according to someone else's directions. (Cooking for 1 person or 6?) Serve with vegetable side.

Asparagus Mushroom Stir Fry
Stolen straight from a Trader Joe's refrigerated item "Asparagus Saute." If you buy the packet, you can skip all the prep. Rinse asparagus, shiitake mushrooms, and crimini mushrooms. Snap ends off asparagus. Chop asparagus into inch-long segments. Slice mushrooms. Slice red onion. Heat butter and olive oil in skillet over medium-high heat. Add in vegetables. Cover and cook until asparagus is bright green (3-5 min). Uncover and increase heat. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until spears are tender (5-7 min).

My biggest vegetable cheat is to buy a frozen or ready-to-cook vegetable thing from the grocery store and then recreate it if it's easy enough.
posted by meemzi at 11:43 PM on February 21, 2017 [2 favorites]

A strategy suggestion: rather than specific recipes, look into tactics. Like batch cooking (never cook just one portion at a time) and meal planning (so you can shop for a bunch of meals at once) and batching your prep (chopping/washing/etc for a week of meals in one go) or using your freezer (so you can cook a big pot of something and put 1/3 in the fridge and 2/3 in the freezer). When cooking for one, a major challenge is using stuff up before it goes bad. So unless you plan a bunch of interlocking recipes you end up spending a lot of effort and wasting food. I took at meal planning class recently and even though I've been cooking for myself for 10+ years I found it extremely helpful.

One tactic I'm using heavily right now is cooking lightly seasoned components—quinoa, black beans, roasted vegetables, etc. It's then easy to mix into a bowl with different dressings. It can be a burrito bowl! It can be an Asian-themed salad! Etc etc etc.
posted by squasher at 8:41 PM on February 27, 2017

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