Easy delicious meals for depressed, fatigued spinster
December 21, 2017 5:44 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for recipes that are remarkably delicious and sophisticated given the low effort required to make them. No-knead bread would fit into this category, and so would this red cabbage salad.

I live alone and have some health issues which can make cooking and cleaning up rather daunting. But I can only eat so much take-out. I'm trying to compile a list of from-scratch recipes that are simple to execute and require minimal pots and pans. As I type this I'm realizing that I should get a slow-cooker.

Anyway, what I'd like to do is toss some stuff into a pot or sheet pan with minimal prep/chopping and have something *really* delicious (and pretty healthy) 30 to 45 minutes later and only a couple of dishes to wash. Like, I want to feel excited to go home and cook and eat my dinner. And when I feel better I'd like these to be dishes that I could serve to guests. Leftovers are a bonus.

(Lately I'm doing a lot of grazing for dinner - nuts, fruit, cheese - and while that's tasty it does get dull and I miss hot food and veggies. I already have some very good frozen food options. I anticipate some rotisserie chicken suggestions - which I have made myself in the past. I love rotisserie but it's a tad challenging to eat an entire chicken by myself before it goes bad/I get bored, and so far I haven't really liked the results of freezing it - something about the texture - but I'm open to solutions).
posted by bunderful to Food & Drink (35 answers total) 176 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: This sausage and potato and shallot roast on arugula is one of the most delicious things ever (and, unsurprisingly, it's also from Smitten Kitchen). The only things you have to wash are the sheet pan, your chopping board, and the knife you use, plus there's no fiddly dicing!
posted by Mouse Army at 5:55 AM on December 21, 2017 [9 favorites]

Chicken marbella is my go-to recipe that impresses guests with about 20 minutes of work. All ingredients can be simply dumped from can or jar directly into the baking dish, except the parsley, which I generally skip anyway. The linked recipe calls for quartered chicken, but you can use whatever cuts of chicken you want, and I never baste. Only caveat is that it does need to be marinated overnight and takes about an hour of cooking time, but it keeps well and can be served at room temperature or warm.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 6:11 AM on December 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

Whole grain polenta, which you can top with cheese, a fried egg or a jarred red sauce:

Get the whole grain kind, like Bob's Red Mill, because it has far more nutrients and lots of fiber.

If you want leftovers, use one cup cornmeal to about 3 3/4 C water. I like mine a little more porridge-y (at least until it cools and firms up) and so I do 1 to 4. Put cornmeal, water and a little salt in the pot. Bring to boil. Switch to lowest heat setting possible and let sit, lidded, no stirring, for forty minutes. At the end, mix in: butter or olive oil; grated cheese or nutritional yeast (which I like due to the protein and vitamins); more salt if needed; pepper; any spices you like. Obviously you can vary this by using different cheeses - goat cheese, for instance, or raclette.

Oh, you can also wilt spinach leaves into it for an easy addition of greens. Spinach, goat cheese and black pepper is good.

When I am making one serving, I use about 1/3 C polenta in a tiny pot. I like this because it takes five minutes and then it's ready to eat.

You can either eat it hot or pour it into a pan to chill - if you pour it into a pan, you can cut squares out to reheat. It softens to squishiness when reheated but does not get liquid again. You can also bake it in the oven or fry it on a non-stick surface.

The only difficult part is that you should scrape the pan right away while the polenta is hot - use a spatula and scrape it into a dish (if you're making one serving) or a pan. Otherwise you'll have a layer of congealed polenta on the pan and it's icky - though not difficult - to clean off.
posted by Frowner at 6:38 AM on December 21, 2017 [4 favorites]

I'm a huge fan of sheet pan dinners! The website The Kitchn has a bunch listed. I won't force all the links on your, but just google "The Kitchn sheet pan meals" and you'll get a bunch of recipes. If you line your sheet pan with foil, clean up is crazy fast.
Lately for lunch I have been buying bagged salads (with the fancy toppings and dressing) and using them over the course of 2 or 3 days. If you are concerned with calories, you need to keep an eye on the amount of dressing you use, but this is an easy (and delicious, and constantly changing) way to add a side salad to your dinners.
posted by avocado_of_merriment at 7:06 AM on December 21, 2017 [3 favorites]

Best answer: First, a cookbook suggestion: The Pleasures of Cooking for One by Judith Jones, Julia Child's editor. It includes ways to use up the rest of a large cooked cut of meat, including a whole chicken, as well as other tips for cooking for yourself. Some of the recipes are fussy, but many are fairy simple.

The food blog Stone Soup has some lovely simple meals, such as Red Lentil ‘Risotto’ with Red Wine & Sausages and Fast Roast Rosemary Chicken and Veg.

For freezing meat, I agree, texture can be difficult. I have found that shredding then freezing chicken, pork, beef, etc. works somewhat better, as it's usually going into a sauce or a burrito or a soup.
posted by carrioncomfort at 7:09 AM on December 21, 2017 [6 favorites]

If you like salmon, I really like frying salmon (quickest, or you could probably roast it easily too) and drizzling it with a balsamic sauce.

The sauce is super easy - mostly balsamic vinegar with a bit of sugar (real maple syrup if you have it), optional squeeze of dijon mustard, and just simmer the mix in a pan for a few minutes until it thickens a bit. Looks pretty fancy and really, really, really good. Also the same sauce but not cooked is a great salad dressing, with a bit of olive oil added.

WARNING do not attempt to be lazy and cook the sauce in the microwave unless you like having the entire interior coated with brown goopy stuff. Ask me how I know.
posted by randomnity at 7:13 AM on December 21, 2017 [5 favorites]

Marcella Hazan's Tomato Sauce is a classic for a reason. Put that on right when you get home, do your transition from home-to-work routine, start boiling the water for the pasta, and it all finishes right around the same time. The sauce freezes well too.
posted by Fig at 7:18 AM on December 21, 2017 [6 favorites]

Hi, I'm sort-of you - I also cook for one, butI have a little more gumption. But I still don't want to do a lot of dishes because who the hell does?

I'm going to recommend a cookbook first: Judith Jones' The Pleasures of Cooking For One is phenomenal. She isn't just giving you recipes that have been scaled down - she's trying to guide you into a whole solo-diner mindset that also helps you think up ways to creatively use up leftovers and cope with the overly-large packages of various ingredients that the supermarkets deem fit to sell us. The first section has what I call "recipe groups", where she first gives you one recipe for a given thing - but then the next recipe after that uses the leftovers or some extra ingredients you had left over from the first recipe. So, for instance, it'll be like:
The first recipe is for pork cutlets, which you would cut off a small pork tenderloin. She tells you to get the pork tenderloin, cut two or three cutlets off one end of it, then cut the rest of it in half and wrap them up separately in your fridge. Then you use the cutlets as your dinner the first night.

For the second recipe, which you can make the next night, you take out one of the halves of the pork tenderloin from your fridge and roast it.

For the third recipe, you cut up the second half of the pork tenderloin and use it in a stir-fry with whatever random vegetables you have in your fridge.
So it's like that - or, it'll be like "make both the lamb chops today, but save one for tomorrow. Then tomorrow is going to be lentils seasoned with the meat from the lamb chop you didn't eat." Or, it'll be like "make this beef stew today; you'll probably have leftovers. Tomorrow, throw those leftovers into some tomato puree for an easy pasta sauce."

The second half of the book is all about using grains, eggs, and cheese to turn things into a full meal - like, "if you've got some eggs and cheese, here's a way to turn whatever random leftovers you've got hanging around into a quiche" or "if you've got cooked rice, here's three different things you can do with that".

Admittedly some of the recipes may seem a little fiddly, but some are SUPER-easy. There's a really simple dish I've made again and again that uses cooked rice and spinach.

Finally, I offer two recipes that I've made again and again and again and again (so much so that I've memorized them) - the first is for a condiment that is super-simple, that you'll find ways to use in other dishes, and the second is a dish that uses that condiment.


You'll need a bag of lemons, salt, and a jar (if you have a standard pint-size mason jar, you'll end up using about 8 or 9 lemons). Take about three of the lemons and cut them into wedges. Then drop a spoonful of salt into the jar, and drop in a layer of wedges. Then drop another spoonful of salt into the jar, and add another layer of wedges. Keep going like that; try to pack down the lemon wedges every so often (it's okay if they smush a little; this is good). Cut more lemon wedges if you need to, of course. When the jar is full, then juice however many of the rest of the lemons you need to make enough juice to fill up the jar and just cover the lemons. Leave that on your counter for about a week or two, giving it a good shake once a day. Then that goes in your fridge. This will give you salt-pickled lemon wedges; the rind will be soft and the pith will be really squidgy, almost like a paste. To use, you can scoop out a wedge and spread the pulp on whatever you're seasoning, or chop the rind up and mix it in, or both. I usually mush one such wedge up with butter and herbs if I'm roasting a chicken (I spread the resulting mash all over, and tuck some under the skin).

Or you can use this in my second recipe, in the serves-one version below:


You need about half a pound of potatoes (smaller new potatoes or fingerlings are best, but a regular potato chopped up works fine too), a chicken leg or a chicken thigh (or two chicken thighs if you're hungry), one of the preserved lemon wedges, and olive oil and salt and pepper.

Preheat your oven to 375. Wash and chop the potatoes into chunks (no need to peel them) and find a small baking dish that fits them in a single layer. Drizzle some olive oil into that dish, dump in the potatoes, drizzle a little more olive oil in and mix everything around. Chop the preserved lemon wedge into a few pieces and tuck those pieces between the potatoes. Pour in just enough water to reach about 1/2 an inch in the bottom of the dish (I just eyeball it; it's about a half cup). Season with a little salt and pepper, then plop the chicken right on top of the potatoes and season the chicken with a little salt and pepper. Stick that in the oven for 50 minutes to an hour.

Easy, uses only one dish and is super-tasty.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:21 AM on December 21, 2017 [16 favorites]

At the start of the week, I often caramelize a big batch of onions (like 4-5 onions, because I love them) and then I can throw some on a sheet pan with (thawed, drained) frozen veggies like broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, or squash, sprinkle with salt, drizzle with oil and lemon juice, and broil for 5-10 minutes. Then I usually fry an egg at the same time since I never get sick of eggs and ta-da! A meal.
posted by Emmy Rae at 7:21 AM on December 21, 2017 [3 favorites]

Best answer: All hail Miso Claypot Chicken (no Claypot)!!!!

If you want to make it extra fancy, a 6 1/2 minute egg on top is choiiiiice.
posted by furnace.heart at 7:23 AM on December 21, 2017 [5 favorites]

Best answer: The recipes on Memorie di Angelina are just unreasonably good for how simple they are. A lot of what they have are regular weekday home cooking, not special-occasion food like you get in most Italian cookbooks. Their pasta e fagioli recipe is what sold me on the site — like, there's nothing interesting about it at all, no fancy ingredients except the cheese (the pancetta is substitutable if you read the notes), no unusual techniques, not a lot of steps, but it's good.
posted by nebulawindphone at 7:40 AM on December 21, 2017 [3 favorites]

One note that I forgot about the polenta: you can start it from cold water with the polenta in the pot, but use a fork or whisk to stir it at the beginning to prevent clumps. You don't really need to stir during the rest of the process, and you stir cheese/butter/etc in at the end, but you should stir to start.

Also, you can top the polenta with pan-fried sausages if you eat sausages. Sliced and pan-fried tofurkey sausages also work.
posted by Frowner at 7:42 AM on December 21, 2017

I've been looking for things like this too! My very favorite meal of this type that I can't believe I just recently discovered:
Turn on oven to 400.
Slice waxy potatoes (ie potatoes that will hold their shape) to about 1/4 inch thick (I just wash, don't peel). Place on sheet pan (cookie sheet), toss with olive oil, salt and pepper. Put in hot oven for about 12 minutes.
While potatoes cook, wash broccoli rabe and cut into 1-inch pieces. Place on another sheet pan, toss with olive oil, s&p, red pepper flakes. Put in oven for about 8 minutes.
When potatoes have gone 12 minutes, turn slices over and put back in oven.
When rabe has gone for 8 minutes, take out of oven. Toss it around and move to either side of sheet pan so you have bare space in the middle. In this space, place filet of salmon. Drizzle with olive oil, add s&p and whatever spices you like.
Put all back in oven. Depending on the size of your filet, it should only take about 10-12 minutes to roast to medium/medium-rare, which is how I like my salmon. I usually just let the potatoes and rabe go for however long it takes the salmon to cook, but you could pull them out earlier if you want. Squeeze lemon over salmon and rabe, and serve.

I loooove this combo of the spicy bitter rabe against the sweet salmon and the creamy potatoes. You can also change this up easily by subbing sweet potatoes or even carrots for the plain potatoes, and lots of different green things for the rabe (kale, broccoli, brussels sprouts...). You can also easily spice the salmon in different ways--I've tried truffle salt once and a spicy tandoori curry another time, but you could try all sorts of dried spices, or brush on a mix of maple syrup and mustard. I like the leftovers quite a bit (FYI, I reheat the veg but not the salmon because I like cold salmon and it gets tough in the microwave, but you can also scramble salmon pieces into eggs easily.) I'd feel comfortable serving this for company, especially if I threw together a quick yogurt sauce for the salmon (maybe some lemon zest and lots of black pepper, or chopped fresh herbs). And it's easy enough to make for one person if that's all you want--you might even be able to fit it all on one pan!
posted by CiaoMela at 8:21 AM on December 21, 2017 [3 favorites]

I'm back!

Recently I've also been looking at web recipes for "sheet pan suppers" for meal options - usually these just ask you to dump everything onto a single sheet pan and throw the whole thing in the oven for some amount of time. It's meat and vegetables roasted together in some configuration.

Most of the recipes online are for "serves 4" or "serves 6" or whatever, but they're really easy to scale down to the "serves one" size because it's usually "some meat product and some chopped vegetable chunks," and it's way easier to scale that down than it is to try to figure out "how do you do half an egg" or whatever. I made this particular one recently, and it was a breeze - boil the potatoes, then smush them sort-of-flat, throw them on a sheet pan with a precooked sausage you've cut into a couple chunks, and fling the whole thing in the oven. Done. I think it took like a half pound of potatoes and a single sausage link, and I used the pan from a toaster oven that broke on me (I got rid of the oven but saved the pan for this sort of occasion).
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:21 AM on December 21, 2017 [2 favorites]

From time to time, pork loin will be crazy on sale. I slice it, portion it out and freeze it. Sliced pork tenderloin can be pan fried on high so it gets browned and is just done in the center in a few minutes. So tasty. Season with salt, pepper, and whatever else you like - rosemary, garlic powder, red chilies. I cook boneless chicken strips and salmon the same way. Salmon usually gets a little soy + brown sugar.

Lazy red sauce. Brown Italian sausage in a saucepan; I usually usually some sweet and some hot. Onions too, if you like, but I often don't bother. When it's all browned, add canned crushed tomatoes and some red wine. Simmer. Serve over pasta when it seems done, but let it simmer some more, and the next time you have it the sausage will be realy tender. I make a big batch and freeze lots in small containers. Makes me so happy when I come home and remember it's an option.

Sweet potatoes are really healthy and you can nuke one in 10 minutes. Add a little butter, salt, pepper. Baked (nuked) white potatoes with creamed spinach are good, too. I get frozen creamed spinach and add extra frozen chopped spinach to make it less goopier and healthier.

Pasta. Several slices of bacon, sliced crossways, cooked. Drain off most of the fat, add garlic powder, chopped frozen spinach, stir a little. I love roasted veg and sausage with a little pasta. Saute some broccoli rabe in olive oil or with bacon, add garlic.

Most vegetables roast well, but require patience. White or sweet potatoes, cauliflower, most kinds of squash, brussel sprouts (so easy with frozen), onions, are my favorites. Toss with olive oil, (seasoned)salt, seasonings like garlic powder, rosemary, spread on baking sheet or roasting pans, roast at 400, stir/ toss every 10 minutes or so. Make as much as the oven will hold. Vegetables will be done at different times, so I keep them separate. I often add kielbasa, or bacon, or pancetta.

Buy pre-washed spinach or chopped frozen to save time and effort. A large pot of soup is as much washing up as a small pot. Trader Joe's has frozen salmon and tuna patties that are tasty and cook fast, and haricots de vert - the best frozen green beans you can buy.
posted by theora55 at 8:57 AM on December 21, 2017 [5 favorites]

Is a Crock Pot an option? There are a ton of easy recipes for them, and they have the bonus of making your house smell great. Plus you do the cooking at one part of the day and the cleaning at another part, so it's less overwhelming.

Down side: most slow cooker recipes are about six or seven hours long, which doesn't necessarily work with an office job.
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:13 AM on December 21, 2017

I promise one more and I'm done. Because it wouldn't be a cooking AskMe if I didn't recommend the Moosewood Daily Special.

That cookbook is nothing but various vegetable soups and salads, which are designed to mix and match with each other. They're all vegetarian, so they're super healthy and can make a complete meal if you pair a couple of random things together and add like a nice roll from a bakery.

If you have a lengthy stretch of time on a weekend you could make a couple of the salads or a couple of the soups or whatever and stick them in the fridge, and leave them there for the week. Then, when you are trying to figure out dinner, you could just heat up some of the soup, dish up sone of the salad, add a roll and you're set. Or, do a super-simple saute of chicken cutlet or steak or something, and use the salad as your side dish.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:39 AM on December 21, 2017 [2 favorites]

Creamy Tuscan Tortellini Soup involves tossing ingredients in a pot and only takes 10-15 minutes to make. The most laborious part is dicing the onions, and I personally don't include the shredded chicken nor the parmesan cheese. It's a hearty, filling, absolutely delicious dish.
posted by tackypink at 11:04 AM on December 21, 2017

Excellent suggestions upthread. I am a lazy gourmet cook for 2 and sheet pan suppers are my current jam.

I find that fried rice is a delicious end-of-the-week fridge clean out dish. I am never inclined to make rice ahead of time, so I make a big batch of rice and freeze it in 2-3 cup portions.

Polenta is easily made in the microwave: 4 parts water to 1 part cornmeal. Stir together, cover tightly (plastic wrap for me). Microwave for 6 minutes, remove from microwave and stir; microwave for 6 more minutes and then stir. Repeat this process 4 times and you will have lovely polenta, without enduring molten cornmeal bubbling up and spattering on your hand - though you do need to be careful of the steam when uncovering your bowl during the stirring process.

If you want to use a crock pot and you work longer hours than the timing on the crock pot allows, I've heard you can run the crockpot overnight and refrigerate the crock in the morning. You just have to heat it up when you return from work.

A couple of cookbook suggestions:
Sheet Pan Suppers
Meatless Sheet Pan Suppers
Eat Your Vegetables: Bold Recipes for the Single Cook
Serve Yourself: Nightly Cooking Adventures for One

posted by sarajane at 11:14 AM on December 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

Here's a recipe from my blog for a delicious and hearty spinach tomato chorizo soup that takes less than 30 minutes, and needs only a can of diced tomatoes, spinach, an onion and chorizo (or your favorite ground meat or meat substitute). You can embellish it with bean, corn and peppers if you'd like.
posted by ShooBoo at 11:20 AM on December 21, 2017

I suggest you spring for an Instant Pot or similar pressure cooker, since they have models that can do slow cooking, pressure cooking, and sauteing, thus making many recipes truly one-pot affairs.
posted by bq at 11:20 AM on December 21, 2017 [3 favorites]

You don't mention price constraints, so you might want to consider one of the meal kit delivery services (I do have some ethical/environmental issues with these, but I try to make up for it by being more conscientious in other areas. And I'm not sure how bad they really are.) They definitely aren't to most cost effective option, but I find that having all the ingredients for a meal pre-portioned and waiting for me when I get home make a huge difference to the amount of cooking I do, and I've gotten some good meal ideas that I just make regularly on my own now. (E.g.: Naan pizza with honey caramelized onions, goat cheese and thick cut bacon with balsamic reduction. Yum.) I think there is also just something about the meals being "kits" that is appealing as well.

There are so many of these services now (Plated, Blue Apron, Home Chef, Hello Fresh, etc.) and almost all of them offer half or more off your first box. When I first decided to try this, I cycled through most of them to get the deals, and canceled/paused deliveries after the first box. The one I settled on to continue ordering from occasionally is Home Chef, but I found they were all substantially the same, same prices, similar meals, similar policies. There are also some services that are more organic/health food, or even have all the prep work done.

Even if the idea of these services doesn't appeal to you, I suggest checking out their menus for inspiration, most of them post the weekly recipes, so you don't actually have to buy the food from them. The recipes are generally meant to take about half and hour and tend to use seasonal ingredients, but still offer a lot of variety.
posted by catatethebird at 11:32 AM on December 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

1. Bake a potato
2. Cut it open and add some butter or olive oil
3. Add generous heap of Parmesan cheese
4. Thoroughly smash cheese into potato
5. Enjoy your warm umami paste.
posted by nicebookrack at 11:44 AM on December 21, 2017 [4 favorites]

I second buying the modern pressure cooker (Instant Pot) with slow cooker function. You can make fast, easy mini-cheesecakes in it. Separately, here's a rustic-type bread recipe that's simpler and faster than no-knead bread, and is baked on a sheet pan. (Sorry it's in a blog post, you'll have to do a lot of scrolling down.)
posted by Iris Gambol at 1:01 PM on December 21, 2017

I also cook for one and am not interested in the kitchen process, so sheet-pan dinners are excellent. However, I also do thing like get the Annie's brand of vegetarian frozen Cheddar Cheese Bowl, which has pasta, broccoli, red pepper, maybe peas—can't remember all the ingredients. Follow instructions to bake it. Also 10 min. from the end, take a small piece of foil and put on it a cooked sausage like Mango Jalapeno (Aidell's brand?) to warm. When done, take both out, cut the sausage up into the cheddar bowl. Voila! A tasty melange. I keep packages of these types of sausages on hand; there are all sorts. And there's nothing to wash but your knife and fork.
posted by MovableBookLady at 1:25 PM on December 21, 2017

Do you have a wok?
I'm taking medication that has totally removed my appetite, and thus my incentive for cooking. But I can buy precut vegs at the local store, and with those I can make a huge variation of stir-fries and curries. There are miniature cans of coconut milk, and if I cook rice to go with my curry it can become fried rice the next day. Since I eat very little, there are leftovers and re-heating, but I'm not eating the same for a week.
posted by mumimor at 1:28 PM on December 21, 2017 [2 favorites]

Pizza is great for having an infinitely adjustable spectrum of effort from fully pre-made to super-fancy everything-from-scratch. This is my sweet spot for speed of preparation:
  • I make it on large pitas available at various Middle Eastern/South Asian markets near me, which I freeze. (I find the pre-made crusts available at supermarkets to taste too strongly of preservatives.)
  • I do canned, plain pureed or crushed tomatoes for the sauce, to which I add olive oil, minced garlic, salt, fresh-ground pepper, basil, oregano, and the tiniest pinch of baking soda to cut the acid in the tomatoes. I just dump this all straight on the crust and mix it together in the course of evenly spreading it around with my hand.
  • Supermarkets near me have quite a variety of shredded cheeses, and I just use whatever I've bought most recently. I add a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese; because of sketchiness with pre-grated stuff, and because it tastes better, I keep a block of Parmesan and carve off a bit every few weeks and crush it with my mortar and pestle and keep that in a jar in the fridge.
  • Normally I don't add further toppings, but lately I've been tossing on some frozen, pre-chopped onions and peppers.
If I really hustle I can go from zero to a fully-baked pizza in about 20 minutes. When there's more time to spare I use fresh herbs and garlic or mozzarella di bufala, make dough for a crust from scratch, or make a batch of sauce cooked from fresh tomatoes.
posted by XMLicious at 2:30 PM on December 21, 2017 [2 favorites]

2 chicken breasts with bone and skin. Brush with oil, sprinkle with coarse sea salt. (add whatever other spice you want - pepper, mango spice mix, basil, etc, next time for a change)
Put in a shallow roasting pan lined with parchment. Throw in some grape tomatoes and halved baby potatoes. Bake 45 minutes. Eat one chicken breast tonight, have chicken sandwiches off the other one. If you're inclined, you can use the bones in soup.

If you can find books by James Barber, the Urban Peasant (Canadian, from the 80s or 90s) you'll find a ton of easy, fast recipes.
posted by Enid Lareg at 4:26 PM on December 21, 2017 [2 favorites]

It's winter and I've been liking a really simple lentil soup recipe. Cook diced onions (you may be able to buy them prechopped in tubs in the produce department) in some olive oil until softened and just beginning to brown. Garlic is nice if you have it but not necessary. Add some brown lentils and four times as much water by volume. Bring to a boil, toss in a generous quantity of smoked paprika, then reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 30-40 minutes until tender. Remove the pan from the heat. In a separate bowl, mix a teaspoon or so of mild white miso with some of the cooking liquid from the lentils, then stir it back into the pot.

Very nice served with a bit of cilantro or parsley on top, and maybe a dollop of yogurt or sour cream.
posted by Lexica at 4:44 PM on December 21, 2017 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: So many great ideas! I picked up some ingredients already and of course ordered some cookbooks because I'm always looking for a reason to buy more cookbooks. I'm excited and looking forward to future meals!
posted by bunderful at 5:38 PM on December 21, 2017 [2 favorites]

espinaca con garbanzo - it can be fancied-up, but is easy and flexible and comforting on toast.
posted by harriet vane at 5:20 AM on December 22, 2017 [2 favorites]

Nthing the instant pot. Seriously, having an instant pot plus a freezer is life changing. You can just make large quantities of things in the pot, separate into one person servings, label and freeze. Soups, stews and curries do especially well. It's a painless way of accumulating a bunch of tasty, home cooked freezer meals. It's also easy to hard boil a bunch of eggs at once for snacks or egg salad during the week, boil lots of potatoes at once, store in the fridge and mash, fry or reheat as needed. You can also quickly make rice in it, though I prefer to use a small Zojirushi rice cooker for that - it makes making rice a completely brainless process.
posted by peacheater at 6:07 AM on December 22, 2017

Damn Delicious has many sheet pan recipes and other categories, including 30 minutes or less, usually using few pans/utensils.
posted by Nosey Mrs. Rat at 1:21 PM on December 23, 2017

I like making sheet-pan lemon & herb chicken with olives, capers, potatoes and onions. I use a mustard, lemon and shallot and oregano based marinade. There's a lot of variations online (often called 'greek' or 'mediterranean'), here are several to compare:

34 things you can do with boneless chicken breasts
(as often, a lot of these are adaptations of things you might do with other cuts, like veal scallopini-type preparations).

Pork chops and lamb chops are both easy and fast. They pair well with simple sides. If you happen to like applesauce or sauerkraut on your pork chops, or mint jelly or some kind of tart fruit preserves on your lamb chops, it's even easier.

I highly recommend LaPlace & Kleiman's Cucina Rustica and Cucina Fresca (the latter all room-temperature stuff).

Barbara Kafka's Microwave Gourmet is good, especially for veggies that microwave well (basically, those that you can steam).

James Barber, Urban Peasant is here, and he's great!

For me, a clamp-on sous vide immersion circulator (like an Anova) is more important than a pressure cooker or a slow cooker (like an Instant Pot) for hands-off ease and flexibility. It doesn't get any easier than the recipes you'll find in Logsdon's Beginning Sous Vide and Sous Vide: Help for the Busy Cook.

I've also found a handheld stick blender has made me much more willing to make various sauces (because it minimizes effort and cleanup) which opens up a lot of simple one pan + one pot meal options.

A favorite trick lately is to buy a package of Italian sausage (hot or mild, per preference), cut open half the links and use the meat to make a sausage pasta sauce (first brown the meat, then cook garlic and onion etc in it with vinegar or wine, then add canned crushed tomatoes, herbs, and anything else you want -- olives, capers, etc. Slowly heat and when near simmering, blend with the stick blender. Eat on spaghetti with the remaining sausages (sliced up). A veggie version of this can be done with sweet peppers sliced into strips.

If you do have a slow cooker, ham-hock based split pea soup is delicious.
posted by snuffleupagus at 7:46 AM on December 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

If you like salmon, I really like frying salmon (quickest, or you could probably roast it easily too)

If you include cleanup, roasting it on a disposable (after a few uses) cedar or alder plank is probably the easiest. A lot markets sell little bundles of them now. Although you do have to pre-soak the plank. But all you have to do is salt and pepper the fillet or steak, maybe a little dill or rosemary etc, lay some some lemon slices on it and pop it in the oven. And an easy sauce for it can be made by whisking together mayo (or sour cream, or creme fraiche, or mexican crema), dijon mustard, the juice from a couple lemon wedges, and some dill.

This can also be done sous vide, and comes out amazingly delicately, best finished with a hand torch. In fact, when cooking for one with sous vide, most things are best finished with a hand torch. Truly minimal cleanup. (Throw away the baggie, dump the water).

Oh, and if you have a foodsaver or other conventional countertop sealer the way you deal with sealing liquids into the bag is to freeze them first. So for planning ahead you can make large batches of marinade for sous vide and freeze into cubes.

WARNING do not attempt to be lazy and cook the sauce in the microwave unless you like having the entire interior coated with brown goopy stuff. Ask me how I know.

Too much power. And you have to put plastic wrap over the measuring cup.
posted by snuffleupagus at 8:03 AM on December 27, 2017

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