Eat food, not too much, mostly vegetables, and with as little effort as possible
June 18, 2008 12:03 PM   Subscribe

I'm a single guy living alone. I need to start cooking for myself because I spend too much money on food, and most of what I eat is kinda bad for me. However, I hate doing dishes and don't have much time to cook. What foods/recipes would you suggest?

Dietary requirement

* Non-vegetarian
* Mostly lactose-intolerant, but can digest dairy products in small portions (in other words, I can eat a sandwich with a couple slices of cheese, but I can't eat a slice of pizza without dipping into the lactaid)
* I enjoy nearly any food that doesn't utilize organ meat or really salty fish
* I love salads
* The food should be as healthy as possible, but should also taste great.

Dish/utensil requirement

Ideally, preparation and serving should involve no more than the following :

*1 pot, pan, or cookie sheet
*1 or 2 plate(s) or bowl(s) for mixing and serving
*1 tupperware container for leftovers
* as few utensils as possible
* nothing that is even slightly difficult to clean (so no grinders or garlic presses or anything like that)
* no special equipment (no food processors, blenders, or anything that involves a motor)

Time requirement

A given meal should take no longer than 30-45 minutes to prepare. (this does not include time to defrost, pre-heat, marinate, or anything like that) The less preparation time, the better.

Money requirement

I'm willing to splurge a bit on quality ingredients, such as tasty fish and good cuts of meat. I'm not so willing to splurge on niche ingredients that I'll only use once or twice, although I could be convinced to do this if I could buy said ingredients in small enough quantities.

In general, I'm working with a pretty decent budget. I'm not a student or anything like that. But the meal should be appreciably cheaper to make than it would be to order at a restaurant.

Ingredient accessibility requirement

Ingredients should be available through the following providers :

* Trader Joe's
* Whole Foods
* FreshDirect
* Typical supermarket

Storage requirement

I'm okay with saving leftovers for the next day. I'm not really into making large batches of foods and freezing, although I could be convinced to do this for foods that freeze particularly well and don't lose much of their flavor or consistency after being reheated.

Yes, I know, I'm being particular. I may even come off as fussy. But I know that if anyone can help me with this, it's you guys.
posted by Afroblanco to Food & Drink (39 answers total) 154 users marked this as a favorite

Here's my ultimate cheap fast healthy meal. Some people think it's weird and/or disgusting, so obviously customize the ingredients to your taste.

cous cous

boil water
pour water on cous cous
let sit for five minutes
add everything else

lapsed time between thinking of eating and eating: 8 minutes maximum
dishes: one bowl and one spoon
results: nutrified for another four hours
posted by crazylegs at 12:21 PM on June 18, 2008 [6 favorites]

I've said this a lot before, but i'll reiterate because I believe in it strongly. 30 minutes of effort will get you a steak, vegetables, and a baked potato or rice. Here's what you do:

First, buy a cast-iron skillet. They're cheap (20 dollars or so) and will last forever if you treat it right. Cleaning is pretty simple, just don't use soap or put it in the dishwasher.

Pick food. Steaks, pork chops, salmon fillets will all work. Grab some vegetables - asparagus and string beans are ideal, but you could also do a faux-stir fry thing with peppers, baby corn, and other bits. Get some potatoes or rice.

Rub liberal amounts of salt and pepper into both sides of the steak/chop/fillet. Let it sit for a few minutes. Prep the vegetables however they need to be (trim the asparagus, etc.). If you're going for a potato, use a fork to poke a bunch of holes in it.

Put the skillet over high heat (open some windows). Add some oil to the skillet, and once it's hot put the meat on. Depending on how thick it is, cook it about 6-ish minutes per side. Don't touch it unless you're going to flip it! At the same time, put the potato in the microwave, uncovered, and cook it for 5 minutes.

After you flip the meat, add vegetables. I usually add a little bit of butter to cook the veggies in, but it's not necessary. Constantly turn them as they cook; they should be done in 3-4 minutes. After the potato is done cooking, leave it in the microwave for another five minutes without opening the door.

After the vegetables and meat are done, put them on a plate and tent it with foil to keep them warm. Throw about a tablespoon of butter onto the skillet, then add some liquid to the skillet - broth, beer, wine, something with flavor. For a single serving, 1/2 to 3/4 cup of liquid is about right. Turn the heat down to medium or so, and while the liquid is simmering scrape the bottom of the skillet. Add some herbs, garlic, soy sauce - experiment with this. I like to use balsamic and apple cider vinegar, garlic and onion powder, parsley, and some hot sauce. Reduce the sauce a bit (add flour or cornstarch to thicken it if you feel it needs it). Pour sauce over meat and vegetables.

Remove the potato from the microwave, cut it open, season how you like. You now have a full meal, total time less than 30 minutes.
posted by backseatpilot at 12:26 PM on June 18, 2008 [25 favorites]

Have you thought about buying a slow cooker? These things saved my ass from certain doom. There are plenty of good cook books out there for healthy slow cooker meals. The great thing about them is that I can prep a bunch of food when I have time and then just toss what I need into the slow cooker, by the time I get home I have a tasty meal just waiting for me. Personally, I like to make large batches and freeze them for those moments where I really have no energy or time to cook. At any rate, home cooked meals don't get much easier than this, I paid about 50.00 for mine and saved at least that much in the first week of use- plus I'm healthier!
posted by ISeemToBeAVerb at 12:28 PM on June 18, 2008

I use the Rachel Ray 30-minute Meals cookbook frequently.
posted by netbros at 12:28 PM on June 18, 2008

I think the key for you here is substitution, substitution, substitution. Most recipes have like 15 ingredients but you can often do away with most of the minor ones, especially for spices or fresh herbs (which gets pricey every night).. substitute similar spices you already have. If a dish has a complicated side or sauce, just ignore that sauce or get ready made. Don't use butter and cheese if you are trying to be healthy. If something calls for frying or grilling, pan sear it instead ... usually turns out fine. Whenever I can't think of something to cook I just go to allrecipes or another site like that, search for ingredients I have in my fridge, and go from there.

Anything you can make in a casserole dish which fits in your fridge is great for conserving dishes for leftovers. You can bake chicken breast with pretty much any combo of veggies and it will taste great with proper spices (I like the breast with bone in .. keeps it juicier). Things like curries, fried rice (its pretty healthy if you don't go crazy on the oil), peppers and sausage, scrambled eggs with a side of spinach or omelettes, are super easy. Really, you're probably overthinking this. Mefimail me if you want some of my super lazy recipes.
posted by shownomercy at 12:29 PM on June 18, 2008 [1 favorite]

I've had a lot of success with this Spinach Quiche recipe. It doesn't exactly meet your time requirements (takes an hour to bake), but other than that it's real easy to make and is moderately healthy (especially if you reduce the cheese/butter, you don't have to use that much).

I haven't yet really looked into it, but I've heard a lot of good things about Saving Dinner (website, book).
posted by Vorteks at 12:33 PM on June 18, 2008

hayjay salad:

one small head romaine lettuce, chopped
one can kidney beans, rinsed & drained
one avocado, diced
one roasted red pepper (from a jar), diced
one slab of marinated/baked tofu (as sold in little packages), diced
salt & pepa
some dressing of your choice

toss well. eat with crusty bread. substitute diced cooked flesh of your choice for the tofu if you want.
posted by gyusan at 12:33 PM on June 18, 2008 [3 favorites]

Making a sandwich can be easy and can have minimal cleanup. You can make it more special by using good bread or different meats/cheese/vegtables/condiments. Another way to make it more special is to grill the sandwhich in skillet with bread that has been buttered or drizzled with olive oil. Very yummy, fast and relatively cheap.
posted by mmascolino at 12:33 PM on June 18, 2008 [1 favorite]

Learn to sear meat. Make a simple pan sauce by deglazing the fond and the pan will be very easy to clean afterwards. It usually takes me about 15-20 minutes to prep, cook, and sauce a batch of 4 pork chops, which will keep well in the fridge for several days. A variety of simple sauce recipes can be found in How to Cook Without a Book by Pam Anderson.
posted by breaks the guidelines? at 12:34 PM on June 18, 2008

When I have to cook just for myself for dinner I like to make an omelet. You can be really creative with ingredients and you don't really need cheese. To make them healthier I leave out most of the yolks. They go well with soup (which of course can be a meal in itself), salad, fresh bread (you live in NY so that should be no problem) and fruit for dessert. When cooking for more than one I like to include several different types of food (i.e. a meat or high protein dish, a vegetable dish, a starch dish etc.) However, when cooking for just myself I usually lack the energy for this so things like an omelet, soup, chili or casserole (benefit - leftovers) appeal more.
posted by caddis at 12:36 PM on June 18, 2008

Wow that's a nicely organized list of requirements.

This article has a lot of great ideas. (I think the blog's author also posts here--and if he's reading this, thank you!!!)

Faves of mine not included above:

Single Serving Pizza
- pizza dough (from Trader Joe)
- any assortment of ingredients (I use chopped basil, chopped tomatoes, and chopped garlic, sometimes shrimp. The bf likes cheese and pepperoni.)
- olive oil and salt
Heat oven 400 degrees. Flatten the dough. Throw on your ingredients. Drizzle with olive oil and salt to taste. Place on oven rack and bake. 12 minutes works for me, your dough might be different according to its directions or your might need to experiment once or twice.
Trying out different versions can be delicious and cheap.

Grilled Sandwiches
Very obvious, but very good when you've got nothing else. Two slices of bread with a single slice of cheese and proscuitto or ham or any assortment of ingredients. Grilled on butter or olive oil in a pan. (Press down on it with your spatula to make it closer to a panini.)

Fruited Chicken Curry Salad
This curry fruited chicken salad recipe, or your own "quick" variation of it. Buy canned or a pre-roasted chicken to make this less time consuming.

And it's not healthy, but when I'm really lazy, Banquet Fried Chicken (found in the frozen food section), baked for 45-50 minutes. The best frozen chicken I've had.
posted by The ____ of Justice at 12:39 PM on June 18, 2008

You should get a salad spinner (only need to rinse it out) and some quality balsamic vinegar.

Do you want my old Everday Food magazines (that list is based on the show)? Let me know.
posted by spec80 at 12:39 PM on June 18, 2008

Here's a brilliant one that is great for me, also a bachelor.

Buy some Farmer Sausage. This is a Prairie thing, I believe so you could substitute with whatever you like or have available. For reference, Farmer Sausage is about an inch or inch and a half in diameter and one from the store is usually two feet long or so, maybe a bit less.

In a shallow caserole type dish (like a lasagne pan, sorry for the lack of a name) slice up potatoes, carrots, sweet potatoes, onions, garlic (whole cloves... but even when minced you never need to use a press at all IMO) and really whatever else you think will roast well. (add peeled fresh ginger even!)

Mix all this up with olive oil (less oil the more fatty the sausage is), salt, pepper and whatever herbs or seasoning you like. Put the sausage on top and roast in the oven at around 350 for maybe an hour. Flip the sausage at the half way point and give the rest a good stir.

You might need to vary the time and temp and even cut up veggie size so it all comes out right depending on your oven and the sausage used.

This is a perfect meal for two, or a meal for one with leftovers. I realize this is a bit above your time limit, but it is soooo easy. 5 minutes to peel, slice and assemble and then it's just wait time with a few stirs.

I also make tomato sauce and similar things in bulk batches on the weekend and freeze it. Consider it!
posted by utsutsu at 12:40 PM on June 18, 2008 [1 favorite]

Home made spaghetti sauce is super easy and fast to make. Brown your hamburger with onion (and fresh garlic if you want). Drain the fat. Add canned tomato sauce, a can of diced tomatoes, mushrooms, and whatever else you want. Put a pinch of sugar in, and Italian herbs and garlic powder. Mix, heat, and serve over spaghetti.

Burritos and tacos are also easy to make.

Seconding the slowcooker/crockpot idea. You can just throw meat and vegetables into it in the morning, turn it on low, and it's done when you get home.

Stir-fry is easy. Use whatever meat you want (though tofu is also pretty tasty) and vegetables. Stir fry and serve over rice.
posted by at 12:40 PM on June 18, 2008 [3 favorites]

honestly, I'm a single guy, and this is what I do. All of the above are too much work.

Go to grocery store, get frozen mixed vegetables steamers. These are $1.33 each, and each one lasts me about 2-3 days.

Get Salmon/Chicken/Steak/Whatever. Buy tupperware containers. Cut meat for the week and marinade.

Key to my cooking is george foreman grill. Makes everything cook so much faster.

On day of meal, heat up steamed vegetables (6 min). Cook salmon (3 minutes in a foreman). Serve with hardboiled eggs/cottage cheese/whatever cold that doesn't need cooking.

I can have everything ready in like 8 minutes. it's sweet.
posted by unexpected at 12:41 PM on June 18, 2008 [2 favorites]

I don't think you're being fussy. You have a limited number of supplies (I don't have a food processor or a garlic press either, and to be honest, you can do a lot of those things by hand), no dairy, and you don't want to spend hours cooking.

If you like salads, you can prep the lettuce & everything ahead of time and leave it in the fridge. I love salads too, and at any given moment, I have a gigantic ziploc bag of washed & cut lettuce, and smaller bags of cut cucumbers, grape tomatoes, cut celery, and an opened can of drained & washed chickpeas in my fridge (transferred to a small plastic container/bag). Sometimes, I'll hard boil a few eggs, and they'll keep for about a week in the fridge, you just have to peel & slice them. (I know Trader Joe's makes pre-hard boiled & peeled eggs too, they sell them in bags in the refrigerated section, and they're surprisingly good. When I first saw them, I was all, "ewwww" but if you eat hard boiled eggs, try them.) Basically, make a salad bar in your fridge. It takes MAYBE 15 minutes of prep after grocery shopping, and it's so worth it. If you want chicken or shrimp or whatever else on your salad, it's just a matter of grilling it up. (If don't want to grill outside, buy a grill pan, they rule.)

Also, a super delicious meal I accidentally discovered when I thought I had nothing to eat: Cut up chicken breasts into large pieces (2-3 pieces per breast). Cut a potato or two into wedges (6? 8? Whatever it works out to be). Smash/chop a few (3-4) cloves of garlic. Buy some rosemary, and strip a few stems of their leaves and chop those up. Throw everything into a baking dish/cookie sheet (make sure it has edges so nothing drips off), and pour some olive oil over the whole thing, and then some salt & pepper. Mix it all up with your hands, making sure the potatoes and chicken are smeared with oil, but not swimming in it. Put in the oven at about 350-400 or so for a little while, until the potatoes are done (30-40 minutes maybe). Save half for lunch tomorrow, have food orgasm for dinner tonight.
posted by AlisonM at 12:42 PM on June 18, 2008 [1 favorite]

1. simplified salade nicoise:
Jar of high quality italian or spanish tuna in olive oil, lemon, italian parsley, prewashed salad greens, oil-cured black olives, baguette.

Put greens on plate. Put tuna on top, with some oil from the jar. strew olives (pit if you wish) and parsley all over. Squeeze lemon onto salad, to your taste. To make it closer to the real thing, add a quartered hard boiled egg or two, and some boiled potatoes. And anchovy, if that's in your range of salt tolerance.

(parsley keeps well in the fridge. Just wash it then store upright, in a glass of water, with a plastic bag loosely covering the leaves.)

2. roasted vegetables.
Preheat oven to around 425. Toss vegetables in olive oil, salt and pepper. put in single layer, not too close to each other, and cook 30-40 minutes, turning if necessary. Works for fennel (slice lengthwise to keep it intact), potatoes (peeled or not), green beans (cook in about 20), carrots (halved lengthwise), cauliflower. Eat with rice, couscous, starch of choice.

3. Tomato salad.
tomatoes sliced into chunks, fresh basil, sea salt, fresh ground pepper, olive oil to your taste. No need to add vinegar, as the acid from the tomatoes mingles with the oil and makes its own dressing. Eat with baguette. Only worth doing with summer tomatoes.

(basil storage: wash, then wrap in damp papers towels and place in fridge in ziploc bag. This works well with a lot of different herbs.)

4. Pasta carbonara--recipes widely available.
posted by Morpeth at 12:44 PM on June 18, 2008 [1 favorite]

You might want to search around for "cooking for one" or "cooking for one" cookbooks.

Frozen vegetables are great. Keep these around. You can microwave them or add them to pasta, skillet meals, etc.

I also love canned beans: great northern beans, navy beans, etc. They are good for side dishes in place of potatoes or rice and are easy to prepare and there is very little cleanup. You just have to nuke them.

Buy what you like to eat. Keep it simple.

Some ideas:

Microwave a baked potato, throw a steak that has been salted and peppered under the broiler or fry it in a pan, and microwave some veggies. Make a big salad and eat some for dinner and save the rest for the next day. You can replace the steak with fish, pork chops, chicken breast.

Some jarred spaghetti sauces are great. I like Newman's Own Marinara and use it all the time in place of fresh sauce. Buy some Italian sausage. (I like the turkey Italian sausage because it's just as good and slightly healthier.) Remove the casings. Fry it up in a pan, breaking it up with a fork or spatula, drain. Add a jar of Newman's own, simmer. Boil up some spaghetti to al dente. Easy. I don't even add onion or garlic or herbs. The sausage and the jarred sauce have enough flavor. You will have leftover sauce. The sauce is so satisfying and delicious that you won't mind eating it again the next night. Serve with a salad and a hunk of crusty bread.

Hamburgers are easy. Loosely form some ground chuck, or leaner ground beef if you don't want chuck, into a patty. Salt and pepper both sides. Cook 5 - 7 minutes each side, or longer depending on how you like your burger and the thickness of the patty. Don't smoosh the patty or mess with it. Flip it once. Throw some frozen fries in the oven before you start cooking your burger. (I like Amy's frozen potatoes.) Cut up some fresh watermelon or pineapple or have some frozen sorbet for dessert.

All of these things don't scream healthy: burgers, steaks, and spaghetti, but they're a lot healthier than eating out and not that bad when prepared at home. You can control the fat sodium, and portion size.

Good luck.
posted by LoriFLA at 12:47 PM on June 18, 2008

I made an error. They are Alexia frozen potatoes, not Amy's.
posted by LoriFLA at 1:05 PM on June 18, 2008

Trader Joe's: salmon fillets, white wine, sea salt, lemon pepper, dill leaves, rice, frozen veggie mix. Makes two servings--one for immediate eating, one for lunch the next day.

If you have frozen salmon, put one fillet in the fridge to defrost while you're at work.

Make two servings of rice according to package directions. Add two servings of frozen veggies to the rice before covering and simmering.

Poach your salmon fillet in 3 parts water and 1 part wine. Cut in half when done. Salt and lemon pepper one half. Put half the rice and veggies with it and refrigerate in a plastic airtight container. You may want some soy sauce the next day with your leftover salmon.

Dill the remaining salmon, and serve immediately with the rest of the rice and veggies. If you want a more salady, restauranty feel, put diced squash in the rice and serve on a bed of lettuce leaves and cucumber slices with carrot shavings on the salmon.
posted by infinitewindow at 1:31 PM on June 18, 2008

One pot meals? Perfect for the dish-hating bachelor.
posted by sunshinesky at 1:36 PM on June 18, 2008

Seconding the hamburger solution. I sometimes get intense protein cravings where nothing but beef will do.

Easy meatballs:

Mix one pound of lean ground beef with a cup of soy sauce; mix into balls. Place on baking sheet or in glass dish. Bake about 30 minutes. Eat with bottled spaghetti sauce or your condiments of choice.

(For fluffier balls, add a cup of oatmeal or breadcrumbs if you have them, but I find they're not necessary.)

You can pour these over rice if you like (use instant for easiest solution). Round it out with veggies from a small frozen package--takes six minutes with a bit of water in the microwave.
posted by frosty_hut at 1:39 PM on June 18, 2008

As a single guy who has struggled with this in the past I'd suggest you start by making it as easy for yourself as possible. After years of take out your not going to automatically fall in love with cooking if its too much work preparing and cleaning. Figure out a few quick meals, even if they are not the healthiest as a start. Then after you get the hand of the kitchen basics and start to realize how fun it can be (wow that can of black beans tastes so good with some cinnamon and red pepper in it!) then you can maybe think about trying something a bit more complicated to impress your next date. If you get into it it grows from there and the next thing you know you'll be eager to tryout all sorts of new things in the kitchen. But like anything new you have to be willing to accept you'll f-up. Don't quit, try again, do it different. Try to play with it and have fun. Here's a few basic suggestions:

- some Belle & Evans frozen breaded chicken (this can be heated in a toaster oven in about 10-12 minutes) I've seen them at Whole Foods and A&P. They are organic/hormone free and can be thrown in with anything to add animal protein. They can be added to anything below or even a salad if you need to get your meat on at every meal.

-Trader Joes has great frozen French cut string beans in a bag. A hand full of these in a frying pan with a bit of olive oil and a spoon of pre-minced garlic (in a jar) and your 2/3rds of the way to a full basic meal.

- Another easy favorite with these things is adding to a can of black beans, burrito shells, a few spoon fulls of salsa, etc... for quick easy burritos. (see rice maker below).

- seriously recommend a good rice maker. its really worth the money to get a good one.

- baked potato and chilly. I like Amy's (its veg though) over a baked potato (in oven for an hour) with the chilly and cheese (or not) on it. super easy and can run to the gym and get back back before the potatoes done.

- also I usually have a bit of pesto on hand. Makes for a different kind of pasta. Again, toss in the chicken.
posted by jeffe at 1:39 PM on June 18, 2008

Whatever recipes you choose, it saves time and money to plan your meals for the week. A lot of "making dinner" time is actually "what do i want? ... what's in the cupboard?..." If you take out those two steps by planning 5 or 6 meals a week. Then when you get home from work, you already know "alright, it's omelets, salad or stir-fry tonight" and you know you have the stuff to make it. When you plan meals you also won't end up buying stuff you don't need (which saves money).
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 1:48 PM on June 18, 2008 [1 favorite]

Here's a couple of easy, easy things I make all the time:

Hamburgers: Ground beef, paprika, salt, pepper. Stick oven-safe pan in oven while preheating to 500°F. When the preheating has finished, pull it out (with an oven glove, obviously) and put it on a stove burner on high. Put the burgers on, leaving them on each side for three minutes (or more depending on the size of the burger). Put on buns with grilled onions or whatever you'd like, and enjoy. Usually way better than McDonald's or BK. It's not super-healthy, but you can do this with 85% lean ground beef.

Fish: Get any fish in the "white fish" class - tilapia, cod, striper, mahi mahi - defrost it in the microwave, dress it in lime juice and soy sauce. Heat some olive oil on high in a pan until it smokes, then turn it down to medium high and put the fish in. Let it cook for four minutes a side, occasionally adding more lime and soy sauce. Serve with rice.

There's also a ton of relatively easy, cheap stuff in How to Cook Everything and Simple Chinese Cooking, much of it healthy.

I've recently found that Thai cashew chicken only takes about twenty minutes to cook and is excellent.
posted by ignignokt at 1:50 PM on June 18, 2008 [1 favorite]

You can add frozen peas to pretty much anything.
posted by sondrialiac at 1:53 PM on June 18, 2008

This recipe for Chicken with asparagus and pistachios is super-easy and yummy and only uses one pan. I probably make it about once a month and serve it with some brown rice.
posted by amarynth at 1:57 PM on June 18, 2008

Frozen pre-cut veggies, absolutely. In many cases frozen veggies are more nutritious than fresh (especially if you don't eat your fresh ones as soon as you buy them). No prep time, no cleanup, dump them in any recipe.
posted by allterrainbrain at 2:09 PM on June 18, 2008 [1 favorite]

My go-to plan for healthy, quick meals for one looks like this:

1. Choose protein (Fish fillet, chicken breast, steak, pork chop)

2. Choose sauce (Barbecue, teriyaki, any of the Trader Joe's sauces-- curry, chutney, etc) or topping (Thai peanut bake, seasoned breadcrumbs, lemon-pepper seasoning, etc)

3. Slather meat with condiment of choice and stick in oven at 375 or so. (For quick clean-up, line the baking tray with foil-- after cooking, you can just throw the foil away and the baking tray won't need to be cleaned)

4. Add a roll and vegetable (microwaved from frozen, or a prepared salad)

5. Viola! Dinner for one in well under 30 minutes with hardly any clean-up needed.

Bonus for nights when you have extra time: slice some vegetables (onions, red and green peppers, potatoes, even broccoli or spinach), toss them with a little olive oil (try a flavored oil, like garlic or pepper) and lay them directly under the meat you're baking. The veggies will help flavor the meat and keep it tender and will emerge from the oven crisp-tender.
posted by chickletworks at 2:22 PM on June 18, 2008 [2 favorites]

A rice cooker is really useful, really cheap and takes up fairly little space.

Add brown rice. Add water. Turn on. Come back 30 minutes to an hour later and eat it. Great when you are going to go to the gym and planning on eating when you get back.

So yeah, it makes rice. Why else is it good? Because it is a steamer, and you can do stuff like:
-One pot jambalaya. Add brown rice jambalaya mix, water, bit of oil, throw meat of your choice (chicken breasts, sausage, etc.) in the steamer lid.
-Lentils and rice - great combination. 2 cups water for every cup of lentils and rice (more water if you use brown rice). Salt, pepper, eat it. Throw in a chicken breast to add more protein.
-Dirty rice: Get a box of brown rice dirty rice mix, and throw in some cooked hamburger, ground chicken, ground turkey, or veggie crumbles.
-Split pea soup that tastes like you spent all weekend cooking it: Cook split peas in the rice cooker just as if they were lentils. Use broth instead of water (chicken, veggie, or pork stock, whatever you have handy). They will steam, and become soft but dry and kind of mealy. While the peas cook, soften some onions and garlic by heating them in a little oil; you want the onions to start to become clear, but not brown. Take the peas out, mash them with a potato masher or fork to turn them into pea paste. In a big pot, add the pea paste, some broth and stir. Add broth until it is thick but no longer resembles pea paste. Add some cubed cooked ham, the onion/garlic mix, and dozen or so whole peppercorns. The broth should have plenty of salt, so you don't need to add any more. Soup is done when it is heated through to boiling - all you are doing at this point is mixing it together and getting the ham warm. Leftovers are even better than the first bowl. My wife loves this soup, it's as thick as the canned stuff but tastes much better.

Just experiment with the rice cooker. One of those and a crock pot* ought to make good meals pretty damn simple.

*Favorite super-easy crock pot recipe: Peel the outer skins from a small bag of pearl onions (the cocktail-sized ones). Cut half a bag of carrots or so into 1 inch sections. Get a small bag of red potatoes (or get a big bag, and just don't use many of them). If you get the ones that are about golf ball size, you needn't cut them up, otherwise cut the potatoes into chunks. Put a thawed whole chicken in the crock pot (use a Cornish game hen for a small crock pot, or two hens if you want in a bigger pot). Put veggies over the top, pour in a can of chicken broth, add a can of mushroom soup if you like, throw in any additional spices that sound good (I like to add garlic cloves) and turn it on low before leaving for work. When you get home, dinner is ready. To reduce time in the morning, put everything together the night before, and put the crock pot in the refrigerator overnight; in the morning, just pull it out of the fridge, plug it in and turn it on.
posted by caution live frogs at 2:38 PM on June 18, 2008 [1 favorite]

You might try pressure cooker meals. Granted you have to buy the pressure cooker but after that, you can make a multitude of meals in 10-25 minutes and have only one pot to clean. Plus you don't have to use the oven or even cook the food that long, you save on time, gas/electricity and you don't get your kitchen hot and steamy. Meats come out super tender, vegetables have a smooth, velvety texture and sauces blend with the food like they've been cooked for hours. It is amazing what you can make in it.

My favorite cookbook is Pressure Perfect by Lorna Sass. It has a wide variety of recipe with variations on those recipes and it never asks for some obscure ingredient that a person could only get at a Farmer's Market. Nine times out ten, I already have what I need on hand.

If you don't want to cook at all you can try this Black Bean Salad:

1 can, 14 ounces, black beans, rinsed and drained
2 cups frozen corn kernels
1 small red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1/2 red onion, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin, half a palm full
2 teaspoons hot sauce, just eyeball the amount (recommended: Tabasco)
1 lime, juiced
2 tablespoons vegetable or olive oil, eyeball it
Salt and pepper
Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Let stand at least 15 minutes for corn to fully defrost and flavors to combine, then toss and serve. The corn will also place a quick-chill on this easy side-salad as it defrosts -- no need to refrigerate!

Then get some Tostitos Scoops and maybe sprinkle cheddar cheese on top.
posted by i_love_squirrels at 2:41 PM on June 18, 2008 [1 favorite]

When I still ate animals, one of my favourite ultra-simple ten-minute recipes was rice and tuna. Procedure:

1) Cook rice (about a half a cup ought to do)
2) Add tinned tuna (as much or as little as you like, and the best you can afford - mix in some of the oil as well, but never brine or water)
3) Season to taste (I always used pepper and a little Tabasco)
4) Nom!

If you do the rice in the microwave and throw the tuna right into the bowl when the rice is done cooking, there's hardly going to be any washing-up at all.
posted by turgid dahlia at 2:42 PM on June 18, 2008 [4 favorites]

First off, I wanted to thank you all for your responses thus far. You've been a lot of help, and please keep the recipes coming.

Secondly, I'd like to make a minor clarification - under "dietary requirement," I listed "non-vegetarian" as one of my bullet points. Just to clarify, I'm looking for vegetarian AND non-vegetarian recipes. In the bullet point, I was stating that I, myself, am not a vegetarian.

I figure that most of you knew what I meant, but I only get one question a week, so I wanted to make sure that I was clear.
posted by Afroblanco at 4:04 PM on June 18, 2008

My husband grew up with a predictable schedule like this:
Monday = spaghetti and meatballs
Tuesday = burgers and fries
Wednesday = baked chicken and rice
Thursday = Mom's experiment (usually ended up being mac and cheese with smoked sausage)
Friday = Chef Boyardee pizza

This kind of mindset might be helpful while building up a repertoire of recipes you're comfortable with. Here's how I've worked it for me:
Monday = American or Mexican, I alternate. For American: Burgers on the george foreman grill (find one at any garage sale) and baked fries (I make a ton of patties every few months and freeze in saran wrap. Fries are Ore-Ida from the bag or baked potatoes sometimes.) Get a toaster convection oven by Cuisinart. I use ours more than once daily. For Mexican: Fajitas or tacos. My little tip: stop by McDonald's on the way home and pick up two fresh side-salads instead of buying bags of lettuce that will just go bad. I make my own fajita and taco seasoning, but you can use packaged or google for make your own.

Tuesday = Italian. This could be spaghetti, or better yet, homemade lasagna. I make up a recipe of lasagna every few months and put it in a bunch of foil mini-loaf pans. I wrap them with two layers of foil and freeze. When I want fresh-baked lasagna, I throw one in (frozen!) into the convection toaster oven for an hour. Easy peasy. Sometimes on Tuesdays I'll experiment with various fresh pastas and various sauces. Or make chicken parmesan.

Wednesday = Soup and sandwich. Usually grilled cheese (or ham and cheese) and Mrs. Grass's Chicken Soup. Not so healthy, but adjust to your liking. My sweet husband has specific tastes, so Mrs. Grass's it is.

Thursday = Slow cooker meal. I have two beef stews that are awesome and easy. Took a little tweaking, but now they're terrific and I do very little prep. Buy a package of "beef for stew" and re-package into half-pound portions. Freeze for later. On slow-cooker day, throw in a half-pound of beef, a generous handful of baby carrots or cut up carrots, a chopped up onion, and a few cut up potatoes, usually red. Pour over it a can of french onion soup. Cook for 8-12 hours on low. The other is to throw in the beef, onion, and a can of chopped tomatoes. When I get home at the end of the day I throw in half a box of pasta, usually rotini, and let the pasta cook in the sauce.

Friday = leftover slow cooker for lunch, or maybe dinner. Or sometimes it's Chinese night, either takeout or stir fry. Google Alton Brown's Baked Brown Rice recipe (bake for an hour-- terribly easy). Slice a chicken breast and throw in a sauce pan on medium, mix up a stir fry sauce (soy, water, little sugar, little cornstarch if you want it thick, orange juice if you like), throw in some water chestnuts, peppers, onions, broc, cauli, whatever veggies you like, and cook for about 10 minutes. Throw in the sauce and cook for a few, then pour over the rice.

If you want specific recipes, I'd be happen to share.
posted by orangemiles at 6:56 PM on June 18, 2008 [3 favorites]

My go-to dish, when I want something better than what 5 minute cooking provides, but can't be arsed making real food...
  • Steak, or sausages, or whatever you feel goes with tomatoes. Someone I know once enjoyed it done with chicken breasts, but I don't like chicken + tomato.
  • Tin of crushed, chopped, or diced tomatoes
  • Dried chopped Italian herbs (or just oregano + basil), cracked peppercorns, & dried chopped coriander leaves. The last is important. (This is one of those dishes that works better with dried herbs than fresh, by the way.)
  • Rice. I find basmati or jasmine rice is easier to cook than plain long grain rice, but YMMV
    Making it:
  • Cook steak, sausages, or whatever. As long as you don't dry it out as tough as old boots, it'll work well.
  • Empty tin of tomato pieces over the top.
  • Simmer. While simmering, add Italian herbs (or oregano + basil). What looks like enough is enough. Add cracked pepper to taste. Add dried coriander leaves, and keep adding them - when it starts to smell like drying grass clippings, stop ;-)
  • Put lid on frying pan, keep simmering.
  • Cook rice, ~ 1/2 cup per person. The trick with rice (if you're not using a rice cooker) is that when you think it's almost done, it's done.
  • When rice is cooked, so is the steak. Dish up the rice on one side of the plate, steak on the other, sauce all over both. Proceed to eat.
If you make this with sausages, the leftovers are really nice cold for the next few days.
posted by Pinback at 1:53 AM on June 19, 2008

wow.. this is exactly what I was looking for.

What Iam doing right now
Instant rice/ Ramen throw in some vegetables in there like lettuce, carrots, peas etc.

Top with sesame oil, peanuts etc
or beans
or tuna
or furikake ( japanese rice topping.. maybe you can find in your store)
or... you get the idea
posted by radsqd at 11:25 AM on June 19, 2008

Parchment Packets!

A piece of fish. Or chicken. A bit of vegetables. A bit of butter. Some spices you like.

Fold it into a piece of parchment paper, seal it by folding, put it on a baking sheet, and bake. (Temperature and time will vary depending on thickness and kind of meat.)

posted by bilabial at 9:26 PM on June 19, 2008 [1 favorite]

Roast a chicken. It's easy as hell, economical (relative to other single-serving meats), doesn't require much prep/dishware, and can is recyclable so you as a single person eating solo won't get sick of leftovers--eat it straight up with some croutons or whatnot and greens/potatoes when it's hot, use the bones for stock to make broth and hence various soups (including, if you're lazy, straight up chicken rice or chicken vegetable soup using fast rice or frozen veggies), use the leftover meat in salads, on pasta, or in sandwiches. Wash and pat dry the chicken, put some onions, garlic, and/or quartered lemon in it, brush with melted butter or olive oil, season with salt, pepper, and/or poultry-friendly herbs or herb mixes (herbs de provence etc), and roast in a pan (it's really good over a bed of sliced onions tossed in olive oil) at 425F. For a 5 pounder, it'll take about and hour and a half. When it's done (golden crispy and the juices run clear), cover it with foil and let it cool at room temperature for about 15 minutes. I know it sounds like a lot of time that night you're roasting it, but come on, it's in the oven so you don't have to watch it like a stovetop dish, you can do other stuff, and it will be rewarding, versatile, and delicious for the whole week.
posted by ifjuly at 8:38 PM on June 25, 2008

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