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Nov 12, 2007 06:08 AM

Quick Vegetarian Dinners for new College Grad

Any suggestions for a new college grad who is tiring of the one dish he kows how to make—pasta, butter, and parmesan cheese? Caveats: he does not have much interest in cooking, recipes should take less than 20 minutes, use minimal kitchen tools, dairy and eggs okay, Asian flavors a negative but Mexican a plus, need to incorporate fresh vegetables, relatively healthy recipes, MINIMAL clean up (this might be his first criterion).

First idea: Frittata using baby orgainic spinach (pre-washed), a bit of fresh goat cheese (or Parmesan), and egg whites (like "Better 'n Eggs) mixed with one real egg (optional, since it would require a bowl for mixing.). Tools: one nonstick skillet and a plastic spatula.

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  1. Mexican cuisine is incredible for quick vegetarian dinners. Basically, stock up on canned black beans and refried beans, cheese, corn and flour tortillas, fresh tomatoes, canned corn, fresh and canned jalapenos,lettuce, sour cream, onions and green onions, and a little oil for frying.

    You can make nachos, tacos, quesadillas, burritos and tostadas with a combination of the above-mentioned ingredients. Add some canned enchilada sauce (not very chow-ish, but if you're in a hurry...) and bake enchiladas in oven. Also, to up the veggie factor, buy some already grilled vegetables from a place like whole foods and add to quesadillas or tacos.

    If you want a real treat without cooking much, buy some pre-made mashed potatoes (also available at whole foods or other places with production kitchens), heat them up, put them in corn tortillas and fry them up. Yum.

    2 Replies
    1. re: charlesbois

      Great ideas for stocking the larder.Also good idea to stop at Whole Foods for prepared foods that can be the starter for a recipe. Thank you!

      1. re: charlesbois

        You could add huevos rancheros to that list. The tortillas can be warmed up in the same frying pan that is later used for frying the eggs. Some beans (optional), cheese, and salsa and you've got yourself a meal. My vegetarian teenager makes this for herself quite a lot. You could also scramble the eggs and wrap them in a tortilla for a burrito.

      2. I have a lot of these from when I was in college. I still make them on the nights I really don't feel like doing much of anything — I have a 90-minute commute each way for work. So some nights, I wan things to be easy as pie - and most of these I can keep ingredients on hand for long periods of time (fridge/frozen/pantry) so I don't have to worry about also dashing to the store.

        One of my favorite "fast" ones is mexican turnovers. Easy, and once he gets comfy, easy to vary. I keep frozen veggies on hand and use fresh hot peppers and onion.
        -pillsbury pizza dough
        -frozen pepper mix
        -frozen corn
        -white onion (unless the pepper mix also has onion)
        -hot peppers if desired
        -boca burger crumbles or black beans/bean mix
        -Mexican 2% blend pre-shredded cheese
        -fajita seasoning
        Spray pan with Pam and "stir fry" frozen goods, adding a bit of salsa for moisture. Add fresh veggies for a few minutes. Sprinkle a little fajita seasoning to taste.
        Unroll pizza dough on cookie sheet, press so it's somewhat flat and cut. I usually cut in half and give my SO one full half. I cut about a third off the other half to make a mini version for myself for lunch.
        Put mixture in middle of the dough, top with a little salsa and cheese. Fold over, pinch edges together. Repeat until all are folded over. Spray tops with Pam, sprinkle some fajita seasoning on top. Bake at 350 until brown. I usually top with some more cheese.

        Nothing fancy, but pretty good.

        -Pasta Primavera is safe. if he gets more adventurous he can start playing with different kinds of sauces.

        -Show him how to make an easy vegetable lasagna.

        -Likewise, a mexican lasagna was a favorite of my "boys" in college and easy: Mix red and black beans cook and mash up. Add onion and other veggies (red pepper, hot pepper, sometimes shredded zuchini ... anything, really). Add salsa to keep moist. Crush tortilla chips and layer in a 9x13 pan: chips, mixture, cheese, salsa, chips, mixture, cheese, salsa. Top with cheese and bake until cheese is melty and brown. Haven't made this since college, but it was one of my staples then.

        -I do a homemade mac n cheese that is pretty easy. boil 8 oz mac and drain, put back in pan and then add 2 eggs, 1 can consenced milk, 8 oz cheese, and chopped onion, celery, red bell pepper, hot pepper. Put in baking dish, cover with more cheese and bake. Can serve with peas, green beans, steamed brocoli, etc.

        Get him a veggie steamer.

        Taco salad in a homemade toritilla bowl with seasoned boca crumbles/salsa.

        Another easy enchilada is to mix equal parts shredded cheese and shredded zuchini. Spread cream cheese on tortilla shells, fill with mixture, roll, put in pan, top with salsa and cheese, bake until hot and bubbley. Could easily add other veggies or black beans.

        1 Reply
        1. re: alexajord

          That Mexican "lasagna" sounds like you've turned nachos into a real meal—thanks!

        2. I'd say get the new grad some kitchen equipment -- at least a cutting board and chef's knife if he/she is going to use fresh vegetables. And a pot, wooden spoons.

          Lentils are good and easy and cook in about 20 minutes or so. Stewed, soup or mujadara (lentils cooked with caramalized onions)
          Tortellini w/ marinara.
          Grilled cheese w/ apples, ham or tomato.

          1 Reply
          1. re: NYchowcook

            I just posted a recipe for Santa Fe Chicken in response to the request for a Mexican chicken casserole that's great (I like it better) without the chicken. Not much effort, makes plenty for leftovers, easily doubled. Yum.

          2. One of my favorite quickies is to get a spaghetti squash and use a big knife to hack off crosswise about a 1" wide ring of it. I scoop out the seeds & very stringy area from the center, and then put it loosely covered in the microwave in a bowl with about a tablespoon of water and cook 5 minutes on high. When tender/done, I shred out the strands with a fork, and top with a good bottled marinara or other pasta sauce and some parmesan cheese and toss. That and a good crusty dinner roll make a very quick & easy meal.

            1. Spinach and chickpeas is a quick staple in our home. Chop 1 onion, one clove garlic, saute, add in 1/2 t cumin, the, the can o chickpeas, then a bunch of chopped spinach, and a half cup tomato sauce. I use Emeril's kicked up tomato --nice & zippy. Serve over rice or couscous.

              Chard w/ cannellini beans is another Italianish variation on this, but nix the tomato sauce, and add oregano instead & serve over pasta.
              I second the lentil soup idea.