Easy to make, hard to screw up dishes!
Newbie cook here and only been cooking for a couple of months. After ideas for something like spaghetti, ingredients are cheap, its straight forward and its not difficult to make a decent pasta. I'm a tad lactose intolerant so dishes with cheese and creams are not really an option. No limit on calories and maybe something I can make a batch of and store well. I don't have a huge variety of cooking equipment but have a couple of saucepans, frypans and an oven.
Been a lurker for a while, but this community is great and I've learnt heaps from this site! Any ideas would be fantastic!
Hey guys, just a little update.
Found a bit of my groove in cooking, but still very far from accomplished as my variety is still pretty narrow. My main method is a basic marinade with a bunch of meat (pork, chicken or beef) and doing a deglaze or making a difference sauce. Mix and match with different veggies and carb choice.
I'm actually sad because my spaghetti doesn't taste that great even though I've made it many many times. So will have to do some troubleshooting. Still haven't tried curries, many soups, and desserts but that's on the pipeline. Anyhow more cooking adventures ahead! :)
Glad you're eating well. Now, let's talk about that spaghetti. I'm assuming your sauce isn't as tasty as you'd like? What's your general recipe, and how long are you allowing it to simmer? If you're making a quick sauce, do you add tomato paste to help it thicken and to intensify the tomato flavor?
Yeah for sure. General recipe is:
1. Saute onions, garlic in Evoo, add salt and oregano.
2. Add in carrots to soften a bit, then mince .
3. After mince is browned, add in red wine, canned tomatos + sugar.
4. Simmer for 40-50 mins.
How long ideally should you simmer for? I find that even after simmering 1hr+ the flavor doesn't change much, or becomes more rich. I think I might have to try that tomato paste. Or perhaps I have the ratios wrong.
Heres some more bonus cooking pics :) Bit more fancy.
An hour should be enough to get a decent sauce, although there are plenty of recipes for longer simmering - 2.5 hours is fairly common. The instructions I've seen for larger batches, that use 4 cans, 28 oz. each of tomatoes & 1 Cup of wine say "until reduced by half".
My tomato sauce does not have carrots.
You might try using a blender to finely chop / puree your canned tomatoes before adding them.
The ratio suggested by Cooks Illustrated is 1 large clove garlic, 1 T. olive oil, 14.5 oz canned tomatoes.
You might try browning the meat & onions separately, add red wine (about 1/4 C) and keep cooking. In a separate pan cook the tomatoes/garlic then stir the meat mixture into the tomatoes after those have cooked 15 min. or so and started to thicken.
Try your sauce with no spices - just tomatoes/garlic/salt & pepper.
Experiment with adding other spices, in addition to oregano - basil or even cumin, and maybe try a batch with a teaspoon of anchovy fish paste or a crushed anchovy.
My suggestion is to cook and look up recipes that you want to try. If you have access to a library, cook books can give you ideas.
Also, I tend to focus on cooking a protein/meat. The meat can be a springboard for other dishes.
Easy to cook and stores well
1) Taco meat - I usually use the 1.5 lbs of meat to 1 pkg of taco seasoning (usual ratio is 1lb to 1 package of seasoning), plus 1/2 cup of diced onions and 1/4 of diced bell pepper.
With the taco meat you can make taco, enchiladas, burritos, nachos, or mix into scrambled eggs.
2) Poach or roasted chicken.
The leftovers meat can be used for chicken salad, enchiladas, soups, chicken and dumplings... etc.
3) Pot roast (Chuck or 7 bone)/stew
This is a great one pot batch cooked flavorful dish.
Another idea is to build upon a theme...
For example, Mexican theme...
Roasted duck/soy sauce chicken
Rice or fried rice
Pot Roast/Meat Loaf
re: c oliver
Made a couple from the link nokitchen gave me! Otherwise not a whole lot else haha. I do eat the same food for a while, so haven't had much chance to cook something different. But yes I'm making Chilli of some sort, tomorrow instead of normal pasta. I probably cook once a week, or prepare my food for the week at least. =]
Learn to cook eggs and you'll never go hungry. Practice frying an egg, scrambling an egg, etc. And then find instructions in a cookbook or YouTube video and learn to make an omelet.
Making an omelet was my first true cooking skill. I use it often still. From the omelet, you can branch out to frittattas.
And here is another easy egg dish: quiche. Buy the crust, make the quiche, bake it, slice it, eat.
And if you can hard boil eggs, you can make deviled eggs. There are loads of fancy ideas on CH for deviled eggs.
And there's egg salad for sandwiches.
I don't have a lot of equipment, either. If you have a slow cooker, or even a larger sized kettle, along with your fry and sauce pans, you cannot screw up the following:
SOUPS/STEWS - use a base of vegetable, beef or chicken broth/stock. Throw a box/can of that into the kettle according to how much you want to make/eat/store, chop up your preferred veggies and seasonings and just simmer til softened to your liking. Throw in cooked or halfway cooked meat and just heat until done! Can always freeze soups, chilis and stews for later reheating. This is truly a mix-n-match sort of thing.
OVEN - get a cookie sheet, round pizza pan and an 8x8 square baking dish. You can bake anything with these 3 items. Cookies! Meats! Vegetables! Most everything goes into a 350 oven anyway. Just keep your baking things oiled/sprayed and you can't go wrong.
COOKBOOK - Invest in a basic cookbook like Betty Crocker or Joy of Cooking. These will walk you through how to make ANYTHING in a basic way. They are uncomplicated and cover most general ingredients.
Good luck and have fun!
I'll have to find the Joy of Cooking since its recommended so much on here. Hopefully they sell it around here. Haha yeah love the oven approach, salt, evoo and that's pretty much it and tastes great.
For sure stews are on the menu to cook, just as soon as I make a broth/stock! Cheers!
I love bean tostadas and they are so easy:
1. Melt a little oil in a frying pan and add a can of refried beans. Stir until consistency is smooth. If you want, you could saute some onion and jalapeno pepper before adding the beans, but this is optional.
2. In the mean time, heat some tostada shells for just a few minutes in the oven at 350.
3. Spread the beans on the hot tostada shells and then add your favorite taco fixings:
salsa and taco sauce
onions and peppers
and shredded lettuce
top with sour cream and crushed black pepper (optional)
This is the fastest dinner I know and it is so good!
One that is a childhood favorite of mine is Rice Balls.
Mix cooked rice with uncooked hamburger meat or ground turkey, an egg,a large chopped onion and salt & pepper. Use more salt than you think you need. Mix up, shape into just smaller balls than a tennis ball, put in an 11 X 13" pan. Pour a can of diced tomatoes over them and cook 350 for an hour uncovered.
Sweet & sour pork might stretch your skill level a little bit (making the thickened sauce takes stirring and some judgement about when it's "done"), but a batch gives good leftovers.
Re: equipment. You don't mention having a timer, but you'll want 1 or 2. If you can read, use a timer, & follow directions, you can cook. The other piece of kitchen equipment that's great for a new cook is an instant-read thermometer. Use it to check that meat dishes / leftovers are warmed enough to be safe to eat -- 165 degrees is pretty much a good-for-everything temperature.
This beefburger recipe makes about 6 servings, and the filling is good served in hamburger buns (optional add a slice of dill pickle) or simply scooped up with corn chips. It was my mom's way of getting some vegetables (the cooked onion, those in the soup) into "picky" eater kids, and is still a family favorite.
1 pound ground beef
½ - 1 medium onion, chopped
1 can Campbells vegetable beef soup (with alphabet pasta)
¼ - ½ can water
1 generous tablespoon prepared mustard
¼ cup – ½ cup ketchup
Sprinkle salt & pepper to lightly cover the bottom of a 10-inch skillet. Brown ground beef and onions until cooked. Drain off fat. Add soup to meat mixture and use a fork to mash vegetables. Add water, mustard and ketchup. Mix. Simmer for 15 minutes.
Pork chops Briaised with Sour Kraut, onion and apple. You can use frank furthers too.
As you're getting started cooking... when you get around to buying pots pans and knives. Buy the best. I bought a set of all clad cookware 15 years ago - looks like new (pretty much) will last forever, as is far cheaper in the long run than buying an okay set and replacing it every few years.....
Though there are many good brands - it's far cheaper to go big at the beginning...
Good luck and have fun.
crockpot pulled pork is very easy, cheap and can be frozen in ziploc bags that will hold enough for 2 or 3 sandwiches.
3 - 4 pounds of pork shoulder or boston butt
1 12 ounce bottle of beer
8 - 12 ounces of pineapple juice
1 16 ounce jar of barbecue sauce
1 medium onion very roughly chopped
1/3 cup of pork rub made up of 2 Tbls Kosher salt, 2 tbls smoked paprika, 1 tbl garlic powder, 1 tsp ground black pepper, 1 Tbl of onion powder.
Put a layer of onions into the slow cooker. Sprinkle the pork with the rub and then add the pork to the pot.
Add the beer, pineapple juice and the beer to the crockpot. Put the lid on and set to low for 8 - 12 hours.
Remove the pork from the pot and shred (pull) it. Portion it into ziploc bags and freeze what you won't eat immediately.
Mix the pork with some fresh barbecue sauce and put on hamburger buns. put a sweet onion ring and a teaspoon of pickle relish on the meat and serve.
If you don't want to be wasteful, you can use the braising liquid to make barbecue sauce. Defat it and then cook it down to concentrate the flavors. Add some thyme and ground black pepper and whatever else you think I make it better. I like to add a teaspoon of dijon mustard. Thicken it with a mixture of corn starch and water. You will have to bring the pot to a boil to get the cornstarch to thicken.
This bbq sauce will hold for about 4 -5 days in the fridige.
re: Hank Hanover
You use a "fat separator" like this one: http://www.amazon.com/OXO-1067506-Sof...
You pour in the fat laden braising liquid. The fat floats to the top. The spout on the separator is at the bottom of the container. When you pour the liquid out, the non-fatty liquid pours out first leaving the fat behind.
By the way, pork shoulder and boston butt are one of the cheapest of meats maybe not quite as cheap as chicken. I routinely buy it for $2 per pound and on sale $1 per pound.
Garlic chicken. Easy, delicious, filling, and forgiving: I've made it with bone-in or boneless chicken, with skin or without, thawed (which is preferred) or when I didn't plan ahead-frozen.
Melt a chunk of butter (maybe 1/2 a stick or a bit more) in a skillet (I use cast iron, but any oven-proof skillet with work). Throw in chicken pieces and at least 12 cloves of garlic, peeled. More garlic is better, but I get tired of peeling it. Whole cloves of garlic work better than crushed, I've found. The garlic will mellow and sweeten as it bakes, so there's no vampire factor here. Lightly salt & pepper. Bake, covered, till done & browned (about an hour; remove lid if the butter needs to reduce its water content some). Great with mashed potatoes to soak up all that garlic & butter sauce, and add your favorite easy veg.
I find stewed dishes in general are pretty error resistant, and are good candidates for cheap, tough meat. If you use a low meat to bean/vegetable ration, it makes them even cheaper. My favourites for cheap stew meat are chicken legs and thighs, beef shanks, and pork shoulder (with the fat trimmed off). In general, I saute the onions/celery/garlic, brown the meat, then add the other ingredients and liquid.
If you don't have a good sized pot for stews, it's worth getting one - you'll have the advantage of being able to make batches of it too.
= Chili con carne (use dried beans and not too much meat, and you can keep it really cheap).
= Moroccan chickpea and beef stew with tomatoes.
= A tomato/onion/celery/carrot/mushroom base with meatballs stewed in it, or whole chicken legs (skin off).
= Beef/pork/chicken stew with celery/onion/carrot/mushrooms, maybe with a gravy based sauce (either the meat juices, or add a bit of stock), or tomato based.
= Stewed lentils or split pea soup, or curried chickpeas.
Also cheap and tasty are beans and rice, or fried rice.
With your rice cooker, it won't work for cooking stews, but you can jazz up your rice. Replace some of the liquid with stock or wine or tomato juice for flavoured rice. Add diced onions or green onions, red or green pepper, celery, carrots, diced ham or cooked meat, herbs and spices etc, for an easy pilaf-like result.
Perhaps I should clarify somewhat, though I did say easy it doesn't necessitate convenience or little time! I do like dishes that are quite forgiving, as in I often do not measure ingredients and just chuck it in, or go by taste :) Easy as in to make it taste delicious? :D
Since you describe yourself as a newbie, you may want to hold off on the "not measure...just chuck it in." Once you make something from a recipe, you'll then have an idea if and how it can be changed. I'm a definite recipe follower as I figure the pros are pros for a reason. Generally.
A few recipes that are cheap, easy and quick.
Boxed Mac & cheese with a chopped smoked kielbasa sausage thrown in.
Zatarain's boxed Jambalaya with sausage rings thrown in. best with Andouille but kielbasa will work.
Oven Barbecued Pork Tenderloin HH
There is a difference between pork tenderloin and pork loin. Make sure you get a tenderloin. At my store, they usually come two at a time in a cryovac plastic bag. The two tenderloins probably won’t weigh more than 2.5 pounds.
Trim the tenderloin of the silverskin and tie up the thinner tail. Here is a link to a video showing how to do that. http://video.about.com/southernfood/Roast-Pork-Tenderloin.htm
This is optional but I recommend tying your tenderloin with string to maintain its round shape. Here is a link describing that process. http://allrecipes.com//HowTo/tying-roasts/Detail.aspx
Put your tenderloin(s) in a zip lock bag and pour in 6-7 tablespoons of soy sauce and 1 tablespoon of brown sugar. As you close the zipper, squeeze out as much of the air as possible. Roll the tenderloin around to distribute the soy sauce and to dissolve the sugar. Put the bag in the refrigerator and let soak for 45 minutes to an hour. This process is called brining. It puts water and flavor inside the meat. I highly recommend it for pork or chicken. You can brine with salt too. Here is a link describing the science of brining.
After 1 hour rinse and pat dry the tenderloin. Season with salt, pepper and garlic powder. Sear tenderloin in a med high stainless steel frypan with a little oil for 3 minutes on each side.
Put the tenderloin in a 350 degree oven until it reaches an internal temperature of 135 degrees as monitored by a digital temperature probe. If you don’t have a probe, you can bake it for about 15 minutes.
At this point, put your favorite barbecue sauce on the tenderloin and continue baking to 150 degrees or about 5 more minutes. Take the tenderloin out of the oven and wrap in aluminum foil to rest for 10 minutes.
Slice in ¼ inch slices and serve.
You could serve any kind of rice with this. Even Zatarains yellow rice mix in a box. A nice salad would go nicely. Some bbq beans. We will pretend you made them form scratch rather than buying a can of Bush’s.
Roasted chicken leg quarters
This is about as easy as it gets and it is rock bottom cheap. You can get leg quarters for 0.59 to 1.29 per pound.
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Mix some chili powder, smoked paprika, garlic powder, salt and pepper
Trim the excess fat off the leg quarters and pat dry with a paper towel.
Sprinkle the spice rub on the skin of the leg quarters.
Put the leg quarters on a rack in a jelly roll pan. If you don’t have one use a broiler pan. With 4 or more, you may need two pans to hold it all. The chicken will render a lot of fat so it would be nice to have them elevated off the bottom of the pan. That is why I use a drip rack.
Bake in the oven for 45 minutes to an hour and serve.
Rice pilaf goes well with this. Even boxed mac and cheese goes well with this.
You can change the spice rub around. I have seen soy sauce used. If you like heat, you can add some cayenne to the rub.
Look up recipes on the web if my spice rub is not to your liking.
Beef Stroganoff Hamburger Dinner in a Skillet ala HEH
1 pound lean ground beef
.25 tsp soy sauce
3 Tbls flour
.25 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoon olive or vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped
8oz. sliced white button mushrooms
1 tsp chopped garlic
.75 pound egg noodles, cooked
2 cups beef broth & beef base
.5 cup sour cream
1 tsp Dijon mustard
Chopped parsley, for garnish
Season the beef with the pepper.
In a large cast iron skillet, heat the oil over medium heat.
Add the seasoned beef and cook, stirring, until well browned and all pink has disappeared. Drain off any excess oil in the skillet.
Add the onions and cook, stirring, until soft, 3 to 4 minutes.
Add the mushrooms and garlic and cook, stirring until the mushrooms have released their juices, about 2 minutes.
Sprinkle flour and stir in for a minute.
Add the beef broth, soy sauce and mustard.
Cook, stirring, until the mixture thickens slightly, 5 to 6 minutes. Add the egg noodles.
Add sour cream.
Sprinkle with the chopped parsley and serve immediately.
Sounds like you've got a rice cooker, right?
Make rice and if you can't make rice with a rice cooker, run don't walk to your nearest AYCE buffet.
Ok, once you have your rice you're basically half way there.
Fry an egg, serve it over the rice, drizzle some soy sauce or Sriracha and then top with cut-up hot dogs, canned sardines or kimchi.
A few more for Rawrpie: 1) Canned baked beans with frankfurters. 2) Chicken pieces baked with Shake & Bake. 3) Stove Top Stuffing Mix made up by package directions, placed in baking dish, topped with chicken pieces or pork chops, baked for an hour. Poke the meat sort of down in the stuffing halfway so it doesn't dry out. 4) Saute fresh mushrooms in a little butter. Add a couple of beaten eggs and scramble the eggs amongst the mushrooms. Eat with hot toast. 5) Brown pork chops in a frying pan. Transfer to baking dish. Pour a can of sauerkraut over. Cover with foil. Bake at 350* for an hour. 6) Frozen fish sticks & frozen french fries in same oven. If you don't have tartar sauce, chop up a pickle and mix with mayonnaise. Can also use fish sticks in hot fish sandwich or fish taco (buy tortillas). 7) Frozen meat ravioli with canned spaghetti sauce like Ragu. 8) Quick chili: brown a pound of ground beef with a chopped onion or two, add 2 cans kidney beans, can of tomatoes, can of tomato puree, a couple of bean cans of water, chili powder and salt and garlic powder to taste, simmer for 30 minutes. 9) French toast: beat a couple of eggs, dip bread in them, fry the bread in butter, eat with jam or syrup. 10) Hot Beef Sandwich a la diner: buy a quarter pound of deli roast beef, heat it in a can of beef gravy, and pour over a slice of bread. Have mashed potatoes with this (the prepared ones will last you several meals). 11) A bag of the shredded cabbage they sell for coleslaw makes a good stir-fry for one. Saute it in a little vegetable oil and add anything you have lying around (leftover meat, a few frozen shrimp, anything). Add a tablespoon of sherry and soy sauce and a sprinkle of sugar or flavor any way you want; the general idea is Asian.
So glad that you are cooking for yourself. It makes life better.
Wow thanks for all the ideas! Unfortunately I cant eat a huge amount of beans.. I'm training my stomach though haha. I really like the pork chops one, since I usually get a kilo or so a week to marinate and fry whenever. I try use fresh ingredients wherever possible as there is a market nearby!
This dish, Beans on Toast, is almost instant food and is popular in England's greasy spoon restaurants. Toast a piece of whole wheat bread. Butter it. Lay it on a plate. Heat a can of pork & beans aka baked beans very hot and pour them over the toast. Eat with a pickle on the side and a mug of hot tea. This may sound weird but if you like beans it is delicious.
This one will give the gourmets hydrophobia but it is quick, easy, and good. Put pieces of raw chicken in baking dish. On top of the chicken pour a can of undiluted cream of chicken, celery, or mushroom soup (check ingredients for lactose problem). Nothing else. No salt as the soup is salty. Bake at 350* for an hour. Juice comes out of the chicken and mixes with the soup and the resulting sauce is not bad. If you put baking potato or sweet potato in the oven at the same time you will have most of your dinner.
Picadillo (an ordinary Hispanic dish): Brown a pound of ground beef in a little olive oil with a chopped onion. Add an 8-oz can of tomato sauce and a can of water. Add salt to taste plus a teaspoon of cumin (comino) and a teaspoon of garlic powder. Taste for seasoning and add more if you like. Now add a handful of raisins and a couple of heaping tablespoons of stuffed green olives (stuffed with pimientos---you can use the ones called Salad Olives which are broken or chopped). Simmer this for a few minutes. You may want to add a little more water. That's it. Serve this with rice. It also freezes well, for future use. Don't omit the cumin which is essential for the right taste, and the sweet raisins and salty olives do the rest.
They store terribly, but good fajitas are so easy to make in small quantities that you can make fresh ones when you otherwise would have re-warmed some leftovers.
In case you haven't seen it, our hosts here at Chowhound have a whole series on "the easiest" way to do things. Some of those things are more techniques or shortcuts for accomplishing kitchen tasks, but there are plenty of recipe ideas there too. http://www.chow.com/videos/show/the-e... (warning: that page autoplays)
Soups like lentil, tomato and mushroom are easy, cheap to make and store very well. Besides plain old spaghetti, try other pasta sauces like puttanesca (and its many variations) and clam sauce (cheaper if you used canned clams). And as for meat dishes, things like coq qu vin and pot roast are easy, impressive and very hard to screw up.
You can make hotdish with anything. All you need are some noodles, browned ground beef, tomato sauce, beans, leftovers and some imagination=) You can taste it as you go and tweak. I(and my mom) make it on the stovetop, but you can do it in the oven as well. There are no rules =)
Chili in either a crockpot or on the stovetop: ground meat (beef or turkey), a couple of cans of beans (black beans, kidney beans, chick peas, etc), a couple of cans of crushed tomatoes, diced onions, and a chili seasoning packet (or salt, pepper, ground cumin, chili powder) makes plenty of food... especially when you serve over rice. And it freezes very well for a couple of months.
Meat sauce for spaghetti is another one: saute some chopped garlic and onions, add ground beef/turkey to brown, add a couple of cans of crushed tomatoes and some seasonings (basil, parsley, oregano, a pinch of red pepper flakes, salt/pepper) and let it simmer for an hour or so. Again, cheap and freezes well.
I don't think I'd use my rice cooker as a crockpot. I may be wrong on that (and if so, there will be plenty of folks to tell me so).
An inexpensive, smaller slow cooker is a terrific thing to have. I have a few and the smaller ones tend to get most use for two of us; a 1.5 qt or 2 qt might be helpful for you for 1-2 meals. If you're a guy ("no limit on calories" makes me say that lol), you might want a 3.5 qt or 4 qt -- that will let you toss in a hunk of pork or beef, some liquid, some seasonings, and can freeze individual portions for later sandwiches. Do keep an eye out for prices on slow cookers.
Rawrpie: Definitely get a slow cooker. There is NOTHING like getting home from work when you are hungry and tired and it's sleeting and the traffic was *&%$ and the first thing you are aware of as you open your door is the smell of your delicious dinner, which is READY as in, the first nice thing that has happened to you all day. The teensy 1-quart size isn't as useful as at least a medium size (2-3 quart) but a bigger one (5-6 quart) makes enough that you can freeze a few future dinners (barbecued beef or pork, chicken or lamb or beef curry, beef & mushrooms & onions cooked in beer, etc).
Most recipes say to rinse canned beans before throwing into the chili; long ago, I did not know that and when my daughter observed that the pot of chili looked like Alpo (canned dog food) I just could not eat it.
Google Marcella Hazan's Roasted Chicken with 2 Lemons .. this is delicious and easy and it lasts several days. The lemons I buy are pretty big so I just use one and cut it into quarters and stuff it in, tie the legs together at bottom. You roast breast side down first (there's no oil or butter) and after 20 min (I do 30 min) you turn it right side up. It's not too hot yet. I grab it with a few paper towels .. it's not that hard.
Makes the breast meat moist. Get a good quality chicken, not frozen.
Chili. There are hundreds of variations, most of them not requiring (a) expensive ingredients, (b) fancy techniques or (c) precisely timed cooking. Freezes great. And like your pasta sauce, it has the advantage of being able to taste and adjust as you go along so you can figure out your prefered seasoning levels. That's a factor that made me a lot more comfortable as a newbie cook, compared to something like, say, meatloaf, which is also inexpensive and easy, but you can't exactly taste the raw meat mixture to test your seasonings. Lots of soups and stews also fit these criteria.