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Mar 29, 2013 05:40 PM

Easy to make, hard to screw up dishes!

Hey guys!

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!

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  1. 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.

    3 Replies
    1. re: cookie monster

      Do you have any favourite flavourings or recipe? :) Never made it before lol.

      1. re: rawrpie

        Chili is one of the easiest, most forgiving dishes ever, and you can make it a million and one ways.

        First step, buy good chili powder. Check out Penzey's:

      2. re: cookie monster

        Just a tip, in case you do want to try something like a meatloaf that you can't test raw -- season how you think (less is safer; you can always add more), then take a bite-sized piece and cook it to see how it tastes.

      3. 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.

        8 Replies
        1. re: Njchicaa

          Can I use my rice cooker instead of a crockpot? I don't have a large pot unfortunately.. haha. Otherwise I'll give it a try!

          My meat sauce is pretty much that haha!

          1. re: rawrpie

            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.

            1. re: DuchessNukem

              Haha!! yeah definitely a guy. I'll have a gander at my local shops, thanks heaps!

              1. re: rawrpie

                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).

                1. re: Querencia

                  My experience has been that 8 or 10 hours in a slow cooker is generally too much. I find that everything - meat, vegetables - is overcooked after that long. And when I use vegetable, I add them more into the cooking process. YMMV.

          2. re: Njchicaa

            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.

            1. re: walker

              I'll definitely try breast meat. I've gotten a nice chicken thigh dish down which is quite different to the breast, so always nice to experiment with other parts!


              1. re: rawrpie

                To be more clear: you roast a whole chicken. I was just saying that roasting the chicken breast side down for a while first, then turning right side up, keeps the breast moister.

          3. HOTDISH!

            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 =)

            4 Replies
            1. re: WiscoKid

              Right, what do you actually mean by hotdish? Havent heard of it before. What type of noodles do you use? Cheers :)

              1. re: rawrpie

                Hotdish is a pretty midwestern thing I suppose. It's a vehicle to clean out whatever you have and do it with one pot. You can use whatever kind of noodles you like, but we generally use elbow macaroni or egg noodles. The best way to describe it would be a one pot dinner.

                1. re: WiscoKid

                  Handy :) noob question: do you use hotsauce as well or are you referring to the actual temperature? HAHA not even in the US so pretty oblivious to these type of things.

                2. re: rawrpie

                  "Hotdish" is an upper-Midwestern name for "baked casserole of mixed-up whatever". Every family has its own variant. Very big for Minnesota church suppers.

              2. 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.

                1 Reply
                1. re: sidwich

                  Ah nice! haven't made a soup since I started, would be a good area to expand upon. Thanks for the idea!

                2. 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. (warning: that page autoplays)

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: nokitchen

                    Haha thanks! so embarrassing didn't even look at the site. I usually just browse forums instead...

                    I'll definitely check it out though. storage isn't a must! be good to get some variety into my cooking routine.