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Cooking for the first time. And healthy!

KyouguKyougu Registered User regular
edited December 2009 in Help / Advice Forum
So it looks like this week I'll be moving into my own apartment, and for the first time I won't be able to rely on someone cooking for me.

This is the part that worries me the most about the move actually. Over the past 2 years I done a lot to change my habits and turn to a healthier lifestyle which involved eating right and excircising. I lost over 70 pounds, and I can say that a lot of it was that I just stopped eating fast food in such a regular basis as I used to.

Now I'm worried that I'll find myself sliding into those old habits when I don't have food waiting for me when I get home from the gym or work. I'm taking steps to try to fix this such as :

1) Plan on cooking large meals that'll last me more than one day so I don't have to cook every day.
2) Setting up my tv facing the kitchen, so I can watch tv while I cook, so I don't see it as a chore.
3) I already use quicken/mint, so at least if I start eating fast food a lot, I'll see something get thin: My bank account. This should persuade me from doing it.

So any other tips? Recipes? I'm also planning on getting some cheap cookbooks.

Kyougu on


  • ImprovoloneImprovolone Registered User regular
    edited November 2009
    Get a crockpot, make rice and beans, roast vegetables, make steel cut oatmeal.

    2 cups of milk for every cup of oats (steel cut!)
    I put a chopped apple and banana in
    Cook it in the crock pot overnight on warm (or stove top on med for an hour+)
    I sweeten with honey, but brown sugar can work

    Roast vegetables
    Cut of the veggies you want roasted, lately I've just been doing carrots and sweet potatoes. If it's a hard vegetable it goes in first.
    Line a baking sheet with tin foil and put the veggies on
    Sprinkle salt and some spices over
    Pop in the over at ~350 and wait

    Improvolone on
    Voice actor for hire. My time is free if your project is!
  • PirateJonPirateJon Registered User regular
    edited November 2009
    Use one day as a prep day. It's way easier if all of your veggies are chopped, meat portioned, etc.

    Learn to make a good stew/soup. Cheap easy filling. I do lentil soup and veggie beef stew.

    Alton Brown's book is great if you're not sure about cooking techniques.

    I lost over 70 pounds

    PirateJon on
    all perfectionists are mediocre in their own eyes
  • ImprovoloneImprovolone Registered User regular
    edited November 2009
    Oh, eat more raw veggies. Its easy, its healthy, its great! When I first had to really do this on my own eating raw veggies (and frozen peas, yum) still gave me the nutrients I needed but also let me focus on cooking less. Don't need to stress over cooking a whole meal if half the stuff you eat is raw.

    Improvolone on
    Voice actor for hire. My time is free if your project is!
  • chromdomchromdom Who? Where?Registered User regular
    edited November 2009
    If you can, get yourself a crock pot. Chicken, salsa, and a cup of water, and when you get home you've got some good eatin'!

    chromdom on
    Drez wrote: »

    Being quoted out of context is honestly what I live for.
  • toolberttoolbert Registered User
    edited November 2009
    Like everyone has said before, Crockpots are a miracle to cooking for yourself if you want to cook meals for multiple days. You can make some great stews, chicken dishes, and many other healthy things that you can freeze for later in the week. You basically throw everything in the pot and then set it for like 6-8 hours on low and by the time you come home you have a meal. Here's an easy crockpot roast:

    1 beef roast (chuck is cheapest, but you can use any roast cut)
    1 12 Oz bottle of beer (I prefer using Gordon Biersch's Martzen)
    1 packet of Onion powder
    1-2 8 oz cans of Cream of Mushroom soup
    Garlic, pepper and salt to taste.

    Combine all of them in the crockpot, set for about 7 hours on low and it'll be super soft. You can add a little cornstarch to the juice to make a gravy if you wish. You can have it with baked potatoes or some good greens.

    toolbert on
  • desperaterobotsdesperaterobots perth, ausRegistered User regular
    edited November 2009
    If you're on gas, stir-fry! If you're not, your results will be kind of shitty.
    1 head of Brocolli
    Half a cauliflower
    1 carrot
    a good handful of snow peas
    1 red pepper/capscium
    500g stirfry beef / chicken / whatever.
    Noodles (I prefer hard noodle cakes that you boil, rather than the 'shelf-fresh' ones, but it's up to you)

    Chop the broccolii and cauliflower into florets (you know, the little bunch things on the ends), chop the carrot as finely as you can, de-string-ify the snow peas, and thinly slice the capsicum. You'll want a nice, sharp knife. If your chopping technique is crummy, look up videos on how to chop stuff on youtube. I'm pretty sure they'd exist. Cut up all the vegetables. Use only half and keep the rest in the fridge ready to go.

    Precook/soak some noodles.

    Have stir-fry spice mix and/or oyster sauce on standby.

    Oil the wok, put it over the highest flame and wait for the oil to haze (tiny bit of vapour rising from the oil). Chuck in HALF of your meat (keep the rest in plastic wrap to use within the next day or two). Keep everything in the wok moving for a few minutes. Add spice mix at this point too. Keep it moving. Chuck in the vegetables and keep them moving for a few minutes. Oyster sauce now. Keep everything moving. Finally, the noodles. Keep it all moving for another minute.


    Yield should be 1 fresh stiryfry meal + left overs for tomorrow + enough left over meat & vegetables for 2 more stirfrys.

    Spicy Spaghetti Bolognese!
    I used to make bolognese from scratch but I've got my method down to this:

    1 punnet of grape or cherry tomatos
    1 jar of good Arabiatta pasta sauce
    1 tub of tomato paste, triple concentrate
    1 can of diced tomato
    1 red pepper/capsicum sliced thinly
    500g lean beef mince
    1 chilli, thinly sliced (wash hands immediately after handling to avoid eye problems!)*
    2 heaped teaspoons of smoked paprika
    2 heaped teaspoons of cayenne pepper*

    * = optional, but if you like spice, totally do this. NOM NOM NOM.

    First, put a big pot of water on to a high heat to get a boil going. Salt the water - a few pinches. Don't add oil.

    Brown beef in a little oil on a medium heat in a LARGE pan. (A lot of people would suggest browning some onions first, but I don't bother with onions in this recipe. If you're making a standard bolognese you'd probably want to do this.) Add capsicum and cook for a few minutes to soften. Once the beef is brown you can drain the oil/fat (I don't bother with this but you might want to), add the tomato paste, pasta sauce, diced tomato and chilli. Stir. Add the paprika and cayenne pepper. Stir. When it starts bubble turn the heat down. Add the grape/cherry tomatos whole - don't chop them up. Leave to simmer.

    Your water should be boiling by now. Add your pasta - I'd say 250g worth. Your pot should be pretty large btw. Refer to the pack to see how long it should cook for.

    While that's going keep an eye on your sauce. Add water if it looks like it's getting too dry - but you don't want it soupy, just moist. Once the grape/cherry tomatoes are soft enough to burst by themselves or with a small amount of pressure, you're done. Your pasta might finish cooking before this happens. That's okay, just make sure you don't overcook the pasta.

    TIP! Best way to check if your pasta is done is to pull out a strand with a fork and let the strand dangle and touch itself. If it sticks, it's probably done. Should taste good. Drain it. If your sauce isn't ready, run a drop of oil through it so it doesn't stick and leave it until your grape tomatos are soft/bursty.

    Once the sauce is good, throw in your spaghetti. You'll probably need to break/chop it up a little with your stirring utensil. You should get 4 or 5 meals out of that. Pop one or two in the fridge for the next day or two, and the rest in the freezer. Microwave fun!

    Chunky delicious tuna salad!
    2 small cans of tuna (I prefer chilli-flavoured tuna, but plain is ok!)
    Punnet of cherry/grape tomatos (or diced normal sized tomatos if you prefer)
    Snow Peas
    Capsicum/Red Pepper
    Red/Purple cabbage
    Spring onion
    Semi-sundried tomato (from your supermarket deli section rather than the jars if you can)
    Fresh Coriander, roughly chopped
    Canned chickpeas (drained and washed)
    Lemon (for the juice, so the vegetables don't brown.)

    Chop everything in a way that lets you load shit on to your fork. Big chunks are ok. Throw it all in to a large bowl - with a lid for freshness, otherwise use plastic wrap. Mix in the tuna. A little bit of lemon juice at the end, and a small drizzle of oil. Mix well. Eat for the next 4 days. Adapt that as you like, add brocolli or cauliflower, get rid of the chickpeas or cabbage, whatever. Remove tuna. Change for chicken.

    These are three things I do regularly. I cook just for myself and grabbing something already prepared from the fridge is awesome. The point is they taste good and are 1-time prep for multiple meal options. The stir-fry is a little more labour intensive (1 cooking session only yields two good meals), but it tastes so good freshly cooked you'd be insane to do it any other way.

    Steak, mashed potato and some raw vegetables is something else I've started enjoying. Two potatos makes a surprisingly massive amount of mash - I usually have enough left over to have some the following night. Lightly fry some chopped spring onions with your steak, and then remove them from the pan before they get squishy. Add them to the potato just after you've mashed it. It's awesomely good!

    ...I'm really hungry now. They're basic recipes but I hope they help.

    desperaterobots on
  • SpacemilkSpacemilk Registered User
    edited November 2009
    I am about to buy this rice cooker from Newegg since it's on sale for Cyber Monday. I frequently cook rice in my extremely old, dilapidated rice cooker (it was an inheritance from my parents, who got it from my mom's aunt, who got it as a marriage present... yeesh it's old). The nice thing about my new rice cooker is that you can also steam veggies in it, and make soup too!!! So it's very easy to cook healthy meals. Also consider buying a blender; fresh fruit or veggie smoothies are delicious and healthy! I don't know about you, but I place a premium on the amount of time it takes to prepare a meal - the less, the better. So my top two kitchen appliances are my blender and my rice cooker.

    I also have a broiler that makes delicious chicken and steak. Nuts are another great, preparation-free way of getting protein. I'm guessing a crockpot would be great for this too, but I got burned out on crockpot meals made by my family when I was a kid. (let's just say those meals were some of the few cases of mom's homecooked meals *not* being better than everything else)

    For breakfast I'll either bake a loaf of quick bread at the beginning of the week (such as zucchini bread - takes about 30 minutes to mix up, an hour to bake, the recipes are extremely simple) and have a slice for breakfast with my coffee, or I'll have yogurt + bran + fruit.

    Spacemilk on
  • PhistiPhisti Registered User regular
    edited November 2009
    I know you aren't really in a search for recipes (or maybe you are?!) but I thought I'd share this one, as it is quick and it's healthy... not only that it's great for a day when someone comes over for dinner right after work.

    30 minutes, prep time & cooking time.

    Start cooking your rice - there, that's the longest part of this meal.

    Salmon fillets (however many you need) - remove skin if you like, I usually use about 150-200g fillets (3 per pound) - it's a bit big, but I'm a big eater, maybe aim for 125g size...

    1 part soy
    1 part grainy mustard (maille or the like)
    2 parts real maple syrup
    Whisk together

    Prep baking sheet by slapping down some parchment paper - preheat oven to 425F - put salmon skin side down on baking sheet and dress with the aforementioned glaze. Pop in the oven for 12 minutes.

    Once the salmon is in the oven julienne some carrots and sugar snap peas, 1 tbsp butter in a frypan, melt it.... toss in julienned veggies at about the 10 minute mark of salmon cooking - saute quickly, add glaze to taste in with veggies, save some for final plating.

    Plate - Rice down, Salmon on top, julienned veggies on top of that, drizzle remaining glaze overtop.

    Voila - quick, easy, tasty, healthy, and impress that lady you brought over for dinner after work.

    That said - I'm going to umpteenth support the purchase of a slow cooker. That thing is golden, a bit of prep work and a good meal will be waiting for you when you get home. Also, quick meals like what I pointed out above are good for when you're entertaining on a busy night or just in the mood for something different.

    If you are cutting veggies and such to start the week on a prep day make sure you're storing them properly, Alton Brown really knows his stuff and will identify ways to keep those veggies as fresh as you can.

    Cooking for one can be trying - and boring - and it's sometimes hard to get motivated to do it - if you know folks near where you are living maybe invite some friends over some days, try to arrange a joint cooking deal or cook sharing - you cook a few meals, friend cooks some others. It makes things much more fun, and meal variety is always nice to boot.

    Good luck and kudos on the weight loss. Planning meals is the right way to keep it off!

    Phisti on
  • psyck0psyck0 Registered User regular
    edited December 2009
    The best cookbook I have, and every one of my guests agrees, is the Rebar cookbook. It's vegetarian, but there's nothing stopping you from adding meat to their dishes! Most of the food in it is also very healthy. Some of the cooking times are long, but they get much faster once you've made the dish 5 times and the portions are usually huge. When a dish says it feeds 4, it feeds 4 with leftovers. Plenty to store for the week ahead.

    psyck0 on
    Play Smash Bros 3DS with me! 4399-1034-5444
  • BarrakkethBarrakketh Registered User regular
    edited December 2009
    Invest in a good chef's knife if you don't already own one. You'll either love cooking more or hate cooking less once you get a good knife. Even if you plan on ordering one online try to find a store with a good selection so you can see how it'll feel in your hand, because if you take care of it it will last you many years and it's a good idea for it to be comfortable over the many hours of use it will see. Don't forget a steel to hone it before use.

    It may seem expensive since that one knife will cost more than an entire set at a big box store, but the difference between them or even a less expensive stamped blade is huge.

    I'll also second the recommendation for Alton Brown's "I'm Just Here For The Food".

    Barrakketh on
    Rollers are red, chargers are blue....omae wa mou shindeiru
  • TylerGTylerG Registered User
    edited December 2009
    I'll second the crock pot suggestion. I didn't think I'd use mine when i got one as a gift but they are really handy. The cooking directions are really simple: cut stuff up, put in pot, turn on in the morning. Plus almost all meals you make in it will reheat real well. About the only down side is the long cook time so there will be no spur of the moment crock pot meals they'll have to be planned out.

    TylerG on
  • QinguQingu Registered User regular
    edited December 2009
    I think it's very important to cook food that is actually delicious, because that will instigate a positive feedback cycle that will motivate you to cook more for yourself.

    Cook's Illustrated has literally changed my life. It taught me everything I know about cooking, and the recipes are all amazing. It walks you through the recipes in a very detailed way. And it also has really good equipment and ingredient reviews. I think it's like $20 a year for a membership, and there's a 14-day free trial.

    I'll also second investing in a good chef's knife. It's basically the only knife you really need, and if you cook a lot, you'll use it a lot. The best chef's knife, according to Cook's Illustrated, is this one. And it's actually quite cheap (~$30).

    Re: crockpot, if I had to choose, I'd actually go for a good dutch oven instead. I almost never use my crockpot. You can do the same recipes in a dutch oven easy, along with a bunch of recipes that won't work in a crockpot. (Part of my problem with crock pots is that you can't sauté stuff in them, which is essential in developing flavor.) Dutch ovens can be kind of expensive though.

    Here's a few large-portion, leftover friendly recipes that may be up your alley:

    • Chili
    Note: Good choices for condiments include diced fresh tomatoes, diced avocado, sliced scallions, chopped red onion, chopped cilantro leaves, sour cream, and shredded Monterey Jack or cheddar cheese. If you are a fan of spicy food, consider using a little more of the red pepper flakes or cayenne--or both. The flavor of the chili improves with age; if possible, make it a day or up to five days in advance and reheat before serving. Leftovers can be frozen for up to a month. (I believe you can put all of this in a crockpot for four hours on high, after you've sautéd the meat and vegetables. —Q)

    8 ounces bacon (about 8 strips), cut into 1/2-inch pieces
    2 medium onions , chopped fine (about 2 cups)
    1 red bell pepper , cut into 1/2-inch cubes
    6 medium cloves garlic , minced or pressed through garlic press (about 2 tablespoons)
    1/4 cup chili powder
    1 tablespoon ground cumin
    2 teaspoons ground coriander
    1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
    1 teaspoon dried oregano
    1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
    2 pounds 85 percent lean ground beef
    2 cans (16 ounces each) black beans , drained and rinsed
    1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes , with juice
    1 can (28 ounces) tomato puree
    table salt
    2 limes cut into wedges


    1. Fry bacon in large heavy-bottomed nonreactive Dutch oven over medium heat, stirring frequently, until browned, about 8 minutes. Pour off all but 2 tablespoons fat, leaving bacon in pot. Add onions, bell pepper, garlic, chili powder, cumin, coriander, pepper flakes, oregano, and cayenne; cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are softened and beginning to brown, about 10 minutes. Increase heat to medium-high and add half the beef; cook, breaking up pieces with wooden spoon, until no longer pink and just beginning to brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Add remaining beef and cook, breaking up pieces with wooden spoon, until no longer pink, 3 to 4 minutes.

    2. Add beans, tomatoes, tomato puree, and 1/2 teaspoon salt; bring to boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, for 1 hour. Remove cover and continue to simmer 1 hour longer, stirring occasionally (if chili begins to stick to bottom of pot, stir in 1/2 cup water and continue to simmer), until beef is tender and chili is dark, rich, and slightly thickened. Adjust seasoning with additional salt. Serve with lime wedges and condiments if desired.

    • Vegetarian curry
    Note: This curry is moderately spicy when made with one chile. For more heat, use an additional half chile. For a mild curry, remove the chile's ribs and seeds before mincing. Onions can be pulsed in a food processor. You can substitute 2 teaspoons ground coriander, 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper, 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom, and 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon for the garam masala. Serve with Basmati Rice Pilaf (see related recipe), passing yogurt and at least one type of chutney or relish at the table, (see related recipes and tastings).

    2 tablespoons curry powder (sweet or mild)
    1 1/2 teaspoons garam masala (see note above)
    1/4 cup vegetable oil
    2 medium onions , chopped fine (about 2 cups)
    12 ounces Red Bliss potatoes , scrubbed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 2 cups)
    3 medium cloves garlic , minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 1 tablespoon)
    1 tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger
    1 - 1 1/2 serrano chiles , ribs, seeds, and flesh minced (see note above)
    1 tablespoon tomato paste
    1/2 medium head cauliflower , trimmed, cored, and cut into 1-inch florets (about 4 cups)
    1 can (14 1/2 ounces) diced tomatoes , pulsed in food processor until nearly smooth with 1/4-inch pieces visible
    1 1/4 cups water
    1 (15 ounce) can chickpeas , drained and rinsed
    Table salt
    8 ounces frozen peas (about 1 1/2 cups)
    1/4 cup heavy cream or coconut milk
    For Condiments: Plain whole-milk yogurt or see related recipes
    1. Toast curry powder and garam masala in small skillet over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until spices darken slightly and become fragrant, about 1 minute. Remove spices from skillet and set aside.

    2. Heat 3 tablespoons oil in large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add onions and potatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are caramelized and potatoes are golden brown on edges, about 10 minutes. (Reduce heat to medium if onions darken too quickly.)

    3. Reduce heat to medium. Clear center of pan and add remaining tablespoon oil, garlic, ginger, chile, and tomato paste; cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add toasted spices and cook, stirring constantly, about 1 minute longer. Add cauliflower and cook, stirring constantly, until spices coat florets, about 2 minutes longer.

    4. Add tomatoes, water, chickpeas, and 1 teaspoon salt; increase heat to medium-high and bring mixture to boil, scraping bottom of pan with wooden spoon to loosen browned bits. Cover and reduce heat to medium. Simmer briskly, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Stir in peas and cream or coconut milk; continue to cook until heated through, about 2 minutes longer. Adjust seasoning with salt and serve immediately, passing condiments separately.

    • Easy white rice:
    Note: This recipe is designed for one cup of raw rice in a tight-lidded pot. As you cook more rice, you should reduce the proportion of water. With two cups of rice, you can get these results with two and one-half to two and three-quarters cups of water. But it is very hard to get a reliable result with less than a cup of rice, so do not halve this recipe. (Note: if you want to use Basmati rice to go with your curry, simmer for 17 minutes and cover for 10.)

    2 teaspoons unsalted butter , vegetable or olive oil
    1 cup long grain white rice (not converted)
    1 1/2 cups water
    1/2 teaspoon table salt
    1. Heat oil in medium saucepan over medium heat. Add rice; cook, stirring constantly, for 1 to 3 minutes, depending on desired amount of nutty flavor. Add water and salt; bring to boil, swirling pot to blend ingredients.

    2. Reduce heat to low, cover with tight lid lined with a towel, and cook until liquid is absorbed, about 15 minute

    3. Turn off heat; let rice stand on burner, still covered, to finish cooking, about 15 minutes longer. Fluff with fork and serve.

    • Fucking amazing chocolate chip cookies:
    Note: Avoid using a nonstick skillet to brown the butter; the dark color of the nonstick coating makes it difficult to gauge when the butter is browned. Use fresh, moist brown sugar instead of hardened brown sugar, which will make the cookies dry. This recipe works with light brown sugar, but the cookies will be less full-flavored.

    (Note from Qingu: I always use fancy organic brown sugar and white sugar from Trader Joe's or Whole Foods, and organic butter. The taste difference is DEFINITELY noticeable. Also, what I like to do is use a smaller amount of chocolate chips, and then chop half a dark chocolate bar into thin shards and throw them in. That way you get a little chocolate with every bite. After a lot of experimentation I have concluded that the cookies are empirically better with walnuts (haven't tried pecans). Chop them and toast them over medium heat in a skillet for a couple of minutes until you can smell them.) ALSO: this is a secret to everyone, but instead of 2 teaspoons vanilla, I use just 1 teaspoon vanilla plus 2 teaspoons kahlua. The dough keeps for a day or two in the fridge, and you can freeze it.

    1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (8 3/4 ounces)
    1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    14 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 3/4 sticks)
    1/2 cup granulated sugar (3 1/2 ounces)
    3/4 cups packed dark brown sugar (5 1/4 ounces) (see note)
    1 teaspoon table salt
    2 teaspoons vanilla extract
    1 large egg
    1 large egg yolk
    1 1/4 cups semisweet chocolate chips or chunks (see note)
    3/4 cup chopped pecan or walnuts, toasted (optional)

    1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Line 2 large (18- by 12-inch) baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk flour and baking soda together in medium bowl; set aside.

    2. Heat 10 tablespoons butter in 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat until melted, about 2 minutes. Continue cooking, swirling pan constantly until butter is dark golden brown and has nutty aroma, 1 to 3 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and, using heatproof spatula, transfer browned butter to large heatproof bowl. Stir remaining 4 tablespoons butter into hot butter until completely melted.

    3. Add both sugars, salt, and vanilla to bowl with butter and whisk until fully incorporated. Add egg and yolk and whisk until mixture is smooth with no sugar lumps remaining, about 30 seconds. Let mixture stand 3 minutes, then whisk for 30 seconds. Repeat process of resting and whisking 2 more times until mixture is thick, smooth, and shiny. Using rubber spatula or wooden spoon, stir in flour mixture until just combined, about 1 minute. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts (if using), giving dough final stir to ensure no flour pockets remain.

    4. Divide dough into 16 portions, each about 3 tablespoons (or use #24 cookie scoop). Arrange 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets, 8 dough balls per sheet. (Smaller baking sheets can be used, but will require 3 batches.)

    5. Bake cookies 1 tray at a time until cookies are golden brown and still puffy, and edges have begun to set but centers are still soft, 10 to 14 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through baking. Transfer baking sheet to wire rack; cool cookies completely before serving.

    Qingu on
  • DedianDedian Registered User
    edited December 2009
    If you're going to get a knife, learn how to use it! Keep it sharp, let the weight and action of the knife do the cutting. There shouldn't be any sort of strain or strength involved in cutting. Look up some videos on how to hold the food with your opposing hand so you don't cut off digits.

    That all said - crock pot crock pot! I know there's probably some nice onces on the interwebs, but if you've got any sort of WalMart-esque store near you you can get a large one really pretty cheap. Get a bigger one than you think you might need - You can probably freeze the leftovers.

    Edit: re: cook's illustrated - awesome stuff has come from their recipes! If you get PBS or the Create channel, watch their shows (America's Test Kitchen, also Cook's Country).

    Lately we've been making some pretty awesome breakfast sandwiches. The nice thing is you can scale up the prep and make a bunch of them to freeze or just keep in the refrigerator for the week. Each one is a multi-grain "sandwich-thin" bun (it's thicker than say a pita pocket), a scrambled egg, a cooked strip of turkey bacon, and a slice of cheese. You put all those together and nuke it for 15 seconds or so to melt the cheese and warm the bun. Works out to be less than .50c each, I think.

    Dedian on
  • illiricaillirica Registered User regular
    edited December 2009
    Lasagna's a good "make ahead and eat for days" sort of meal. Basic recipe's something like

    9x12 pan, 2 or 3 rows:
    layer of sauce, noodle, layer of ricotta (mix in an egg white for creaminess), layer of mozzarella, layer of parmesan, layer of stuff, repeat. Top with final noodle and sauce. 400 degrees, 1 hour.

    You can add in a lot of variability with that "layer of stuff" which can be anything from Italian sausage to eggplant to red peppers to spinach to mushrooms to some combination thereof, to nothing at all. Since it's made in rows, I like to make one row of one sort (like Italian sausage and mushrooms) and another row of something else (like spinach), that way you can alternate meals so you're not always eating quite the same thing.

    This can be pretty inexpensive, especially if you make your own sauce, which is easy to do in a crockpot. It reheats well, and keeps well refrigerated.

    illirica on
  • ApogeeApogee Lancks In Every Game Ever Registered User regular
    edited December 2009
    I discovered goonswithspoons a while back, and it's chock-full of nice recipies. And written in an internet-geek friendly format, to boot.

    Apogee on
  • EggyToastEggyToast Registered User regular
    edited December 2009
    While making a big pot of food is a good way to not cook much on the following days, there are two knocks against it: the actual cooking day takes a lot of time, and you can get sick of eating the same thing every day.

    I cook most every night for my wife and myself, and typically it takes under 30 minutes. Part of that is knowing what I'm doing in the kitchen, so chopping veggies/meats is fast, but another part is knowing that some dinners are just fast to cook -- sometimes faster than driving to the Burger King and back.

    My "trick" to cooking fast and simple is spices. Last night I cooked up tilapia, and I sprinkled chili powder and salt on it along with a few dashes of vinegar and hot sauce, with a 1/2 tbsp of butter in the pan. I also steamed broccoli. The total cook time was under 20 minutes, and it was freshly made and very tasty.

    Stews, lasagnas, casseroles and other "big" dishes will certainly keep you full for a few days, but I personally don't cook any of them on weeknights because they take a long time to prepare and cook up. Compared to a simple meat (seafood is an easy one, but chicken is also fast) that's flavored well and a big helping of green veggies (which rarely take much time), you'll be eating almost as soon as you've started.

    EggyToast on
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  • starmanbrandstarmanbrand Registered User regular
    edited December 2009
    In the same vein as Eggy, sauces and marinades are my favorite way to vary what I eat.

    A chicken breast can be topped with or marinated in- salsa, bbq sauce, thai peanut sauce, kung pao sauce and baked and each will taste quite a bit different than the other.

    starmanbrand on
  • DragonPupDragonPup Registered User regular
    edited December 2009
    While it is certainly not a meal, dark chocolate covered fruit is surprisingly easy to make, and impresses guests. All it takes is fruit, some cooking chocolate, a bowl, a plate, a sheet of parchment paper, microwave and fork.

    For the chocolate, I've very much liked the Greene and Black Organic Dark Chocolate sold at places like Whole Foods. A bar will cover a pound of strawberries, or 2-3 apples chunks.

    Fruit: Strawberries are a robust choice. Red Delicious, Granny Smith, or any other 'crisp' style of apple work. Cut the apples into 8 pieces. Bananas work nicely, remove peel, cut into 5ish pieces. Cut the fruit before melting the chocolate. Place a sheet of parchment or wax paper on a large plate.

    Melting the chocolate!
    If you've never done this before, it might seem tempting to just place it on for the full 2 minutes and leave. This will screw up the chocolate. Break the chocolate bar into small square, place in bowl in microwave. Put microwave at 60% power for 45 secs, then stir. Repeat this 2 more times, and finally do a 30 sec 50% power. The chocolate should be completely liquid and the bowl will be hot. Time is of the essence here...

    Creating your masterpice.
    Now comes the easy part. Using the fork, cover each piece in the bowl one at a time, Cover it good and give it a few seconds to drip back in the bowl. Place on the plate with the parchment paper and repeat until you run out of fruit or chocolate. You have a good 5ish minutes from when you remove it from the microwave before the chocolate hardens in the bowl. If you have left over melted chocolate, use a spoon to drip it on any fruit left over, or eat it yourself. ;-) Once done, place the plate in the fridge for an hour or 2.

    Place the bowl in the sink, fill with water and a few squirts of dish soup.


    p.s. White and Milk chocolate really require a fondue set. Dark is easy to work with on its own.

    DragonPup on
    "I was there, I was there, the day Horus slew the Emperor." -Cpt Garviel Loken

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  • KistraKistra Registered User regular
    edited December 2009
    Know how much effort/time you are willing to put in. I know that 30 minutes doesn't sound like much but there are nights where there is no way I am going to put in even that much effort. Having some chili or lasagna frozen in single serving portions is just as easy and much healthier than most frozen meals. Also that way you can make big portions of things and not eat it for four days straight.

    Having some no-work/no-time meals in your freezer may prevent you from ordering/stopping for fast food on nights when you just don't have the time/energy.

    Another thing I really enjoy is using lipton sides as a base for a meal. You dump the packet and some water in a pot with frozen veggies, add some spices and come back 10 minutes later to a yummy meal.

    I also love crockpots. If you need to saute some veggies or brown meat you can always do that in another pan on the stove in the morning. The chicken and salsa recipe is even better with potatoes (cut into 1" chunks) under the chicken.

    Kistra on
    Animal Crossing: City Folk Lissa in Filmore 3179-9580-0076
  • EggyToastEggyToast Registered User regular
    edited December 2009
    Yes! Kistra reminded me -- having a set of good frozen/canned meals can be a lifesaver. Well, a diet saver, I guess. My wife and I get a bag of potstickers from Trader Joes that we cook up when we want to eat really fast, and at work I often eat Campbell's Chunky soups (or their Fully Loaded ones).

    Most people think that frozen meals are bad for you, but there's a pretty wide variety. Just check the calorie info on the box to make sure you're not coming home with those 2000 calorie Hungry Jack monstrosities.

    EggyToast on
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  • SpacemilkSpacemilk Registered User
    edited December 2009
    EggyToast wrote: »
    Yes! Kistra reminded me -- having a set of good frozen/canned meals can be a lifesaver. Well, a diet saver, I guess. My wife and I get a bag of potstickers from Trader Joes that we cook up when we want to eat really fast, and at work I often eat Campbell's Chunky soups (or their Fully Loaded ones).

    Most people think that frozen meals are bad for you, but there's a pretty wide variety. Just check the calorie info on the box to make sure you're not coming home with those 2000 calorie Hungry Jack monstrosities.
    Don't get me wrong, I love these things as much as you do (possibly more), but I decided to quit eating them because the sodium content is through the roof. Campbell's Chunky soups (correct me if I'm wrong here, Eggy, I'm going off memory from a few months ago) are two servings in one can, but one serving is some 30% of your daily value of sodium. I love me some sodium, but I get a LOT of it from other sources so I decided to stop eating this soup. If you have a medical reason to cut back on sodium, this might not be your best bet. This is true of a lot of canned soups though, and there's certainly nothing wrong with eating them occasionally, but for a while I was eating a can a day... yikes! The sad thing is that the Campbell's Chunky soups are otherwise pretty healthy and also extremely delicious.

    Spacemilk on
  • EggyToastEggyToast Registered User regular
    edited December 2009
    The soups are pretty high in sodium, yes. Probably why my blood pressure is a few points higher than it should be.

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  • SpacemilkSpacemilk Registered User
    edited December 2009
    EggyToast wrote: »
    The soups are pretty high in sodium, yes. Probably why my blood pressure is a few points higher than it should be.
    But they are deeee-lish-us. :( So sad!

    Spacemilk on
  • geckahngeckahn Registered User regular
    edited December 2009
    If you really want to learn how to cook, get a couple good cook books that actually teach you how to cook.

    I'd recommend Alice Waters "The Art of Simple Food" and Jamie Oliver's "Cook with Jamie" (and other books by Oliver). Alice Waters book contains lots of information on cooking technique and methods, and I love Jamies cookbooks for ambitious beginners, his cookbooks push you to realize how very unspecific cooking can be (baking is another matter) and from there you can become the guy he just goes and grabs a bunch of ingredients and makes something really delicious with no real planning. I find being able to do that is a big deal for the day to day cooking, when you don't want to be referencing a cookbook and doing a big project - although those meals certainly have their place.

    geckahn on
  • KyouguKyougu Registered User regular
    edited December 2009
    Hey guys! Just wanted to say thanks for all the great advice. This has been my first week at the new apt, and no fast food yet! I'm actually enjoying cooking too, and finding that it's really great knowing exactly how much I'm using of ingreadients to count calories.

    Also huge thanks to whoever recommended the rice cooker and also getting a bunch of spices. I ended up using some mesquite spice on the frozen chicken breasts, used some chili spices on the rice cooker, and then opened up some vegetables and had a delicious dinner.


    Kyougu on
  • ScroffusScroffus Registered User regular
    edited December 2009
    Say I do make something and freeze it (lasagne, chilli etc) but I don't have a microwave, is it ok to just heat it in the oven/big pot?

    Scroffus on
  • KistraKistra Registered User regular
    edited December 2009
    Scroffus wrote: »
    Say I do make something and freeze it (lasagne, chilli etc) but I don't have a microwave, is it ok to just heat it in the oven/big pot?

    Yes, it will just take longer :P

    Just to be clear, you will get better results if you put it in the oven rather than in a pot on the stove. Also, if you have a toaster oven there are some nice small baking dishes that you can use to reheat single portions of meals. That way you don't have to wait as long for the oven to warm up.

    Kistra on
    Animal Crossing: City Folk Lissa in Filmore 3179-9580-0076
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