Are you a college student or recently moved out on your own and find yourself in the fast food trap? Making a meal for yourself and maybe a friend or two can be easy and tasty, and gosh darn it – good for you! Cooking does not require fancy equipment, expensive ingredients, nor cook books. You’ve been eating since you were born, silly, use the flavours you like so far and run with them.
I’ve always craved sweet over savoury. When I moved away for school I started with sweet potatoes, chicken with pineapple or oranges, and grilled cheese sandwiches (Mom taught us how to make them when I was little so I could at least manage to work a stove and one pan). Simple, yes. Easy, of course. Exciting? Not so much. Since breaking out on my own and away from the bland monotony of meals on the farm, I wanted to try something new every chance I got. This strategy is good for expanding the palette but not so good for honing a recipe to its peak of culinary mastery. Now I’m not trying to turn you into one of those chefs on TV, but everyone should have a stash of reliable and quick dishes in their noggin. Or in a small coil bound notebook they’ve had since grade 9.
Maybe you’ve been around the kitchen a few times already. And lately you have no inclination to cook? Well get in your kitchen, or take over a friends’ for an evening and make something for yourselves!
Here are five easy ways to get cooking tonight.
1. Cheap Eats!
Fry (on medium heat) a pound of ground turkey in a little oil in a large frying pan (at least 10″ in diameter) or use a wide bottomed pot. Sprinkle with salt and pepper as it cooks. Stir gently.
Peel 3 potatoes (Russet – the dark brown-skinned ones, be sure to buy firm potatoes). Cut the potatoes into large chunks that are about the same size. Put them into a pot of cold water and turn up the heat. Lower the heat to medium-high when it begins to boil. Do not put a lid on the pot or it will boil over. Let the potatoes cook while you watch the turkey in the other pan.
Mix 1 packet of gravy mix (like McCormick’s Turkey Gravy) with half a coffee mug of water (about 2/3 cup if you want to measure it). Have a can of cream of chicken or mushroom soup ready to deploy (open the can).
When the pink hue of the turkey meat is gone it’s time to add the sauce. Pour the can of cream of whatever soup in the pan with the meat, follow with the gravy/water mixture from the coffee mug. Stir to dissolve the soup into the water. When this bubbles turn down the heat to low. Now check your potatoes.
Potatoes are mashable when they can be stabbed with a fork and they fall off the tines easily. Turn off the heat. Pour off the water and add a splash of milk and some butter. Add salt now if you forgot to salt the water for boiling the taters. Mash using whatever you have available: fork, ricer, big spoon. Although the process goes faster if you have a masher.
Serve as pictured above. (You are half way to a Sheppard’s Pie btw!)
Cost: about $6 ($1.50 per serving)
Soups are very forgiving. They can have just a handful of ingredients or a wide variety when you are trying to use up veggies hanging out in the fridge. My thought on soup is this: all you need is a good base.
I make my chicken stock from bones and scraps of veggies that I collect in the freezer until there is enough to fill a stock pot to boil up at stock. But you could buy a box, can or powder to create the soup base. Try looking in the international foods isle at your grocery store, you can find some interesting stuff to use as your base. Even a pack of Ramen Noodles can get you started on a tight budget buy adding some meat and/or veggies to the water for the noodles.
Try any of these recipes:
3. Baked Salmon with Garlic
If you like fish and you can afford to buy a pound or two at the market, go for this recipe.
Cover a baking sheet with foil. Place a salmon fillet on the foil and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and freshly smashed garlic. Bake at 350ºF for 20-25 minutes. Serve with rice or pasta and a salad.
4. Roast Chicken Breasts with Root Vegetables
Cut some potatoes (white or red) into wedges and layer them into a casserole dish or some sort of oven-proof pan with sides. Season with salt, pepper, and maybe an Italian herb blend? Add baby carrots or peeled adult carrots. Lay chicken breasts that still have the bone attached on the potatoes and carrots. Rub the skin with oil or butter and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Ready, Set, Roast!
Roast in the oven for 30 minutes at 425ºF. Cover with foil and return to a 375ºF oven for another 20 – 30 minutes. (Always check the temperature of your chicken at the thickest part, it should read at least 180ºF)
Full recipe is here.
5. Something Sweet to End the Meal
What about dessert?
I can hear your thoughts: I can’t bake! Nonsense! Try a crisp.
Take some sliced fruit (apple, apricot, peaches, blueberries, or rhubarb if you are luck enough to live where it grows like weeds) or buy a can of pie filling then top it with a crumbly lumpy mixture from my recipe here.
It’s perfect with its imperfections.