Amateur cook looking for "set and forget" meals

Discussion in 'Food & Cooking' started by delta223, Oct 11, 2010.

  1. delta223

    delta223

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    Hi all,

    I must admit I am rather poor at cooking and find it a chore for some reason. I think it has to do with my personality (I'm a tech guy)

    My current list of recipes:

    - Taco made with wheat tortilla, canned chicken and cheddar cheese.

    - Pre-cooked brown rice with frozen vegetables, shrimp, and egg beaters

    - Breaded chicken patty burger (patty and wheat bread buns)

    - I also regularly eat cheerios, sandwiches (PB/J and cheese/turkey slice) and bananas

    Al except the last item are made via microwave in one pass. And that is all I eat, every day of the week.

    Besides a bit too high in sodium, I know it's not good to eat the same thing every day like I do. But I really dislike cooking and can not cook for several days since I only have a mini fridge (1.7 sq. ft). However, I do have a microwave, rice cooker, and oven/stove.

    Can you guys point me to some healthy recipes that

    - Take less than 5 minutes of preparatory work

    - Allow "set and forget" cooking afterwords

    As you can see from my current recipes, I am willing to give up a good amount of taste for convenience. I never add taste enhancing ingredients, though I'm willing to on other recipes if the nutritional value is still good overall. I'm also thinking about getting a crockpot or other cooking hardware so long as I can still make dishes that adhere to my rather strict cooking criteria.

    Thanks for any recipe suggestions!
     
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2010
  2. kyheirloomer

    kyheirloomer

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    Boy, oh, boy, are you in the wrong place. /img/vbsmilies/smilies/biggrin.gif

    Most people in this community are either professionals in food service, serious home cooks, or foodies. You're criteria are the antithesis of how we look at food.

    Given your requirements, a slow cooker (Crockpot) probably makes the most sense. You can throw in a protein, some veggies, an envelope of soup mix, and a little water or wine, and a meal will be waiting for you when you get home.

    Personally, I'm not a fan of slow-cookers. But given what you've said, you'll actually be eating better from both a quality and taste standpoint, with no more work than you are doing now.
     
  3. amazingrace

    amazingrace

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    The salad bar at your local supermarket can be your very best friend.  There you can pick and choose from a variety of prepped veggies--chopped onions, mushrooms, snowpeas, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, peas, etc---just enough for one serving.  Eat them raw,  or layer them into the rice cooker with your rice,  and even some chicken breast or tenders.  Yes, your rice cooker can become a multitasker!  You've said you're a "tech guy",  so get tecnical with your cooking too.  What is "precooked brown rice"?  might as well eat sawdust, for all the nutrition it has ... fiber, yes,  but little else. 
     
  4. abefroman

    abefroman

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    You need the Ronco rotisserie oven!!  Comes complete with recipe booklet! ...but wait, there's more!!

    JK, what you might want to do is spend some time doing prep, even if its on the weekends, and freeze a lot of stuff.

    Ex. Some days I'll make like 10 pizzas and freeze 9 of them

    Chili, I'll make in a 2 gallon pot and freeze half etc.
     
  5. phatch

    phatch Moderator Staff Member

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  6. amazingrace

    amazingrace

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    Lets not forget that the OP has very limited refrigerator space,  so I'm guessing his freezer space is also at a premium, if it exists at all.  So what he pretty much has to eat what he cooks.  By the way,  is this a dorm, rooming house, barracks, mini-trailer, what? 
     
  7. delta223

    delta223

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    There's a small freezer section that is about 4"x6"x8." I could cram a couple bags of vegetables there plus one bag of meats, but that's it.
     
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2010
  8. gobblygook

    gobblygook

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    Go watch this clip from Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution and I think you'll stop that practice quickly.


     
     
  9. abefroman

    abefroman

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    Shrimp and grits are always a winner, if you like them.
     
  10. boar_d_laze

    boar_d_laze

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    You seem to be on the road to figuring out that you're not doing the right things when it comes to making good food.  The real answer to your question is not a set of killer recipes but a change in your willingness to do the work required to cook.

    You may also have to move somewhere with a usable kitchen.

    If you like to eat, you can learn to cook pretty easily.  Most of cooking is tasting -- which is something you're presumably pretty good at.  Start simple.  Learn to make pancakes, scrambled eggs, steak and the other easy stuff before moving on to the time consuming recipes that require a lot of prep and technique.  Most of the remaining part is paying attention to what you're doing.

    It's not something I say this very often, believe me, but you may want to start watching Rachel Ray's 30 minute meals to get some ideas and pick up some very basic techniques.

    Whatever your issues are, you've either got to get around them, stick with the Cheerios, eat out a lot, and/or hire someone to cook for you.

    Doing your mise before firing up the pan is a fantastic habit, but doing it severaly days ahead doesn't save much time.  I don't want to appear hostile to other people's ideas for making efficient use of their time, but chopping a weeks worth of vegetables and storing them does not do much in the way of convenience unless you're really horrible with a knife.  And in that case, you're better off dealing with the problem directly.  If it takes you, as a home cook, more than 5 minutes to go from a whole onion, an unpeeled carrot, and a stick of celery to 2 cups of mirepoix, you're doing things very wrong.

    "Shrimp and grits" is wonderful, simple food, but it's hardly set and forget.  Both the shrimp and the grits require complete attention during the cooking process; and, for the time being, that doesn't seem to be in the cards for the OP. 

    BDL
     
  11. abefroman

    abefroman

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    No they don't,

    Step 1.

    Boil Water

    Step 2.

    Please cooked frozen shrimp under water to thaw

    Step 3.

    Once the water is boiling throw in the grits, and spices if you want (I'm from the North so I use instant grits)

    Cover, reduce flame to low, set timer for 5 minutes and forget it!

    Step 4.

    In 5 minutes pat shrimp dry, toss into the pot, add cheese if you want, give it a couple good stirs

    forget it! for another 5 minutes while the shrimp heat through (they are already cooked so just need to heat up)

    and voila!  You have shrimp and grits.
     
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2010
  12. lyniebeck

    lyniebeck

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    Soups and stews could be a good option for you.  Many have little prep and can be cooked on a stove top or slow cooker.  Last night I made a corn chowder - bacon, onions, a little flour, diced potatoes, corn (you can use frozen or canned), chicken stock from a box and milk.  Was finished start to finish in less than 30 minutes. And 15 of it was cooking the potatoes.  Easy.  Lots of recipes for quick soups on the internet that you can make with fresh vegies and chicken, beef, fish or seafood.  Soup combinations are endless. And if you make a larger batch you will have leftovers so you won't have to go through the agony of cooking the next day.  

    BTW, what does being a "tech guy" have to do with not cooking?  I know several IT guys, a mechanical engineer and a science teacher all who know their way around a kitchen better than alot of liberal arts majors.  Just curious.
     
  13. delta223

    delta223

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    I disagree that more cooking time is necessary for "good food;" my goals are a 4/5 or better on nutrition, and a tasteful enough meal for me to look forward to eating it (3/5). No reason to put a time limit on when that can be achieved.


    My current plan is a dual slow cooker setup so that I can have a new hot meal ready every 3 hours if I want. Cold meals can be used in between.


    [​IMG]

    Notes

    - I have to look into what kind of beans to use for decent taste/quality carbs.

    - Whole fruits could be more diverse. While I think I'll have enough fiber, I'm not sure if juices retain their phyto-nutrients (probably not)

    - Proteins are an issue. Egg must be added in during the last 30 minutes. I don't like salmon and shrimp is high in sodium. I can't eat chicken thighs every day because then I'll have an Omega 3 EFA deficiency. Hopefully, supplementing with fish oil pills will be enough on non-fish days.

    - I use chicken thighs instead of breasts because thighs have more fat and my diet would not have enough fats if I forget to eat some mixed nuts (I used to stock them in the past and always forgot) Poultry also has mono-unsaturated fats which are one of the better fats.
     
  14. petemccracken

    petemccracken

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    Not to my mind, what you have is "pre-processed shrimp & grits", nothing wrong with that, as long as you don't mind someone else doing the cooking for you, it just is NOT shrimp & grits cooked from scratch.
     
  15. kyheirloomer

    kyheirloomer

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    .....so I use instant grits

    OH, MY GOD! Say it isn't so.
     
  16. abefroman

    abefroman

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  17. abefroman

    abefroman

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    Because the shrimp was cooked and frozen?
     
  18. petemccracken

    petemccracken

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    Yes, and the "grits" were also "pre-processed", otherwise they would NOT be "instant"!

    It sounds to me as if all you're doing is "heating" the dish, no different than "warming up" a frozen dinner.
     
  19. the-boy-nurse

    the-boy-nurse

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    You guys are worried about the instant grits, I'm concerned about the pre-rubberized- er cooked shrimp.

    Hate to just say I agree w/ BDL again, but well he's usually right anyway. There is one other option, get a significant other that can cook.

    On a serious note what do you mean by "taste enhancing ingredients"? Salt, spices, ketchup,all of the above? And what is the reason for avoid these ingredients. If it is nutritional concerns I can assure you that processed foods generally contain the worst of what the American diet has to offer, both from a nutritional and flavor standpoint.

    The question is do you like food, and do you want to be able to cook it?

    On a practical note- try fish. Tilapia is a great way to start. The fillets cook quickly, and are mild enough that only a little flavor (lemon, salt, butter, dill) goes a long way. Serve w/ some jasmine rice made in your rice cooker (set and forget) and some microwaved frozen veggies and you have yourself a meal any dietitian could be proud of. Well most dietitians would want some whole grain brown rice or other and omit the butter, but it sounds like you could use some butter in your life.

    Good Luck
     
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2010
  20. abefroman

    abefroman

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    Personally I don't see much of a difference between instant grits and regular.

    As far as the shrimp, no difference there either, at the factory they probably cook the shrimp in water, and then cold shock it as soon as it hits the cooked temperature, so that it is not rubbery and not over cooked.
     
     
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2010