T Nation

Simple Meals to Cook


#1

Berardi said this in his Tailor-Made Nutrition, Pt. 1. The principles, are, of course, the 7 Habits...

[SHORT WHINE]
So now, let me admit it: I suck at eating. Why? Because I suck at cooking. Write down 6 meals I can make in a pinch that follow those principles? I don't know how to cook a steak. I shit you not when I say that until last week, I didn't know that meat should be kept in the freezer, or that you needed to dethaw it overnight before cooking.

I shit you not when I say that I can't cook an omelette. I shit you not when I say that I don't know what the difference between pan-frying and pan-searing is. What's worse, is I bet I just made up the word "pan-swearing," and if I didn't, the two are probably the same. And despite getting Berardi's Gourmet Cooking e-book (which is great, by the way), and trying to pick the easiest, quickest meals on there to make a diet, I still can't do it.
[END WHINE]

So I'm going back to basics (if I ever was there in the first place). I want some tips on the easiest, most simple meals to cook possible. The only meal I'm proud of making is opening two cans of tuna packed in olive oil, mixing it in a big bowl with celery, and sprinkling lemon juice over it. Go me.

So please, any help would be much, much, much appreciated. Even if it takes more than "a pinch" to cook, I can deal with that, but if it contains the word "sautee" in it, I am clueless.


#2

buy a rice cooker. Dump in some rice, add water. While its cooking open a package of chicken breasts, rub with olive oil and spices, then toss on a hot grill (or george foreman) Cook until you cant see pink inside if you cut it open.

While the chicken and rice are cooking, dump a bag of frozen vegetables in a pot with a little bit of water, turn the heat to medium on your stove and cover with a pot lid. When the chicken is done, the veggies are done. Split this up into separate containers. When the rice is done split that up evenly with the containers also. every 3 hours, eat one of these containers. Simple.


#3

1) take meat/protein and cook it

2)Take veggie, fruit other side cook it or not.

3) add fats, spices, etc to fit diet and taste.

It IS really that easy people seem to just overcolicate it. get a little creative and find New things you like spices new veggies etc.


#4

1 paprika
150 g of feta cheese
400 g of turkey or chicken

cute the paprika and feta and put it on top of the meat + some olive oil and pepper.

30 minutes in the oven


#5

Muppet's guide to simple cooking terms and various ingredients:

If you want to have any success with your cooking career, you have to be very familiar with 3 things:

  1. "Main ingredients". What they are and how to cook each one.

  2. Side dishes/accessory foods. What makes a good accessory food and what main ingredient each accessory can accompany.

  3. Flavouring methods. This includes sauces, spices, marinades etc.


Part 1. Main ingredients.

I'm going to cover four basic meats, lamb, beef, pork and chicken.

When you cook lamb the general rule is the closer it is to the head the more time it needs. Neck pieces, for example, should be cooked longest (at least 3 hours, 4 and 5 better). The leg however needs much less time.

The better cuts of lamb can also be eaten bloody and still taste good.

I dont really have much experience with beef other then ground beef and nice steaks. With a steak, you can cook it as little as you like as long as you scorch the outside nicely. You should not, however, cook it very long. A steak should be bloody and will not be good otherwise.

Ground beef is usually fried until its no longer pink and then used. It can be put in "chili" type dishes or just eaten with some vegetables and sauce.

Pork should always be cooked all the way through. This is just in case of parasites (and remember, 1/6 members of this planet have pork-originated parasites and dont even know it). Ground pork can be used the same as ground beef, but has less flavour and more fat.

Chicken should also be cooked all the way through because it can be contanimated (can be, not nearly all chicken is). This can also be longer then you think. For example if you want to fry up a piece of chicken it will be at least 25minutes before you should even test it. And put the lid on the pan while you fry it and turn it over once in a while.


Part 2. Side dishes.

This includes vegetables, fruit, nuts and bread.

Mixing these is pretty easy. Generally, you can use any low or medium flavor vegetable with everything. You can use spinach, bell peppers, lettuce and such without much worry. Vegetables that are harder then most, like carrots or vegetables that have stronger flavours like onions and ruccola warrant more thought.

With ruccola you should be very careful not to use too much as it can easily ruin a salad, especially if your not used to it.

I dont like fresh carrots for a salad unless you grind it down. Using something sweet, like orange juice, is a good idea with carrots also.

When you use carrots along with other vegetables/ingredients in a cooked dish you should allow the carrots significantly more cooking time before you add all other vegetables. A few minutes at least until the carrot is tender depending on the size of the piece.

Because most fruits are sweet and have a definite taste you cant really throw them anywhere like veggies. If you use them in a salad you want to include only mild flavoured vegetables for best results. For example a great salad is spinach, strawberries and pine nuts (not sure I translate this one correctly...its that small soft "nut")

As I mentioned, orange juice is good with certain kinds of salads, like those with ground carrots.

Nuts can be either fried up and tossed in a salad or ground for a chili dish. They are generally mild-tasting and can add texture to foods.


Part 3. Sauces and spices.

The ingredients in part 1 and 2 are the easiest to master. One only has to cook beef 3-4 times to know whats good and what isnt. Not so much with sauces and spices.

Its really important to just know some basic spice blends and some sauce bases and just really taste it around, adding whats missing after each taste.

A very simple spice blend can be chili powder, garlic powder, salt and ground pepper.

A bland like that is great with a mix of tomatoes, fresh onions and bell peppers. Just put the vegetables in blender until your desired consistency and add spices while cooking the blend. A low heat will do. What you get is pretty close to a "taco sauce".

Pre-made spice blends are also very useful since they take the guesswork out of spiceing and don't require much experience.


Part 4 - putting it all together.

Using what we know now, we decide to cook ground beef.

Most unsuccessful cooks fail with preperation. Have everything ready before anything gets hot. Cut the vegetables, make the sauce or get your spices ready. Lets say you decide to use a frozen vegetable blend and taco sauce. First make the sauce. Then fry the ground beef. Next, remove the beef from the pan and cook up the vegetable blend until hot. Then add sauce and meat and spice to your liking.

And thats my very short beginners intro to cooking stuff. This should make it a bit easier for you to follow recipes and handle simple ingredients.

Good luck.


#6

Around me there is a grocery store named Jewel, they sell boxes of 10 boneless skinless chicken breasts pre flavored. Lemon Pepper, Teriyaki, and Honey Dejon. When in a hurry I...Remove 2 chicken breasts from their plastic pounches, put them on a plate and microwave them, along with a bag of frozen vegetables I pour into a glass bowl and microwave.

Between the George Forman grill and the microwave I can cook everything I eat. Not that complicated.


#7

So I can just take the chicken out of the freezer, not thaw it at all, and just pop it in the microwave/oven/on the grill?


#8

Sure if you don't want the center to be cooked.

Put your frozen meat in the microwave and defrost it (not cook it). I can defrost 5 chicken breasts in 40 min.


#9

The microwave will cook frozen chicken, the grill will not. But the chicken breasts I buy have a type of sauce on them which 1. would burn to the grill, 2. Make up for the usually poor flavor of cooking in the microwave. Oh yeah on the veggies I usually put cayenne pepper and garlic salt on them to make them taste better. I eat this 5 minute microwave meal probably 5 dinners a week. (Fish also works in the microwave)


#10

I'm notorious (ok maybe not) with bad advice so I wont stop now.

You want to cook well? I got an insight here, just start cooking. Maybe begin with receipes out of a book or perhaps watch the cooking network some and figure out how to cook. Then just doing it. If you have problems figuring what terms like "fold ingredients" and such are, look them up or ask people. I admit that half of cooking is finding out the hard way or throwing stuff together (mainly spices or sauces).

If you wanna figure out how to cook a steak, read up on it online. Just looking for yourself and you'll find tons of info. Research is your best friend. Then cook it, if you get it chewy, eat it anyway and try different things next time. Obviously that way did work. Adjust the variables.

I've had people tell me that I'm a good cook and half the time I just make stuff up. Look at any of JB's receipes, I saw one for cooking chicken and peanut butter. Who would have guessed?

And here's my simple receipe:
One can of tuna
Cottage cheese, 1 cup
Diced celery, 1/2 cup
Two eggs diced (w/o yolks)
And throw in some kind of spices, just a tad though. Pepper is good.

Mix together in bowl.

Ta-dah.....tuna salad, put it on crackers, bread or just eat it. You could try frying it though i dont know how the CC would hold up....but it sure would be fun to try wouldnt it??!
-T


#11

Lemon Pepper Chicken

Cut up 1 chicken breast into strips.

In a bowl put 1 teaspoon of black pepper,
1 teaspoon of paprika, dash of salt (if desired)
1 Tablespoon of lemon juice.

Mix the chicken with the other ingredients in a bowl until the chicken is coated.

Cook the chicken in your wok (or skillet) until it turns golden brown.
Spray a little olive oil on your wok to keep the chicken from sticking.
Stir it some, but mostly let it sit and cook until the skin turns brown.

Eat in salad, by itself, or mix with vegetable/wheat pasta.
Don?t forget your 2 glasses of water! Enjoy!

Very easy and very tasty recipe. Increase the amount of ingredients by the number of chicken breasts you want to cook.


#12

Or put it in a bowl filled with room temp water. I can defrost 40 chicken breasts in 5 minutes.

Well not really, but it's much faster than a microwave and doesn't result in partially cooked meat.


#13

I second Phil. Also the bid for the George Foreman - best friend to any avid meat eater.

-Dan


#14

This is as easy as it gets, at what I regularly eat at work.

1 x 500gram tuna and olive oil
1 x 500ml container of vege soup.

Pour both into a bowl and chuck it in the microwave for 3 mins. Stir. Eat.

Enjoy.


#15

Take a cooking class. Or find a woman who can cook.


#16

There have been some really great suggestions on here which should make things easier.

If you are currently in a living situation where you have no one to help you out with this I would suggest that you go to your local college or night school (I have no idea what you have in the US) and find a cooking for beginners course. Sounds a bit gay and you may feel like a pussy, it will also cost you a few bucks, but it is a skill that you are going to need for the rest of you life.

Once you learn the basics you are set. Just keep cooking and learning from that point.


#17

After reading my last post again I started thinking about hom much I take the ability to cook for granted. I am no great chef by any means but I love cooking, most of the time more than I enjoy eating the stuff I make.

A great place to start is with google. I did a search of Cooking for beginners and the first link that came up is;

http://www.azcentral.com/home/food/cooking101/

It gives info on things as simple as how to boil water. Maybe a bit too basic I realise but maybe worth checking out or any of the other sites that you can find from the search.

Spend a bit of time doing a bit of research on the net and you should find answers to all of your questions on how to cook the basics. Once you get the cooking basics sorted, come back to the nutrition pages on this site and work out what to cook.

Good Luck.

I am not an expert, but I am happy for you to PM me if you want any more practical tips.


#18

Hmmm, one thing you'll want to be able to do is simmer things.

On the stove, you'll notice the dials go from MIN to 9 or some such thing. You can easily get in a hurry, crank up the heat, and burn or otherwise ruin your meal. Cooking takes a bit of time, get used to it.

Anyway, simmering is bringing something to a light boil... you know, when bubbles start forming in water it is boiling. You'll want to figure out what setting on your stove is hot enough to just bring water to a boil.

Why you ask?

Because, if you are going to have sauces, soups or flavors, you don't want to burn the shit to the bottom of your pan. In particular, for the nice and easy recipe I'm going to unload, you'll need to simmer it unless you like the flavor of burnt food.

To start, cook some meat. Perhaps a chicken breast or some sausage or something. If the meat has no fat of it's own, you might want to put a drop or two of coconut oil on the pan -- even if it is a no-stick. A tiny amount of Pam, or butter, or whatever will do the job... just a few drops worth (on a no-stick anyway).

So, assuming you are cooking some sausages (lets say 2), because they are cheap, make sure you poke them with a fork. Why? Because they have a lot of fat in them and you need to give it a way to get out. If you don't, you may end up with squirting grease later on, not a good plan, it hurts.

Anyway, when the sausages are done, simply cut them in bite sized chunks. Now, in a clean pan, perhaps wash the one you just used to cook sausages if it is big enough, dump a large can of garlic and basil tomatoes. This is a recent discovery of mine and it makes a lot of shit simple.

The tomatoes are quite watery to start, but when you simmer them a while, a lot of the water boils off, and you get something more like a stew. Once you have a low simmer, toss the sausage into the tomatoes... well, put them in carefully so you aren't splashing tomato all over your clothes or kitchen.

If you like, you can also open up a can of kidney beans and dump that into the tomato and sausage as well. If you do, your food will be more like chili. You could add a bit of chili powder or whatnot if you wanted.

Anyway, keep it simple the first time, just do the sausage and tomato. Simmer it until is starts to thicken. It's okay if it is still soupy, you can eat it with a spoon. Yum! Good stuff.

Once you have done this once, you can play with what else you add to the mixture. A can of kidney beans. Chicken or hamburger instead of sausage. A can of lentils. Whatever.

If you have a large pot, you can cook up a massive amount of tomato and beans, and then freeze it in serving sized containers. You can do this with or without meat, depending on if you want to be able to nuke a meal during the week without having to cook up a protein source.

Voila!

You've learned the importance of knowing the boiling point on your stove, so you can simmer things without burning them. You've learned how non-watery foods, like meat, might need a little bit of oil in the pan even if it is a no-stick surface. You've even learned why a big pot may be useful, so you can cook up and freeze large portions of ready made food for the work week.

Seriously though, pick up one or two "basic" concepts of cooking every week and in no time you'll be set. Just try not to let convenience cost you in terms of bad nutrition and expensive prices...


#19

great thread.

I'm trying the above now.