It’s a busy time of year!
The kids are back to school, the teachers are back in their classrooms, and lots of college students are moving back to campus. Some of these college students, however, are moving off campus and many of them are facing their own kitchens for the first time ever. That can be a little intimidating!
Seven Loaves is here to help though –we sure don’t want anyone to starve! Or to live on Ramen noodles all year long. (But we are going to give you a recipe with Ramen Noodles!)
Here are a few simple suggestions for some reasonably-healthy, easy-to-make meals for those moving into their first apartments or houses. It’s good to keep things simple for new cooks, so these dishes need minimal shopping and preparation to get started.
First, having some basic things on hand will always make it easier to throw together dinner. Stock your kitchen with some common, go-to spices. You don’t have to have an elaborate spice collection; instead look for spice blends such as Italian seasoning, taco seasoning, Mrs. Dash seasoning blends, Lawrys’s seasoned salt, and/or Montreal steak seasoning just to name a few. Use them in anything you want. For example, Montreal steak seasoning will add flavor to more than just steak.
The following dishes will have you cooking in no time!
Pick up some hamburger meat that can easily be browned in a skillet, a jar of pasta sauce, and some spaghetti noodles for a simple spaghetti dinner. If you want to jazz it up a little more, chop an onion to add to the meat while browning, and/or a jar of mushrooms.
Or even easier: add the cooked meat over Ramen noodles. And if you want to get even simpler, you can use a precooked hamburger patty and chop it.
This is another easy dish with ground beef. Pick up taco shells, a bag of already-shredded iceberg lettuce, a bag of shredded cheese, a tomato, and a bottle of taco sauce. You just have to brown the hamburger meat with the taco seasoning we suggested having on hand, chop the tomato, and you’re ready for tacos!
Use all the leftovers within five days to make a taco salad. Add some drained black beans for extra protein.
Pick up hamburger meat, buns, and your favorite burger toppings. Cheese slices, onion, tomato, pickles, mustard…whatever you like. In our opinion, burgers are best on the grill, but they sure can be cooked on your stovetop as well. Make your burger patties, add a little salt and pepper or one of the blends mentioned above, and fry it up in a skillet with a couple of tablespoons of vegetable oil. Toast your bun if you want, or not. Put on your toppings. It really can’t be much easier than that!
Note: It’s always best for beginners to cook over medium heat so you are less likely to burn things!
Let’s move on to some easy dinner ideas using chicken. To keep things simple, you can buy precooked chicken for meals. You have several options. First, you can pick up some already-prepared grilled chicken in bags. Or you can use cooked rotisserie-style chicken and pull all the meat off the bone. Also, fully-cooked fajita chicken and fajita beef can be found in the refrigerated section of most super markets and can be used for more than just fajitas.
Using one of the precooked chicken options mentioned above, you can easily make delicious fajitas.
Slice up an onion and a green pepper and saute them together in a little vegetable oil until they’re soft. Warm up some flour tortillas (microwave works fine). Then add warmed-up chicken meat, the cooked onion and green pepper strips, shredded cheese, pico de gallo (can also buy this ready-made) and sour cream. Who doesn’t love fajitas?
Buy a bag of ready-to-go salad mix. Add some warmed pre-made chicken and your favorite salad dressing.
Nothing is better than a hot bowl of soup when the fall weather gets cooler. You can turn almost anything into a soup, and leftovers are perfect for this.
Shoot for these key things: a protein (beef, chicken, sausage, pork, etc.), a starch (potatoes and rice make great options), and vegetables. Carrots, celery and onions are staple items in most any soup. You can also add green beans, peas, canned stewed tomatoes, squash─ or whatever else you like. Toss all this into a pot on the stove, add canned beef stock or chicken stock, and simmer on low for an hour or so. If you’re in a hurry you can microwave or cook on high, but stir frequently to avoid burning.
Baked potatoes are super easy. If you’re in a hurry, they can even be microwaved. Top with precooked fajita meat, precooked barbecue, chili , or other favorites like butter, sour cream, cheese, and salsa.
Use any of the precooked meats we’ve discussed, along with a bag of frozen vegetables that you’ve steamed in the microwave, to top Ramen noodles. Amounts aren’t too important, but for the sake of good nutrition try to have 4-6 ounces of protein and a ½ cup of veggies. Add a little Sriracha if you like it spicy.
Amazing grilled cheese
Experiment with different pre-sliced cheeses. You can use a couple of different cheeses if you want. To cook, simply assemble the sandwich, butter the outside of each piece of bread, and heat over medium heat in a skillet or toaster oven. (Toaster oven, not a toaster! There’s a difference.) Enjoy with a side salad or a bowl of soup and you’ve got a great meal.
If it sounds good, you can even add some deli turkey or ham for a great hot sandwich melt.
Mac and Cheese
We’ll finish up with an old favorite that everyone seems to love: mac and cheese.
But instead of just grabbing a box at the grocery, you can make an easy from-scratch version. (What is in that bright orange powder in the box, anyway?)
All you need is a package (16 oz.) of macaroni noodles, a can of condensed cheddar cheese soup, 1 cup of milk, and 1 pound of shredded Colby cheese. That’s it!
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the macaroni.
Place cooked macaroni in a 2 quart casserole dish. Stir in cheese soup and milk until well-combined. Top with shredded Colby and bake 25 to 30 minutes. Yum!
Kick it up a notch: You can also add your favorite meat to your mac and cheese for a change of pace and added protein. We like adding brisket or pulled pork. You can find either of those meats precooked in the refrigerated section of the grocery store.
Just get started!
These simple meals will get new cooks started. There are so many ready-to-go ingredients at the grocery today that it’s gotten much easier to make simple dinners.
Congratulations, you’re a cook!