Ten Easy Dinners for the Cooking Challenged

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Ten Easy Dinners for the Cooking Challenged

Tired of Eating Out..but don't know how to cook? ( I posted this article several months ago, when hardly anyone knew about this blog. So I thought I'd post it again for all of you to see, in case it would be a help to you now.)

Everyone knows that one of the single most important things you can do to save money and stay healthy, is to stop eating out. But many of us have never learned how to cook or feel we don't have the time.

Does fast food seem like the only option for you?
Single parents, college kids, and retired folks are the most likely people to resort to fast food, tv dinners, or ramen noodles, when faced with the question of what to eat. And yet these folks are usually on a tighter budget than most of us. Couples who both work are often on a particulary tight schedule and may feel the need to cut corners at dinner time too. You all deserve better than this!

 As a homeschooling mother of four boys and one daughter, I had to come up with an easier and quicker way to cook, and with only one income, it had to be cheap too! The recipes you will find below, are the result of my desperation to streamline the cooking, leaving me more time to teach. They are VERY EASY and VERY SIMPLE. 
 As the kids got older, I wanted the recipes to be ‘college kid friendly’ too. I made it my goal to make sure that everyone, regardless of age or gender, would be able to whip up something cheap and easy while on their own, even if they didn't have the time or inclination to cook. I wanted my kids to live on something besides junk food during their college years!

Experts say that most cooks rely on only TEN RECIPES their whole life! So I’ve assembled the ten simplest ones below. These recipes are not super healthy since some of the ingredients come from a can, but they are much healthier than the usual alternatives. And they are quick and easy on the budget too.

 Most of these dishes will feed four people or last two or three days for a single person. All of the pasta dishes taste great even after being frozen. (Don’t freeze rice though—it crumbles.) Most of the ingredients don’t have to be in the exact quantities listed and you can use any meat--chicken, turkey, or beef for many of the recipes too (or just leave the meat out all together if you are vegetarian). So feel free to improvise.
If you can brown ground beef, open a can, and boil pasta, then these recipes should work for you!


#1 Basic Chili
  • Small can chili beans 14oz
  • 28oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1 Tb. Chili Powder
  • 1 lb. Ground beef
  • ½ of medium size onion, chopped
  • grated cheddar cheese

  1. Brown ground beef and chopped onion-- then drain. 
  2. Stir the meat, onion and all remaining ingredients except the cheese together in a large pan. 
  3. Simmer for 15 minutes. 
  4. Top with grated cheese or corn chips. 
  5. Serve over white rice if you like.
#2 Chicken Alfredo
  • 1 lb. can cooked chicken
  • 1 pound pkg. fettucini noodles
  • a cup of sour cream
  • ½ stick real butter, melted
  • 1/3 c.parmesan cheese (or just use a jar of alfredo sauce)
  • Garlic power or Garlic Salt (optional)

  1. Cook pasta and drain. 
  2. Stir in butter, sour cream (or alfredo sauce instead of butter and sour cream
  3. Stir in canned chicken and ½ cup milk. 
  4. Then stir in Parmesan cheese.
  5. Sprinkle garlic powder or garlic salt to taste.

 #3 Beef or Chicken Stir-Fry
  • 1 steak or chicken breast (or canned chicken meat) (appr.16oz)
  • a 16oz box or bag of frozen stir-fry veges
  • box of instant rice (oriental flavor)
  • small bit of olive oil and soy sauce
  1. Cook boxed rice according to pkg. directions. 
  2. Microwave or stir bag of stir-fry veges on high heat in olive oil in a skillet. 
  3. Cut steak or chicken breast into bite size chunks. 
  4. Saute meat over medium high heat in 1 T. olive oil in a skillet until cooked thru. 
  5. Stir all ingredients together and season with soy sauce.

#4 French bread Pizza
  • Loaf of french bread
  • small pkg pepperoni 
  • pound grated mozzarella
  • sliced veges (whatever is in the fridge)
  • 16 oz can plain tomato sauce
 (A foreign exchange student from Italy told me he always uses PLAIN tomato sauce for pizza!) Frenchbread pizza is almost exactly the same as Italy’s traditional “Pizza Marguerite”.

  1. Slice frenchbread in half lengthwise. 
  2. Spread with tomato sauce. 
  3. Sprinkle with mozzarella. 
  4. Arrange pepperoni and chopped veges on top.
  5. Broil until cheese is melted. 
  6.  Opt. For a healthier meal, make a salad to go with this!
 #5 Beef and Rigatoni Casserole
  • 28oz jar of spaghetti sauce
  • 1 lb. Box of rigatoni pasta
  • 1/2 pound ground beef (cooked and drained)
  • 1/2 pound grated mozzarella cheese.
  1. Cook pasta and drain. 
  2. Cook meat and drain. 
  3. Mix pasta, meat, and sauce together. 
  4. Top with cheese and bake uncovered in a casserole dish about 15-20 minutes at 350 degrees or until cheese melts.
#6 Chicken, Broccoli, Wild-Rice Casserole
  • 1 lb. can cooked chicken breast meat
  • box instant wild rice
  • 16 oz box frozen broccoli, 
  • 1 Tb. butter or olive oil
  • cup of grated cheddar cheese
  1. Cook instant rice according to package directions. 
  2. Microwave broccoli. 
  3. Drain chicken meat. 
  4. Toss chicken, hot rice, cooked broccoli, butter or oil. 
  5. Top with cheese. 
  6. Spread into glass casserole dish and bake until cheese melts.  (About 15 min.)
America's Favorite Spaghetti and Meatsauce
  • 28oz can of Spaghetti Sauce
  • 14oz-28oz can diced tomatoes (adds chunkiness and cuts down on spiciness)
  • ½ pound ground beef (or frozen meatballs)
  • 1 lb. spaghetti
  • (Opt. can of black olives or mushrooms)
  1. Cook pasta and drain. 
  2. Brown ground beef . 
  3. Mix spaghetti, beef, and pasta (and optional veges) in one large bowl. 
  4. Top with parmesan cheese.
#8 Taco Salad
  • 1 lb. ground beef or shredded cold chicken
  • 1 pkg. taco seasonings (or 2 Tb chili powder/ 2 tsp. cumin)
  • tortilla chips,
  • shredded lettuce, diced tomatos
  • shredded cheddar cheese, sourcream.  
  • (Make a whole pound of taco meat-package and save to make tacos, burritos etc.
  1. Brown ground beef. 
  2. Drain and stir in taco seasoning and cook just a few minutes more. 
  3. Shred lettuce, cheese, dice tomatoes and/or onions. 
  4. Sprinkle everything on a bed of tortilla chips. 
  5. Top with sour cream and picante sauce
#9 Chicken Parmigiana
  • 1 sm. box quality frozen breaded chicken patties (like Tyson)
  • 1 28 oz jar spaghetti sauce
  • 1 lb. thin spaghetti
  • 8 oz mozzarella cheese or parmesan
  1. Cook and drain pasta and toss with cooking oil. (keep warm) 
  2. Bake chicken patties in oven according to directions. 
  3. Spoon enough sauce on top of cooked patties to cover and save rest to pour on pasta. 
  4. Top with grated mozzarella or parmesan cheese. 
  5. Put back in warm oven to melt cheese. 
  6. Serve chicken with pasta and sauce on the side.
#10 Chicken, Beef, or Pork Fajitas
  • 16oz can cooked chicken breast (or 1 steak cut in bite size pieces)
  • Small pkg soft tortillas
  • bell pepper and onion sliced
  • small can of refried beans
  • 1 Tb. chili powder
  • (picante sauce, cheddar cheese and sour cream optional)
  1. Slice and then saute bell pepper and onion over med heat until cooked crisp-tender in a skillet with 1 tb. olive oil.  Set aside and keep warm. 
  2. Shred cooked chicken breast and saute in olive oil and chili powder till hot thru. 
  3. Season with salt and pepper to taste. 
  4. Heat refried beans in small bowl covered loosely with plastic wrap.
  5. Microwave tortillas until warm or wrap in foil and heat in oven at 350 for about 10 min. 
  6. Assemble fajitas. 
 When you go grocery shopping, stock up on some of these items:
  • Canned Goods: Cans of spaghetti sauce, alfredo sauce, chili beans, diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, mushrooms, olives, refried beans, alfredo sauce, and canned chicken (if you don’t know how to cook chicken).
  • Dairy and Meat: Keep some sliced pepperoni, grated mozzarella , cheddar, and parmesan on hand. Store it all in the freezer and it won’t go bad. Buy good quality frozen chicken patties (so they aren’t greasy), and buy ground beef in bulk. If you are really ambitious, go ahead and brown it right away, and then freeze it, or package it in ½ pound packages. I add my cumin and label some of it “taco meat’. Talk about saving our lives on a busy family night!
  • Stock up on tortillas, boxed rice, bags of pasta, onions, frozen veges etc.
  • Keep the spices and condiments simple: chili powder, parmesan cheese, cumin, garlic, soy sauce, sour cream, butter, olive oil, salt and pepper.
  • Buy a couple of loaves of French bread and freeze them for quick pizza. Keep tortilla chips on hand And don’t forget that baked potatoes make a great dinner with the right toppings and a salad on the side!
That’s all there is to it! The next time you’re tempted to head for the nearest fast food place, take a detour to your local grocery store instead. These dishes are fast, easy, and don’t require a lot of ingredients. Even better, try doubling the recipe and take tomorrow night off…or take the leftovers to work for a hot lunch and double the savings!!

1 comment

Trudy said...

This a great post for the cooking challenged, Me! Thanks, Donna. I'll be using these for sure. My husband thanks you again.

“There's nothing half so pleasant as coming home again.” ~ Margaret Sangster

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