It's easy to get overwhelmed while cooking. Often, there are a ton of ingredients and several pots and pans to keep track of simultaneously. And you need to time it just right so everything is done at once.
Sometimes you're just not in the mood for all that fuss, but you still want to cook a delicious meal. Is this a paradox? No way. In fact, there are plenty of dinners you can whip up with only five ingredients. Some are easy combinations of things you probably have in your pantry right now; others are simplified versions of more complicated meals. In this article, we've collected 10 great ideas to try on your next busy night. First up is a way to put some pizzazz in those plain 'ol chicken breasts.
Stuffed Chicken Breasts Over Pasta
Stuffed with what, you ask? Creamy goat cheese. Sounds fancy, but the prep work certainly isn't. All you need to do is cut a pocket in the thickest part of the chicken breasts and stuff it with cheese. Bake the chicken as you normally would. (Not sure where to start? Look over this recipe for Spinach, Cheese and Prosciutto-Stuffed Chicken Breasts for prep advice.) Next, cook the pasta of your choice, drain and toss it with olive oil, sundried tomatoes and fresh basil. Once the chicken is done, arrange it atop the pasta, and you've got yourself a Mediterranean meal to die for.
This next recipe comes from chillier climates, but it's just as delicious.
There are many variations on this traditional dish -- featuring beef, sour cream, mushrooms, sherry and egg noodles or rice -- so feel free to experiment! For example, you can use either sirloin or ground beef, depending on what you've got in the fridge.
Heat olive oil in a pan, then add the meat. Season with salt, pepper (and paprika, if you like) as the beef browns. When the meat is no longer pink, add mushrooms, followed by a couple tablespoons of flour. Keep stirring, and add in sherry. When the sauce is thickened and lump-free, turn off the burner and stir in sour cream. Serve it over egg noodles or rice.
In the mood for something a bit lighter? Check out the next page.
Salads are super-easy to throw together, and this one is mighty tasty. With just lettuce, chicken, tomatoes, cucumbers and blue cheese dressing, this salad can be a hearty meal. If you're starting with a raw chicken breast, check out these chicken cooking tips for some new twists on old methods. This recipe is also great for precooked or leftover chicken.
Once the chicken has cooked and cooled for a bit, move on to your produce. Tear the lettuce and slice the tomatoes and cucumbers. Toss the veggies together, top with chicken and add dressing. Just like that, you've got a nutritious and delicious dinner!
Look to the next page for an easy Sunday dinner.
Roasted Pork Loin
There's nothing quite like a roast. It sounds daunting, but it's really quite simple. This dish relies on the natural juices of the meat and vegetables to create a wonderfully savory flavor. Arrange the pork in a baking pan, and surround it with chunks of potatoes, onions, carrots and fennel. Roast the meat until its internal temperature reaches 155 degrees Fahrenheit before removing it from oven. This dish is special enough for company, and best of all, everything cooks together in one pan -- easy cleanup.
Get ready for a very easy five-ingredient fiesta! Start by heating up a serving of canned black or pinto beans. Place a tortilla in a skillet and sprinkle shredded cheese on top -- jack cheese melts well. Spoon the beans evenly over the cheese. Add a bit more cheese on top of the beans, and then top it off with a second tortilla. Cook both sides of the quesadilla until it's lightly browned and the cheese is melted. Top it with salsa or pico de gallo and sour cream.
Craving pizza? Put down that takeout menu.
Ready-made pizza dough is a great staple to keep in your fridge. It's versatile, quick and helps you create a meal in no time. You can add whatever sauces and toppings you'd like, but pizza margherita is a classic. First, spoon tomato sauce over the rolled-out dough. Then cut fresh mozzarella into thin slices and scatter over sauce. Tear fresh basil leaves over the cheese and top it off with a sprinkling of grated Parmesan. Bake according to the directions on the dough package.
Broccoli Cheese Casserole
Casseroles are wonderful for chilly evenings at home. They don't require much prep, either, which leaves you more time to get cozy. This particular casserole only has five ingredients, most (if not all) of which you probably already have in the fridge or pantry, and it's hearty enough for the days you're going meatless.
Start with the broccoli. If you're using frozen, cook according to the package directions; if fresh, boil the broccoli in salted water for about three minutes or just until tender. Drain and rinse with cold water. Then, mix the broccoli with cream of mushroom soup, cooked rice, chopped onion and shredded cheddar cheese. Transfer the mixture to a casserole dish, top with more cheese and cover it with foil. Bake until the edges are bubbling, then remove the foil to let the cheese brown.
Pasta is a good foundation for any easy meal, but always using the same sauces can get a little tiresome. Mix it up (literally) with a few out-of-the-ordinary things. Start by cooking your pasta. Any shape will do, though something smaller like bowties or macaroni will work best. Then you'll need cooked, peeled shrimp; cut them into bite-sized pieces if they're on the larger side. Add some chopped onion, then toss your ingredients with mayonnaise and Old Bay seasoning. If you're not familiar with Old Bay, it's a seafood seasoning with a very distinctive flavor that compliments the mild taste of the shrimp while giving it a peppy zing.
Potato Cheese Soup
Soup is a lot easier to make than you might imagine. This version is especially simple if you've already got leftover baked potatoes in the fridge. If you're starting with a raw potato, cook it in the oven or microwave and let it cool a bit before cubing it. Meanwhile, cook some bacon until it's crispy, and crumble it when it's cool.
Next, prepare a can of cheese soup according to its directions. Bring that to a simmer, and add the potatoes and bacon. Let it cook a few minutes more, and then it's ready to serve. Top with chopped green onions for a bit of extra flavor.
Our final dish proves that eggs are a winner, morning, noon and night.
Smoked Salmon Omelet
Breakfast for dinner is a regular go-to meal for many, and omelets are a perfect choice. Eggs are a great source of protein, and they pair well with the leftover meats, cheeses and veggies in your fridge. And they're easy to make. If you're an omelet novice, this guide will get you off on the right foot.
For our omelet, start by chopping a bit of onion and smoked salmon. If you prefer your onions cooked, sauté them until they're translucent, then remove them from the pan. Mix the onions, smoked salmon and herbed cream cheese. Pour the beaten eggs into the pan, and once they're cooked, turn off the heat. Add the cream cheese mixture to half the omelet, fold it over and serve with toast.
Pasta may not be as bad for you as people have thought. HowStuffWorks Now explores the health benefits of this Italian staple.
- Demitri, Justin. "Pizza: The Soul of History." Life in Italy. (Nov. 8, 2011) http://www.lifeinitaly.com/food/pizza-history.asp
- Hudson, Robert Paul. "Halocaridinia rubra: The Hawaiian red volcano shrimp." Aqua Botanic. (Nov. 7, 2011) http://www.aquabotanic.com/?p=723
- Thrifty Foods. "History of Stroganoff." (Nov. 8, 2011) http://www.thriftyfoods.com/EN/main/cook/tips-tricks/cooking-tips/meat/history-of-stroganoff-20090311.html