So easy, it’s barely cooking: Healthy, simple recipes

Recently, I wrote about meal planning and delivery services. Most of the meal delivery services that I found were priced similarly per meal to most of the fast-casual restaurants in my area. To me, at least, that's rarely worth it, especially when you consider that with, many such services, you still have to do the cooking yourself.

One reason a service like that might be worth it for many people, however, is that they simply don't know what to make when left to their own devices. I've definitely been there, even though I have a bunch of cookbooks and practice the Pinterest strategy.

It takes practice to identify recipes that you will like, and there is always a learning curve when it comes to making something new. For that reason, I also keep some easy, tried-and-true recipes in a recipe box on my counter that are healthy and simple to make. Bonus points for any recipe that tastes fresh but can be made from items that I can store in the pantry so that they're there when I need them.

Here are a couple of my favorite go-to's. Not only are they delicious, they are super fast and so easy that you can barely consider it cooking. (You don't even need to heat anything up!) They also happen to be inexpensive, so you can direct more of your hard-earned money to a high-yield online savings account.

Corn and avocado salad

If you live someplace where fresh, farm-grown sweet corn is cheap and easily available, you may want to go with that. I can only imagine it would improve the dish immensely! However, in wintertime or if you don't live in the heartland, canned corn will do nicely too.

Ingredients:

  • 4 tbsp lime juice, fresh is better if you've got it

  • 1 avocado, diced (see below for how to dice an avocado)

  • 1 can corn, drained

  • Half a red onion, diced

  • Medium bunch basil, chopped

  • Salt & pepper to taste

(Also pictured: an Ulu board and knife. The shallow bowl of the board and curved knife making chopping herbs like basil easier.)

Directions:

  • Mix, chill at least an hour, and serve. Whoa! How easy was that?

How to dice an avocado

I only learned this a couple of years ago and it changed my life. First, use a chef's knife to cut into the avocado the long way around, all the way to the pit. Once you've cut all the way around, you should be able to twist the two halves in opposite directions and separate them.

Then if you tap the blade of the knife into the pit, you can twist the knife and loosen and remove the pit easily. Don't use your best knife and be careful not to cut yourself.

Now comes the best part: Cut the avocado meat in a cross-hatch pattern while it's still in the skin.

Then all you have to do is scoop out the meat with a large spoon. Ta-da! Salad!

As you can see, this is almost ridiculously easy — plus it's tasty! It's excellent topped with blue cheese crumbles, though I don't add that until my serving is on the plate. This is great as a side dish, particularly with seafood.

Bean salad

This is probably my favorite recipe to bring to potlucks. It's easy to make and to transport, plus it's hearty and isn't your boring, everyday salad. Also, despite how quickly and simply it comes together, it's super beautiful.

Ingredients:

  • 1 can garbanzo beans (chickpeas), drained and rinsed

  • 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed

  • 1 can corn, drained

  • Half a red onion, diced

  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced

  • 1 green bell pepper, seeded and diced

  • For the vinaigrette: 3 tbsp lemon juice, 2 tbsp light olive oil, and Tabasco, garlic powder, and salt & pepper to taste

Directions:

  • Whisk together vinaigrette (though to be fair, with no vinegar it's not really a vinaigrette).

  • Add other ingredients, mix, and refrigerate.

You can also add other ingredients for color. And depending on what you like, you could use seeded and diced jalapeno or chopped green onions for the green color, or shredded carrots if you want a punch of orange. I don't recommend tomatoes since they get mealy quickly after being diced. Grape tomatoes that aren't cut or maybe diced tomatoes added to each serving right before serving might work.

Don't be afraid to tweak

In addition to being a respectable side dish, this “salad” can also be used as the filling for soft tacos or a wrap in conjunction with some guacamole and sour cream. Since this makes quite a bit (serves 6-8 if used as a side dish, and 4-6 if used as taco/wrap filling) it's something you can make at the beginning of the week and eat two to three different ways during the week. Gorgeous!

In addition to factors like money and time, many people don't like cooking because they're afraid to deviate from a recipe. Certainly for things like baking, this is a concern. Baking is really chemistry and, unless you really know what you're doing, making an adjustment can impact the finished product in ways that you don't expect.

However, when it comes to cooking things like stir-frys, salads, and other non-baking activities, experimentation can be half the fun! The two recipes in this article have been adjusted so many times over the years that they barely resemble the original source. I've made them so many times that I don't even have to look at my recipe cards anymore, but I also tend to make them slightly differently every time.

And while these are what I think of as summertime recipes, now that we're heading into fall, I'm ready to step up my slow-cooker experimentation once again. Basics like chicken and vegetable soup or chili come in almost infinite permutations. Varying the herbs that you use in a recipe can change the flavor entirely even if you don't make any other changes. Try other substitutions, like canned pumpkin instead of tomato paste, and see where that lands you. Now you're cooking flexipe style!

What are your go-to recipes?

Maybe you've made your favorite recipes so often that it doesn't even occur to you to share. However, when I poll my friends about their favorite easy meals, usually they describe something I've never heard of or thought about.

In fact, lots of times the people who do the least cooking are the best sources of fast and easy recipes, because they gravitated toward things they can accomplish sans cookbooks or special tools (like an Ulu board and knife). So what's your favorite recipe? Add it to the comments below for others to enjoy!

More about...Food

Become A Money Boss And Join 15,000 Others

Subscribe to the GRS Insider (FREE) and we’ll give you a copy of the Money Boss Manifesto (also FREE)

Yes! Sign up and get your free gift
Become A Money Boss And Join 15,000 Others
guest
10 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
zoranian
zoranian
4 years ago

Tacos are really easy (brown some meat, add some seasoning, wrap in tortilla with favorite toppings). Other quick go-to meals include stir fry veggies and pan-fried salmon. Easy, but not quick, includes crockpot meals, especially chicken (any type of chicken can be used). If you have never used your crockpot before, throw a bit of water in the bottom, place desired meat in crockpot, add some seasoning and turn the crockpot on. Easy as pie! Speaking of which, pie is really not easy…

Emily @ JohnJaneDoe.com
Emily @ JohnJaneDoe.com
4 years ago

I recommend Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything. It’s a great cookbook to have around if you are a little bit intimidated in the kitchen. It also allows for lots of substitutions and variations. I promised the family mac and cheese the other night and did not have my trusty box of Kraft. I used Bittman’s cookbook to make Mac and Cheese from scratch (I did use store-bought pasta) for the first time. Really good, and not difficult.

Ali @ Anything You Want
Ali @ Anything You Want
4 years ago

Thanks for sharing these! I’m always on the look out for quick, healthy and cheap weeknight meals. Some of my favorites are tacos, green salads and fish.

Mrs. Crackin' the Whip
Mrs. Crackin' the Whip
4 years ago

I always have pre-cooked hamburger, chicken and beans in the freezer. I freeze in small 5 oz portions so they can be used for individual lunches or we can use several bags for a main entrée. There are so many options with just these three things!

Paj
Paj
4 years ago

My go-to when I’m too tired to cook (or think) is almost always an egg sandwich. Packed with protein, 2-3 ingredients, and made in minutes.

Alice
Alice
4 years ago

One of my favorite dishes is green beans and potatoes in the crock pot. I put 2 slices of cooked bacon in the bottom of the crock pot, add a two pond bag of frozen green beans and 3 to 4 medium size chopped potatoes. Ad filtered water to barely cover the beans and cook on high to 4 to 6 hours or on low for 8 hours. If cooking on high, check the water level and doneness after 4 hours. The bacon provides all the salt needed to season both beans and potatoes. You can add Mrs. Dash table… Read more »

Pam
Pam
4 years ago

Wow, these look so tasty and quick to make! Thanks for the post!

Tre
Tre
4 years ago

Rice &. beans is a staple in our house. I know the kids will eat it and can make it without a recipe. I’m going to try the bean salad.

Pat
Pat
4 years ago

I recommend a cookbook released last year which is available as a FREE PDF download: GOOD AND CHEAP: EAT WELL ON $4 A DAY, by Leanne Brown. (http://www.leannebrown.com/) The book originated as a graduate school nutrition project to help people with limited income, particularly those on a $4/day food stamp budget, prepare nutritious meals. The author encourages experimentation and substitutions and regards it as a book of ideas rather than absolutes. In addition to the free PDF, the book was published in 2014 as an absolutely gorgeous paperback, funded through a Kickstarter campaign. The 2nd edition has just been released… Read more »

sebastian
sebastian
4 years ago

Thanks for this, sometimes it is the simple easy ones that are the best. I eat a lot of salads etc for lunch and so i am sure that i will try this out soon.

I have a really simple one for the colder nights :
tin of chopped tomatoes
2 pork chops
frozen peas
chillies

chop up pork chops and cook in a pan
when nearly cooked add in the tomato and chopped chilli. Cook until the chopped tomatoes are done and then add the frozen peas. bring to the boil again and then it is ready ..

shares