Learning to Cook Simple, Healthy Meals


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Our new member, @DarkwingPsyduck , has stated that he cannot cook and needs to gain weight and get healthy. Let's all band together to give him tips and simple ideas for meals and snacks he can make himself!

I guess if I had to teach a 25 year old man how to cook (and my own son is 21, so I know a bit about this - though he doesn't really want to learn) I'd say that if money isn't a serious disadvantage, convenience foods are your friends.

Yes, making sauces from scratch is more healthy than jars, frozen foods are often loaded with sodium and stuff from boxes are full of preservatives. BUT, for ease of preparation, they can't be beat and once you get the hang of simple meals, doing it from scratch becomes easier.

Frozen veggies can be microwaved. Frozen, pre-cooked meats (like chicken breasts, which come in re-sealable bags) can be microwaved, but turn out better in an oven. You can buy lots of entrees frozen. Heck, even desserts.

One of my son's favorites is mac and cheese from a box. They even make it with sauce so you don't have to measure milk and butter. You boil the noodles, drain them, cut open the sauce packet and add it and stir it up. Add some chopped up meat - like pre-cooked chicken or ham - and maybe some frozen broccoli you've microwaved and you have a one-pot meal with vegetables, meat and carbs altogether and it's tasty.

A number of stores now sell pre-cooked, grilled chicken breasts. You just have to put them on a pan, turn the oven to the right temp, set the timer, and they are really good! Serve it chopped up over a salad, or with rice and veggies.

Who would like to chime in? @DarkwingPsyduck do you have any specific things you'd like to know?


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If he has a small freezer compartment in his fridge, he should try to cook a dish, then portion it out in to servings and freeze. Right now, I have a pot of ham and beans cooking. There will be enough for several servings later.

One thing I did for my son was to buy some basic food items that he could easily fix. Egg, make a great breakfast sandwich on toast or an English muffin. Some canned soups are good over a bed of rice or pasta. Like the chunky Campbell soups... I bi bought him canned tuna and canned chicken. He could add it to a box of Mac and cheese. Or add the chicken to a box of rice a roni. Or make chicken or tuna salad. My son likes canned Spam...esp on an egg and toast sandwich.

I know there are better healthier meals out there, but theses ideas are the quick, easy, inexpensive ideas to get started.


Scent of Cedar *

Well-Known Member
Here are some more ideas for Darkwing.


Spam comes in a can with a ring in the top. (No can opener, Darkwing!)


You don't have to refrigerate it until you open it. In the unopened can, it lasts for months. You can make sandwiches from it. With mustard, or cheese. You could grill the Spam and cheese sandwich, if you wanted. What you do to grill a sandwich is:

Locate a small frying pan.
Put it on the stove over medium heat.
Very lightly butter one side of a piece of bread. Put the bread, butter side down, into the frying pan.
Put a slice of cheese on the bread. Add a slice of spam (or, ham).
Very lightly butter a second piece of bread. Put this on top of the cheese and spam with the butter side toward yourself.
Using a spatula, turn your grilling sandwich over as soon as the bottom of the first slice of bread turns golden brown. It will help if you place one finger lightly on top of your sandwich as you turn it.
Brown the bottom slice of bread too until it is golden brown.

Add a can of tomato soup and you have a tasty meal. Really high in sodium, though.

You can cut Spam into small pieces and add it to scrambled eggs. If you have a leftover boiled potato, you could add that to your Spam and egg meal. This is how you would do that: Put a teaspoon of butter in a frying pan. Cut the boiled potato into bite sized pieces. Brown them in the butter. When they hot, add the Spam pieces to the potato pieces. Cook them together for one minute. Beat two eggs together in a separate bowl. Lower the heat to low. Pour the eggs over the Spam and potato mixture. Cook and stir gently until the eggs are done and look like you want to eat them.

Add salt and pepper.

Very tasty.

If you slice green onions and sprinkle them over your meal once it is cooked, I think you would like that very much.


Wash the chicken pieces with water. Put them into a foil lined broiler pan. Season with salt and pepper. Bake at 350 degrees for forty five minutes. Take the pan out of the oven and brush each piece of chicken with bottled barbecue sauce. Return to the oven for 15 to 20 minutes.

Serve with mac & cheese.

If you add sliced tomatoes or make frozen broccoli following the directions on the package, your meal will be healthy and tasty, too.

Chili Dogs

This one is so easy. So, you can buy cans of chile made to be served over hot dogs, or used in nachos. This kind of chile has no beans. Heat the hot dogs in the microwave for 45 seconds. Then, put the hot dog in a hot dog bun, add the chili from the can, and return the chili dog to the microwave for like, 30 seconds. Then, sprinkle the chili dog with shredded cheese (which you can buy already shredded at the grocery store) and pop it back in the microwave for another 15 seconds.

If the cheese isn't melted, microwave for fifteen seconds more.


Spread unseasoned nacho chips on a microwave safe plate. Microwave for 30 seconds. Take them out of the microwave. Drizzle the nacho chips with cheese sauce made for making nachos (available, canned, at the grocery store), or place two slices of American sandwich cheese on the nacho chips. Add some leftover chili without beans ~ the same kind you used to make your chili dogs. You can add a few jalepeno peppers (which come in small cans or jars at the grocery store). Microwave for another 15 seconds. If the cheese has not melted, microwave for another 15 seconds.

Greek Yogurt

Greek yogurt with live cultures (just the plain kind, because the flavored kinds contain much sugar) is very good for us. Sliced apples with Greek yogurt or with peanut butter is a good, healthy snack for us.



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It occurred to me that the easiest full meals are really slow-cooker meals. @DarkwingPsyduck , if your family has a crock-pot, you can shock them with some really good meals that are SO easy! You can stick it on in the morning, it will be done when your aunt and uncle are home from work! There's no real "cooking". You don't have to worry about timing and turning and burning.

Your family will be so impressed!

Pot Roast - this is basic and surprisingly easy.

1)Spray a large crockpot with cooking spray - or line it with a crockpot liner - available in grocery stores by the aluminum foil and bags.

2)Peel a onion and slice it into large (1" or so) rings - scatter over the bottom.

3)Put the roast in - You don't even have the thaw it out if it's frozen! I always start my roasts from frozen.

4)Wash some potatoes, 4 or 5, depending on how big they are, cut them up into big chunks - like quarters, add to the pot - no need to peel.

5)Throw in a bag of baby carrots on top of that - or as many as you like.

6)Mix a package of dry, onion soup mix with about 1/2 cup of water - pour over the top.

7)Turn on the pot low, put the lid on and let it cook 6-8 hours.

That's it! You don't need to add any more water. Just leave it alone until the time is up. Done!

If that seems too scary to start with - try THIS!

8 Can Soup - SUPER-DUPER easy and yummy and it's even pretty healthy!

1 can of each:
vegetable soup
mixed vegetables
diced tomatoes, with chilies (Rotel)
diced tomatoes, plain
whole kernel corn
tomato soup
chili, with beans
chili, without beans

Mix it all together in the crock pot and cook for 6-8 hours on low or 4 hours on high. Give it a quick stir and serve. If you want something more filling ... toss in a small bag of frozen meatballs at the beginning. Serve it with some crusty French bread.

Finally, this is simple too.

Chicken Cacciatori - serve with pasta or Minute Rice.

6 frozen chicken thighs (can be bone-in)
1 or 2 can mushrooms
1 green bell pepper
1 red bell pepper (or less if it looks like too much)
1 onion
1 jar spaghetti sauce

1)Put the chicken in the pot - again, frozen is fine.
2)Wash and cut the peppers into strips, add to pot.
3)Peel the onion, cut into strips, add to pot
4)Add the mushrooms
5)Pour the sauce over the top.

Cook 6-8 hours on low. Cook some pasta or minute rice, serve the chicken and veggies and sauce over the top and sprinkle it with Parmesan cheese.


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If you like fish, say Tilapia which is cheap, put it in foil, with any seasoning you like, and a bit of salt and a tiny bit of olive oil.

I use chopped onions and a little minced garlic. Either cook the fish on a grill or in the oven in a pie plate. Up to 20 minutes or so. If on a grill, turn it once.

You can do the same thing with a chicken breast.

Make french fries in the oven. Turn oven to 450. To make it easier leave the skin on the potato and cut it into french fry wedges. Toss on a cookie sheet on which you have put some olive oil. Salt and garlic powder. Bake until golden.

Vegetables can be cooked this way: Carrots are good.

You can roast tomatoes and peppers the same way but at 350.

Sweet potatoes are good. Put them on foil because they weep sugary juice.

Make a seasoning powder with cumin, paprika, cayenne, garlic powder and onion powder.

Maybe 1 T garlic powder. 2 teaspoons onion powder. I teaspoon cumin, 1 t paprika and, cayenne to taste. Sprinkle on chicken thighs or drumsticks. Bake at 350 until golden brown. You can start out at 450 for 15 minutes if you want to speed up the process.

To roast a whole chicken wash it inside and out and salt the cavity. Preheat the oven to 425 or 450. Put inside of the cavity, herbs such as thyme. Also put in the cavity up to a head of garlic (if you like it), and/or an onion. Some people use a whole lemon. Rub the skin with olive oil. Salt and sprinkle more thyme or whatever herb you may have. (Basil, Tarragon, a little Marjoram or Oregano, for example.)

Put the chicken breast side down in a pan. I use a heavy cast iron one. Roast 20 minutes at high heat. It accelerates the process and it seals the skin so the juices stay in. Then reduce the temperature to 350. Depending upon the size of the chicken it will be done in 1 hour more or less.

I get larger ones which are done in 1 hour 10 min.

Salad dressing: Take a few cloves of garlic and smash them and put them in a small bowl with a quarter cup of olive oil. Buy balsamic vinegar say at costco and add 2 T *or to taste, to the oil. Add salt and pepper. Let it sit for half a hour and take the garlic out. It will last covered a couple of days.

Quesadillas--any cheese will do. I have what is called a comal, a cast iron griddle that can be used in all kinds of ways. We use corn tortillas but flour are used too. Tortillas will freeze. Use any kind of cheese except american. You can add leftover sliced steak, mushrooms, etc. to make a full meal.

The boxed soups are good. If you have a Trader Joe's near you the ones you buy there are good. To make them more flavorful with a nice presentation l I use them half and half. One kind on one side of the bowl, another kind on the other side. Like Tomato and Sweet potato. There is a really good kind of pesto you can buy in the supermarket in the freezer section and then store in the freezer. I put a dollop on top of the soup. It is delicious.

If you have a Latin American population in your town look for a large Latino supermarket. They will have a real butcher. They sell cuts of beef that are very thinly sliced and quick and easy to cook in a frying pan over the stove. Salt and garlic powder is all you need.

Beans are easy and healthy. Wash them once and drain the water. Put them in a small saucepan covered with water and maybe 4 inches more. Add a peeled clove of garlic (to prevent gas.) Bring the beans and water to a boil, reduce the heat to a slow simmer, and cover. In an hour to an hour and a half check to see if the beans need more water, and add if necessary. Do not let the beans boil dray.

When the beans are soft and not before add salt. Cook maybe 20 minutes more.


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Hot oatmeal cereal:

Put half a cup of "quick" rolled oats in a microwavable bowl.

Fill a measuring cup with one cup of water. Microwave the water on high for 2 minutes or until boiling. Pour over oats, stir.

Cover the bowl and come back in 5-10 minutes. Take cover off. Put bowl in microwave, and heat on high just until it bubbles up (and not overflow).

Add sugar and milk/cream to taste.


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Put half a cup of "quick" rolled oats in a microwavable bowl.
I use the traditional, slow ones and do the same thing. One and a half cup of oats, to 6 cups of water. I do 22 minutes. The bowl has to be the big mixing bowl or it will boil over.

Even though I am the only one who eats them, I cook a bunch and put it in the fridge ready for me the next few days. They are still good re-heated.

Quick breads are easy to bake. Like Banana or Sweet Potato. Look for a recipe called Old School Banana Bread on a website called Shockingly Delicious. You will need to buy a loaf pan. They keep in the refrigerator or frozen.

There is a very easy pie to make, with variations. It is called impossibly delicious. It mastard, frenckes its own crust. I make coconut custard, cuh apple, pumpkin. You will need a pie pan and a blender. Look on either betty crocker website or on allrecipes.com.

Apple dumplings are simple to make with big frozen biscuits in the tube. Slice apples, sugar, butter, and not much else.

Frozen vegetables are easy to make (and healthier) if you cook them in a little bit of olive oil in a fry pan with salt and garlic powder, and just a few tablespoons of water which will evaporate. Like green beans, broccoli or mixed vegetables.


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It mastard, frenckes its own crust.

I just had to point this out - that's a unique phrase. Is that Latin? LOL

I do oatmeal stovetop. I use quick oats, follow the water and oatmeal measurements on the box. I boil the water, toss in some brown sugar and nuts or raisins, then stir in the oats and put a lid on the pot, take it off the stove burner, let it set 5 minutes. Done.

I'm trying for the easiest possible recipes here. Darkwing has apparently had problems opening cans. :) But I have faith that he can learn to cook good enough for company.



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Here's a super-duper simple dessert. Easy, but NOT healthy.

Dump Cake

Spray or butter a 9 x 11 pan.

Open a can of cherry pie filling. Dump it in.
Open a can of pineapple. Dump it in.
Mix them up a bit so it's even.

Sprinkle a box of yellow cake mix over the whole thing.

Cut up a stick and a half of butter and put the pieces over the whole thing evenly.

Bake at 350 degrees until it's brown and bubbly.
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Active Member
Wow, I have to jump in here and say I am incredibly touched by the kindness and effort to share recipes for you Darkwing. These are truly amazing people that have so much love and compassion and ready to jump in and help. You have obviously touched everyone's hearts and we want to see you continue to succeed.


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Some canned soups are good over a bed of rice or pasta. Like the chunky Campbell soups.

Hadn't caught this, but you're right. You can make some really good meals this way. I made pasta one night and had too much for the sauce, so I left it in the fridge. My son took Campbells Chunky Chicken Alfredo Soup and poured it over that. It was great. They make a Chunky Beer Cheese with Steak and Bacon that he LOVES. Theres a Chunky Cheeseburger that's supposed to be excellent over french fries or tater tots.


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I cannot help myself.

This is a very simple pasta.

Spaghetti with garlic and olive oil.

Bring water to boil in very large pot almost full but not quite. Add a half package of spaghetti, and a teaspoon of olive oil and a pinch of salt to the water. Keep at a boil and cook about 7 minutes or until the spaghetti is cooked to your liking.

While the water is heating for the spaghetti, mince maybe 4 cloves of garlic (cut it in tiny pieces after peeling it.)

When you put the spaghetti in the boiling water you can start cooking the minced garlic in one quarter cup of oil in a frying pan over low heat. Be careful not to burn the garlic because it will get bitter. If you want add a pinch (or more) of red pepper flakes to the garlic as it cooks. Drain the cooked spaghetti and toss with the olive oil and garlic. Salt to taste.


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I make a simple pasta dish too. First I go to the salad bar at our local supermarket, and get things like shredded cheese, bacon bits, sliced olives, tomatoes, green onions, kidney or garbanzo beans. Buy one can of good solid white albacore tuna. Cook spaghetti, while it is cooking, make sure the salad items are chopped small enough. Drain tuna. Put veggies, cheese and tuna in large bowl. Add chopped walnuts if you like. Drain hot pasta, add to bowl, sprinkle on a tablespoon or two of olive oil, fresh ground pepper, and toss and serve with crusty bread. KSM


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My simplest pasta dish is this:

Boil some spaghetti noodles.
While you're doing that, melt a couple tablespoon of butter in a skillet with about a tablespoon of olive oil. Turn heat to low, add a bit of minced garlic (you can buy it in a jar in the store already cut up and keep it in your fridge), some spices if you like, basil, oregano, etc....just a little bit.
Drain the noodles and put in the skillet, toss to mix it all up so it's coated with the butter, then shake on as much parmesan cheese as you want. (I like lots!)

It's great if you add some cooked veggies, especially zucchini and such.

Scent of Cedar *

Well-Known Member
Put half a cup of "quick" rolled oats in a microwavable bowl.

Fill a measuring cup with one cup of water. Microwave the water on high for 2 minutes or until boiling. Pour over oats, stir.

Cover the bowl and come back in 5-10 minutes. Take cover off. Put bowl in microwave, and heat on high just until it bubbles up (and not overflow).

I didn't know we could cook oatmeal this way.

How cool is this?!?




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You can throw anything in a crockpot and make a tasty meal. 1 meat+ 1 starch+ 1 or 2 veggies + a cup of broth or jarred sauce+ seasoning = 1 or more meals.

Foil packets same thing minus the liquid. The raw potatoes work best for the starch.