Here’s a simple system to get your foot in the door and food on your plate



hl5meals2019

Pasta can be the main component to many recipes and meals for lunch or dinner.  Alexis Oser Buy Photos

College has taught me that cooking at home isn’t easy. But after a couple of years, I’ve learned a thing or two about making meals for one. 

Each week, I buy five key ingredients to use for most of my meals. It’s usually two vegetables, a protein, a starch and a wildcard item like a fancy cheese to make dinner a little more fun. 

One version has been squash, zucchini, chicken sausage, rice and feta cheese. My favorite combination is grape tomatoes, spinach, chicken breast, wheat bow tie pasta and goat cheese. I should note here that I always keep other cooking essentials on hand, too, like eggs, milk, bread, olive oil and spices. I’m also no chef, so all my “recipes” are more like guidelines and meant to be experimented with. 

Here are some simple meals you can make with five ingredients. 

Breakfast

Tomato, spinach, goat cheese scramble 

Scramble two eggs in a bowl, and add a splash of milk. Set it aside. Put a dab of olive oil in a pan. Add a handful of spinach and 10 (ish) grape tomatoes chopped in half. Saute the vegetables, and when they’re a bit softer, pour in the egg mixture. Continue to mix in the ingredients as it cooks, and add a sprinkle of goat cheese about a minute before it’s done.

Lunch

Grilled chicken salad

Place some olive oil and a chicken breast in a pan. I like to change up the seasoning, so sometimes I’ll add lemon juice and rosemary, or other times I’ll just do a simple salt and pepper. While the chicken is cooking, place a few handfuls of spinach in a bowl. Halve as many tomatoes as you would like, and throw them on top of the spinach. Add some goat cheese. When the chicken is done, slice it and place it on top of the salad. You can add extra vegetables if you have them on hand or sunflower seeds or nuts for some crunch. Oh, and don’t forget dressing. My go-to is balsamic vinaigrette. 

Pasta salad

This one is great because you can prepare it in advance and in large quantities if you want to eat it a few times per week. Make a few cups of pasta, and let it cool. Cook two to three chicken breasts, and let them cool. Chop the chicken into cubes. Mix the chicken and pasta in a large bowl. Add halved tomatoes, spinach and goat cheese. Pour the salad dressing of your choice over the top, and mix it together. Stick it in the refrigerator, and you’ve got at least a few servings of pasta salad to eat for the week. 

Dinner

Chicken pasta bowl 

This one is going to get crazy because you’re going to need more than one pan. In one pan, start cooking the chicken. I usually use Italian seasoning on it. In a pot, boil water for the noodles, and throw them in. In a separate pan, pour a dab of olive oil, and saute the tomatoes and spinach. Add the pasta to the tomatoes and spinach, then chop up the chicken and add that in. You can either add olive oil and balsamic (a la Pasta Fresca from Noodles and Company) or pasta sauce to combine the ingredients. Place the lid on the pan, and let it simmer for a few minutes. Then, it’s ready. 

One-sheet meal rosemary goat cheese chicken

This variation is especially simple. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Grab a cookie sheet, and cover it in non-stick spray or tin foil. Place the spinach and tomatoes on the sheet, then pour olive oil on them. Season with salt and pepper. Place the chicken on the other half. Cover it in olive oil, then season with salt, pepper and rosemary. Put a generous amount of goat cheese on the top. Once the oven is hot, let it cook for 15-20 minutes. The time will vary based on your oven. Let it cool for a bit, then put it on a plate or eat it off the sheet if you are feeling especially lazy. 

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