Originally Posted by Joke Insurance
Actually, I am just looking for the basics for now. If that is okay.
Of course it's okay! That's the best place to start; I've known folks who figured they'd start out cooking by trying to make chicken cordon bleu or a perfect cheesecake, and they never understand why their efforts don't come out the way they expected.
So I dug out something I compiled for our younger kid when he went off to his second year of college insisting that he wanted to save the food service costs and do his own cooking, and I'll copy and paste it here. For what it's worth, he now cooks at least as well and sometimes better than his parents, including a lot of quite complicated dishes that we've certainly never taught him.
Easy Recipes for One Person
Shopping list: the basic kitchen essentials
Garlic powder (NOT garlic salt!)
Onion powder (NOT onion salt!)
White wine Worcestershire sauce
Salt & pepper
When buying herbs and spices to use in cooking for one person, don’t get the huge size containers. The spices may be less expensive per ounce that way, but they’ll lose their flavor and aroma long before you finish them. The ingredient referred to as “Pasta Sprinkle” is a mixture of basic Italian-style herb seasonings that comes from Penzey’s Spices; you can substitute a shake of oregano, basil and garlic powder and get pretty much the same effect.
Learn to read labels and cooking directions! Some pasta brands and shapes cook in five minutes, others take twelve; always look at the box or package for cooking tips.
Single-Serving Chicken Imperial
1 pc. chicken, thawed - can be boneless or bone-in, with or without skin
1 T. butter or margarine
Sprinkle of black pepper
Sprinkle of garlic powder
2 good pinches Parmesan cheese
1 T. bread crumbs
Preheat oven to 350, and line an oven-safe pan with foil.
Put the butter or margarine in a microwave-safe bowl, cover with plastic wrap (leaving a vent) and microwave on Defrost for 20-30 seconds.
Coat the chicken in the melted butter and lay in the foil-lined pan. Sprinkle black pepper, garlic powder, Parmesan cheese and bread crumbs (in that order) over the chicken.
Bake in the preheated oven for 1 to 1 1/4 hour.
Vary the seasonings by trying rubbed sage, Penzey’s Pasta Sprinkle or onion powder either along with or instead of the garlic powder and/or black pepper.
Make this into a more substantial meal by scrubbing up a potato, poking it with a fork or knifepoint 3 or 4 times and baking it along with the chicken. (ALWAYS poke a few holes in a potato before baking, or you'll wind up cleaning potato off the inside of your oven!)
Ways to liven up noodles
After cooking and draining, add a tablespoon or two of butter and a shake of Pasta Sprinkle, and toss until the butter is melted. Alternative: use olive oil instead of butter. In addition to or instead of the Pasta Sprinkle, try garlic powder, onion powder or half-sharp paprika.
After cooking and draining, shake a fair bit of Parmesan or Romano cheese over the noodles, then add a tablespoon or two of sour cream. Toss together until the sour cream coats the noodles and the cheese starts to melt. Top with a good shake of black pepper. If you don’t have sour cream, use butter instead.
Cut up a strip or two of bacon and fry the bits up crisp in a skillet while the pasta cooks. Drain the pasta and dump it into the skillet with the bacon bits and bacon grease. Pour a couple of beaten eggs over the pasta and bacon, add a good shake of Parmesan cheese, and stir just until the eggs are set. Can add cooked peas to this for added color/texture.
After cooking and draining the noodles, dump an 8 oz. package of grated cheddar cheese over them, then add a bit of milk. Stir over low heat until cheese is melted, adding more milk if necessary. If desired, add a sprinkle of onion powder, Cayenne or half-sharp paprika to liven up the flavor. You can also stir in cut-up cooked ham or a cut-up cooked hotdog.
Adding meat to tomato sauce:
Over medium heat, brown a half-pound of ground beef or bulk sausage, breaking it up into small bits with a spoon as it cooks. Drain off excess fat (use an empty tin can, then refrigerate until congealed and put in the trash, not recycling). Add pasta sauce and stir until hot.
Cut up an Italian sausage into 1” chunks and put in a skillet with ½ cup water. Cover and cook over medium low, checking regularly. When the water has cooked off, take the lid off and brown the sausage pieces. Drain any excess fat, add pasta sauce and stir until hot.
Thaw a boneless, skinless chicken breast. Put a skillet on a medium burner until the pan is hot, then pour in about 1 tablespoon of oil. Carefully slide the chicken breast into the pan (don’t flop it in, hot oil spatters easily). Cook about 5 minutes on a side, and check for doneness by poking a knifepoint into the thickest part of the chicken. If the juices are clear and not pink, it’s done. At this point, you can either add the pasta sauce and stir until it’s hot, or you can pull out the chicken breast, slice it up into bite-size chunks, and put it back in the pan with the sauce to heat.
Alternatives to pasta sauce: use a can of tomato soup with garlic powder and Pasta Sprinkle. You’ll need to add some water to get it the right consistency. This won’t be the same consistency or as flavorful as commercial pasta sauce, but is a decent alternative in a pinch.
Noodles & Tuna
After cooking and draining the noodles, put them back in the pan. Add 1 can cream of mushroom soup and 1 or 2 cans of drained tuna. Stir over low until heated through.
Alternative: use 1 can cream of chicken soup and 1 or 2 cans of white meat chicken (which you’ll find in the same general area of the grocery store as tuna).
Another alternative: add a 10-oz. box of frozen peas, green beans or mixed vegetables when you’re cooking the noodles.
Juicy Baked Chicken
Put a single piece of thawed chicken in a small, oven-safe casserole dish with a lid. Add any of the following that you have on hand and feel like using:
¼ cup white wine
Good splash of white wine Worcestershire sauce
A good shake of onion powder OR half an onion chopped
A good shake of garlic powder OR a mashed clove of garlic
A shake of black pepper
A pinch of rubbed sage
Put the lid on the casserole dish and bake in a 350 oven for an hour to an hour and a quarter.
Thawed chicken pieces (coating will cover 3-4 pieces)
1 cup of corn flakes (any brand)
1 Tablespoon sesame seeds
1 teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon black pepper
Miracle Whip salad dressing
Put the corn flakes in a wide shallow bowl and crush them into crumbs. Add the sesame seeds and seasonings and mix well. Scoop out a couple of spoons full of Miracle Whip into a separate bowl. Line an oven-safe pan with foil.
Take a piece of chicken and coat it with the Miracle Whip; fingers work best, and it’s very messy. Dip the coated chicken into the crumb mixture, then lay it in the foil-lined pan. Repeat for the rest of the chicken pieces. Bake in a 350 oven for an hour.
1 lb. Ground beef (optional: use half ground beef and half pork sausage)
½ cup of either bread crumbs, cracker crumbs or dry oatmeal
1 raw egg
1-2 Tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce
Either a half-cup of chopped onion or a good shake of onion powder
Either a mashed clove of garlic or a good shake of garlic powder
Mix all ingredients thoroughly; hands will work best. Pack into an oven-safe pan (loaf-shape is traditional but any shape will work, including a cast-iron skillet) and drizzle a little tomato catsup over the top. Bake in a 350 oven for an hour to an hour and a half. Eat what you’re hungry for, then refrigerate the rest and slice it down to make sandwiches. Multiply the basic recipe to make a larger meatloaf to feed a crowd (plan for longer cooking time if you do this). Play with the seasonings to get the balance that you like.
Once you’re comfortable with the seasoning mix, you can experiment with other combinations. Leave out the Worcestershire sauce and add a teaspoon or two of chili powder and some ground cumin, with picante sauce instead of catsup on top, to make a Mexican-flavored meatloaf.