Sometimes, cooking should be like dumping an egg in a top hat and pulling out a rabbit: Mix in a few ingredients in one place and get a surprisingly good meal.
One-pan and one-pot dinners are easy to clean up, usually make good leftovers and manage to combine a collection of foods that just might mean you don’t need to dirty up any other cooking items.
Another benefit is that they tend to be flexible when it comes to adding and subtracting or substituting ingredients. Take, for example, One-Pot Parmesan Chicken Ziti with Artichokes and Spinach. Kids don’t like spinach? Leave it out or add baby kale instead. No ziti pasta in the cupboard? Any pasta will work.
Some one-pot meals cheat a tiny bit by your having to do some work that’s not in the same pan. But, mixing a few dry ingredients together in a bowl and adding it to a pan or pot doesn’t seem like a lot of extra work.
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For the Nacho Skillet Casserole, use ground turkey in place of beef. Leave the tortilla chips off the top, if you want. And, any cheese will work.
With the Five Spice Pork and Rice Stir-Fry, the key is to cut the pork tenderloin in small pieces so they cook quickly. If you have leftover cooked meat or rotisserie chicken, leave out the pork and add the meat for the last two minutes.
One-Pot Parmesan Chicken Ziti with Artichokes and Spinach
4 cups water
2 cans (12 ounces each) evaporated milk
1 teaspoon salt
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 pound uncooked ziti pasta
2 teaspoons cornstarch
2 cups shredded deli rotisserie chicken
1 can (14 ounces) artichoke hearts, drained, coarsely chopped
6 ounces shredded Parmesan cheese (about 1 1/2 cups)
Juice of 2 medium lemons (about 2/3 cup)
2 tablespoons butter
4 cups baby spinach (5-oz package)
1/2 teaspoon pepper, if desired
1. In Dutch oven, heat water, 1 can of the evaporated milk, the salt, garlic and pasta to simmering over medium heat. Simmer 12 to 14 minutes, stirring frequently, until pasta is tender.
2. In medium bowl, beat remaining can of evaporated milk and the cornstarch; stir in chicken and artichoke hearts. Add to mixture in Dutch oven; return to simmering, and continue to simmer 1 to 3 minutes or until thickened and mixture coats back of spoon.
3. Remove from heat; stir in half of the cheese and the lemon juice. Stir until cheese melts, then add remaining cheese (reserving 1/4 cup for serving, if desired) and butter; stir again.
4. Add spinach, and stir until wilted. Serve with reserved cheese and pepper. Serves 8.
Tips: Stir, stir, stir. The only way to mess up this easy dinner is to neglect the spoon.
Nacho Skillet Casserole
1 pound lean ground beef
1 medium onion, chopped
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1 can (15.5 ounces) kidney beans, drained
1 can (15 ounces) tomato sauce
1 can (11 ounces) whole kernel corn, red and green peppers, undrained
2 cups tortilla chips
1 cup shredded Cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese (4 ounces)
In 12-inch skillet, cook ground beef and onion over medium-high heat 5 to 7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until beef thoroughly cooked; drain. Stir in sugar, oregano, chili powder, kidney beans, tomato sauce and corn. Simmer 10 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until sauce is desired consistency.
Sprinkle tortilla chips evenly over meat mixture; top with cheese. Cover; simmer 2 to 3 minutes or until cheese is melted. Serve immediately. Makes 6 servings.
Tips: For a little added flavor and spice, increase the chili powder to 1 teaspoon. For a pretty presentation, sprinkle the top of the skillet meal with the tortilla chips and sprinkle with the cheese. Then, top with chopped tomato.
Five Spice Pork and Rice Stir-Fry
1 package microwaveable brown rice (to make 1 1/2 cups cooked)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup, fat-free, low-salt chicken broth
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder
3 medium garlic cloves, crushed
1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon canola oil
3/4 pound pork tenderloin, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 cup sliced onion
1 red bell pepper, seeded and sliced (about 1 cup)
1 tablespoon flour
2 tablespoons slivered almonds
Cook rice in the microwave according to package instructions. Measure out 1 1/2 cups (save the remainder for another meal), season to taste with salt and pepper, and set aside.
Mix broth with vinegar, five-spice powder, garlic and soy sauce; set aside.
Heat oil in a wok or nonstick skillet over high heat. Add pork and onion and stir-fry 2 minutes. Add red bell pepper and continue to stir-fry 1 minute.
Sprinkle flour over ingredients and toss.
Add broth mixture to wok and stir-fry 2 minutes. Remove to a bowl.
Add seasoned rice to wok and stir-fry 1 minute to heat. Divide rice between 2 dinner plates and top with pork mixture. Sprinkle almonds on top.
Makes 2 servings, each with 580 calories, 20 grams fat, 108 mg cholesterol, 45.5 grams protein, 5 grams carbohydrates, 7 grams fiber, 47.6 mg sodium.
The Miami Herald/Linda Gassenheimer