I’ve been on this one-dish meal kick for a while now. Why not? It’s a huge time-saver, I usually say. But that’s not the only reason I make them: Sometimes I’m just tired and have very little motivation to cook. That isn’t the snooty, culinary thing to say, but it’s honest. There are nights I come home and have neither the time nor the energy to cook. If I want to eat, I have to cook something.
Enter the one-dish meal.
I began my search on Recipezaar.com, a great place to find these types of meals. No, the recipes aren’t fine dining, but you can find some good “weeknight cooking” gems if you look hard enough. The contributors are all a big community, and I have yet to see a rating given by someone who did not cook the dish – an irritating trend that is rampant on sites like the Food Network. If I only had a nickel for every time someone posted a five star rating to a dish just because they like Giada’s breasts… and I’m not talking about a chicken. But I digress.
In the spirit of Citizen Chef’s article on how to choose a recipe, I offer the three things I look at when browsing Recipezaar.
1. Ingredient List
As CC mentioned, I look at the ingredients and make sure most things in there are what I will eat. If Velveeta turns you off and this dish calls for a lot of it, move on or consider a substitute. After a while, you’ll get better and better at figuring out what combinations will work before you cook them.
2. Nutritional Content
I’m not a health fanatic, but I’m not interested in clogging arteries, either. Not everyone has the same worries when they cook a meal — a lot of people are happy when they can produce a dish that the family will eat. With obesity being such a huge issue in the United States, I can’t help but be concerned when I come across some of the highest rated dishes and find they all call for a brick or two of cream cheese. Even if you use a low fat cream cheese, there’s still a high fat content. Personally, I’d feel better serving peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
The same goes for a lot of Asian-inspired dishes. The idea is that stir-fry is good for you, but when you’re adding a half cup of soy sauce, the sodium content goes through the roof.
As I mentioned above, the comments section is a great place to go to find out what people actually thought of the dish. I suppose this is helpful, although it isn’t really what I’m digging for. What I go to the comments for is to find out how people altered the dish to suit their tastes. It’s rare to find a perfect recipe. Period. If you dig through the comments, you’ll find a trend of what a lot of the cooks do to make the dish better. I often either print the comments with the recipe or scribble notes/substitutions down on the recipe after I print it. When I first started cooking from online recipes, I was a little scared of the comments section, but I’ve learned that a community of people actually cooking this dish makes it better.
This is one of my favorite one-dish recipes that I have found on Recipezaar. If you have low energy, yet want a substantial meal, this is a great option. You basically put your ingredients into a glass dish, stir, slap some chicken breasts on top, sprinkle with seasonings, and bake. That’s it.
Spanish Chicken and Rice Bake
1 (10 3/4ounce) can low fat/low sodium cream of chicken soup
1 cup salsa
1/2 cup water
1 cup frozen whole kernel corn
1 cup canned black beans, drained (optional)
3/4 cup uncooked long-grain white rice
3 – 4 boneless chicken breast halves
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Preheat your oven to 400°F.
In a glass dish, dump in the cream of chicken soup, salsa, water, corn, and rice. I add black beans to mine. Instead of measuring them out, just dump in the whole can so as not to waste food. Notice there are no seasonings that go into the rice portion of the dish. Most of your seasonings will come from the salsa, so make sure you get something with a good, strong flavor. Sometimes I use spicy just to kick it up a bit, but mild is fine. I once used a jar of homemade salsa that a family member had given me, and the dish came out bland because the salsa was watery and lacked punch. So make sure you go with something that has a lot of flavor. Stir everything up.
Lay chicken breasts on top of the rice/sauce mixture. Sprinkle with some salt, pepper, and chili powder. If you want more heat, use more chili powder. The recipe above actually gives measurements, but I just sprinkle until I think it’s fine. Go with your best judgment here.
Seal this tightly with foil. This is another one that doesn’t cook right unless you seal it tightly, because the water will steam out and the rice won’t cook.
After 60 minutes, the dish will be done. Sprinkle with cheddar cheese and enjoy. Once in a while I will also indulge a little sour cream on the side, too… But not often. You know, the whole nutritional content thing… 😛 Enjoy!